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Thread: The Year of the Snake

  1. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by baw View Post
    Ugly January, even February was not the best, but it seems that things are getting a little brighter, surely the pride of your boys will lead them to do better.
    I find your latest purchases very interesting, after the last two months I got the idea that maybe a new purchase would be necessary up front because you play a lot and create a lot, but you score much less than you create
    Yep, think I've been too focused on getting snakes in for positions where I don't have many snakes - I have loads of attacking snakes (regardless of quality), so just plugging gaps! The chances-to-goals ratio is certainly a concern... gone on a bit too long to be a phase.



    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    Meh - not hugely fussed on Collins but have to remember the level you are at and restrictions in place

    Poor month that - I'm surprised you are still only 3 points away - but as you say others are pulling away

    Not too bad at all on the potential snake payouts

    Good to see "The BEAST" as player of the mopnth again #swanslegendinmystory
    I quite liked Collins! Don't think he'll take me from second tier to top tier, but he'll certainly do for now. The fact he came from 24th-placed Bury may be telling, though...

    Beauty of a 24-team league is that lots of teams beat lots of teams so luckily my rivals slip up as often as me!

    I'm certainly converting to a member of the Damien Lacey fanclub (members: 2)
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  3. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by riise View Post
    Yep, think I've been too focused on getting snakes in for positions where I don't have many snakes - I have loads of attacking snakes (regardless of quality), so just plugging gaps! The chances-to-goals ratio is certainly a concern... gone on a bit too long to be a phase...
    Actually for now the main problem is to get rid of the "non-snakes" and replace them with snakes, but I would still mark a note in the "new attackers" note to not forget.

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  5. #53
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    Tranmere manager Joe Blake knew he had only 12 games remaining in the Second Division campaign - his team would have to string some wins together if they were to fulfill their promotion aspirations. Half of those games took place in March.


    Wigan Athletic 1-0 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    With that in mind, a trip to league leaders Wigan Athletic was not what Blake and his boys needed. Although Tranmere were responsible for most of the good things in this game, it was Wigan who grabbed the only goal, sending Rovers on the short trip back to Birkenhead somewhat dejected.


    Although his preference would be for his scouts to be out searching for promising youngsters, the transfer policy in place rendered this pointless, so Blake sent Dave Philpotts to Scandinavian with a brief to search for players born in 1977. Luckily Philpotts didn't ask any questions, despite his obvious confusion.


    Tranmere Rovers 4-2 Stoke City (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Hoping that returning home to Prenton Park would help his team turn their fortunes around, Tranmere hosted Stoke City in what felt like a must-win game. Janne Salli was again back in full training, but this one came too soon for him and he wasn't risked from the start. Most of the action took place in a manic first half - Jonathan Macken's opener was soon cancelled out by the visitors, only for Mark Robertson's first goal for the club to restore the home team's advantage shortly thereafter. A quickfire Koumas brace meant that Rovers led 4-1 at the break. Two of their goals were assisted by Agustin, which would secure him the man of the match award, despite Stoke grabbing a consolation goal in the second half. Their return to winning ways delighted Sh and the board.


    Blake spotted a "quick-win" in the shape of a free-agent goalkeeper - he was adjudged to be as capable as current backup John Achterberg but came with this added bonus of being born in the year of the snake!

    Elliot Jackson, GK - Free
    Spoiler!



    Peterborough United 0-1 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    A rather dour affair looked destined to finish goalless until Jonathan Macken provided a defence-splitting pass for Parkinson to slot home in the 77th minute. That goal made up a quarter of the shots on target in the entire game and everyone was glad to go home.


    A busy week ensued for Blake as he was sorted out two Waynes' summer transfers to Blackpool - Allison and Gill were headed to the seaside resort. Stuart John Dawe returning to full training was good news for the manager.


    Tranmere Rovers 3-1 Bury (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Rovers were heavy favourites for the visit of Bury, who were still marooned at the bottom of the league, teetering on the brink of relegation already. It was another frankly bizarre first half, in which four goals were scored. Koumas gave Tranmere the lead and scored his second after Bury had conjured an equaliser. Sam Collins was the unlikely scorer of Tranmere's third, against his former club. Jonathan Macken and Andy Williams both impressed and registered an assist each.


    Wycombe Wanderers 1-2 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Rovers had a chance to make it four consecutive wins in their visit to Wycombe. After going behind after four minutes, Blake suffered another setback midway through the first half as he lost Dainius Gleveckas to what looked like a badly gashed leg. But three minutes after that, the tide turned when the hosts had their left-back sent off. It took a long time for Tranmere to capitalise, but they eventually made the extra man count when Jonathan Macken provided a pinpoint cross for substitute Stuart John Dawe to head home. Macken was then on hand nine minutes from time to secure a hardly fought three points and the man of the match award for himself. Perhaps not related to this performance in particular, but Sh again got in touch to let Blake know that the board were pleased.


    Tranmere Rovers 2-2 Cardiff City (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    March's final game saw Tranmere return home to host Cardiff. The home side appeared to have lost all momentum as they meekly went 2-0 down in front of 10,549 fans, but somehow rallied back with what initially looked like a consolation goal in the 87th minute - the unlikely comeback was sealed in stoppage time when Janne Salli poked the ball through to Parkinson to stumble over the line with the ball in tow. Their winning run was over, but Blake was more than satisfied with the nature of the fight displayed to steal a point.


