Monday 2nd July 2018
World Cup 2nd Round – England Vs Wales
England’s tradition of disappointment at a major tournament continues as they crash out on penalties once again following a 0-0 blank with neighbours Wales.
Sunday 15th July 2018
The Football Association announces the termination of Rafa Benitez following a poor performance at the World Cup. RCD Espanyol manager Marc Bowen is the stand out favourite to succeed Benitez and take on the poisoned challis.
Sunday 22nd July 2018
England approach Bowen and offer him a 2 year deal to take over at Wembley. Bowen accepts the highly pressured role with the intention of staying on as the main man at high flying Espanyol. The press hound Bowen for taking on such an important job whilst continuing to manage a club in Spain. As every England manager has had to deal with criticism and pressure for the English media, the fact that he stays stubborn and sticks with 2 jobs increases pressure on him as many believe it is a clash of interests.
Bowen, “It is an honour to take on the role of England manager; it’s something that every English manager dreams of doing eventually. It will be no problem at all to juggle both jobs and if I find that one contradicts the other, than action will be taken. Trust in me like the FA has done and I’ll prove my worth.”
Wednesday 5th September 2018
So here we are; my first match in charge as England boss, a friendly at the fabulous Wembley Stadium against Switzerland. Not a bad test for my debut match; Switzerland are a decent side, with the tricky winger Shaqiri and Xhaka in midfield; our players need to be switched on from the first minute. Due to my club focus in Spain, I am putting lots of trust into scouting reports from my coaching staff, Sammy Lee will be reporting back to me how all players perform for their clubs. Communication is key so myself and Sammy have been in contact a lot over the last 6 weeks building up to this day.
In terms of how we are going to set up on the pitch, well it’s quite simply really, I’m going to stick with what I know best and see how that goes in this friendly match. Due to the restrictions that international managers have to face with, in terms of how often you get to actually spend time with your players, I wanted to stick with something I knew was trialled and tested during my time at Espanyol; ‘The revival of the Four Horsemen’. However, I cannot ignore the talent of Harry Kane, so this system will be implemented with a complete forward.
So the first game went swimmingly and the lads seemed to understand my way of thinking pretty well. We ran out 4-0 winners in front of the home crowd with a goal from Harry Kane and a hat trick from the Ox. A great way to quite those critics for a while, however, as England boss I know that they will find something to bitch about.
Tuesday 11th September 2018
Our first competitive game and coming off the back of that 4-0 victory, the mood was good around camp. Today it’s the start of the International League and we are up against Greece, once again at Wembley.
A great start to the International League; with a comprehensive 2-0 win over Greece, goals coming from Sterling and Harry Kane, great stuff.
Friday 12th October 2018
Our first away game on a very cold night in Croatia, this is going to test our mentality tonight against another decent side. Mandzukic put them ahead after 13 minutes but Dele Alli levelled things up just before the break, saving the boys from a temper tantrum at half time. Bizarrely that goal shook up the Croats and they sat deep for most of the 2nd half, we struggled to break them down and were unable to snatch the winner. We had some good chances but they defended very well, overall though, a decent point away from home.
Tuesday 16th October 2018
We hopped on a plan and just a short flight over too Greece for our next game. Another very similar fixture, Greece was physical and in our face, however, Harry Kane put us in front just after the break; obviously my half time team talk worked. Greece kept battling away and leveled the score from ex Fulham Mirtoglou. That’s how it ended, another frustrating evening but coming away with a point is better than none. It puts us on 5 points with a game to go; winning this group is still a high possibility.
Wednesday 14th November 2018
A friendly match today against the mighty Russia; a decent opposition who are more than capable of causing an upset, we are at home so we undoubtedly will have the backing of the fans in our favour. We pushed them right from the off and a low cross from Sterling caused havoc and Makeev put the ball in the back of the net. 4 minutes later a shot from Henderson to a massive deflection off Semenov and flew in; I would have given it to Jordan but the dubious goal panel disagreed, so a 2nd own goal from Russia. Just before the break, the Ox put us 3-0 up and we started to look comfortable. The second half saw a few changes to the team, I wanted to give most of the squad some minutes and Troy Deeney scored his first international goal in the 84th minute, making the final score 4-0.
Tuesday 20th November 2018
Our final game of the calendar year was at home to Croatia and was the final game of the International League. Croatia stood in our way, but the home crowd were up for it knowing that a win would see us win the group. Sterling gave us the lead after 5 minutes followed by a brace from Harry Kane in the last 15 saw us go out comfortably 3-0 winners and top the group.
