Illuminous Basterds

Anyone played the new Football Manager? Apparently it’s absolute garbage. Reviews say it takes 3 hours to set up a game, 45 minutes to create a manager and by the time it finally loads, you have 6 hours’ worth of meetings with the press, the fans, the captain, the owner, the staff, the kit man, the tea lady… apparently it’s a bloody nightmare. To top it all off, as soon as it hits 2018 the game is ruined. It just gets too realistic… for starters in July 2018 Brexit hits, meaning that you now have to get work permits for all Spanish and Italian wonderkids which are rejected. In 2019, All the best players are “sent back to their own country” which hits Liverpool the hardest. Without Coutinho and Matip, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are called out of retirement. Stevie Gee is crocked after a tackle from Gillingham’s Danny Dyer in the FA cup 3rd Round and the former England captain subsequently dies after refusing treatment because the Junior Doctors have never heard of Phil Collins. FA President HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is involved in a race row and is suspended by the Association leaving Nigel Farage to run for the position demanding that “we take our FA back” and pledges that the World Cup be held every four years in Staines. Farage, driving a tank through London claiming that all the millions we get from Sky will go straight to Sunday league football, wins the election with 52% of the vote and appears on Sunday Supplement reneging “I never said we’d give Sky money to Sunday league” before promptly resigning to leave Boris Johnson to run the FA. After trying to build twelve 80,000 seater stadiums for the 2022 world cup in Bracknell, Boris is foiled when Ali G goes on hunger strike over the closure of the John Nike Leisure Centre. The country soon becomes bankrupt and you end the 2022-23 season with the premiership folding and Lower Green being promoted from the KDFL to the championship – which is now the leading league in England. Bloody far too realistic for my liking…

Reading the review made me long for a simpler time. A pre-brexit time when everyone was mates, a time when you could go to the pub without needing ID and a time when you could go for a nice slap up meal at an all-inclusive Portuguese resort and leave your Kid upstairs alone without fear of being called a murderer. A time when you didn’t have to take your shoes off in airports and a time when you wouldn’t dream of playing anything other than 4-4-2. A time when Leeds United were actually good at football. A time like 2001/02. For Champ Man 01/02 taught us everything we would ever need to know about being a football manager.

Fast forward 15 years and December has rolled into town in its typical-fucking freezing-manner. Merton were facing an away game against the league leaders and the gaffer had a right selection headache on his hands. A match day 17 was available that had to be narrowed down to 14. It was, but in difficult circumstances. Having to let people down is never nice, but we tried to do it as fairly as possible – picking only players that had appeared in a Merton Shirt the most recently. As work christmas parties took their toll, Merton ended up with three dropouts – reducing the team to a bare 11. Most notable of the absentees was Skipper Andy Moffatt who got paralytic at his xmas party and didn’t roll in until 6am.

With just a bare 11 to chose from, the gaffer decided to go back to basics, playing the age old 01-02 possession formation

The depleted 11 were:

Shay Given - Scott Fitzgerald

The Irish Surname was about as close as the similarities get between these two…

Olivier Bernard - Ian Taylor

Ollie retired at 28, for our sakes Ian Taylor probably should have done the same…

Nikos Dabizas - Alex Hall

Having met his Mrs, Alex Hall clearly loves a bit of Greek but rarely makes a Mezze of it when defending…

Marcelino – John Abbey

Handsome, but massively injury prone.

Andy Griffin – Matt Elwell

Both lower league idiots who love shouting their own name and going to beer festivals

Jermaine Jenas – Gary Webber

Massive rumours he’s gay.

Kieron Dyer – Sam Wowk

Both Grade-A Cunts (Although Kieron Dyer has never wanked on a biscuit…)

Craig Bellamy – Morty

A right mouthy cunt.

Clarence Acuña – Will Fryer

A right ugly cunt.

Shola Ameobi – Louis Mayne

Both big units that somehow manage to score goals

Alan Shearer – Josh Tovey

Half decent on twitter, better in the box.

