The Football Manager Chronicles - Part Nine

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

Despite ending March with a home thrashing to Liverpool, it had been an encouraging month in terms of performances. With 6 games remaining in the season there was definitely hope that I could marshal Town to the previously elusive 40 point mark and safety.

Our first game of the month saw us take a short trip over the Pennines to Burnley, an obvious chance for 3 points, I’m sure you’d agree?

Burnley (A): ?-?

Sean Dyche’s side had been disappointing all season and only sat 2 points ahead of us going into this game, so obviously I thought it would be a good idea to attack the Clarets.

Isaac Mbenza, Elias Kachunga and Adama Diakhaby made up my front three following an untimely injury to top scorer Steve Mounie who was risked on the bench.

There wasn’t much in the first-half with both teams clearly low on confidence, so it was only natural for the deadlock to be broken from a set-piece. Zanka rose highest from a corner to fire my Town team into a 35th minute lead and make my half-time team talk a lot easier.

‘More of the same’ I chirruped as the boys headed back out for the second period. The lads were a little slow to get going after the break and one lapse is concentration was punished ruthlessly when Johann Berg Gudmundsson fired past Ben Hamer.

That equaliser seemed to jolt the boys into life as we immediately went on the front foot, pinning Burnley back to the edge of their own box. #TeamKaching was trending in West Yorkshire when the industrious winger restored our lead in the 59th minute, setting us well on our way to a vital win.

After a 15 minute spell of pressure failed to bring a third goal I instructed the lads to tighten up and hold onto what we had, which should have been a simple task. But if you have read any one of these articles so far you’ll be more than aware of my team’s propensity to throw away leads.

In the 82nd minute Matej Vydra levelled the scores with a well struck volley before Stephen Ward settled the game in the 86th minute. Our inability to hold a lead had cost us dearly once more with 3 points rapidly diminishing to 1 and eventually 0.

I won’t lie, that result was an absolute fucking killer to morale, especially when I looked at our fixtures and could only imagine 2 possible victories…

Crystal Palace (H): ?-?

Steve Mounie was back to full fitness for this game and boy was I glad? Adama Diakhaby had been atrocious last time out against Burnley and my side were desperately in need of a goal scorer for the run-in.

After just 2 minutes of this game the scoring was opened by a lethal goal scorer, unfortunately for me that man was Wilfried Zaha. The Ivorian absolutely rinsed two defenders before rifling his shot into the corner of Ben Hamer’s net. Uh-oh…

What on earth could I do now? If I asked the lads to push forward and attack Palace I was going to end up on the wrong end of a hiding, the pace that they had on the break was terrifying.

Instead of doing that I asked the lads to play a balanced game in the hope of exploiting my favourite things, set-pieces. Big Steve Mounie came to my rescue twice, first in the 13th minute when he scored from a corner.

Secondly in the 49th minute when he scored from – make an educated guess – another corner. Boom, boom, shake the fucking room. Palace were on the ropes after that second goal with Roy Hodgson withdrawing James Chester from the action as he was being absolutely dominated by big Steve.

The chances kept coming as well, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a way past Guaita in the Palace goal who was playing a blinder. Going into the 85th minute we were coasting to 3 points and ready to toast our brave comeback, but then it happened again!

90 seconds later we were 3 fucking 2 down, that’s right, 3 fucking 2 to Crystal fucking Palace. In the 85th minute Willy Zaha did what he does so well, beating about 400 Town defenders and slotting the ball past Ben Hamer.

The winner came from Patrick Van Aanholt who somehow smashed one in from about 35 yards past the hapless Hamer. What a fucking joke! For the second game in a row we had turned a 2-1 win into a 3-2 loss in the last 10 minutes.

The only good thing to come out of the game was the fact that we still remained a point ahead of Brighton, who had the good grace to lose 1-0 away to Arsenal. Next up for us? A trip to Cardiff, where we would probably blow a 4-0 lead in the last 5 minutes to lose 5 fucking 4.

