Brits Abroad – Part 13: Next Level

Well hello to you. It has been a week since we last spoke, I hope your ascent into October was seamless. This weekend my son moved up to the next year group for his Saturday morning football group. It’s barely football but of the 30 kids in the class, 29 of them seem quite content to go it alone. Their parents sit on comfortable chairs sipping coffee at the side of the sports hall. The 30th child wants Daddy to run around with him, so there I am, like a sporty version of Will Ferrell in Elf, playing what’s the time Mr Wolf as a 6 foot 3 giant amongst children. That is in no way relevant to what you are here to read but sharing is caring, or something. The Brits Abroad meanwhile are proving to be giants amongst mostly Portugese men, having won the league at a canter and going on to become European Champions. How do you top that?

£6m for Andy Cole, is it 1995? We need Brits.

Oh, HELLO. Hoddle has been chatting to the press again so his resignation felt inevitable.

Naturally, they’ve come to me, a known idiot.

We’ve got our work cut out to qualify but we’ll give it a go.

Spain also sacked their manager, which wasn’t relevant until they appointed the Porto manager.

Porto appoint Sporting’s manager, Sporting appoint Jose Antonio Camacho. It’s a tale as old as time.

The Portugese charity shield is a two legged affair and we’re badly outplayed in the first leg. Porto have added Sylvain Wiltord to their ranks which could be a problem. The honourable JC might be third choice behind Page and Rufus…

The season proper is underway and Gallen picks up where he left off. Good.

A favourable Champions League group should be a straight fight between us and Sporting. I hate it when two clubs from the same nation are in the same group, happens too often.

I’ve signed Tom Youngs. I’ll explain why in a minute.

Oooh the fun we will have.

What time is it? It’s five past Rio Ave! 4-0 after 32 minutes. Tougher tests will follow.

Here’s Steven Simonsen.

I’ve turned into Deano. Wimbledon wanted Robert Dunn and I wanted another Englishman.

And here is why. I’m only calling up my lads. Deal with it.

A familiar lineup, poor Gallen still can’t get a cap as he recovers from injury.

We have to win in Ireland and thankfully we do. Richard Rufus is good at everything (ignore his real life activities)

Still a huge ask but we’ll give it a go….next month.

A strangely subdued performance at home to Boavista means we have to settle for a point.

Champions League defence begins at home to Sporting Lisbon and Gallen does what he does best. If you are wondering, yes that is Regi Blinker.

A terrible showing at Braga brings a deserved defeat. It has been coming, we’re not really clicking.

Goodness me I forgot about the second leg of the Charity Shield but Matt Le Tissier didn’t. A real slog but we win it on away goals.

It’s such a contrast to last season, hardly anybody is performing. Gallen and Bridges are a mile off it and the goals are drying up. Andy Cole has, predictably, been a disaster.

Another away day blank, this time at Chaves. Hmm.

No such problems in Minsk, Gallen and Bridges do the damage and at least keeps our defence of the big one on track.

Billy Mac wanted out, I saw an opportunity.

No caps is incredible. He will continue to be backup to Bridges and Gallen.

Looking good.

The boys are back in town! Gallen makes his England debut and secures the three points. We’re still in this.

This is a huge help.

So…if we can win our last match in Moldova and Wales beat Ireland, we will qualify. If second place qualifies anyway. Might be playoffs, which I’d take.

That will have to wait until next week. The lads have got their groove back, collectively.

Academica can be a tough place to go with Akwa knocking about but Bridges and Gallen sort out a potentially tough afternoon.

Slovan Bratislava hold us off quite connivingly for 73 minutes but that man KG breaks the deadlock and then panics them into an own goal. Three out of three

Which means 9 out of 9. Sporting hanging on, as expected.

We finish with my favourite duo netting yet again. Sorry for doubting you lads.

We are only third though, with plenty of work and games to come. That Sporting defence is looking pretty tight.

We will set about breaking that down next week but we’ll also have the World Club Championship, the European Super Cup and the final set of World Cup 2002 qualifiers. You’d be a fool to miss it (and a bigger fool to play and blog it). Toodles for now.

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