    The sole piece of bad news from the Cardiff game was a big one - Damien Lacey's initially innocuous-looking injury turned out to be a torn groin muscle that would end his season. Losing his best signing was a big blow to Tranmere's promotion hopes. But they were well-placed for a playoff place, sitting 5th - five points clear of 7th but a surely unassailable 11 points behind 2nd.
    Spoiler!



    The transfer deadline passed at the end of the month, which meant no more snakes in and no more non-snakes out until the summer.


    Predictably, given the positive updates provided throughout the month, Blake's monthly appraisal went excellently as he was informed the board were delighted with his management, but he was particularly proud to learn of the perceived rapport between himself and the Super White Army.
    Spoiler!



    Snake of the Month
    Mark Robertson was unlucky this month, having proved his critics wrong and turned in some excellent performances, but it was his fellow loanee Jonathan Macken who took March's prize - a 7.67 average rating, two goals and two assists were integral to the four wins recorded.

    Spoiler!
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  7. #54

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    After this great month of March I think the playoffs are almost safe ... congratulations!

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  9. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by baw View Post
    After this great month of March I think the playoffs are almost safe ... congratulations!
    Have to echo this - a great run of wins there powered you into playoff zone nicely!

    Keeper is meh - but will do for backup!

    Great to see fans behind you early doors

    Brilliant goal difference as well which'll help if you have a sticky last month

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  11. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by baw View Post
    After this great month of March I think the playoffs are almost safe ... congratulations!
    Fingers crossed!


    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    Keeper is meh - but will do for backup!

    Great to see fans behind you early doors

    Brilliant goal difference as well which'll help if you have a sticky last month
    Indeed, hoping Jackson doesnt need to play a competitive game for the club, and if all goes to plan hell be third-choice next season!

    Good point, hadnt considered GD, looks like it gives an advantage over the teams hunting the playoff places at least
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    Some onlookers were already declaring Tranmere as playoff certainties, but Joe Blake was having none of it - he knew he had a tough April coming up that included games against QPR, Port Vale and Blackpool, who were all placed in the top 8 in the league. The other two games in April were against Reading and Colchester, who were fighting for their lives in a relegation battle, so any points this month would be hard-earned.

    There was a spot of good news on April 6th, as goalkeeper Wayne Brown was selected as a substitute in the Second Division Team of the Season. This was a moment of vindication for the "snake project" - Brown was one of Blake's first signings, costing just 18,000 from local rivals Chester City. Despite Tranmere conceding more goals than Blake would like, there was no denying that it could have been much worse were it not for Tranmere's number one's consistently impressive performances.
    Spoiler!



    Blackpool 2-0 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    A trip to Blackpool kicked off the month, and it was an inauspicious start to a crucial April for Blake's men. Blackpool took the lead just after half-time and it was the same old story as Tranmere created and created but to no avail - their nine shots on target yielding no goals before the hosts made the game safe with seven minutes to play.


    Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Another away trip, another defeat. Any hopes Rovers had of bouncing back were dashed almost immediately as they were 2-0 down within 13 minutes - the hosts first two forays forward resulting in goals. Blake's men struggled throughout to get a foothold in the game, mustering only two shots on target all afternoon. Some rare good play led to a consolation goal, when wingers Mark Robertson and Andy Williams combined for the former to set up a goal for the latter. Suddenly Tranmere's playoff hopes were in very real danger.


    Tranmere Rovers 3-1 Colchester United (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Blake was confident that a return to Prenton Park would get the team back on track, and he witnessed a completely different performance against lowly Colchester. Rovers were ahead within three minutes as Mark Robertson again created a goal - this time the recipient was Jonathan Macken. Rovers doubled their lead midway through the first half as the reliable Agustin registered a rare goal. The visitors got back into the game shortly after half-time but, undeterred, Rovers restored their two-goal advantage shortly thereafter, with Andy Williams finishing smartly after an excellent cross from substitute Torgeir Sundgot. A wonderful all-round performance saw Williams named man of the match.


    Reading 1-0 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    A trip to 19th-placed Reading was next up, and Blake fancied his team's chances if they could replicate the desire displayed against Colchester. This, however, was potentially the worst performance of his tenure. Five minutes after deservedly going behind, Janne Salli was sent for an early bath by the referee. The red card seemed harsh, and Blake would be minded to appeal it, but that couldn't help his side get back into the game and they ended it without even a shot on target, as the home side saw it out comfortably. This being April's third defeat, Blake couldn't help wondering if his players were bottling it.


    Tranmere Rovers 3-1 Port Vale (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Although Port Vale were playoff rivals - occupying 4th place - Blake was confident that Rovers' home form was good enough to see them off. Just like the last game at Prenton Park, Jonathan Macken had the ball in the net after three minutes to set Tranmere off to a dream start. The game continued cagily until Port Vale equalised, after which the home side were forced to play somewhat more expansively in search of another goal. That goal duly arrived after 72 minutes as some excellent wing play from Andy Williams led to him crossing in for Andy Parkinson to put Rovers back in the lead. There wasn't much of a response from Port Vale this time, and Rovers made the game safe in stoppage time - Dainius Gleveckas heading home from a corner. Jonathan Macken was later named man of the match for the part he played in a crucial win in the final home game of the season, which 10,025 fans came out to see - including Sh and some other board members, who were sure to notfiy Blake of their delight with the performance.