The formation was set and the pre-match tactics were equally dated….

Now, I’m going to caveat this match report by saying that Kingsbrook FC are the best team in our division. We were beaten 3-1 by Crescent Rovers last week who aren’t even a patch on the level of football these lads play. On the whole, they’re also one of the nicest teams we’ve encountered, but unfortunately for them – they made the mistake of playing football. See, Merton Social rise to the occasion when teams try to play football and when people give us a game we step up our standard. However, when heed-the-baals come down to Kimber and play it Stoke, we crumble and look like the NBA Stars from Space Jam when they’ve lost their powers. So against the top side, with no linesman and no subs – Merton faced their toughest task of the season and boy did we come out onto the pitch looking like we’d all been slurping down Michael’s Special Stuff (the water bottle from Space Jam – not Logan’s Jizz…)

Off the game kicked and we’d started on the backfoot. We knew that Kingsbrook would play the ball considerately, so we bided our time and waited for key moments to attack. The idea was to keep compact and play the ball to feet, only using the height of Mayne and Fryer when required. The latter was winning everything but getting absolutely nowt from a referee that took an instant dislike to Will after seeing his brand new bellendmobile in the carpark. Blacked out windows and personalised plates meant that fouls on our big man were going unpunished and – while calling the referee a fucking dickhead didn’t help = the venting would only get worse when Kingsbrook broke the deadlock about 15 minutes into the game

0-1

After tackling their winger in the box, he lay on the floor while everyone cleared their lines. Despite being in an offside position when the ball was played back over the top, the ref deemed it okay because of Elwell’s amazing assist. As our fullback swung the pendulum of a right foot at the ball, he missed it and on the return yelwell back-heeled it into the path of the Kingsbrook man, who rounded our Scott and finished in the far corner of the net. Jammy bastard.

We were passing the ball exquisitely in the first 45 and our back four looked extremely composted. Hall and Abbey looked more Hall and Oates against Crescent Rovers, but against Kingsbrook they were like Puyol and Pique, taking plenty of touches and strolling out of defence to pick their passes. They were helped by the commanding figure of Webber in the DM role, who was tasked with never leaving his own half and making sure that the defenders had an easy ball at all times.

There were two penalty shouts in the first half firstly when Fryer was wrestled to the ground during a corner and secondly when Louis Mayne skipped past 4 players before being clattered in the area – the referee deeming the defender got all of the ball and none of the man *stroke chin emoji*

Just before half time a significant moment happened. Their handful of a centre half flew in for a tackle on Louis – not realising that he’d have more luck tackling a brick wall. Busting his knee as the sheer force of the artist formerly known as Rhino rippled through his body shattering his bones in the process. It signalled the end of what had been a great half of football, but Merton were only just getting started…

The half time team talk wasn’t a thing on Champ Man 01/02, that only came in 2006 after the SI/Eidos split. In any case, the gaffer’s Mike Bassett-esque rant told the lads to keep going and that chances would come.

1-1

As the game restarted, we were immediately on level terms. Josh had been instructed to get up the arse of the injured centre back and use his injury to our advantage. A wonderful through ball to Josh saw him turn the injured man and race 3 on 2 against the centre back and the goalkeeper. Slotting the ball to his strike partner, Louis jinked past the other defender and was cynically brought down. The ref pointed to the spot and Louis Mayne stepped up, neatly placing the ball into the left hand side of the net – the keeper guessing the wrong way.

Merton were playing some sexy stuff that would make even the Ruudist of Gullit blush. Little triangles in the midfield, a few crafted passes in behind the fullback. We really had stepped up our game. The chances were coming thick and fast and Merton deservedly took the lead on the 60’ mark. Now, there’s no better feeling in football then when you try something inventive and it comes off. What follows is one of the best goals we’ve scored since Gavin Larkin netted a planned move against Ewell Saxons in the ‘Clapham Common Move’ of 2012.

