Nathan is back with another crack at the International stage. After his attempts with England, where is he managing this time?
Hello everyone and welcome to the second instalment of the International Series. In the first of this series we took England to the World Cup Quarter Finals like so many others before us.
In this Edition we take over Northern Ireland. My aim with all of the teams in this series is just to qualify for a tournament and then play through that tournament and see how we go. Northern Ireland is going to be tall order but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Here is our list of Friendlies for the forthcoming season.
So two fixtures stand out. The first is Turkey who I managed recently in the CM 20/97 cup. That was a hard task but good fun. The second game is the Republic of Ireland game for obvious reasons.
My next job is to assembly a squad and work out a tactic. Here is what I have gone for
Overall I’m quite happy with this team. We are bit short upfront but Fitzgerald is a player who I really like from previous saves with Rangers. Neil Lennon will be our Midfield general. At the back we actually have plenty of good options and that will influence my tactics I think.
Speaking of tactics here is what I’ve gone for.
This is a tactic I’ve never ever tried. I feel our better players are defensive players so I’ve tried to make us hard to beat. Let’s see how it goes and take it from there.
We arrive at our first game, and it’s Germany. It’s a World Cup qualifier but we are all but out already. I’m not expecting a win here as Germany are one of the World powerhouses but I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on.
As expected it’s a losing start however we have some good moments in the game and it’s only 2-0, one of which was an own goal. We get off to a horrible start when Effenberg crosses into the box and Taggart gets his header all wrong and heads it into his own net. From then on though we take control and have some good opportunities which Danny Shipp can’t get past Kopke. In the second half Germany step it up a gear and we hang on to them until the 79th minute when Effenberg again slices through us and Klinsmann pokes home the 2nd goal. I’m happy with the performance and look forward to playing teams more in our bracket.
Next up for us is away against Albania. It’s another World Cup Qualifier but as both of us are already out it’s more like a friendly.
Classic away performance and it’s our first win. We start really really well and have 3 or 4 chances in the first 10 minutes. The game settles down after that and we both cancel each other out as we reach half time. In the second half Albania come on strong and we have to be at our best at the back and we are. All the defenders and our goalie Fettis really step up to the task. We have more good chances but can’t convert and it’s looking like a 0-0 draw until the 88th minute when Fitzgerald plays through Gillespie who fires home into the bottom corner and the away fans go wild! Great result for us.
Next up for us is a trip to Portugal for another World Cup Qualifier.
Not a great game for us and not helped by an early red card for Murdock for a deliberate handball. 2 minutes after that Rui Costa goes on a long mazy run and then coolly slots past Fettis for the opener. We don’t lay a glove on them throughout the first half. Domingos scores an absolute screamer from distance to start the second half. We do manage to have some chances but again our lack of quality upfront is clear to see.
I’ve had a nightmare for this next friendly against Australia. I’ve not checked my team and the result has left me with this.
Absolute rookie mistake!!! Let’s see how we get on?
Another disappointing result and another game with no goals. Maybe our tactic is too defensive? Also didn’t help that half my defenders where bloody club tied. Franklin gives Australia the lead when he picks up a rebound and wrong foots Fettis with a curling shot. We then have a big goal mouth scramble which usually leads to a goal but we can’t convert. Just after the hour mark Vidmar hits one from distance which catches everyone by surprise as it flies in! Time to try something different.
A friendly next against Saudi Arabia.
We would have won this game, if I had a goalkeeper. I checked the team a week before the game and everyone was available. The day of the game arrives and we lose about 10 players to their clubs. So frustrating. All the goalkeepers are unavailable so Ian Nolan ends up in net. We all know what happens when an outfield player goes in net. We actually go 2-1 up in the first half but then the flood gates open and there is no stopping the Shit…rit.
Whilst we wait for our next friendly (a small game against Rep of Ire) the draw is made for the qualifying groups for Euro 2000.
A really tough group for us. Rep of Ireland in the same group is the standout fixture as is playing England. We beat Albania in the World Cup qualifiers so i’ll be targeting wins against them again. Yugoslavia also have a strong team. Qualification is going to be difficult.
It’s time for our “friendly” now against Eire. I’ve chanced tactic to the classic 2-3-1-2-2 to try and get us to score a goal.
Wow we are shocking to be honest. We can’t score and we can’t defend. The game is quiet until the 32nd minute when Alan Moore picks up the ball and just keeps coming forward with no pressure on him and he slots it past Fettis. McAteer then floats in a freekick which Phil Babb heads home from close range. The 3rd goal comes from another McAteer set piece, this time Townsend gets on the end of it.
Next up for us is an away trip to South Korea. I tell the lads to enjoy the scenery and forget about the game. Our team is ravaged once again with players staying with their clubs to the point where we have only 11 players.
Blimey the smaller squad and relaxing tour of South Korea works and we finally get not just a goal but a win! It takes just 7 minutes for South Korea to take the lead when Pan Keun Lee swivels past our defence and bends one into the bottom corner. Just 2 minutes later though we finally score a goal when Gillespie plays through Danny Shipp who fires home the equaliser. Just before half time Shipp is in again and he smashes the ball hard an low into the bottom corner. In the second half South Korea try numerous formations but we stand firm for a rare victory.
Next up for us we travel to Turkey. Now I happen to know a bit about Turkey having managed then in the CM 20/97 Euro Cup. What I quickly found out was they have good forwards who can score and a couple of good attacking midfielders but they couldn’t defend at all! Let’s see if we can play on that.
What a result! We could easily have scored 6 more in this game. As predicted Turkey’s defence is awful. Turkey actually take the lead when Suker plays through Orhan who powers it into the top corner. From then on it’s all us. Shipp gets the equaliser before Fitzgerald smashes home our second. Before half time Gillespie makes it 3-1 and we are in dream land. The second half we just carry on where we left off. Gillespie gets his 2nd as does Shipp then McNally heads home our 6th with 5 minutes to go. Incredible.
We finally have a home game now as Zambia come to visit.
Phil Gray has a fantastic game! He has his Hattrick in the first half with Quinn setting up two of them with two blocked shots. In the second half Quinn does get his goal which is well deserved after his first performance. Gray isn’t done yet either as he fires in our 5th. So to end the season we score 11 in 2 games. Scoring problem? What scoring problem?
That’s it for this update. We have got through a full season and also missed out on our first tournament to qualify for. It was always a hard task needing to beat Germany (who won the World Cup) and Portugal as well as hoping other results went our way. We really struggled throughout the season until the last few games where against lower opposition we showed a killer instinct. Finally.
Join me next time as we begin qualifying for Euro 2000.