    So there was one game left of the Second Division season and Rovers were sat precariously in 7th, just one point ahead of 8th-placed Huddersfield. It then dawned on Blake that he'd only faced Huddersfield once in his short managerial career... Tranmere were effectively starting the playoffs early, with a winner-takes-all game at The Alfred McAlpine Stadium in a week.
    Spoiler!



    As far as the "snake project" was concerned, it wasn't lost on Blake or the board that there was now 8 snakes in what the manager considered to be his strongest 11. But could Rovers secure a playoff place with such a team?


    Snake of the Month
    There wasn't many good performance to choose from in a month that saw Rovers lose thrice, but Joe Blake was impressed with how Dainius Gleveckas had slotted back into the side after missing the first game through injury. He went on to record a 7.50 average rating in the next four games, never dipping below a 7 and, of course, bagged himself a goal against Port Vale.

    Spoiler!

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  14. #58
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    Bloody hell - pretty mediocre month that!

    Hanging on by skin of teeth - what hads Hudders recent form been like?

    You can outscore then I'd say

    But how do you set up knowing a draw is good enough?

    QPR look a bugger of a team to play for the winner anyway

    Good luck - I think you'l;l need it

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  16. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    Bloody hell - pretty mediocre month that!

    Hanging on by skin of teeth - what hads Hudders recent form been like?

    You can outscore then I'd say

    But how do you set up knowing a draw is good enough?

    QPR look a bugger of a team to play for the winner anyway

    Good luck - I think you'l;l need it
    Yep, reluctant to call it a bottle but certainly seems like a big old wobble at the very least!

    Huddersfield last five: W3, D1, L1 and my away form is sketchy as. Don't think playing for the draw would be the right thing to do - just go down in flames if we have to

    Would be nice if Bristol City slip up, wouldn't mind Port Vale.

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    Tranmere Rovers manager Joe Blake had a massive game coming up. The League Cup fixture at Anfield was previously considered the biggest game of his career, but that was effectively a free hit with nothing to lose - here he and his team had everything to lose. His side could go into the game knowing that a draw would secure a playoff place for them - by no means "job done", but at least the board's seasonal objective would be achieved. All being well, they could have a few more free hits in the playoffs.

    DMC Nick Henry's agent got in touch on the eve of the Huddersfield game to inform Blake that his client would be moving to Gillingham in the summer. Blake didn't want to seem dispassionate but, frankly, he didn't care. The phonecall was as brief as good manners would allow, and he continued the next day's preparations.

    Huddersfield Town 2-2 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    With Janne Salli suspended and Damien Lacey's season of course over, the DM C pairing had an unfamiliar look to it - Agustin and Petri Jarvinen had to step up. Goalless at the break, the game started as cagily as the scoreline suggested. Blake's counterpart did a better job than him at half-time as the home side took the lead within two minutes of the restart. He kept his nerve, however, and his side were level 10 minutes later through Parkinson. Less than 60 seconds after that, though, the home side restored their lead. Tranmere were visibly deflated and playing within themselves. Signs of life began to appear with around a quarter-of-an-hour left and some rare pressure from the visitors finally told in the 82nd minute, as Koumas got on the end of an Agustin centre to send the visiting fans into raptures. Blake punched the air just before being swamped by the Tranmere substitutes. He eventually regained his composure and his players needed every bit of his calming influence as they saw out the final eight minutes to secure 7th place.
    Spoiler!



    Their reward for the hard-earned draw at Huddersfield was of course a two-legged tie against Queens Park Rangers, to decide who would go to Cardiff to face the winner of Bristol City v Port Vale in the Millennium Stadium.


    Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division Playoff Semi Final 1st Leg)
    Spoiler!

    Blake's worst fears were realised very early on in this crucial game - Tranmere fell behind after just two minutes and Agustin limped off just four minutes later to send his defensive-midfield stable into full-on injury crisis mode. Things did get better, though, as Parkinson was brought down in the area and picked himself up to slot the penalty past the home keeper to restore parity. A draw would've been an excellent result, and Tranmere appeared to be playing for as much but actually took the lead not long after half-time - Dainius Gleveckas rising highest to nod Andy Williams' corner beyond the home keeper. Despite no shortage of pressure from the hosts, Tranmere headed back to Birkenhead with a real advantage - they were now favourites in the tie!

    The unfortunate news was that Agustin would be missing for 10 days with a minor knee injury. Blake was doing his best not to get ahead of himself, but he knew that meant his DM C would be available for the final, should they get there...


    Tranmere Rovers 2-1 Queens Park Rangers (Second Division Playoff Semi Final 2nd Leg)
    Spoiler!

