bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

I remember I had sat outside the chairman’s office, listening intently.

 

‘Him?’ I heard the bald guy that smells of helicopter fumes and 2 day old Chinese takeaway say

 

‘Si amigo, el Irlandés’. The Irishman.

 

That fu**ing Irishman they’d say. Sometimes in a positive way, like oh yeah THAT f**king Irishman, but that only ended up coming about due to an Englishman, sorry, F**KING Englishman that, old clichés aside, had my back from day 1.

 

I’d never wanted to become anything really. I was mired in obscurity in my hometown of Bray, Ireland happy to watch the days tick by hoping to avoid the dreaded knocking on my door of any number of dealers, loan sharks or dodgy people in general looking to sell me more gear, cash in a favour or get their money back. A painkiller addicted drug fueled alcohol abusing shell of a man, I was the poster child for unemployment in Ireland, or anywhere else in the world really. Chuck in absolutely zero desire to amount to anything and you had a receipt for disaster, or success, whichever side of the coin you’re on.

 

I did have a modest playing career in the doldrums of the footballing pyramid in the Emerald Isle. I say modest, I played more or less every game because I was the only left footer and willing to sit back at all times. 90 percent of the time I was off my face on some chemical, pill or something I smoked. The other 10 percent I was getting ready to get off my face, ready for the game or the booze fest afterwards, win lose or draw. I had the work rate of whatever would be made if a crate of Red Bull mated with a crate of Energizer batteries if both crates had been eating pure MDMA for a month solid. I never stopped, my body was literally rattling from the minute the day started, whether I was already awake or not, to the moment it ended. I was a car crash waiting to happen, which did happen, luckily in the confines of a football match with medical personnel on hand.

 

In the dying embers of a match I was playing, I was at Old Saint Mark’s FC in Bray, we were up against Boltby Rovers in a league game, it was the mid Ulster reserves division if I remember rightly, the score is 1-0 to us. They’d resorted to the long ball in the hopes of catching a break in the game. I caught a break that was sure.

 

As the ball came in high and diagonally across the penalty area, I jumped forward to head it clear with eyes only on the ball. I thought to myself I’ve got this, get rid of it and we’ve won there can’t be long left. As my eyes narrowed and the ball came closer into my vision, I felt like a truck hit me in the back and not only knocked me sideways but came tumbling down on top of me at the same time.

 

As I hit the rock solid surface I felt not only the wind and air rushing out of me, but an unbearable level of pain shoot right through my body. From the soles of my feet, up through both legs but almost mercifully not through my groin and manhood, but right through my core into my neck and through my eyeballs in the most forceful manner I’d ever known. I didn’t know if this was the lord having mercy on me or having his wicked way. Either way I wouldn’t have wished that upon any man, friend or foe.

 

I’ve broken bones before, I’ve ruptured and torn muscles but this one I knew was bad. As I opened my eyes I saw our keeper, I can't remember his name, Davie, Danny or something, leaning over me, grinning that stupid bucked tooth smile and saying ‘Ya’ reet lad, come on get up’ but I couldn’t respond. I could see him there and knew in my mind I wanted to tell him I was hurt but he just started waving his hands in my face and shaking my prone body causing yet more pain and anguish into my already broken shell.

 

I woke from my shock induced coma a little over 9 hours later, emergency surgery done to remove my spleen, realign 2 discs in my back and fuse 2 others together in an attempt to get me able to walk again.

 

Walk I did but fall over I did even more often. During the recovery period of the multiple procedures I had endured, I fell over this one time and popped my back even more. Another emergency surgery to insert rods to get me upright again brought with it more pain than I thought humanely possible. To further add to my broken physique I broke my ankle in that latest figurative fall from grace, meaning not only do I walk with a slight hunch but my left foot clicks with every painstakingly awkward movement. I am, for want of a better term, a carnival exhibit let loose.

 

Since the on pitch accident it’s been 4 years. 4 painstakingly gruesome years that’s brought me from being down and broken on a football pitch in front 50 people to standing outside the office of a football clubs chairman ready to start my new career of football management. I never asked for this and I didn’t actively pursue anything to do with football that wasn’t as a player, yet here we are.

