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

  1. #1876
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    The next 6 months went by in a bit of a blur for Harry.

    He spent as much time as he possibly could at home, helping Elle with the early days of Wayne's life. Nappy changing, feeds, up in the night settling. It was all go. He also had to try and keep on top of his football as well. He found it a bit of a break if he was honest. As much as he loved being at home, he found travelling for away games a great time to rest and recuperate.

    He started the season by scoring the winner against Man Utd in the first league game of the season. He followed that up with a hat trick against CSKA in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round to drag Chelsea through to the competition proper.
    He also had a question answered as to whether his international career was to end after the Confederations Cup when he was firstly picked in the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg but also selected as captain.
    He repayed the faith in him by smashing a hat trick to seal qualification to the World Cup which would take place in Argentina the next summer. He also played against Azerbaijan 4 days later to earn himself his 77th cap.

    He scored again in the first game of Phase 1 as Ajax were defeated before a monumental game approached in the second.

    As well as Ajax, Chelsea had been drawn against Austria Vienna but also Harry would have two games against a former employer in Real Madrid and now was the time for his first return to Santiago Bernabeu since his transfer to Chelsea 17 months prior.
    He had amazing memories of his time in Madrid but, he knew, that was the past and now he had to put all of his focus into making sure his current side beat his new one. Or at least didn't lose. A draw would not be too bad at this stage of the competition. A point would be better than none.
    And that was exactly what Michael Skibbe said to his players in the build up to the game.

    For that reason, he set Chelsea up in a very defensive 4-5-1 formation. The three central midfielders in the formation would be essentially defensive midfielders and the wingers would be first line of defensive before any attacks reached the full backs. This meant that Harry would be deployed as a lone, isolated striker, looking to collect and hold the ball whilst waiting for reinforcements to get forward to support him.
    Madrid would set up in a 4-4-2 Diamond and have a 39 year old Sergio Ramos at right back, 33 year old Marc Muniesa at left back, 35 year old Fernando Forestieri and 33 year old Phillippe Coutinho in midfield and 33 year old Joao Reis in attack. Harry couldn't help thinking that they were there for the taking if Chelsea went for it but Skibbe had other ideas.

    As Harry arrived on the team bus, there were hoards of both Real and Chelsea fans there to greet it. There was a ripple of applause for each of the players but it grew louder as Harry emerged as the Real fans joined in. The cheering continued at Ivan Contreras stepped off the bus as well. He had spent 5 years playing in Real's midfield before his summer switch to London. As they emerged onto the pitch to start their warm up before the game they saw a huge banner already displayed on one of the stands that read Gracias Harry, Gracias Ivan.
    It was as if they were coming home. It was understandable for Contreras but for Harry he was a little taken aback that the Madridistas had taken him so to heart. He was only there for a year and a half. He had scored over 50 goals in that time though so that may have been the reason.

    They re-emerged from the tunnel later that evening with the Champions League theme blaring ready for the game. They were instructed to sit deep, soak up pressure and try and hit on the counter. Harry would have a pivotal role in proceedings. It was tedious work. He often found himself running from side to side of the pitch, trying to close down players and pressure the ball but when the ball was hit long to him by teammates, he did all he could do and took control of it, shielded it and waited for reinforcements before popping off simple passes.

    This worked to perfection after just 14 minutes. Harry chased down a long ball into the corner to pressure a Real defender. As he went to play the ball back to the keeper, he slipped, allowing Harry to steal the ball, advance a few paces before squaring the simplest of balls across the box for Ivan Contreras who had bust a gut to get up with him. He didn't even need to take a touch and buried it into the back of the net.

    No celebration from either Contreras or Bow but their team were ahead. And it was a lead they would keep for the rest of the math as they defended resolutely, denying Real time and time again. In fact, Chelsea did not threaten to score at all after they took the lead, they did not even have another shot on goal in the encounter.
    They came to do a job and that job was done to perfection.

    It was after this game that Chelsea were boosted by a new signing. And in the forward departments as well. A French international who had accumulated 56 international caps, scoring 24 times on the way. He had spent the last 8 seasons at Aston Villa and he cost the club 20m. Chelsea welcomed Damien Diarra.


    Harry now was worried for his future in the side. Surely Skibbe wouldn't have paid 20m for someone to sit on the bench. Surely the new man would have to be the first choice. He was younger than Harry at 29, he cost more and with the manager being so frugal with his spending in the past, he must have something big in store for Diarra to have paid out for him.
    Harry had goals in his favour though. Diarra had never scored more than 26 in a season and that was way back in 2017 when he played for Sochaux. Harry hadn't scored less than that in a season since he only got 19 in a season at Juve back in 2020.