    Tranmere started the 2nd leg as impressively in defence as they'd finished the 1st - just what was required. A stalemate at half-time and QPR were posing little-to-no threat on the home side's goal. Sadly that ruined the spectacle somewhat for the 13,830 inside Prenton Park, as it meant the hosts had no holes to exploit in the visitors' team. QPR came out of their shells in the second half, though - everyone knew they had to - and they drew first blood in the 52nd minute to worry the hosts somewhat. Tranmere were rocking, but seemingly against all odds weathered the storm. Nick Henry - the man Blake had remorselessly dismissed just a week-or-so prior, came on at half-time, and was Blake glad he did! He got Tranmere's equaliser in the 73rd minute to ensure that as it stood the hosts would be going through without extra time. Wayne Brown had to show every bit of his team-of-the-season form to repel the QPR efforts on goal, but a bit of respite arrived in the 90th minute when Tranmere won a corner after holding the ball near the byline until a visiting defender blinked first. Blake was too distracted trying to organise his midfield and forwards to realise that Dainius Gleveckas had inexplicably wandered forward. Expecting the ball to be held in the corner again, Blake was astonished and dismayed to see Andy Williams hoist it into the box - but who was there? Gleveckas! For his second goal in two games and his fifth of the season, to make sure Tranmere would be going to Cardiff in 11 days' time. Suffice to say that Sh and the other board members were pleased with the result.


    The 11 days of preparation for what was definitely the biggest game of his green managerial career were the longest 11 days of Blake's life. This was not helped by awful news of an administrative error that left Blake seething.


    SS: "Mr. Blake, we have some bad news."
    JB: "Now's the time to tell me it, I'm in the best mood I've been in all season!"
    SS: "Well, when we negotiated the loan contracts for the Macken and the Robertson, we got them for the rest of the season. A small misunderstanding means that it was only to cover until the regular season finished..."
    JB: "But I just played them in the playoffs?"
    SS: "Yes there was a week-long run-off period in the deals... that time has now elapsed. They return to their clubs tomorrow."
    JB: "Tomorrow?! Can't you extend the deals until after the final?!"
    SS: "We are afraid not, the transfer restrictions prevent it. Good thing you have replacements in the reserves!"



    Tranmere Rovers 0-3 Bristol City (Second Division Playoff Final)
    Spoiler!

    Without Macken and Robertson, Blake travelled to Cardiff fearing the worst. Stuart John Dawe would lead the line, with Thorbjorn Sveinsson on the bench if needed. Unfortunately, Macken and Robertson were sorely missed as Tranmere had no answer to Bristol City's dominance. Tranmere may have been listed first on the match programme but Cardiff was very much a home game for Bristol City and they made their fan advantage count, registering 10 shots on target to Tranmere's two. Three of those 10 shots ended up in Wayne Brown's net as Tranmere's season ended heartbreakingly limply. Blake's runner-up medal was around his neck for all of about three seconds and he couldn't wait to get back on the coach.


    One player wouldn't be joining his teammates on the coach home, though, as Clint Hill had another bizarre outburst. Blake was sick of him and left him in Cardiff.
    Spoiler!



    The next day Blake awoke to a text message from the club secretary and feared the worst - his heart sank - they surely can't sack him for losing the playoff final?! Luckily, it was bad news of a different kind - the administrative kind again. Nobody had thought to tell Blake previously that Jason Koumas, who he'd hoped he'd be able to sell for around 2,000,000, had a non-promotion release clause of 325,000. That clause would be active in two weeks' time - Blake had to lower his asking price and shift him as soon as possible.


    There was better news three days later at the Football League end-of-season awards - Blake's fine work despite the preposterous turnover of playing staff caught the eye of his peers and he was named as the Second Division Manager of the Year! The award was of course bittersweet, as he'd rather not be a Second Division manager next season.
    Spoiler!



    And if he was still concerned that there was a target on his back, those fears proved irrational as he was told in his end-of-season appraisal that the board were delighted with his performance as manager.
    Spoiler!



    The good news kept coming - Blake was named Manager of the Month for May!
    Spoiler!



    Those last few days of May gave him the enthusiasm he needed to continue the snake project. Most pressingly, he need to get rid of anyone who wasn't born in 1965 or 1977, and he had to do it fast...


    Snake of the Month
    Not a lot to choose from in May. There was a man-of-the-match performance from Wayne Brown and a couple of assists from Andy Williams, but Blake decided that the award should be retained by the man who finished off those two assists - Dainius Gleveckas. He also recorded the highest rating out of all of the snakes, with 7.50 across four high-pressure games.

    Spoiler!

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  19. #61

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    After the month of April I started thinking that I was bringing bad luck, but fortunately in the end you qualified for the playoffs.
    Too bad for the lost final, but nevertheless it can be said that it was a good championship ... a good starting point for next season

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  21. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by baw View Post
    After the month of April I started thinking that I was bringing bad luck, but fortunately in the end you qualified for the playoffs.
    Too bad for the lost final, but nevertheless it can be said that it was a good championship ... a good starting point for next season
    no it must be the dirty non-snakes' fault, bringing bad luck - don't blame yourself! Promotion next year without them, surely

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    Please make sure this will not become a new edition of Snakes and Ladders!

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  25. #64
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    Koumas witha massive goal v Hudders! A nice parting gift!

    Wow - QPR banished a lot easier than I thought!