 

But it wasn’t long before she pulled me into her embrace and wrapped her long legs and arms around me. She’d actually been calling me for a while, in all fairness. With those tempting eyes and the flirtatious tones of her voice. Like a first love you just can’t let go of, or a deranged ex you just give in to because she won’t shut the f*ck up. I digress.

 

The call, if you could call it that came a few days ago in form of an old friend, or more an old acquaintance.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

 

Cross posted at On The Break here.

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' The Irish - I'm Leaving

 

I remember it like it was yesterday, that fateful conversation I had with the old boy, because you see, it was actually only 3 days ago. He’d asked to see me one day and told me a lot of things mainly about how he was dying. Aren’t we all old man, I thought to myself as the boring dulcet tones of his voice kept rambling on and on for what seemed like days.

 

It could’ve been hours for all I knew before he said ‘I need a favour from you’

 

My mind perked up. ‘Oh no, you really are losing it’

 

‘Losing it? How so?’ Alzheimer’s as well as dying slowly? Oh dear, you really are f**ked.

 

‘Asking a favour from me. I’ve not got the best track record of keeping favours if you can’t remember’

 

‘Yes, well, normally I wouldn’t trust your corpse to stay still during an autopsy, yet here we are’

 

I hadn’t known what to say to that last comment, funny though it was, so I let the silence linger slightly longer than it had any right to do before I asked ‘So go on then, this favour?’

 

With a smile my older friend replied ‘I’m glad you’ve asked. You’ve known me a long time, you know I’ve worked in football damn near all my life’ And what a life in football you’ve had. 2 bankruptcies, 3 relegations, a couple of points deductions and a bribery scandal chucked in for good measure. ‘And I need someone to come in and do a job at a football club for me’

 

I had to laugh at first, but I appeased the old boy. ‘This involves me how?’

 

‘I’ve recently come into a position of needing someone to come in at a manager level to oversee the team’ I wasn’t sure what he meant, even though he was still the owner of a team at that time, so I let him continue ‘My hands are somewhat tied in that I can’t seem to get anyone to take the position’

 

‘Okay, I’ll bite. Where is it at?’

 

‘My associate runs a team abroad who needs a manager. It’s a I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine kind of deal’ My favourite kind, always having somebody in your back pocket

 

‘You didn’t answer my question’

 

‘Because I’m sure you’ll turn your nose up at it. I need you to say you’ll do it before I tell you where it is’

I was a bit bored by this point, I never had much patience with him ‘You wouldn’t apply for a normal job without knowing where it is so I’m not even considering this until you tell me where’

 

‘Abroad, somewhere nice. You’ll love it’

 

‘And if, by some miracle I say yes to this, why me?’

 

‘I need someone I can trust, someone that will take direction’

 

‘A yes man, then?’

 

‘Not really. Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s at a club called Boca Juniors, they’re…’

 

I immediately cut him off ‘F**king hell. Boca Juniors?!? Really?’

 

‘Yes, really’

 

‘And the gig, it’s as a manager you said?’

 

‘Yes. Like I said I need someone I can trust to do this favour for me. I owe the guy there a favour and he’s done me a few things as well. It’s only going to be for this season until he can get someone else in permanently, but if it goes well then who knows, you might end up staying out there longer’

 

The cogs started turning in my mind. A free ticket to work at one of the worlds biggest clubs, get out of Bray in one piece and not have to worry about drug dealers and loan sharks looking to collect their debts. What’s the catch?

 

‘Not to sound ungrateful, but why is it me you’re asking to manage the team. I’m a kids coach twice a week, you know that. I’ve failed myself in football. I’m also waiting for another operation to try and get me to resemble an actual human being, I can’t do much if you haven’t already figured that out’ I said, and it was true. 

My back was in pieces, and I’d been waiting for another operation a long time at that point.

 

‘And I’m dying Scott! I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think you could manage it. And you’ll be waiting a while for the op, you know the state the health systems in’

 

‘Yeah, you might have mentioned you’re dying once or twice.’

 

Not sensing the sarcastic tone in my voice he continued ‘You always wanted a chance at a proper football team, and I’m giving you it’

 

‘I don’t think I’ve ever once said that to you’

 

‘You have, I’m sure of it, you’re like the son I never had’ I used to sniff ket, smoke crack with and f*ck your daughter. We’re hardly family. I tried reminding him he actually has 3 sons but he cut me off

 

‘Like the son I never had, Scott’. He said that in the firm sort of way you tell your kids we’ve got pizza at home and aren’t ordering one.

