Free for All Episode 3 | Squad Replenishment | @CornishZak

Happy hump day! Here’s Zak with the latest from free transfer town – if you’re interested in downloading the database you can do so from the link in last weeks blog.

Welcome back to Free for All, bargain hunters.

Our Doncaster side are battling in division 3 as our fax machine is constantly under siege by clubs trying to poach our players.

We lose no less than four more players in the break since we last spoke; Iain Dowie (Torquay, £250k), Wayne Carlisle (Huddersfield £250k), Nicky Culkin (Millwall, £250k) and Danny Hall (Charlton, £300k) all depart, leaving a somewhat depleted squad once again.

I hastily recruit three more bodies, ex-Man Utd younger Phil Whittam, ex-Liverpool youngster Sean Friars and former Crewe youngster Kevin Street.

8th October 1997, Swansea.

This is how we line up, with Street and Whittam on the bench. Veterans Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins marshal the center of the park.

Tony Yeboah makes the perfect start before Jason Rowbotham equalizes on the hour mark. We are unable to make the breakthrough and the game is drawn.

11th October 1997, Chester.

We take on Chester without Desmond Baker, as he joins West Brom for a tribunal-set £190k. Tony Grant also moves on, this time to Derby, for £325k. Not bad for a player who didn’t kick a ball for us!

The Grant deals means we’ve exceeded our pre-game target of £10 million in income! Extraordinary!

Street and Friers come into the team, and can’t make an impact as Chester grind out a win.

15th October 1997, Rochdale.

We wave goodbye this time to centre back Paul McCarthy for £140k (West Brom [again]!) Stoke part with £275k for forward Paul Emblem. We respond by signing free agents Simon Collins and John Eustace.

Eustace goes straight into the side, are fit-again Jody Craddock slots in alongside Efe Sodje at the back. Stan Lazaridis sets us up before Rochdale equalize late. I throw all the lads forward chasing an ullikely winner and Tony Yeboah continues his scoring run by converting from a late Chris Waddle corner.

Yeboah now has five goals in four games. Lets see how long we can keep him!

18th October 1997, Shrewsbury.

Kevin Street’s two-game cameo is brought to a close by Birmingham City as they pay £220k for his services. Sean Friers gets hoovered up by Leeds for £200k. I bring in FA Cup winning defender Gary Ablett and ex-Man Utd goalkeeper Paul Gibson.

A solid start is undone by a shoddy second half display as Shewsbury bully us out of the game and we lose.

Fancy seeing how other teams have recruited after showing you the Man Utd and Arsenal squads lat time? Sure you do!

Crystal Palace are the Premier League surprise package, comfortably in the top-four. Steve Copple has done some shrewd business!

Leeds are also flying high in the Premier League.  Their recruitment has been slow, though it’s hard to see how our youngster Sean Friars will help!

Division One’s high-flyers are Middlesbrough, undefeated after 16 games.

They’ve got a deadly English strike duo of Owen and Sheringham – though aren’t keen on full backs!

Down in Division 2, Fulham and Preston lead the way. Fulham have gone for another deadly English strike duo – Sir Les and Ian Wright (Wright, Wright). That squad would do well in the Premiership!

25th October 1997, Exeter

Seven days have passed since our defeat to Shrewsbury and – remarkably – no players have left! I have been able to fill some space in the squad and have brought in FM2012 legend Trevor Benjamin, former Chelsea forward Mark Stein, ex-England midfielder Geoff Thomas, former Palace forward Ian Cox, and ex-Burnley hero Graham Alexander. Alexander plays on the right in this version of the CM universe.

Ablett and Cox make their first starts as we look to Yeboah to continue his goalscoring form.

Yeboah delivers, and his incredible run continues as Exeter are beaten 2-1.

28th October 1997, League Cup, Crystal Palace.

It’s timely that I screenshotted Crystal Palace’s high-flying squad, ready for our League Cup tie. I fear the worst, after Palace go 2-0 inside ten minutes. The lads show character and put a great account of themselves, despite falling to a 3-2 loss.

1st November 1997, Cardiff.

It’s tired legs all round as the squad take on Cardiff. I bring in another right back, David Kerslake, as interest in Appleby and Alexander starts… Despite a first half red card we can’t break them down and it’s a bore draw.

5th November 1997, Auto Windscreen Shield, Shrewsbury

I rotate the team for the EFL trophy game, handing a debut to goalkeeper Gibson. Shrewsbury comfortably win 2-0 and we are knocked out.

8th November 1997, FA Cup, Stalybridge

Here is the squad as we enter November. I’m shocked as we’ve not lost a player for two weeks, though look at all those WTD signs! I have been fortunate that both Matty Appleby and Jody Craddock both decided against ‘big club’ release clauses. Also, all my players aged 30+ all have manager clauses instead of club clauses, so I have a little more freedom with those players.

Non-league Stalybridge give us a an early scare before Tony Yeboah finds his scoring form again and we see the game out.

12th November 1997, Hartlepool

I reluctantly let Stuart Brightwell go to league rivals Shrewsbury for £250k (it was nearly £100k above his value, so I wanted to beat the Tribunal). Mark Stein gets a run in the AMC role alongside Lazaridis. Trevor Benjamin joins Yeboah up front.

The new-look forward line blow Hartlepool away- it’s a wonderful sight. Even left back Whittam gets on the scoresheet.

15th November 1997, Scunthorpe

Pre-match I raid the free transfer market once more adding scout-recommended youngsters Rik Lopez, Stephen Robinson, Richard Norris, Peter Kaye, and Colin Carr-Lawton. I also add some experience in Welsh International Martyn Margetson and Zambian International left back Gary Rice.

I found ex-Exeter defender Rice by doing an ‘interested foreign based’ search, filtered by ‘international caps’. I have no idea if he’s any good, but look at these stats! Positioning, dribbling, determination, stamina, passing – perfect for the wing-back role I deploy!

We throw away a two-goal first half lead. It’s partly my fault as I make a treble substitution on 60 minutes.

It’s been a topsy-turvy few league matches, but ultimately we’ve not been consistent enough. We drop outside the playoffs after 20 games.

To help a turnaround in fortunes, I try to bring in more experience by signing Belorussian international Segei Gerasimets and ex-West Ham defender Keith Rowland.

Here’s how the squad looks after the influx of players. There is still interest in the squad, but now the balance of youth, experience and FGN players means there won’t be gaps should some players leave. (I may have gone mad on left backs – mad dog Martin Allen style… [google Ian Holloways comments when he took over Leicester in 2007]).

Join us next time, bargain hunters, as we try to improve on our league position and keep the best part of our squad in-tact.

Former Player Remembers: Trevor Benjamin
Trevor Benjamin, photo

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