‪#‎FM15‬ ‪#‎FordFocus‬ : It was a cold wind in August

What is going on in the world when Russia are European Champions and Ronnie Delia is England manager? I have no idea, but it doesn’t really bother us down in the lower leagues. We are preparing to take on the likes of Chelmsford, Corinthian Casuals, Dulwich Hamlet and Kingstonian in the Ryman Premier League and my oh my it has been a tough pre-season.

I lined up ten money making friendlies against league opposition in a bid to bolster our finances for the season. I expected to get stuffed in most of them and I wasn’t disappointed. What was different to my other pre-seasons was the amount of injuries we picked up – seven players all ruled out for over a month, completely disrupting my planning.

Recruitment went well, albeit one slightly panicked loan signing as my midfield got decimated with thigh strains, twisted ankles and pulled hamstrings. I brought in George “Arty” Artemi to add something to our defence, Tommy “Smithy” Smith to play in midfield and Ben “Popey” Pope to add competition up front. Coming in on loan were Luke Southwood, a goalkeeper from Reading and Morgan “Brucey” Bruce-De-Rouche, a wonderfully named midfielder from Stevenage. With last year’s four loan signings all heading back to their clubs and Jay Nash leaving it means our squad is still the same size. I was delighted to tie Ossie and Reecey down to longer contracts after it looked like they maybe leaving.

Before we move into the first few games, what’s been happening over the summer in the big leagues?

We already know Roy Hodgson has left the England job and replaced by a guy that managed to win the Scottish Premier League twice unchallenged. Brilliant move that. Most of the summer chat was around whether Jose would be in charge of Chelsea this season. I can tell you he will not be, resigning on the 17th July. Spaniard Michel has taken over, moving to Stamford Bridge from winning everything domestically with Ajax. Having now got nobody to argue with, Arsene retired and was replaced at the Emirates by Jorge Jesus. Steve Clarke is now in charge at Everton and Roberto Donadoni at Reading.

Transfer wise, do you remember when Oriol Romeu was the next Makelele? I think that ship has sailed as he just moved to Fulham for £2.2m. Champions Liverpool have flogged Origi to Real Madrid for £7.25m and Chelsea spent £13.5m on Chancel Mbemba from Anderlecht. Kurt Zouma has swapped changing room pegs with Saed Kolasinac with no money changing hands, Arsene’s parting gift to Arsenal was convincing Real to give them £4.2m for Carzola and United have continued their fine line of Brazilian right backs by paying £13m for Rafinha. A lot of other stuff has happened too, and I wish I had made more notes over the summer but here are a few more – Depay to Liverpool, Stones to City, Gundogan to Arsenal, Rossi and Lascalles to Burnley, Morata to Chelsea, Icardi to Liverpool AND Gimenez to United. And breath.

Ok, back to City. Our first match at this level in about 40 years was going to be at home to Heybridge Swifts. Injuries meant the side was barely recognisable to the one that won us promotion. Browny has the gloves back and Arty was named to sit in-between Big D and Nicky. Blakey was flanked by Joshy and Brucey with Daisy playing behind last year’s regular front three of Eddie, Ossie and Reecey. Young Swanny and Popey were the only outfield subs. Before the game the chairman reminded me that he expecting us to challenge for the title – good to see we are on the same page. I’d imagine we are going straight up again.

Boom! 80 seconds on the clock and Reecey unleashed a left foot hammer strike from the edge of the area that almost broke the new net. Browny made a couple of excellent saves to keep us ahead and then just after the hour mark Brucey sent Ossie away and he rounded the ‘keeper to score his first of the season. He is a fine player Ossie, as is Joshy. Joshy’s pass for Ossie’s second was sublime, Pirlo-esque. Ossie again rounded the ‘keeper and it was 3-0. We closed the game out beautifully, and Brucey looks like an instant hit, winning MOM. Not a bad start at all.

We travelled to Essex and Chelmsford next. Players were starting to come back to training following the injury run, but I chose the same team. Chelmsford used to be in the Conference South I think, so a far bigger club than us. It didn’t matter though as Eddie slammed us ahead in the second minute. Ossie’s shot was half blocked and the ball fell to the lad and he put his foot right through it into the top corner. They got level minutes later, a long ball into the area not being dealt with properly and the ball falling into the path of their lad with an open net. The scoreboard operator had more work to do after just ten minutes, Chelmsford going 2-1 up with a shot from distance. Fifteen minutes saw the third Chelmsford goal, Browny being beaten at his near post. I hooked Nicky at half time as he was having a torrid time and brought on club captain Crispy. Incredibly the skipper pulled one back from a corner within two minutes! We started to play and Ossie should have levelled it, shooting straight at the ‘keeper. I brought on Wardy for Daisy, but as the change was waiting to happen Ossie got clipped in the area for a penalty. Would Wardy be allowed on the pitch to take it? No! But it did not matter, Arty stepped up confidently and rifled it high into the net. 3-3!! 70 minutes and a crazy goalmouth scramble. We did five shots in a pinball moment then the sixth went in, Eddie from a very tight angle. It wasn’t over though, oh no. They went right back up the other end and got the equaliser, madness. Browny made a great save with two minutes to go to atone for his previous error but from the resulting corner they made it 5-4. It was a crazy game, high in entertainment but a disappointing defeat. We will not go too far letting in five goals every week.