 

‘Right, I’ll play along. I’m unemployed, my body’s nearly as broken and battered as yours, I’ve got debts up to my eyeballs and more than one lowlife wants my balls in a vice over money or drugs. Thanks, but I don’t need a way out, I’m fine struggling along here thanks’

 

‘Way out? You schmuck, I’m offering you a way in!’

 

I eventually just shook my head and said ‘I’m not getting out of this am I?’

 

‘No, you’re not I’m afraid. I just need you to see things through this season like I already said’ You do like repeating yourself after all. ‘What’s the worse that could happen?’

 

‘Do you want me to answer that?’

 

‘No, it was rhetorical. Anyway, you see things through, and you leave, so what, you’ll have a years experience under your belt and there’s always my team here if you want to stay in football’

 

‘I guess. So when do you want me to leave? I’m guessing you’re covering the flights there?’

 

‘Of course I am. And as soon as possible. I will ring my associate and arrange the necessary’

 

You’ve gone and done it this time Scott. I never could say no to him, not even after he found out about the drug abuse and Rosie leaving. I’d arranged this mans second wife’s funeral, the least I can do is take charge of one of the biggest and best football clubs in the world on his behalf.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Cross posted at On The Break here.

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' The Irish - I'm here, just about

 

Things moved fast, nearly as fast as my first time with a woman. But I wasn’t half as embarrassed this time as I was then. This time it was all about me. This time it was business.

 

I’m still sat outside the door, the boss’s door. My boss for now still inside debating in Spanish something I can’t quite understand. I can still see the obligatory scantly dressed young female that looks like she’d be impregnated if you looked at her flirtatiously, and she did that stupid giggle thing those receptionist types do and titled her head to the side and smiled, not for the first time either.

 

She disappeared and then reappeared in a flash with a tray with 3 glasses of some liquid, champagne maybe? It tastes like warm p**s but I down it along with the other 2. As I do the 2 portly men leave the room and are making their way over to me. ‘¿dónde se ha ido mi champan moza? One of the men asks to which the girl just nods my way. I smiled back in the most awkward way possible. Try me fatso.

 

After going through the motions of plenty of hello’s, thank yous, I’m glad to be here’s, oh yes I’m sure we will I decided to accept that these 2 men along with my old friend back home have done something no one else would, or had the stones to do. And that was give me a job, an opportunity at a football club. Boca f**king Juniors no doubt. Except it was different.

 

I wasn’t sat in a club soaked in history in Buenos Aries. I wasn’t sat admiring the accolades and busts of such legendary names as Tevez, Palermo, Ruquelme, Banega or Maradonna. Not yet anyway. No, I was sat in the hallway of an office blocked called Tower Heights (really creative!) at the slightly less successful but just as much named Boca Juniors of Gibraltar, admiring, in the absence of notable players, the bust of the receptionist, who’s smiling at me again.

 

The taller of the men motioned me over and into his office, finally. He introduced himself as ‘Andrew Montegriffo, but call me Andy, thanks for coming in today Scott, I hope you’re ready to get to work’ and closed the door behind him.

 

I didn’t get chance to speak before he started speaking ‘Right, we both know why you’re here. I need someone with no baggage who will come in and oversee the team for this season. After that one of a few of things might happen. One, we get relegated and you leave. Two, we stay in the league and you leave. Three, I sell the team and the new owners sack you and you leave. Four, we do alright and I ask you to stay but you say no and you leave anyway. Or five, you stay. Any questions?’ A few actually. Why am I here? How did I get to be here? And what is that smell?!?

 

He continued ‘I’ve got one of my guys to look after you whilst you’re here to make it as comfortable as possible. Any questions? Yes and no, you asked me already but didn’t give me chance to speak. I’ll not bother trying again

 

‘No I think you’ve just about covered everything there. When do I get to meet the squad then?’

‘Whenever you want. You can go today, tomorrow, next week whenever. The league starts at some point this month so I’d probably go speak to them before then of course’ he said laughing. A joker as well, nice.

 

‘Right. I’ll er, get going then?

 

‘Right on’

 

I was hopeful that the rest of my career was as easy as getting my first job in it was.

