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Thread: Kids and Grown Ups Love Him So........

  1. #1726

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    Amazing that hat trick!

  2. #1727
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    He's hopefully hitting form at the right time. We'll see what happens in the semi final.

  3. #1728
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    Everyone was looking forward to the semi final and everyone trained well in the lead up to it.
    On the day before the game, the squad left early bound for a hotel to prepare.

    "Why are we leaving so early?" Harry asked the clubs media officer as they climbed onto the coach. "Wembley isn't that far away!"

    "Wembley??" came the reply. "You might get to see Wembley if you win this game mate but not yet. The semi finals aren't played there!"

    "What? Where are they played then? Old Trafford?"

    "Well, the other one is there but for us, we will be sampling the joys of.........The Ricoh Arena, Coventry!"

    Harry was a little shocked. He had heard of semi finals being played at different grounds but he didn't think The Ricoh would have been on that list.
    Not that it mattered, it was not about the venue, it was about making the most of the opportunity and winning the game and making it to the Final.


    Manchester City would be a huge proposition to overcome though.
    A team that lined up in a narrow diamond formation but with top quality players.
    It was going to be a very difficult task.
    City would probably be feeling the same though. Chelsea's side was good also.

    Both teams actually went for the jugular from the off in the first half and as they served up an amazing 45 minutes. Gary Rogers scored from the Chelsea midfield early on before three minutes of fantastic end to end football.

    Firstly, Harry's former Juventus strike partner, Emilio N'Sue equalised before straight from the kick off, Chelsea went straight back down the othe end and retook the lead through Enzo Zidane.
    Not to be outdone, Man City did exactly the same thing and once again it was N'Sue on the end of the move to grab his second. 2-2 at half time.

    The general concensus in the stands was that it would not or maybe could not continue like that. The players would lose steam as the second half went on. That it would take an individual moment of brilliance to break the deadlock.

    That moment never came and at the end of 90 minutes, it was still level. This was the case after 105 minutes as well.
    That was not the case by the tim 120 minutes came around though.
    And ironically, the goal came, once again, from a member of a forward pairing that Harry used to be part of.
    Nelson Oliviera, the Portuguese, had lead the line at Real Madrid along side Harry. This time he came back to haunt him as he scored from 10 yards after 110 minutes to win the game for Manchester City and have Chelsea falling at the last step before making the FA Cup Final.

  4. #1729
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    Chelsea would need to pick themselves up from the disappointment of losing the semi final and quickly.
    They would need to quickly shift their focus to the Premier League and making sure they, at the very least, made it into the top four.
    If they didn't, it would be disastrous for the club and may well be for the manager Michael Skibbe as well.
    Not being in the Champions League, the elite club competition, would hurt the club, not only financially, but would mean they could not even think about attracting the worlds best players.
    What made it worse was that West Brom, the side Harry turned down in favour of London, were sitting pretty in second and had a decent cushion down to third.
    Chelsea by contrast were 6th on 50 points. 4th placed Tottenham were fourth and 5 points ahead on 55.
    Harry and his team did have a game in hand though.

    This would be where Harry would need to come into his own. As England captain, and even though he had only just joined the club, he was seen as a senior figure and it would be on him amongst others to get the morale back up in the squad and firing on on cylinders for the Premier League run in, of which Chelsea had seven more games.


    He had to state numerous times in numerous press conferences that everyone at the club was pulling in the same direction and that they would do everything in their power to get Chelsea back to where they should be and they would do so in each of the remaining games.

    The first of those was a short trip across West London to take on Brentford at Griffin Park.
    Chelsea were up for it. Everyone was buoyed and high fives and hugs were flying around before kick off.
    The togetherness showed after just four minutes as Harry rose highest at the back post and headed home to give Chelsea the lead.
    Unfortunately they only held it for a further 4 minutes as Brentford central midfielder Martin Chambers equalised.
    They battled and toiled against each other for most of the rest of the game and Brentford gave a very good account of themselves but ultimately, Chelsea quality came through but only after an inspired move that saw Harry pass into Sergio Canales who backhealed back into Bow's path for him to smash the ball through the onrushing keepers legs for the winner.
    A vital three points and the first hurdle covered in terms of what they needed to do.

    What made it all the better was that Leeds in 5th lost so now on level games with all their rivals, they were just two points off of 4th.


