Free for All Episode 6 | Finale | @CornishZak

Happy hump day! It’s the last in this series of the Free for All, can Zak get Doncaster into the playoffs?

Hello – welcome back to the Free for All season finale! We have four games left, three points separate us from the play-offs and with the transfer window closed we have a settled squad for the run-in!

18th April 1998, Cardiff

A reminder of how we line-up. I was asked on Twitter why I play a passing style with this formation/side. The truth is, I don’t normally pay close attention to the style of play – one to consider for the future! (Andrew @kingoftherooks , have you done an experiment with playing style before?)

The team seems to have hit form at the right time, Waddle and Yeboah combining to see us clear by 2 goals. The man of match from our point of view was Efe Sodje who shielded Dibble’s goal and sent everything back route-one! Beautiful.

It seems like recent injuries to Gary Ablett and Sergei Gerasimets have really benefitted the team (sorry lads!) as their replacements Sodje and Waddle have been unplayable recently!

25th April 1998, Scunthorpe

Its an entertaining game at Scunthorpe, as a reshuffled side adapt and grow into the game. Tony James – in for a suspended Jody Craddock – opens the scoring in a crazy three goal, two-minute spell. I think we’ve lost is as Scunthorpe score on 81 minutes before Cottee rescues a point late on! Andy Dibble was MoM, which shows how much we missed our captain in the heart of defense alongside Sodje.

The result is not a total disaster, as we find ourselves two points adrift, with two to play!

2nd May 1998, Darlington

Next up, Darlington. A team near the bottom of the table (thankfully). An early Darlo red card is cancelled out by Jody Craddock – just back from suspension. With 10-on-10 we are able to break them down late on with goals from Yeboah and Cottee. A vital 2-0 win! It’s nines all round for Yeboah, Cottee and in-form Sodje, with Yeboah claiming the MoM accolades.

The result means our fate is in our hands! There are an incredible five teams on 79 points and six teams vying for three playoff spots.

4th May 1998, Hull

The fixture gods deign to give us just two days rest for the visit of Hull. Hull are also locked on 79 points so will be fighting to uproot us from our playoff place.

A tight first half opens up in the second as we go 2-0 up and I think we’re flying. As fatigue sets in Hull exert pressure pulling one back before ex-player Geoff Thomas scores an equalizer on 88 minutes. Have we thrown it away…

It’s nervy as the lads have teletex on the changing room TV and James Alexander-Gordon on the radio….

It’s enough! Both us and Hull sneak into the final playoff places. There’s cheers all around the Belle Vue as both sets of fans celebrate.

9th May 1998, Playoff Semi Final (L1) Rochdale

Playoff time! I stick with Sodje and Craddock as our central defensive pairing, and Matty Appleby gets the nod at right wing-back ahead of Clayton Blackmore.

Chris Waddle settles early nerves with a sublime free-kick after just 2 minutes. By 10 minutes Jody Craddock has put the team 2-up and we are flying. By halftime we are 4-0 to the good, and I am able to withdraw some players.

Rochdale have no answer in the second half as they are destroyed 5-1. We can’t, can we?

13th May 1998, Playoff Semi Final (2) Rochdale

I am given the luxury of heavily rotating the squad for the return leg. Despite dominating, Rochdale cannot find a way past an inspired Andy Dibble. Stan Lazaridis completed a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory. Ian Selley manages to make his long-awaited debut from the bench.

See what I mean? They got Andy Dibbled!

23rd May 1998, D3 playoff final, Shrewsbury

Jody Craddock is suspended again, and it’s timely…. It means Tony James is recalled and starts at center back alongside Efe Sodje. I also take a risk in giving Ian Selley his first Doncaster start… It’s harsh on Steve Walters and Kevin Sheedy, but we’re in the fairytale underdog business here.

It’s a tight affair and Andy Dibble proves he’s the man for the big occasion as he palms away chance after chance.

The game remains deadlocked at 0-0 as we enter extra time. Up steps our hero Tony Yeboah to write his name in Doncaster folk lore in front of 44,000 fans at Wembley! We’re promoted!

Dibble is named MoM. Deservedly so!

We’ve managed to get the team destined from relegation from the football league, promoted to Division 2 – going through three secretaries and five fax machines to get there! Phew…

Doncaster Stats

For those interested – Peter Beagrie got the best average rating from his five-game cameo. Tony Cottee proved to be a very shrewd signing – complementing Tony Yeboah perfectly.

No surprises to see Tony Yeboah named the top scorer. Waddle edges ahead of Cottee, though Cottee only joined in March!

For assists, its also Tony Yeboah who led the way.

Anyone surprised to see Andy Dibble topping the MoM awards list?

Tony Yeboah;

Tony Cottee;

97/98 Season Review

Man Utd were crowned Premier League champions as early as April. They finish 18 points clear of Arsenal, as Palace beat Leeds to third place.

The Owen and Sheringham connection fired Middlesborough into the Premier League. They are joined by Nottingham Forest, who are spearheaded by former player Stan Collymore.

Fulham and Burnley are promoted from Division 2. Ironically both clubs managed by players who’ve features for Donny this season (Wilkins and Waddle). Add that to ‘Boro’s Bryan Robson and is seems we have the magic touch when it comes to selecting player-managers!

Sir Les the pick of the players in Division 2 by hitting 30 goals and assists. WOW.

Man Utd completed a domestic treble by claiming the FA Cup from Newcastle. It’s not surprising really looking at that Utd team!

Around Europe;

Parma destroy Ajax in the UEFA Cup final.

Chelsea beat Rosenborg after extra time in a thrilling Cup Winners Cup final tie. Chelsea Goalkeeper Vitor Baia the hero. Chelsea were helped by Matt @mattcwills ‘s hero Michael Brown making a cameo from the bench.

In the European Champions Cup, FC Bayern – ironically led by the baby-faced assassin Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – beat Juventus. Juve have so much attacking talent that Figo can only make the bench.


As the clock ticks towards World Cup ’98, the bidding war starts again for my players. I resist a massive £2.8million bid from West Ham for Jody Craddock. I do still manage to hit my £15million transfer target by offloading Keith Rowland to Darlington for £36k, Kevin Sheedy to Wrexham for £76k, Tony James to Stockport for £230k, Paul Allen to Brighton for £300k and Clayton Blackmore to Gillingham for £200k.

I myself welcome forwards Shaun Goater and Swedish International Rob Steiner. I also sign midfielder Paul Murray and legendary Icelandic grandfather Arnor Gudjohnsen.

I’ll level with you, I’ve never heard of Steiner, but he looks decent enough!

World Cup ’98

Finally, after a dream run to the final, France break England hearts with a 2-1 win courtesy for Thierry Henry. I’m sure playing Chris Sutton at the back was to blame…

With that, our Free for All season comes to an end! I hope you enjoyed the madness as much as I did playing it. Until next time, bargain hunters!

PS – I have not played past the close-season updates, so if you want to see a particular club’s squad/stats shout me on Twitter @CornishZak. Cheers!

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