 

As I left the room the girl on the desk wasn’t there smiling at me, so I went outside when I was approached by a man dressed in a white vest, sky blue shorts, pink sandals and wearing aviator sunglasses that stood out like a sore thumb and was holding his hand out.

 

‘You’ve gotta be f**king kidding me’ I muttered to myself and made my way towards him ‘I guess you’re waiting for me’

 

‘You the Irish lad?’ he said in a rough clearly English accent as we shook hands

 

‘Yep, sure am’

 

‘Andrews new guy for that s**t showing of a team?

 

‘Guess so’

 

‘Let’s ride’

 

He led us to a battered up Ford Escort that had clearly seen better days. As we approached it he took off and asked me to hold his sunglasses, whilst he opened the boot and pulled a hammer out

 

‘It’s a bit temperamental, bare with me’ and he undid the bonnet and started hammering at the engine. After 6 or 7 rapid hits the engine whizzed into life.

 

‘How did that start without you turning the key?’ I asked, perplexed.

 

‘Keys already in the ignition, can’t take it out, the immobilisers shagged’

 

‘This is your (I really emphasized the word) car isn’t it?’

 

‘Oh yeah, it’s mine, not legally I’ve not paid for it, and don’t know where the logbook or whatever they call it over here is, but it is mine’

 

I really wasn’t convinced but got in the car anyway, what other choice did I have? During the 5 minute or so drive I tried to make conversation as best I could

 

‘You work for the club then?’

 

‘Not really, I’m kind of like Andrews dogs body. I do all the grubby s***ty jobs none of his other lackey’s will do’

 

‘Such as?’

 

‘Escorting wannabe football managers from the office to the training pitch’ Pr**k.

 

‘Right. What else?’

 

‘Anything really’

 

‘So is this your job then?’

 

‘My other job yeah. I’m a superstar DJ’

 

I rolled my eyes at that. ‘What’s your name then? I might have heard of you’

 

‘My names Leo, but everyone calls me Ace’

 

‘Ace DJ?’

 

‘Exactly’

 

‘So you just DJ here then?’

 

‘Nah, I’ve got gigs lined up all along the Costa del Sol, Lanzarote, Ibiza and Benidorm coming up’.

 

‘Nice’ I didn’t really know what else to say.

 

We made it to the Victoria Stadium where all teams in Gibraltar play, and others, such as ours who don’t have their own training set up also train there 3 times a week. I asked Ace ‘The team are expecting me aren’t they?’

 

‘Corse they are pal, they know you’re on the way bossman’

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Cross posted at On The Break here.

Zebramanii
12 years ago
2 weeks ago
67

Excellent start so far, looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Do you have the Argentinian league loaded as well? Would be cool if you managed the real Boca team in the future after starting out at Gibraltarian version.

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368
By Zebramanii 16 January 2023 - 18:31 PM UTC 

Excellent start so far, looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Do you have the Argentinian league loaded as well? Would be cool if you managed the real Boca team in the future after starting out at Gibraltarian version.

 

Thanks mate. Yep got quite a lot of countries loaded, aim being to go wherever I can

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - Carry on wayward son, the journey's just begun

 

Ace had made the arrangements to the various people at the teams training area at the Victoria Stadium upon his and my arrival that morning. Not that Boca Juniors had much of a workforce save for the players, 1 assistant manager and a coach, but felt I had to do a meet and greet at my first ever job as a football manager.

 

‘The team are all on the training field just over there pal’ Ace motioned toward a huddled circle of people 40 or so yards away. ‘Best go introduce yourself eh’

 

I walked the short distance over to the group and held up my hand and said ‘Afternoon all, how are we?’ Silence. Not the start I had in mind

 

‘Me. Scott. Your. New. Boss. Watch’ I then said in that dumbed down way English speakers tend to speak to non-speakers of the language, and as I did I picked up a ball, placed it down and hit with my left and they all watched as it sailed high and wide, clipped the inside of the post of the nearest goal and went in. Boom. Pick that one out

 

‘See. Me. Good. Turn. You. Into. Good. Team’. Silence, again. Obviously.

 

Ace was laughing overly harder than I thought he should’ve been, and then a few of the players started laughing along when 1 of them walked forward towards Ace and I heard him say ‘This the guy then?’