  5. #1730
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    Another fixture against a London club was next as we welcomed West Ham to Stamford Bridge.


    They were second bottom and in real danger of relegation. This would be no walkover and the Chelsea team would have to be fully focused. They were fighting for their lives and having players like Romuald Ferreira (Andre Pierre Gignac regen), Tom Appleby (Peter Crouch regen) and Luke Short (Jimmy Bullard regen) in their ranks.
    But Chelsea had players of quality as well and that was what Skibbe tried to get across to them in the build up to the game.

    Skibbe pulled a bit of a surprise when he selected Michael Essien in central midfield. The 41 year old was still at the club where he made his name and this would be his 799th career appearance. The even bigger surprise was that he lined up as the left midfielder.
    It was a little left field but Harry had to trust his manager's judgement. He must know what he was doing, he must have a reason for selecting Essien there when there were other options in the squad more than capable of playing there.

    The players gathered into a huddle before the game kicked off and captain Adam Matthews was forthright in his assessment.
    "We just cannot lose at home. That's all I have to say. Let's go and win this!"

    Things did not start well though and it was not long before the home crowd were on the players backs. Things got even worse when Patrick Paterson (James McFadden regen) scored to put West Ham into the lead.
    At half time, Skibbe was livid. This was because he knew Chelsea were losing but also that Leeds were winning.
    Chelsea needed a big turn around.
    The Essien experiment had lasted just 29 minutes before he was withdrawn and replaced by Giuliano. What Skibbe was thinking with his decision to play the Ghanaian out on the wing Harry would never know but he had to put that out of his mind and concentrate on getting his team back into it.
    What he would do for a forward partner but again Skibbe was rigid in his beliefs and his beliefs were his 4-4-1-1 formation.
    Harry and the rest of his teammates tried their best and did manage to draw level through Canales but could not muster a winner.
    1-1 the final score and they trudged off, tired downhearted and possibly out of the top four picture.

    Now 4 points off 4th, the last 5 games of the season had essentially all become must wins. And even then their chances of making the top four were still very much out of their own hands.
    Once again in the run up to the game, Harry was wheeled out before the media to discuss their run in but it seemed most of the press outlets had written off the Chelsea chances as questions were now drifting to England's chances in the upcoming World Cup in the Summer.
    Harry did not want to focus on that. He had five games to stamp himself firmly on the season and play his way into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful. If he could be a part in dragging the team up to the top four then his name would go down in folklore at the club and it would give them a great platform to build into the next season.

    This had to start in the hotbed atmosphere of Anfield as Chelsea travelled to take on Liverpool. Liverpool themselves were out of sorts for the season and sat way down in 12th place in the table but as every Liverpool side does, they would fight for everything, especially in front of their own fans. This would be a challenge and Chelsea knew it. Maybe Skibbe was new to the atmospheres that English grounds could throw up but the players were not and especially not Harry.
    He remembered games at grounds like this when he was at Colchester and although things were different and he was a very different man then, the atmosphere had never changed. You'll Never Walk Alone blaring out just before kick off just added to the tension of the game and both sides traditionally big sides in the English game went at each other like boxers in a title fight.

    They started by having a good look at their opponent, occasionally throwing a jab by breaking forward and having an attempt on goal but overall they were just fending each other off.
    Harry stood at one break in play with his hands on his hips wondering how they could make changes and make a difference.
    Skibbe was already one step ahead of him.
    The decision that he made was to take Harry off on 53 minutes and replace him with Benik Afobe.

    Harry was a little shocked when he saw his number raised but he had to accept his manager's decision, even if he thought going to two up front, himself being one, was the better option.
    He shook the hand of Afobe, then his manager, grabbed a jacket from a trainer and went to sit at the back of the dugout next to Stuart Murray (Danny Fox regen), the club's young Scottish left back.
    "What's his plan?" Harry asked him.
    "He's hoping Benik can start moving their centre backs about. Drag them out of position and the midfield can take advantage. He wants to get us in behind down the wings as well."
    Interesting, Harry thought to himself. There was no reason he could not have done that if he had been given the instruction.
    He would certainly be no worse at it than Benik.
    He was thinking about it as time ticked by and with the game still 0-0 it looked like another two points would go astray.
    That was until, a minute from time, Afobe managed to drag both of the Liverpool centre halves sightly over towards the left back position and Shane O'Connor ran into the space vacated, collecting a through ball from Enzo Zidane to take one touch before firing home into the bottom corner off the far post.
    Anfield fell silent apart from the travelling faithful and the Chelsea bench who were in delirium and celebrating wildly.