    Fancy you in the final now with some momentum

    Feck sake on the 2 loanees!

    Argggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh - battered in final - a hurdle too far maybe

    Clint HIll - in your screenie it says fans delighted with Hill criticism - did that mean they agreed with Hill or were happy with dealt with him?! noidea:

    Koumas Non promotion - feckkkkkkkkkkkk

    Wow - surprised you got MOTY but certainly nice to see you were noticed!

    Phew - She has full confidence!

    Good 'ol Mr Lietuva!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Vrkh View Post
    Please make sure this will not become a new edition of Snakes and Ladders!
    wahahahahahahahah

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  27. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vrkh View Post
    Please make sure this will not become a new edition of Snakes and Ladders!
    indeed - wouldn't mind a couple of ladders in the next few years though!


    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    Koumas witha massive goal v Hudders! A nice parting gift!

    Wow - QPR banished a lot easier than I thought!

    Fancy you in the final now with some momentum

    Feck sake on the 2 loanees!

    Argggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh - battered in final - a hurdle too far maybe

    Clint HIll - in your screenie it says fans delighted with Hill criticism - did that mean they agreed with Hill or were happy with dealt with him?! noidea:

    Koumas Non promotion - feckkkkkkkkkkkk

    Wow - surprised you got MOTY but certainly nice to see you were noticed!

    Phew - She has full confidence!

    Good 'ol Mr Lietuva!
    Can't fault Koumas' commitment despite him hating the manger's guts, done a job this season. Will probably have to sell now for less than the 2.5m that was previously rejected, but think it was worth keeping him around.

    QPR ties didn't feel easy at the time - but yeah, didn't expect two outright victories!

    Final was most disappointing as I don't recall often being disposed of so easily, usually at least in the game and grabbing a goal or two when conceding a few

    Fans are right behind the manager on Hill

    MotY definitely a weird one, far more deserving candidates... but I'll take it!

    Certainly empowered by the board's backing! But not looking forward to another slog in Second Division against largely the same teams... we go again. Hopefully expectations aren't too lofty after the near-miss!

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  29. #66

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    Quote Originally Posted by riise View Post
    no it must be the dirty non-snakes' fault, bringing bad luck - don't blame yourself! Promotion next year without them, surely
    I'm not a snake, so I could really bring bad luck

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    Blake had no time to feel sorry for himself - in fact, he decided to forgo his summer holiday in order to oversee all the anticipated transfer activity. During June, 15 non-snakes left the club:

    • Dave Challinor, Chesterfield, 60,000
    • Richard Jobson, Leyton Orient, Free
    • Reuben Hazell, Scunthorpe United, Free
    • Paul Rideout, Oxford United, Free
    • Ian Sharps, Dorchester Town, 3,000
    • John Achterberg, FC Volendam, 45,000
    • Jason Koumas, Bradford City, 1,300,000
    • Andy Ralph, Oxford United, Free
    • Clint Hill, Northampton Town, 160,000
    • Wayne Allison, Blackpool, Free
    • Andy Parkinson, Newcastle United, 325,000
    • Paul Aldridge, Portsmouth, 65,000
    • Micky Mellon, released
    • Richard Hinds, Crewe Alexandra, 80,000
    • Danny Harrison, Exeter City, Free


    This left just two non-snakes to be exterminated, and they both had transfers arranged in July. A job well done for Blake. But only half a job - now he needed to get a lot of players in. As luck would have it, he had 8,000,000 to do just that! Now all he had to do was persuade players. After careful consideration, he decided to explore how cheaply he could bolster the squad before splashing the cash on marquee signings later on.

    The first signing was a pretty awful striker. Blake decided to take a gamble on him as a favour to his agent.

    Peter Thomson, S C - Free
    Spoiler!



    Blake evened out that pointless free signing when he lost patience with frugality almost straight away - breaking his transfer record to bring in a man he envisaged as Koumas' replacement in centre-midfield.

    Jim Brennan, D/M L/C - 500,000, Nottingham Forest
    Spoiler!



    Back to bargains as the Tranmere manager learnt of the availability of a centre-back that he had scouted during the season.

    Paul Wotton, D R/C - 22,000, Plymouth Argyle
    Spoiler!



    Another centre-back arrived that same day!

    Leo Roget, D/DM C - 150,000, Stockport County
    Spoiler!



    All of a sudden, Blake stopped ruing the pesky non-promotion release clause that may have cost him money on Koumas - it turned out that an on-loan revelation from last season had one of his very own! The transfer record was broken for the second time in a week to make the move happen.

    Jonathan Macken, S C - 525,000, Preston North End
    Spoiler!



    Mediocrity called once more, in the shape of a backup centre-midfielder.

    Paul Barrett, M C - Free, Wrexham
    Spoiler!



    All these additions put the snake count at 21, so clearly more required. That number was reduced to 20 when centre-back Chris Banks, signed for 18,000 in Blake's first week at the club, would be hanging up his boots. The Tranmere manger tried to talk him around, but he wasn't to be swayed. He was, however, offered a job on the coaching staff.