    He found out in the next league fixture as he found himself tracksuited up and sitting on the bench as Diarra took the starting spot. He only sat there for 55 minutes though as Diarra was withdrawn with Harry taking his place.
    He returned for the Champions League game against Austria Vienna as Diarra was ineligible but found himself back on the bench for three of the run of four straight league games. He had played right wing for the one he started.

    Harry knew that effectively, as soon as the European run was over, that his Chelsea career was over. He would be restricted to bit part substitute appearances when needed. In those four league games, Chelsea had won two and drawn two. Harry had played 90 minutes on the wing in the first but just 35 minutes in the next three.

    He played left wing, and scored, against AFC Wimbledon in the league. He played against Man Utd in the League Cup third round, which they lost, and he played and scored the winner in the Champions League game at home to Real Madrid to secure Chelsea's safe passage to Phase 2. It was a goal where he really wanted to release his frustrations but couldn't in respect of his former club so did not celebrate.

    He continued to keep his place for England as well as they completed qualification with a win over Poland before rounding out their year with a friendly win over Germany.
    At this stage everything was fine but he did not want his lack of playing time to affect his chances of playing in the World Cup.

    If he was being truly selfish, he would point to Chelsea's worrying league form since he was dropped and push for getting his place back. They had 3 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats from the opening 11 games of the season. 13 points and that form had left them down in 17th place. They did have a game in hand over everyone but that didn't really redeem them. Manchester City by contrast were leading the table with 30 points.

    Harry's lack of playing time after the Real Madrid game on 4th November resulted in just 16 minutes of action against Newcastle. He had gone from almost ever present to sitting at home on the day before his 31st birthday thinking about whether he should be looking to move on to guarantee himself some playing time. Diarra had really settled and was now 2nd top scorer in the division. Harry would have a lot of thinking to do.

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  3. #1877
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    Massive update there!

    A storming start to the season for Harry with goals everywhere. Great result at Madrid too and nice to see that he got a good reception!

    But what is that clown Skibbe thinking? Signing a new striker and dropping Harry for league games?! Then picking him on the wings?!
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  4. #1878
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    Wtf? How can a manager just bench his best player?

  5. #1879
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    What a birthday.

    Harry had his 31st birthday on the final day of the year. Even if he had plans to go out and celebrate his landmark, he had literally had no interest in doing so. He stayed home with Elle and Wayne and just enjoyed his evening with them. He knew he had a lot of thinking to do.
    He thought when he joined Chelsea that the move would be his last. He could really see himself retiring there. He knew the time would come when he would lose his place in the side and then maybe the squad. But it didn't imagine in the slightest that that would happen when he was just 30 years old. 33 maybe, 34. Definately by 35 but this had come as a shock to him and it made him think. Long and hard.
    In truth, he was happy at the club. Yes he wanted the club to be winning things and he had not managed to do that at the club yet. Yes he got on well with his teammates but this was something else. This meant that if he stayed, he would be seeing out the remaining three and a half years on his contract as a bit part player. Playing the odd few minutes here and there.
    He had seen it happen before. Without that regular playing time, you lose that sharpness, that match fitness and it essentially makes you unfitter. If you get unfit and you are the wrong side of 30, it brings on your retirement date that bit quicker. It could take a season off his career just from losing that bit of pace or stamina and Harry didn't want that.

    He now had 31 days ahead of him to make a decision on whether he stayed or left.

    He decided he would not go as far as submitting a formal transfer request but he went and had a conversation with Michael Skibbe.



    "Boss. Look, I don't want to rock the boat and I completely understand you want to strengthen the squad. But, I just want to let you know that I'm thinking about moving on. As I said, I understand why you bought Damien. He looks like a great player. He's scored goals, you've made him captain, I get that. But, I just hoped that you would still see my worth to the club. And the amount of minutes I've had recently shows me that maybe you don't.

    I feel like I've still got a lot to give. As a starter not a sub. But quite frankly, when you get to my age, I really need to be playing regularly. And I know from next month you can make changes to the European squad so Damien will go into that and start those games also. So, because of that, I'm not looking for a transfer per se but if I could be made available? If someone comes in for me then the club can look at it and make a decision."


    Skibbe looked at him and thought for a while. Obviously, he didn't want to lose a player of Harry's quality but he respected him. He saw him as a great pro and as one of his players, he wanted to do the best for him.