2-1

Fryer had a word with the ref at half time, explain that his current motor is a rental and that he’s seen the error of his ways after shit Jaguars and Porsches. Since then, the referee was actually giving Fryer some fouls. When Will was downed 25 yards out, Morton spotted the ball. Webber moved to the front of the line and Morty signalled for a move they’d discussed at the water cooler in Turner Towers. As the opposition expected our skipper to shoot, Morty slid the ball in to Webber at the penalty spot who then passed it back to Josh – unmarked on the edge of the 18-yard box. Josh Tovey then placed the ball into the top corner, completely unguarded by a keeper who was blinded by the sea of bodies in front of him. As the striker wheeled away in celebration, the opposition commented that it’s the “best goal (they’d) seen in amateur football”.

Fryer was starting to take the piss now and was getting all their players booked. Firstly, he wound up their #16 to the point where he flew in like a madman, missed and was subsequently carded. Then he wound up their full back to the point where he went into the book for dissent. Top bombing.

With a one goal lead and with no subs, Merton were under pressure for the first time in the game. Firstly, someone idiotically shouted “KEEPERS” which meant Alex Hall stopped running for a ball Scott was never going to get. Luckily their winger put it wide, but a massive lesson learned that only the goalkeeper can call for it. Secondly, their captain nearly banged in a header after Elwell put his name on it and missed it, causing Webber not to compete and their skipper to have a free header at goal. Another lesson learned. When it comes to corners – just clear everyone out in the air and get rid of the ball! Sadly, it was another rookie error that brought Kingsbrook level.

2-2

Kingsbrook drew level after an awful free-kick evaded everyone and bounced on the penalty spot before rolling into the bottom corner. How on earth did that happen, you ask? Well, their striker was well offside and had impeded the view of Scott, but also – everyone stopped and shouted “offside” as the goal went in, looking toward a linesman that we’d never brought. We have to be better at that this week…

The thing about this Merton team is, that when things don’t go our way – we come out fighting. With 15 minutes left, we had our lead restored.

3-2

Some great battling out wide by Louis saw the striker clattered 30 yards from goal, as Morty ran from midfield to get on the end of it he hit a left-footed through ball into the box for Josh, who had timed his run perfectly. Josh Tovey opened up his body and smashed his shot into the far corner of the net. A delightful finish and a deserved 2nd of the game for our talisman.

Merton weathered a late storm when their winger – who was the trickiest player on the pitch – took on three of our players before smashing his shot toward goal – Alex Hall the saviour as the ball took a deflection wide. From the corner, their centre mid volleyed a shot goalwards, but fortunately Morty was able to clear the ball off the line. There was nearly a chance for an equaliser when Alex Hall won the ball on the edge of the box and the referee somehow gave a free-kick… their skipper again getting a free header off, but again nodding it narrowly over the bar.

Fortunately, Merton had their breathing room with an exquisite chance in the last 5 minutes.

4-2

Sam Wowk had been exceptional playing in a completely unknown central midfield role and got his reward of an assist after picking the ball up in midfield, skinning two players and slotting in Louis Mayne who beat the offside trap, sprinted through on goal and rounded the keeper before slotting the ball home with his RIGHT, repeat RIGHT, foot. It meant he moved one goal ahead of Josh in their heated race for this seasons golden boot, now notching 9 goals in just 6 games for the twos.

The final whistle sounded and Merton were victorious. A deserved win but make no doubt about it, a win that means absolutely nothing if we don’t play the exact same way against Worcester Park this coming weekend.

Man of the Match

Usually, Goalkeepers and defenders get the accolades for clean sheets and goal scorers get it for adding to their tally, but in a game with so many outstanding performances it was great to see the day’s unsung hero run away with the award. By doing the unselfish work in the midfield, the rest of us were able to get forward and create. Gary Webber - tick-a-boo son.

Also, if anyone has been inspired by this trip down memory lane fancies a game of CM 01/02 – it’s a free download. http://www.fmscout.com/a-championship-manager-0102-free-download.html

You’re welcome.

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