Cardiff City (A): ?-?

This was a big game for both sides as Cardiff knew that anything other than a defeat would see them return to the Championship. Admittedly, they would then have had to win all of their remaining games and hope we lost all of ours, but it was still a big game for Neil Warnock’s team.

I called the dreaded team meeting ahead of this game and gave the players a bit of a confidence boost whilst impressing upon them the importance of playing well and ensuring survival.

It didn’t matter what I said though as it clearly fell on deaf ears with Cardiff opening the scoring straight from kick off. Sol Bamba launched a long ball into our box which was cleared by the head of Christopher Schindler.

Unfortunately the German’s clearance landed right on the foot of Junior Hoilett who volleyed a fucking screamer into the back of my net. That was the third time that the Canadian had scored against my side this season, and it was the third time that it was an absolutely fucking worldie.

After the game I checked his stats for the season and it turned out that he was absolutely dog shit in every other match, saving up all of his goals and his performances for games against us. What an absolute bastard of a way to start a death or glory game.

When that goal went in I left the room, in what was the equivalent of the manager storming down the tunnel and back into the changing room. I didn’t reappear until half-time, thoroughly expecting to see us 3 down to a world class hat-trick from that cunt Hoilett.

I was happy when I came back though because we were 2-1 up. In my absence Steve Mounie had equalised in the 5th minute and Alex Pritchard had put us ahead in the 14th, with all the match stats indicating clear dominance from my team.

I warned my players to guard against complacency as they headed back out for the second period but clearly Erik Durm wasn’t listening. The overpaid German full-back received his marching orders 5 minutes into the second-half for what was described as a ‘horror tackle’.

I switched to 3 at the back and ‘demanded more’ from my players as I thought to myself, “If we’re going down, we’re going down with a fucking bang”. 15 minutes later there were 2 more bangs, the first from Isaac Mbenza and the second from Alex Pritchard, BOOM!

We were 4-1 up and it had been thoroughly deserved, I think, as I’d only watched about 16 minutes of actual action on the pitch. I set the time wasting slider to max and watched in glee as the game finished without any unwanted surprises from that cunt Hoilett or Cardiff.

The win relegated Cardiff and sent us 4 points clear of Brighton with 3 games left to play, although the Seagulls did have 2 winnable games against Wolves and Newcastle, although their next fixture was a home game against Manchester United which I was sure they'd lose.

Arsenal (H): ?-?

This was a ‘free hit’ as far as I was concerned with Brighton entertaining Manchester United later on in the day. The players were instructed to ‘attack, attack, attack’ and they did just that, with aplomb.

Steve Mounie opened the scoring on the half hour mark with a sumptuous finish before Florent Hadergjonaj doubled our lead on the brink of half-time. The Swiss/Kosovan right back beat Arsenal ‘keeper Bernd Leno from range with a curling effort.

In the second-half it was more of the same, Elias Kachunga made it 3 with a tap in before a Christopher Schindler penalty put the icing on the cake in the 73rd minute. Now and then, I remain perplexed as to how we won the game so comfortably.

None of the Arsenal players had a shocking game, there were no sending offs or anything else to point to such a resounding victory. It just appeared that every single player on my team had played out of their skins, raising their games to astronomical levels to keep us clear of relegation.

After the game I gazed on the Premier League table with glee, we were 7 points clear of Brighton who occupied the final relegation spot. I tapped the space bar and waited for the good news, if Brighton lost to Man United we would be safe…

But they didn’t lose, they won 1-0, for fuck sake! The relegation battle would go on into May when we would face Everton and Leicester. Could we hold onto a 4 point lead in the final 2 games of the season? Realistically we should be able to, but this is my Huddersfield Town after all and we have shown a penchant for spectacular collapses thus far.

Click HERE for the final part of our Football Manager Chronicle…

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