    The final whistle blew shortly after and after shaking hands with his opposite number, the first person Skibbe talked to was Harry who was coming down from the back of the dugout.

    "Zis was purely tactical ya. I need you fit and healthy for ze remaining games. You did nothing wrong in ze game. I just need you 100% OK?"

    Harry shook his hand again. "Understood Gaffer."
    It was good of him to explain the situation straight away. He could have waited and let me stew a bit but it was good to know where he stood.

    Knowing this information, and knowing that he could get hooked by his manager at any point in any game actually helped Harry in the run up to the next game. It meant that Harry had pressure on his place in a team. He hadn't had that pressure for some time.
    It gave him additional drive and focus for keeping his place and he took that into the next game, another vital one, against Manchester United.

    That game though would be after a very inopportune break for an international fixture, an away fixture against France. By the time Chelsea played again, some of their rivals would have played a game so Harry and his teammates would have a clearer idea on what they would need to do against the Old Trafford team but having an England game just 48 hours before it was not good planning by the FA.

    It would be an interesting fixture for Harry.
    He would be captaining his country again and would be winning his 55th cap.
    He would playing in a two man front line again as he was partnered with Gareth Doherty (Michael Owen regen) of West Brom.
    But in opposition would be not only club mates Mamadou Sakho and Enzo Zidane but also former clubmate and current house tenant Medhi Girard.
    He did have two teammates on his own side as well as Richard Gardner started at right back and Benik Afobe was again only good enough for the bench.

    The game was played at a fast tempo by France and a rather pedestrian one by England. None of the players wanted to risk an injury, certainly not the Chelsea players in the squad and it was very much a going through the motions exercise. France won the game 2-0 through Zidane and Karim Lacroix goals.

    It was from Stade Denis straight back to England for the numerous players as they had to prepare for their respective games less than 48 hours later. People were still asking why an international was played on a Thursday and having Premier League fixtures scheduled on the Saturday.


    Old Trafford, The Theatre of Dreams awaited.

  6. #1731

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    Sounds like the manager hasn't got a clue, Harry needs some help up top!

  7. #1732
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    It had been a long time since Harry had walked out for a competitive match at Old Trafford.

    He had played the occasion England friendly there but apart from that, it had been some time.

    The thing was, in all the time Harry had been away, certainly this season anyway, Old Trafford was not the fortress it used to be.
    They had lost as many as they had won at home this season and they were way down in 12th. Paul Lambert was the man at the helm and he was having to work hard to get anything out of his squad.
    From a Chelsea point of view, it was another must win game in the quest to make Champions League football.
    Each of their remaining games was to be fair. They had to win them all realistically.
    And they needed West Brom to drop points as well.

    They couldn't worry about West Brom though. They had to go out and do their job.
    Skibbe set out his team firstly not to lose.
    A defensice looking 4-5-1. A flat back four, three defensive midfielders, two wide midfielders and a solitary forward.
    That forward was Harry. He sat in the dressing room before the game and after finding out the side knowing he was going to have a long hard day ahead of him.
    He would need to work hard to be the focal point of the team. Skibbe had set them up to hit on the break after soaking up pressure from United. His teammates would clear the ball to him and he would need to hold the ball up and wait for reinforcements.

    As the two teams ran out on to the pitch, Harry knew this could be a pivotal game. He knew it wasn't just himself who would need to work hard. As they were essentially inviting United to attack them, both the defence and defensive midfielders would need to work hard to keep them at bay as well.

    As expected, it was an incredibly tough game although as time went on Harry seemed to get a measure on the United central defensive partnership of Neil Rutherford and Chris Smalling.
    Certainly as the first half went on, it became clear that Chelsea setting up to play on the counter was the wrong tactic. They could take the game to the home side if they really wanted to and would have little to no opposition.
    Chelsea's back four were comfortably dealing with United's front two.