    Sh Sh and Joe Blake agreed that it'd be a nice touch to arrange a short tour of China in pre-season - games were arranged against Zhejiang Lucheng, Changchun Yatai and Shenyang Jinde. There'd be a fourth-and-final friendly at Prenton Park, upon their return and a week before the season started, against Accrington Stanley.

    Still with plenty of money to spend, and with two weeks until the first friendly, it was time to up the calibre of player on Tranmere's books. Excellent news came from Sh, though - while reiterating how delighted they were with his management, the board announced that they only expected Blake's snakes to achieve a respectable league position in the Second Division in the coming season! Clearly Blake had loftier ambitions, but this afforded him a certain amount of leeway.

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  33. #68
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    Not much money for the snakes and a pittance for Koumas

    Blake will be shattered with no holiday!

    Good work on getting rid of all bar 2 non snakes!

    Striker - terrible

    Canadian - versatile!

    Wooton - solid or that standard and great in air!

    Roget could develop

    Mackeers - WHTA A SIGNING!


    Expensive China trip!

    Nice to see She not too greedy with expectations - think that may change next season when full snakes are in!

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  35. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    Not much money for the snakes and a pittance for Koumas

    Blake will be shattered with no holiday!

    Good work on getting rid of all bar 2 non snakes!

    Striker - terrible

    Canadian - versatile!

    Wooton - solid or that standard and great in air!

    Roget could develop

    Mackeers - WHTA A SIGNING!


    Expensive China trip!

    Nice to see She not too greedy with expectations - think that may change next season when full snakes are in!
    Didn't feel I had time to even negotiate a sell-on clause for Koumas

    Surprised to have 8m to spend given that not much has come in from transfers - benefit of keeping the wage bill low

    Agreed on Thomson, just getting bodies in! Though I've realised that all the reserves will be 24/25... not sure how long they'll stay happy for!

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    The wheeling-and-dealing continued - it had to - into July. Blake was quite relaxed about having the time to get everything done. The final two non-snakes, Wayne Gill and Nick Henry, finally departed on Bosman deals to Blackpool and Gillingham, respectively. That was a weight off of Blake's shoulders. Something frightening occurred to him - did he need to have a staff full of snakes? He queried this with Sh and was relieved to learn that the rules for non-playing staff weren't as strict - anyone who would join the club would need to be born in the year of the snake, but there was no pressing need to move existing staff on.

    Speaking of which, Chris Banks took Blake up on his offer of a coaching job. He would, errr, work with the youngsters that the club didn't have.
    Spoiler!



    So, on with the snake recruitment! Hold on to your hats, because Blake brought nine snakes in! With only Torgeir Sundgot on the books in terms of forwards (not strikers), there was an urgent need for more.

    Jermaine McSporran, F R/L/C - 130,000, Wycombe Wanderers
    Spoiler!



    Banks' retirement opened up a spot in the centre of defence, so Blake gambled over a quarter-of-a-million pounds on a twice-capped Australian.

    Con Blatsis, D C - 275,000, Derby County
    Spoiler!



    The forward ranks were bolstered further a few days after McSporran's arrival... it ensured that his nickname couldn't be "Macca".

    Dave McEwen, F R/C - 140,000, Queens Park Rangers
    Spoiler!



    A skilful, pacy winger who used to play with Jonathan Macken was next through the door. He was to be given fitness training immediately.

    Iain Anderson, AM R - 170,000, Preston North End
    Spoiler!



    Another versatile defender/midfielder was recruited - Blake reckoned he'd rival Paul Barrett for the backup centre-midfield spot.

    Jason Tindall, D/M R/C - 80,000, Bournemouth
    Spoiler!



    Time to break the transfer record again - and how! Wayne Brown can count himself unlucky, having been named in the 2001/02 Second Division Team of the Year, but there was a new #1 in town. Blake considered it a coup - his new 'keeper was, at worst, First Division standard.

    Espen Baardsen, GK - 1,500,000, Watford
    Spoiler!



    Back down to earth, though, with a fairly limited French winger plucked from obscurity.

    Jules Mendy, D/AM/F R - 45,000, Inter Turku
    Spoiler!



    Another relatively mediocre wide-midfielder followed Mendy to Birkenhead, but at least Blake had four of them now.

    Jason Thomas, M R - 75,000, TP-Seinajoki
    Spoiler!



    Saving the best 'til last... Blake spotted an opportunity when he was told of a Premier Division striker that wanted out of his club and would be willing to rebuild his reputation by dropping down a few divisions. The transfer record was broken yet again. This meant that Jonathan Macken would be pushed to the bench, but Blake wasn't passing this opportunity up.

    Carl Cort, S C - 2,500,000, Newcastle United
    Spoiler!



    Amongst all the transfer madness, Rovers had played four friendlies, including their three-game tour of China. Cort was signed too late to feature in any, so the Super White Army would have to wait to see their new man.


    Zhejiang Lucheng 2-1 Tranmere Rovers
    Spoiler!


    While it's never nice to lose, Blake was struggling to get too upset about this game, in which eight of the starting line-up made their first appearances for the clubs, with another four doing the same from the bench. Dainius Gleveckas was the man who bagged the consolation, following a good team move that culminated in a Torgeir Sundgot pullback.