 

‘Yep, sure is. Look I’ve gotta dash, places to go people to see you know how it is, catch ya later Scott’ and with that he left. The new man held out his hand to me and said ‘I’m Alex, I’m Irish like you. I don’t wanna know how you ended up here, I keep asking myself that same question yet here we are’

 

‘Scott, nice to meet ya. What’s the team like then?’

 

‘Shite for the most part’ How quick he is to judge his team mates, I wonder if I’ll be afforded the same luxury. ‘They’re only a young club and this is my second season here, you’ve heard the term farmers league? Well see him over there, the big tank, he’s actually a farmer in Malaga, comes here on his days off to train and play’

 

‘Right, like San Marino then?’

 

‘Wouldn’t say that we’re as bad as that, but yeah all the clubs in the second division are amateurs, there’s a couple of pro clubs in the top division but even then it’s nothing exciting, nothing like the big teams back home like Cork and Saint Pats’

 

‘Oh I’m a Bray fan myself’

 

‘Shame, could’ve had some banter with you, I follow Cork obviously’

 

The rest of the day was spent with me meeting the players individually, discussing their strengths and weaknesses and giving out aims for the upcoming season. 

 

The main thing was not to get relegated from the second division with the odds being we’d be finishing bottom, any higher would be a bonus.

 

After speaking to the players next up was meeting my staff, all 2 of them. Assistant manager Allen Bula and coach Julio Sanchez. After assessing them in my mind, I’d figured I’d see how tactically savvy they are, and based on ratings of 1-20 they’ve got a tactics coaching rating of 7. That’s a COMBINED tactics coaching rating of 7. Add to that Andy had told Ace who told me there was no money to spend, on staff or players, not that I knew many players or staff available in Gibraltar anyway, and I would have to spend the first part of my career tolerating the skills, or lack of, from the clubs existing backroom staff.

 

The difference between their skills and that of a dead ferret was that a dead ferret wasn’t employed at Boca at the same time that I was. I looked at them in a pitiful sort of way. I don’t know who felt more fucked, them for having me as the boss, or me for having that sorry lot to rely on.

 

Despite our total lack of coaching skill we had our first training session together. Things got off to a good start and I left everything to the squad and we had an okay-ish session, there were a couple of decent looking players, talent wise I mean, not good looking in an attractive sense. Nothing really stood out save for a couple of goals, but they all seemed to gel together well.

 

As for team talks and motivational speeches, footballers, even part timers that have other full time paying jobs, can smell fear, or at the very least indecisiveness. The vice captain from the previous season, goalkeeper Philip Hermida had asked me ‘On behalf of the squad, tell us about yourself. We all know each other well enough but we don’t know you’

 

'Well I'm glad you've asked. I've got a background in football in the great nation of Ireland, Dundalk wanted me you know (a few blank expressions at the name, lie or no), anyway I've come here, with my experience and ideas to get this club going places’

 

I took a moment and carried on speaking 'I reckon, looking at the league table, we may not finish bottom of the league, but I’m sure we can finish mid table’

 

I could sense Hermida tried to hide the laughter coming out of his mouth. 'You do realise that this club is probably the worst in the division if not this country?’

 

‘Yet you’re it’s goalkeeper aren’t you? Meaning you’re also the worst? That ought to shut him up

 

‘I’m only a part time player, this isn’t my main job….’ I quickly cut him off

 

‘So? You’re here as a player and will be treated like one, and as such I will expect you to act like one. As you know this league is amateur night every night, none of you aren’t replaceable’

 

With that I allowed the players to warm down and carry on the rest of their day without another word being said. Ace had quickly reappeared and did speak to me on his way out however ‘I like that you didn’t back down there. Footballers are a fickle bunch’

 

‘Got to get my authority across early on I guess’

 

‘That you do pal. You ready for your first game in a couple of days?’

 

‘Can’t wait’

 

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Cross posted at On The Break here

 

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - Away we go


 

Heading into my maiden game as a manager I was hell bent on playing a bog standard no frills, spills or thrills 4-4-2. Even the sorry state of a team I had inherited could play that. Simple long balls up top in the hopes one of the strikers could get a lucky break, and 2 banks of 4 that would hopefully keep things tight. Hopefully being the key word. Our opponents would be Gibraltar Phoenix FC. No, me neither.
 