    The problem was Skibbe did not want to change his game plan. He stuck rigedly to the plan that he had sent out the team with. Soak up pressure and hit on the break.
    He had an opportunity to change things up when centre back Giandonato went off injured.
    With the likes of Kakuta, Sergio Canales or even Benik Afobe on the bench, he could have changed things up but instead of that he brought on 19 year old right back Gary O'Neil.
    The fans weren't happy and they let Skibbe know about it. He stood there in his technical area, looking oblivious to it.
    Chelsea continued to break well but as half time came round it was still 0-0.

    The players sat in the changing room and took on their fluids ready for the second half whilst listening to what Skibbe had to say.
    "I understand that the fans are not happy wiz ze decisions I am making but I do it for ze team. We will win but we need to continue playing as we are. Ze chance will come and we will take ze chance."

    Regardless of what Harry thought personally, he had to go with what his manager had said and what he wanted them to do.
    They would continue to soak up pressure and hit on the break.

    Just three minutes of the second half had elapsed when Chelsea got their first break. A long cross by United was hoofed clear and Harry was physically strong up against Smalling to first chest down the ball, then hold it up long enough to pop a pass off to Essien who passed out wide and ahead to Giuliano. As he caught up with the ball, he looked up to see four of his teammates motoring to get into the box.
    He steadied himslef and crossed high first time. It sailed over the heads of many of the bodies arriving but not those at the back post where Shane O'Connor rose highest to head back towards the penalty spot, right in to a spot that an advancing Harry Bow was running into.
    He caught it flush on the volley and it was past Ben Amos before he had even seen it. It nestled in the back of the net and the deadlock was broken.


  8. #1733

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    Great to see Harry on the scoresheet despite the tactical limitations. That manager needs to go!

  9. #1734
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    And that was that.
    Chelsea did not need to attack or break as much and United just didn't have enough about them to get one back and that meant another three points to the total.
    It didn't lift Chelsea any closer to West Brom as they also won but the upside was that West Brom had beaten Leeds who were third.
    That meant that Chelsea were just three points behind Leeds now and even better, they had a game in hand on the Yorkshire outfit.

    Leeds had just the two games remaining and Chelsea had three. It was on and this buoyed the Chelsea players going into the next game.
    And of any of the remaining games that they faced in the run up to the end of the season, thi one was probably the biggest.
    They faced West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

    If any of the games were to be classed as a cup final then it would be this one.
    Win and they were within a point of third, lose and they would find themselves more than likely out of the Top 4 picture.

    In the run up to the game, someone pointed out to Harry in a interview that with his goal against Man Utd, he had become Chelsea's top league scorer for the season with 9 goals and had pulled level with Benik Afobe for goals in all competitions with ten.

    There in was the problem Chelsea had faced all season. Michael Skibbe had come in and although it was thought that he favoured an attacking 4-5-1 formation, he had very much set up his team to not concede first and foremost and the scoring of goals had gone by the wayside.
    Surely he would make a statement for the game. The game that was make or break for the season. Surely we would see some of this attacking flair wrote the papers, surely he will release the shackles spoke the football channels.
    It remained to be seen.

    Harry was very surprised that he was already top scorer. It didn't matter to him. All he wanted to do was keep scoring goals. And this next game was also vitally important to him as well. He had to prove to the world but more importantly prove to himself, that he had made the right decision in signing for Chelsea instead of West Brom.
    It was a huge game all round and one that would answer a number of questions.

    The first question was answered when Skibbe submitted his teamsheet for the game.
    It was a variation on five in midfield but was more a 4-4-1-1 than a 4-5-1 although you could call it either really.


    It was considerably more attacking than the Man U game but still wasn't as attacking as the Chelsea faithful would like.
    It did not include Essien either which was a change to the side and it was a change that allowed Kakuta to come back in on the left wing.
    The wingers would be pivotal it was thought as West Brom chose a very narrow team with 3 defensive minded midfielders but two attacking ones if they got the chance to hit Chelsea.

    As Harry took to the field, the pressure of the game visibly got to a few players. Luckily for Harry, it looked like it was West Brom players who looked like they were affected.
    As he waited for West Brom to kick off, Harry looked to the heavens and said a quick prayer not specifically for himself but for the team in general.

    It was a cagey game. A game where West Brom were not overly keen on attacking and with Chelsea trying to attack but not really being able to do so.
    In the whole game, West Brom had just one shot on target, Chelsea had just three.
    In fact, the whole game centred around one passage of play.