The calendar year of 2019 went swimmingly and our style of play is really starting to go down well with the group. With the International League over we could now concentrate on the European Championship Qualifiers. In all fairness it was a quite favorable group for us with are only really challengers were Switzerland and perhaps Slovakia, Moldova and Georgia made up the rest of the group.
Are opening 2 games of the qualifiers saw us take on Switzerland in their back yard, followed up with a home tie against Georgia.
Trailing to a Tarashaj opener on 55 minutes, we struggled to break down Switzerland as they sat deeper and deeper getting as many bodies back to defend. I dropped our defensive line back and switched to a more counter system hoping to draw out any potential space it may leave behind their back line. This played to our advantage and by the 70th minute Kane had equalized. 7 minutes later, Switzerland gave away a penalty and Stones converted perfectly. The game was put to bed when Kane got his second in the dying moments capping off an impressive comeback.
The home leg against Georgia we were full of confidence and it showed on the pitch, with a rested side, we smashed Georgia 6-0, with Deeney getting a hat trick, Bertrand getting a brace and Vardy getting in on the action too. Very impressed with this, albeit against a lesser opposition.
Next up was back to the International League and after winning the group we went into the semi finals against Italy. A huge test for us against a very tough opposition, a huge step up from Georgia.
The Ox put us ahead on 6 minutes followed up from a penalty from Stones after a clumsy challenge from Florenzi. 2-0 up at half time, brilliant; although this excitement didn’t last as Gabbiadini pulled on back shortly after the break. To make things more nerve racking Luke Shaw was dismissed on 63 minutes following a late challenge on Berradi. D’Italia were on the front foot but we sat deep hoping to catch them on the break and that exactly what happened thanks to Dele Alli. 3-1 at the end, we were through to the final.
So 4 days later the final against the old rival, Germany, but confidence was still high and it showed. A brace from Sterling and a goal from Kane saw us walk away 3-0 winners and England won the International League. That’s right, England won something, OK, it’s a friendly competition, but still, we won.
The rest of our Euro qualifiers continued in the same fashion. We pulled a Roy Hogson and won all 8 games in the group, claiming an impressive 100% record, taking our calendar year to 10 wins from 10.
A few friendlies before the EUROS, which were actually a big disappointment following last year. 2 draws with Austria and Ukraine respectively followed by a 1-0 win over Romania and a 6-4 win over Armenia. Seriously, we ship in 4 against Armenia!
I decided to pick a wildcard in the squad for the EUROS, young 18 year old, Alan Worthington. A right winger, who has the ability to play in the number 10 role also. Currently in Man Utd’s U21’s, Alan stood out to me as a better option than Townsend.
The EUROS saw us in a group with Czech Republic, Sweden & Kosovo, who do amazing to get to the finals. 3 wins from 3 saw us qualify top and reach the last 16 where we would face Turkey.
The wins just kept on coming, we comfortably beat Turkey 3-1, followed by another 3-1 win over Holland, who actually took us to extra time, but they just ran out of puff. The semis saw us take on Belgium and a real opportunity now for us to make the final. We did not disappoint, a cracking 4 -1 spanking with a hat trick from Dele Alli.
So the final and Spain were in our way. Things did not start well with stones giving away a penalty and Juan Mata converted on 7 minutes. Harry Kane pulled things back on 13 minutes to make it 1-1 and things were starting to turn in our favour. More chances, more possession but no end product. That was our downfall. Another clumsy foul and another penalty, Mata scores again, putting Spain 2-1 up against the run of play. Head dropped and in true FM style another penalty is given against us on 57 minutes and Mata completes his hat trick of penalties. 3-1 the final score, what a huge disappointment, to lose in that way.
So that’s where my international time ended, I done the honorable thing and resigned form my post following the game, although i didn’t have a crappy statement written out like Hogson. Spain offered me the job as national coach but I swiftly declined. International management had taken it’s tole on me. Something once again got in the way of my club career. seasons took that little longer and it’s come to be more of a chore in the end. Good whilst it lasted but glad it’s over.
On a positive note, our young man Worthington had an excellent tournament scoring 4 goals and his value and reputation shot up. Since the EUROS, he has been featuring much more for Utd in important games. This is how he looks now, I wish I took a image of him before the EUROS though!
Overall all record
So the plan now is to continue with RCD Espanyol for the foreseeable future. I have season 5 planning to come out in the next week, normally I break things down into half a season, however, this season I’d like to do a full season summary. Stay tuned for this over the next week for this and if you wish to catch up with the story so far then click HERE.
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