    "OK. Let's say zis." the German started. "You are right. Damien is now my starter. I see good things for zis club coming through him. But I do need a squad not just a first team. You are part of zat squad. I need players of your quality. I don't know what will happen in terms of form or injuries in ze future. I need depth. But, I understand your concerns. I know you just want to play football and I'm sorry that ze way I want to play does not accommodate both of you. But zat is the way of it. What I will do is let people know of your possible availabilty. But, and zis is a big but, you will only be able to leave if it is a deal zat benefits me and ziss club. I won't just sell you because a bid was made."

    "OK. That seems reasonable. I hope you don't think I'm being unfair to the club or that I have lost respect for the club. I haven't. I saw myself retiring here but, as you know, we have just entered a World Cup year. I can't risk losing my place in that squad. This might be the last one I play in. And if I'm sitting on the bench here, I risk losing that place. I can't do that."


    With that, Harry stood and shook Michael Skibbe's hand. Harry may not have always agreed with the decisions Skibbe made in team selection or tactic choice but he had to respect him in the way that he had handled this situation. Harry would remember this and use these skills in his own managerial career when ever that may come round.

    Harry left the training ground and returned home to tell Elle about what had happened and let her know that there was a chance that they could be moving in the near future.

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  7. #1880
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    Hurray, letting Harry go may be the only thing Skibbe has done right!
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  8. #1881
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    I just hope that he goes to a better club

  9. #1882
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    Harry felt that the meeting went well. He essentially had got what he went in for. He didn't want to disrespect the club that had looked after him and that he actually enjoyed playing for. But they were big enough to understand that as a man in his early 30's, all he wanted to do was play football. Harry wasn't the kind of guy that would be happy just picking up his paycheck. He wanted to play, he wanted to enjoy his football and he wanted to continue scoring goals. There was no better feeling in the world.

    He also had vague aspirations of making it to 500 career goals before he retired. He was still quite a way off of that target though as he had 381 club goals and 39 for his country. 420 in total. He still had 80 goals to score before the end of his career. The dream was drifting he had to admit but he would give it a good go and again, he had to be playing to get there.

    So now he could only sit back and hope that someone showed some interest in signing him. He didn't really have any notion on where he might end up. He assumed that Chelsea would not sell him to a rival. Or any other club in England to that point. He didn't mind if he ended up back in Italy or Spain and he quite liked the idea of going somewhere he had not played before. France or Germany maybe. It felt it was probably be a bit soon to be taking himself off to America and he didn't really fancy getting cold in Scotland. Besides if he didn't end up signing for Celtic, it would be a pointless endeavour as Celtic have won the league for the last 15 years.

    He travelled to Blackburn on 3rd January and watched on from the bench for the full 90 minutes of the FA Cup Third Round game as Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to goals from Diarra and Giuliano. He did manage 19 minutes as sub in the next league game away at Arsenal on 7th Jan but could not make a difference as it finished 0-0 but went back to being an unused sub on the 12th as Chelsea won 2-1 at home to Wycombe. That was repeated on 14th as they drew 1-1 with Leeds but he did play a full 90 minutes on the 17th but it didn't help put himself in the minds of possible suitors as he failed to score and Chelsea lost 2-1 at home to Wolves.


    Over half of the month had passed and no one had showed any concrete evidence that they might be interested in securing his services. There was a rumour that Manchester City might be looking to prepare a bid but it came to nothing and the rumour died down pretty quickly.

    Three consecutive draws followed. 0-0 at home to Spurs, 1-1 away to Burton Albion in the FA Cup 4th Round and 1-1 away at Doncaster. Harry did not play a single minute in any of those games. This run of results not only left Chelsea way off the pace in the league but it also left Harry staring at getting stuck at Chelsea.
    The first day of February fell on the day of the Doncaster game.

    Harry was despondent. He was convinced he was stuck at Chelsea until the summer. He could see his World Cup dreams ebbing away.

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  11. #1883
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    Oh no Looks like Skibbe is punishing Harry now for wanting a move away.

    I really hope he gets a deadline day move!
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  12. #1884
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    Harry unexpectedly returned to the starting line up for the FA Cup 4th Round replay and was key in his side winning 1-0 to progress. Pundits in the media could see that Harry's normally joyful persona had changed. He was going about his play as if it were a job now. It was a workmanlike performance but he did not look like he was enjoying his football.
    That's not to say he didn't play well. He did. He lead the line masterfully and created an outlet for his teammates before bringing them into the game and starting attacks.
    He had a hand in the goal as well as he headed own a deep cross for Enzo Zidane to score the only goal of the game.

    All Harry could think about though was the fact that it was now February. Transfer time had passed and he was still a Chelsea man. They obviously had no inkling in selling him as they had now cup tied him by playing him in the FA Cup. He wondered what lay ahead. He wondered, as some pundits had mentioned, whether Skibbe was actually telling the truth when he said he would make him available. No one had shown any interest. No one had wanted him. Surely someone wanted him.