    It was midway through the second half and it stemmed from Chelsea;s right back position.
    Adam Matthews played the ball forward to Enzo Zidane who had dropped very deep to get himself involved in the game.
    He took one touch as he turned and looked up before spraying a 55 yard ball over the top of West Brom's back line.
    Harry and broken the offside trap and was away and clear. As he caught up with the ball, brought it under control and sorted out his feet, West Brom defender Gareth Edwards caught him and ended up pulling him down.
    Chelsea players surrounded the referee, West Brom players surrounded the referee.
    He didn't need any help. He had already made his decision.


    The next decision was one that did not favour Chelsea as much.
    The foul had taken place right on the edge of the area and the ref decided that the offence took place just outside the box and so it was a free kick instead of a penalty.
    This had Chelsea surrounding the man in black again but once again to no avail, his decision was made so after a sustained period of time.
    West Brom were lined up in an 8 man wall and Harry Bow, Enzo Zidane and Shane O'Connor were standing over the ball.
    Soon, Harry walked away and it was left to either the right foot of Zidane or the left of O'Connor.
    They had a quick conversation before walking back to their marks.

    O'Connor then began his run up but aborted it to complain that the wall was encroaching. They reset but this time it was Zidane who began his run up and as he struck the ball, the wall jumped and he carefully placed the ball under the jumping legs and rolled it elegantly into the bottom corner of the net.

    Stamford Bridge erupted. The players were elated and even Michael Skibbe was standing hands aloft on the sidelines.
    It was to be the winning goal and Chelsea had won. Again.
    Now it was eminently possible that they could pull something out of this season after all.


  10. #1735

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    God run of form at a crucial time? Shocked that Harry is top scorer even though he hasn't been there for a full season!

  11. #1736
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    Barely half a season.
    They seem to have hit good form. I just get the feeling it could all implode very quickly.

  12. #1737

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    Winning 1-0 every week, now who does that remind me of?

    Unlikely champions next year! You heard it here first.

  13. #1738

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    Well... things are starting to go well with Harry Good.

    How is Real Madrid after his departure?

  14. #1739

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    Harry needs a league title somewhere before he retires... better chance at Chelsea than at Real? Maybe, if they can start next season like they're ending this one...

  15. #1740
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    Two games to go.
    Six points available.

    2nd was now out of reach but amazingly Chelsea had a chance of making third.
    They could of course still finish as low as 6th so they were certainly not taking anything for granted, especially down to the fact that they had won their last three games 1-0. Very small margins. Chelsea were on the right side of them at the moment but they could switch to negative results just as easily.

    Harry had to admit at this stage that despite him having his reservations about how Michael Skibbe was getting them, he was certainly picking up results. If he could pull off the completion of finishing in the top 4 then everyone would have to sit up and take notice and stop bemoaning the German's tactics. He would have done it his way.
    Harry couldn't complain too much either as he was the one being chosen in that lone striker role.
    Skibbe could very easily go with Afobe instead and Harry would then be sitting on the bench kicking his heels.

    He had to bear this in mind when it came to training as well. He had to impress Skibbe to keep his place and he did this well enough in the run up to the home game against Birmingham.

    Observers would be watching many games. This was what it was all about for the media. Man City had already run away with the title and Arsenal were pretty safe in second. This was where the action was.
    It wouldn't just be the media watching many games. Cheslea had people watching Leeds vs Man Utd and the North London derby, Arsenal vs Tottenham. Skibbe himself would be going to watch Wycombe vs West Brom in two days time.

    As the games kicked off, Arsenal took the lead against Spurs and that pushed Chelsea up to third without them having to do anything. Then Man Utd took the lead against Leeds.
    Everything was going Chelsea's way. Apart from them getting a goal themselves.
    Leeds equalised on the stroke of the break and that meant that as half time whistles went off across the country, Chelsea, West Brom and Leeds all on 64 points. It was advantage West Brom as it stood.

    In the second halves it continued to be tight in the Leeds and game and there were no further additions to the scoreline.
    The Arsenal/Spurs game was more open and the red half of North London showed it's superiority by extending their lead and finishing 3-0 winners.
    This effectively took Spurs out of the race and left Chelsea needing to win against Birmingham. At half time it was looking like it had draw written all over it but, as they had done in their previous three games, they managed to grind out a very solid 1-0 win with a goal from Gael Kakuta.