I chopped and changed a little for the visit of Kingstonian and started with last season’s back three. I also dropped Daisy who still didn’t look like he wanted to be with us. Wardy came back in for him. Big D and Brucey were tired but I wanted them in the side. We made a good start, Eddie shooting low into the left hand corner early on. We looked pretty solid all the way through the first half, but then Blakey got carried off just before half time. We never play as well without him, so I was a little worried for the second half. But, we played even better second half. Daisy bossed the back of the midfield and then Joshy pinged a free kick off the bar and it hit the ‘keeper on the head and went in! A good win against a good side at this level. I was also delighted that we came back with a clean sheet following the previous game.

The lads had a week to refresh before the trip to Thurrock, another tough side for this level. I hadn’t really realised how many solid sides we were going to be up against. Blakey recovered in time, so I sent out the same eleven again. The game started at a frenetic pace, sliding tackles going in all over the place. We won a short corner and the ball was worked to Wardy and he struck it home! Ten minutes later we doubled it, Ossie was racing down the wing, rare for him, and his far post cross was nodded home by Eddie. They scored a cracker shortly after, but we were still playing well. In the second half we hit them on the counter, Eddie speeding on to a pass from Wardy, standing it up at the far post and Reecey heading home. Reecey was at it again, shooting hard from a short corner and it was deflected in for 4-1. I switched to park the bus, this could be a massive marker laid down. We saw the game out, quite an impressive win for this little old club.

August was coming to an end and we headed down the road to Leatherhead, yet another local ground I’d played at. The loan keeper, Southy, had been moaning about his lack of playing time and wanted to leave. Really keen for him not to as I don’t want to have to sign another one. I went same again in selection, we were just finding our stride with all but one player being the team that won us promotion.

Twenty minutes or so into the game Reecey got brought down on the left of the area. It was a clear penalty! Wardy stepped up and slammed it home. We looked very comfortable but I was concerned about complacency slipping in. I mentioned it at half time and we scored right after the game restarted. Eddie crossed to the far post and Reecey’s run had lost his man for an easy tap in. It felt a little early to shut up shop so I left it for a while. Five minutes later another short corner was worked well and Eddie bashed it into the roof of the net. They got one back from their own corner and I decided to try and close it out. 15 minutes to go and we got a total freebie of a penalty, their lad just cleaning out Reecey for no reason at all. Wardy, top corner as usual and 4-1! Another big win for the City and we moved up into 3rd place.

The final day in August saw our old rivals Whyteleafe come to the Spectrum. It was also transfer deadline day meaning I was going to have a busy end of month round-up to come. I had a quick flick through the performance stats and it made me worry about Nicky Schroder. He’s made a couple of mistakes leading to goals, not won as many headers as he normally does and his passing has been shocking. I decided to have a word in his ear and it went down ok. I do recommend the occasional word in the ear. Anyway, Whyteleafe at the Spectrum.

We didn’t have the best of times against these boys last season so I was delighted when Brucey put us ahead. It was a swift counter, Wardy winning the ball on the edge of our area and releasing Eddie. He waited and Ossie came short to receive the ball. Joshy sprinted past him and was played in, the ball shifted to Reecey in the blink of an eye. He waited, and waited and Brucey legged it into the box and finished first time. It was a classic 3-3-1-3 goal, full of movement and well timed passing. Even with that goal I felt we could be doing more so I hammered them at half time. It worked and Ossie sprinted on to a through ball from Joshy to make it 2-0 right after the break. Moments later theywere at it again and Ossie finished beautifully on the angle. Nicky took my chat to heart and made it 4-0 from a short corner. Four goals up with 25 left I decided to close it out, aiming for the clean sheet. That plan lasted five minutes as they pulled one back! Either way they didn’t pose us any real problems and we had racked up another win. August was over and we ended the month top of the table, over taking Canvey Island. Sure, it’s only six games in but it’s great to see the bulk of the lads that won the Combined Counties are still top of the table two levels higher!

Let’s round up Deadline Day and the early matches in the Premier League and Championship. In the Prem no more managers have changed, but players have. Milner and Glen Johnson are two England internationals looking for a club havng been released. Mangala has been moved on by City, to PSG to be precise and PSG shifted Khabbib to Manchester United. Viktor Fischer finally moved on from Ajax, choosing Arsenal as his new home and Ajax also waved goodbye to Tudorie who moved to Anfield. Chelsea snapped up Jackson Martinez late in the day. Chelsea under the tutelage of Michel have won their first three games and top the table.

In the Championship Hull and Brighton lead the way with Middlesboro slap bang bottom.

So, that’s it. September soon!

Go on Guildford!

(To win a copy of my first book name the song in the title and sign up to the “The Higher Tempo Press” newsletter. You’ll get the book and exclusive content, updates and deals in the run up to the third “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” book by signing up here)

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