    Changchun Yatai 1-3 Tranmere Rovers
    Spoiler!


    Scoring three goals and winning was better than the first friendly but, again, Blake knew it'd be a few weeks before he really saw his team. Peter Thomson and Dave McEwen's first goals for the club gave Tranmere a 2-0 lead. They had their lead halved before Graham Allen finished the job. Marcus Richardson and Stuart John Dawe chipped in with assists.


    Shenyang Jinde 0-1 Tranmere Rovers
    Spoiler!


    The final match of the Chinese tour had much more of a feel of a real game about it - Blake's snakes really had to dig in to grind out a result in this one and he reckoned his squad would be stronger for it. The game was decided in the 25th minute, when Dave McEwen set up Iain Anderson for his first Tranmere goal. Espen Baardsen and Wayne Brown shared a clean sheet, which can be no bad thing.

    Sh expressed his delight with the success of the tour and his gratitude to everyone who had helped make it happen. Blake and the squad headed back to Birkenhead with some more credit with the board in the bank and, according to Sh, a considerable amount of admirers back in China.

    Training was fairly light in the week leading up to the final friendly, which would be a welcome return to Prenton Park. An impressive 7,970 fans turned out for what was their first opportunity to show their appreciation for the run to last season's Playoff Final.


    Tranmere Rovers 8-2 Accrington Stanley
    Spoiler!


    Sure, it's Accrington Stanley, but the near-8,000 fans were treated to an excellent performance which yielded eight goals. Conceding two will be a concern, but Blake managed to enjoy the sunny afternoon. Braces for McEwen and Janne Salli were complemented by goals from Macken, Leo Roget, Jason Thomas and Paul Wotton - the final three scoring what were of course their first goals for the club. Two assists from Andy Williams and one each from Iain Anderson, Macken and Stuart John Dawe left Blake satisfied with the amount of players getting involved in the final third.

    And so the season was finally here - Blake was trying to force through a move for a fouth defensive midfielder but, other than that, he was delighted with what he considered to be his best 11. The squad beyond that was a little thin, but he was confident that, barring an injury crisis, he had one of the better teams in the division.
    Spoiler!



    At the Madejski Stadium, Reading await...

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  38. #71
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    hmmmmmm - staff not in the snake year could be bad karma

    Bloody hell - fine att's on Banks for a first time coach!

    McSporran will get around the pitch

    "Aussie" looks great!

    Think I remember Tindall at B'Mouth

    Espennnnnnnnnnnnn - lot of cash tho!

    Boooooooooooooom - Carl Cort

    Good pre-season and thrashing of Accrington - who? - EXACTLY!


    Q - how the hell is McKewan in front of Macken?!

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  40. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redknapp69 View Post
    hmmmmmm - staff not in the snake year could be bad karma

    Bloody hell - fine att's on Banks for a first time coach!

    McSporran will get around the pitch

    "Aussie" looks great!

    Think I remember Tindall at B'Mouth

    Espennnnnnnnnnnnn - lot of cash tho!

    Boooooooooooooom - Carl Cort

    Good pre-season and thrashing of Accrington - who? - EXACTLY!


    Q - how the hell is McKewan in front of Macken?!
    Indeed, I'll make an effort with the staff in any case!

    Had to splash on Baardsen, only keeper interested that was even approaching capable. I suspect overpaying for talent may become a theme until Tranmere is a bigger draw for players.

    Made up with Cort hopefully his real-life injury proneness isn't reflected in CM01/02

    Ah yeah, I forgot I'm weird - for as long as I can remember, in two-striker formations I like one to be SC and the other to be FC... I should probably consider compromising on that!

  41. #73
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    Although he was never really a first-team regular, and was clearly winding down his career at Prenton Park, there was still a touch of sadness when another of Blake's first signings, Petri Jarvinen, announced his retirement a few days before the season was due to start. Unfortunately he showed absolutely no desire to continue to a career in coaching, so it was farewell to this limited but reliable defensive midfielder.
    Spoiler!



    This meant that all the players remaining at the club were born in 1977. Blake didn't foresee himself signing any 36/37-year-olds, so it would stay that way until 1989's crop started to come through.


    On with the matches, of which there were five in 16 days in August...


    Reading 4-1 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Suffice to say, this was not the start Blake and co. desired. Hell, it was a disaster. Reading finished last season in 20th place, but here Tranmere made them look like world-beaters. The hosts fired Rovers a warning after 23 minutes, when they scored a goal that was fortunately ruled out for offside. That warning was not heeded, however, as nine minutes later they grabbed the lead they deserved. Rovers battled back and equalised through debutant Carl Cort, following a smart through-ball from Damien Lacey, to ensure that the visitors undeservedly went into the break level. That was as good as it got, though. Reading were admittedly impressive, and shouldn't be involved in a relegation battle this season, but three more goals during their dominant second-half display rendered the scoreline a little embarrassing and left Blake's men licking their wounds. Whilst not a great debut for Espen Baardsen on the face of it, he did in fact manage eight saves to prevent it turning into a cricket score.