    Four 1-0 wins in a row had put Chelsea in a strong position. Not quite as strong after West Brom grabbed an injury time winner to give themselves the advantage in the race for third. 13 days of preparation lay ahead befor the final day of the season and everyone finding out who would finish where.

    West Brom would be hosting West Ham
    Chelsea would be travelling to Spurs
    and
    Leeds were away to Birmingham.


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  17. #1742
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    Every single different permutation was investigated over the 13 day gap between the penultimate game and the final matchday of the season.

    For Chelsea though, it was simple. They needed to win to take what ever Leeds did out of the equation. The perfect outcome would be West Brom losing as well. They would then steal third place.
    After the season they had had though, drifting between 6th and 8th for most of it, 4th would be a fantastic acheivement for them.

    As it turned out, West Brom won so regardless of what Chelsea could have done, they wouldn't have caught them for third.
    And, Leeds lost so again regardless of what could have done, they wouldn't have lost 4th.

    Of course they didn't know that at the time and they were chasing frantically around White Hart Lane searching for opportunities, chances any kind of break.
    None came. They did not muster one solitary shot on or off target in the whole match. It was, in short, an awful performance.
    If West Brom had in fact lost, Chelsea would be massively kicking themselves for such a poor performance.
    The fact that it was topped off by Tottenham scoring late on and securing a 1-0 win could have made it all the worse but luckily it did not matter.
    Chelsea had finished fourth and as far as anyone knew, that meant Champions League football, at least through the qualifying rounds.



  18. #1743

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    City way out in front. Will be tough to make up that distance next season for Chelsea. Harry always seems to end up at 'not quite the best' teams... except for Colchester of course...

  19. #1744
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    He's just a bit late to the party with Chelsea.
    They have been even more of a nearly team after finishing 2nd over a number of years.
    Hopefully for Harry the downwad spiral they have started doesn't continue.


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    At least he is in the champion's league.

  21. #1746

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    Shame it didn't go the other way once Harry arrived, as in finishing 1st. Let's hope a full season will bring a change of fortune!

  22. #1747
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    After the whirlwind emotional end to the season and the success of Chelsea making the Champions League by finishing fourth, what Harry felt he needed most was a nice break and then returning to training fully rested and ready to really get to know his teammates and prepare for a proper assault on the title next season.

    What he had to do though was mentally prepare himself for international football and travelling out to Italy for the European Championships. England would be part of the opening fixture of the tournament as they took on the hosts in Rome and then had to contend with Wales and Greece in their group as well.

    Before meeting up with the squad though, he had time to sit back for a day or so and take stock of what he had experienced in the season gone by. A season that started in Madrid and ended in London.
    This time a year ago, he was being named World Player of the Year and World Footballer of the Year and England were winning the Confederations Cup.
    Now, England were not really being considered as candidates to win the upcoming tournament.

    Harry would go into it in decent form. In the Madrid section of the season he had scored 13 goals in 25 games. Since joining Chelsea, he had added 10 goals in 18 games.
    This gave him an overall of 23 goals in a 43 game season.
    Down on his usual output but he was getting older, he had to bear that in mind.
    He now had a club career goals output of 335 goals though and he had to be happy with that.


    Real Madrid did not fair much better without Harry as they also finished fourth. Medhi Girard did ok for himself scoring 11 in 25 games but they have not bought or old anyone else since Harry left.
    Juventus also struggled this season and could only trail in 6th in Serie A, a full 16 points off the top where it was won once again, for the 8th time in a row, by Napoli who also secured the European Cup.
    And Harry's first club have had a slow fall from grace as Colchester finished 16th in their first season in the Second Division.

    It had been a roller coaster season and he really wanted to sign it off on a high but with England being considered outsiders, it might not happen. But it wouldn't be for want of trying from Harry.
    He was always in it to win it. The chances of success were not fully out of the question though. England were ranked 4th in the most recent FIFA rankings. The problem was Italy were 5th and Wales were as high as 13th. And that was just in their group never mind what they might meet even if they did qualify.