    The theory was somewhat backed up when he was left out of the squad entirely for the visit to the City Ground, Nottingham.
    Harry sat at home with his child in his arms watching Soccer Saturday and watching Chelsea lose 3-2 and wondering what had gone wrong in the last 3 months. From first team captain to out of the squad in no time at all.


    New Champions League squads were selected for the New Year and that meant that Damien Diarra would start against Sturm Graz at the Bridge. Harry did make it back on to the bench.
    He did not get on but he did play 33 minutes in the game away to Derby County four days later in the FA Cup 5th Round. A draw meant that there would be another replay to see if they could make it to the Quarter Finals.

    On the 18th February, Harry found himself in Austria for the reverse fixture against Sturm Graz. He sat in the back row of the dugout and looked around him at the other substitutes.
    Benik Afobe was having worse luck than even he was. The 33 year old had made just 2 starts and 3 sub appearances all season. Andy Blake, a 19 year old Welsh striker and Graham Mitchell, a 19 year old Scottish forward sat either side of him, soaking up the atmosphere. Champions League nights are great for players of that age, to give them experience and make sure they are ready when their time comes.
    It was interesting that Skibbe had named 4 forwards on the bench.

    Harry looked at it in two ways. He could either think that he was the most experienced of the four and would be first choice sub. Or he could look at it and say that they are even blooding his replacement for the bench.
    As it turned out, Harry was the first of them to come off of the bench, in the 61st minute. He did not come on to play as the forward though. He replaced another youngster Steven Barton, and played half an hour as the left winger. All the goals had come before Harry had entered the fray and he was unable to change the outcome as it finished 2-2.

    As they boarded the plane to make their way back to England, the hierarchy were happy. Chelsea were comfortable in the group with 2 home wins and now 2 away draws. They had a 4 point lead at the top of the group and they looked certain to qualify for the group stages.

    It was a happy flight back. Midway through it, Harry was called over by the manager.
    "Harry. A quiet word." Skibbe began, urging Harry to come closer. He leaned in.
    "I have just finished an important phone call. It appears that the powers that be at the club have accepted a transfer bid for you. You will be catching a connecting flight when we land in London."

    Harry was shocked.
    "But?! But?! We don't land until after midnight? Harry stammered.
    "I don't know. All I know is the little information I have been told. You will pick up a package when we land and it will tell you where to go."

    Harry nodded and returned to his seat, perplexed. What was going on? Where would he be going? He took his own phone out of his pocket and opened his WhatsApp and sent a message to his wife.

    'Won't be home tonight. Need to go on somewhere else after landing. There could be a development in the offing.'

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  14. #1885
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    I really hoped that it would be a transfer window abroad that was still open. Not entirely sure where though?

    Surely not the Chinese leagues? This story probably started before their reps in the DB were increased

    Russia perhaps? USA?!
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  15. #1886
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    Frustrating times for Harry but hopefully some light at the end of the tunnel. Looks like he may be missing out on a World Cup place, though.

    Great stuff as ever, keep it up!

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    As soon as they landed at London Heathrow, Harry's teammates went off to find the club coach but Harry was whisked away through a door and away to a waiting car which swiftly left the terminal before making a short journey not on to the open road but to another of Heathrow's terminals to board another flight.

    This could mean he was off anywhere. Could it be Italy? Spain? France? America? He had no idea.

    He breezed through the terminal with a hoodie on his head and after taking off his club jacket. This would help him get through relatively undetected and without having to stop every 5 seconds to sign autographs. He had the hood pulled tight over his face to avoid detection and could barely see where he was going. At the back of his mind, he thought to himself how funny it was that the England Football captain was trying to covertly make his way through one of the busiest airports in the world without actually having a clue where he was going.

    As they finally reached the gate, the screens that normally show the destination and time of departure had been turned off so they were no help to him. There were no airport staff at the gate. Just a cleaner sweeping the floor.
    They approached the gate anyway and walked straight through.
    They continued down the ramp. The man ahead of Harry didn't speak. He just expected Harry to follow him which Harry dutifully did. As they reached the end of the tunnel, it was not a plane that they saw before them but a bus. This was getting more and more intruiging.

    It was just a two minute bus ride but half way through it, all became a little clearer as Harry looked out of the front window and saw not a plane but a helicopter.


    Now that changed everything. He now did not have to be landing at an airport. They could literally fly off and land anywhere that was big enough to land a chopper. A field, a school, a garden. Anywhere!

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  18. #1888
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    That gives us no clues at all
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