    Tranmere Rovers 2-3 Grimsby Town (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    If Rovers were hoping to return to home comforts, that was sadly not the case, as they suffered a second damaging defeat in as many games. Blake kept the faith and fielded an unchanged lineup - perhaps they just needed to gel? They were behind again, though, after just eight minutes. It didn't take long to grab an equaliser - that Damien Lacey and Carl Cort combination again bearing fruit, an almost carbon-copy of the latter's first goal the week prior. The hosts then had their first lead of the season when Jim Brennan's rasping shot was parried inadequately into the path of Iain Anderson, who was happy to oblige to bag his first league goal for the club. A Grimsby equaliser with the last kick of the half would test Tranmere's character int eh second half, and it was a test they failed, when the visitors snatched a third goal to head home with all three points. In truth, it was an undeserved victory, but Blake could take little solace in an improved performance when it resulted in zero points after two games. The better performance can be reflected in the fact that Lacey was named man of the match.


    Some much-needed good news arrived later that evening, when Blake was informed that his target for Jarvinen's replacement as backup defensive midfielder finally put pen to paper. He arrived with the tail-end of a thigh injury, though, so it'd be at least a week until he took to the training pitch. Joe Blake's squad of snakes was, in theory, complete - and there was still nigh on 3,000,000 available to spend, should an emergency strike.

    Aidan Lynch, D/DM C - 30,000, University College Dublin
    Spoiler!



    Tranmere Rovers 2-1 Chesterfield (aet) (League Cup 1st Round)
    Spoiler!

    Blake saw the League Cup tie against First Division Chesterfield as an opportunity to ring the changes. He set out with the intention of handing out full debuts to those who hadn't already done so, and to take Espen Baardsen out of the firing line, but got carried away and ended up making 10 changes. Perhaps motivated by being second fiddle, Jonathan Macken got Rovers off the mark after half an hour - headers from Agustin and Jermaine McSporran led to the ball landing in Macken's path, and he fired home emphatically from just inside the area. The second-string were playing some good stuff and the only black mark on the performance was the visitors' equaliser after 53 minutes. The match went to extra time, with Chesterfield obviously tired after an extended period chasing the ball. That fatigue told just after the start of the second half of the extra period, as Agustin was again involved, crossing for Jason Tindall to head past the visiting goalkeeper with a late run into the box. Blake enjoyed the winning feeling for the first time in a real game since last season's playoff final.

    Tranmere would head to Craven Cottage to face Premier Division Fulham in the 2nd Round.

    Disaster struck during the few days of training between games, as record signing and two-in-two striker Carl Cort went down in agony, holding his right knee. Blake feared the worst - had Cort blown his ACL? It was deemed more than fortunate that Cort would only miss a month with what physio Les Parry described as "just damaged knee cartilage".


    Cambridge United 0-1 Tranmere Rovers (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    The good performance from the backups didn't break Blake's determination to get his first choices to familiarise themselves with eachother, so they all slotted straight back in for the trip to Cambridge. This was a cagy, even game - a welcome change from the five-goal thrillers in the first two games. Blake was in his element in this oversized game of chess, and it was his team that grabbed the only goal of the game, 16 minutes from time. Janne Salli picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and, faking a shot, played a smart ball into the feet of Jim Brennan, who swivelled into the area and put the ball beyond the home goalkeeper to register his first league goal. It also secured him the man of the match award.


    Tranmere Rovers 3-2 Blackpool (Second Division)
    Spoiler!

    Tranmere had turned August around and were now seeking a third consecutive victory - 11,882 fans turned up at Prenton Park to will them on, two days after the Cambridge victory. A goalless first half gave no hint whatsoever as to what would happen in the second. Stuart John Dawe, who had started in place of a tired Jonathan Macken, gave Rovers the lead four minutes after the restart when he collected the ball from Iain Anderson and rifled the ball into the top corner. The home side were behind 15 minutes later, though, following two quick goals from the visitors. The home fans were becoming a little restless, sensing they were witnessing the second home league defeat in a row, but Blackpool handed Tranmere a lifeline a few minutes later, when a Graham Allen pass intended for Dawe resulted in an own-goal. This inspired Rovers to take the game by the scruff of the neck and seek a winner, which duly arrived three minutes from time when substitute Jermaine McSporran poked home an Agustin pass - another snake had their first Tranmere goal. Cue pandemonium. Agustin picked up the man of the match award.


    August was rescued somewhat. It wasn't really worth looking at the league table yet, not least because Tranmere sat 12th. Look beyond that, though, and Blake's snakes were just a point off 3rd. Needless to say, there was a lot of games to go, and he'd need more of the spirit of the second half of August.
    Spoiler!



    Snake of the Month
    Despite every single player now being eligible for the award, there was somehow fewer candidates than ever. Having started all five games in August and performed as solidly as ever (7.50 average), Blake decided to once again give it to Damien Lacey. Oh how he could've done with him at the end of last season.

    Spoiler!

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  43. #74

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    Good reaction after a catastrophic start

    Macken will be a beast for you !

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  45. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by LucasGills View Post
    Good reaction after a catastrophic start

    Macken will be a beast for you !
    Yup, even though the side was much-changed, the League Cup win seemed to galvanise the squad. Though only the Reading game was a poor performance!

    Think I'll have to play both Macken and Cort up top when the latter returns from injury... exciting prospect!

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