    Alan Pardew picked an attacking looking squad with Harry at the head as captain and club mate Richard Gardner in there also for his versatility. Benik Afobe was also selected.
    There were a few new faces though. 34 year old Alex Smithies was selected as one of the keepers without ever earning a cap previously.
    Another of Harry's Chelsea teammates made the plane as well. Gary Rogers, 30, had only previously played for England B but was pushing for a starting spot in central midfield. The third uncapped player was centre back Lee Lambert who played for Derby.
    Gareth Edwards, Kieran Barrett and Ade Scott all were included also and they all had one cap each. In fact there were 11 players in the squad that had 7 caps or less.

    It was either a very bold move or Pardew was already looking ahead to the next tournament and trying to give players experience of a big tournament in advance.


    This was it. The started of the UEFA European Football Championship 2024 in Italy. 16 European nations all vying for glory.
    And the opening game at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The hosts against Harry's England.


    The Italians were in full voice and were looking to start their tournament well.
    But it was not to be forgotten that England were holders of the trophy, after beating Italy in the previous final.
    And Harry had history with Italy. As well as playing in their country for four years, he also scored his very first international goal against them back in 2016. Now 24 goals later, he was gunning for more.

    Harry lead the team out to roars from the crowd. Pardew had indeed gone with Rogers in midfield for his debut and Harry was paired with Gareth Doherty of West Brom in attack. A man 13 games into his international career and still searching for his first goal.
    Harry met Italy's captain with a wide smile in the centre circle. Manuel Giandonato of Chelsea and formally of both Real Madrid and Juventus was someone Harry knew very very well after being teammates at three different clubs.
    They exchanged a warm hug and then went off for final preparations with their teams.
    Harry gathered England into a huddle and spoke strongly.

    "This is it lads. This is not a time for letting ourselves or each other down. First game. We need to be focused, together and solid. Let's go for it but let's not make silly mistakes. Each do our individual jobs and we'll be alright. Let's do this!"

    It was a solid first half with both sides breaking well but being thwarted by solid defence. That was until the 43rd minute when Italy broke and Bruno Martelli found himself with enough space to strike from 15 yards and gave Italy the lead.
    England were a little dejected at half time and Pardew did his best to rouse his men. He reminded them that this was the first game and they needed to not let their heads drop.
    They continued to be solid at the back in the second half but just did not have enough cutting edge about them to grab the goal back. Doherty was replaced by Afobe but to no avail and England fell to defeat in their first game.

  23. #1748

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    Still a decent goal return at Chelsea then which is something. Average rating the lowest since his final season at Colchester! Shame to see them drop so far down, I wonder if Harry will return at the end of his playing career. Would be good for the story!

    Not the best of starts at the Euros, think it'll be our usual embarrassing showing on the big stage!

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    Considering that they lost a game away, I wouldn't call that a really bad result but it seems that they could have gotten the draw.

  25. #1750
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    After the first round of matches had taken place for each country, the awards ceremony was held for both FIFA World Player of the Year and World Footballer of the Year.
    Harry, as holder of both, had to attend both ceremonies but happily they were both held in Italy for convenience so there was not too much travel time.
    He handed on his FIFA award to Barcelona's Iker Muniain and despite coming second in the Footballer of the Year awards passed on the mantle to a young up and coming player Pablo Garcia Zubikarai. He really did look the business and had a glittering career ahead of him surely.



    Harry was happy with second. He spent a little time at the awards before travelling back to Rome in readiness for England's second game.
    Wales were the opponents in what was being billed as a 'Battle of Britain'. They had drawn with Greece in their first game. Greece had since played again and lost to Italy so England were bottom with Italy were already away and clear with 6 points.
    It was suddenly an almost must win for Harry and his team.
    Connor Coady came into central midfield in place of James Rowe in England's only change and they went in confident.
    Wales had Gareth Bale who was part of the all conquering Napoli side but they knew if they could keep him quiet,they had every chance of coming away with the win.
    It was a tight game and as expected, the difference maker was Gareth Bale.
    But it was only after he was substituted on 53 minutes that things began to happen. England began to take a foothold in the game now that Wales no longer had their talisman in the team and it was less than 10 minutes later that they took the lead.
    Martin Johnston broke past Adam Matthews the Wales right back and crossed deep for Bow to rise above the defence and head home.
    Just three minutes later, he repeated the trick. This time the cross came from Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right but the result was the same, Bow heading home for 2-0.


    And that was that. It meant Italy had qualified after two games and England, Wales and Greece had to fight it out for the remaining qualifying spot.
    England v Greece would be vital.

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