As it’s our first game together I kind of wanted to be a bit cautious, so we went all out attack, also known as throwing caution to the wind. I convinced myself that in other games where we’re away or probably going to get spanked we’d tweak the approach. Nothing serious like we’ll just hoof it up top quicker than normal, oh no that’s some serious in depth tactical stuff. I’m talking changing the central midfielders from support to defend, or the full backs from just a defend mentality to all out defensive full backs. Alex Ferguson mixed with Pep Guardiola tactical stuff!

 

It was up to the players to learn the tactics set before them. Things might be hindered on my lack of knowledge of Spanish other than ‘Vamos motherfuckers vamos’ but they’re still players and I expect there to be some desire to win football matches, amateurs or not. My first ever starting 11 looked like this:

 

Hermida (GK). Zamboglou. Rodriguez. Capurro. Neal Robba. Ellul. Guerero. Sansolini. Ronco. Lara. Kevagn Robba.

You won’t want a match by match review of every game we have, but lets say our first game together wouldn’t be the one that defines me as a manager. We conceded early on to a dodgy penalty, the foul was outside the box I’m sure of it and I let the linesman in lieu of a fourth official know just how I felt, but we pulled it back level shortly after. Neal Robba was pulled, literally kicking and screaming from the reserves side and thrown into the first team on the morning of the game. As the penalty was given I shouted 'Are you fucking kidding me?! You, the shit Robba, get a fucking grip man!' I yelled toward the aforementioned left back, who mouthed something back in Spanish 'And ya can cut that foreign speak out an all' was my angry reply.

 

Before the game restarted, I pulled right winger Ellul aside and gave him some instructions 'Come on now, ya can’t miss the little fast fella, swing the ball his way, let him do the rest' and as the game restarted, Ellul took the words of advice on board, called for and received the ball on the right wing and went on his darting run forward.

 

Just as I had asked, Ellul swung the ball from deep and it found it's way into the path of the onrushing Kevagn Robba (the slightly better Robba) and as I visualised it, as he had done in training a couple of times, he guided the ball home to level the score to 1 apiece. It wasn't the best looking goal, but Robba was in the right place as the ball bobbled in front of the Phoenix keeper and with as deft a touch as there could be levelled things up.

We conceded 3 more goals in the game to lose 4-1 in my opening match as a manager. But we weren’t to be deterred, as we won 3 and drew 1 of the next 4 games, all in the league to show that the squad, as barebones and as shit as you can get do have something about them.
 

Next up would be the aptly titled Division 2 cup, which for simplistic terms is a cup for teams in the second division. I get the feeling it’s like Gibraltars way of saying you’re pretty crap, you’ll not win the actual cup so here’s a little watered down version to play with. But we don’t care, we being me and probably only me until we get to the final, we’re taking it seriously.

 

College 1975 were up first, and we scored 2 early goals but conceded 2 second half goals to take us to extra time. Remember when I said about the whole tactical stuff, well I risked it for the figurative biscuit by shifting a full back into a striker in extra time and it paid off, as we scored 2 in time added on to record a 4-2 win

 

Leo FC would be our quarter final opponents, and the good Robba scored after 27 seconds to set us up for a 3-0 win. No sweat, bones or hearts broken so far.
 

FC Olympique at least held on until the 21st minute before letting us in, and we scored 2 more in the first half and sat back, played chess and did crosswords in the second half as they failed to even get a shot on target in the full game. 3-0 in the semi final
 

I let the boys know it was a great achievement getting to a final of any cup, I got a couple of grunts and half arsed smiles and nods back from them.

 

Fickle bunch, footballers.

— — — — — — — —

Cross posted at On The Break with in game images here

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - The end is near

 

As my fist official transfer window opened in January, we made a grand total of zero signings. And why would we? We’re playing well, we just beat Hound Dogs, incredible team name absolutely diabolic football team, in the first round of the Rock Cup, Gibraltar’s actual FA Cup. We’ve won 7 of 12 games in all competitions and the only real weakness we have is letting teams score once we have. In all but 1 game we have scored first, our opener against Phoenix. We lost 1-0 to Leo but that was very much the exception, every game we’ve scored in so I’m not too concerned.

 

Once January was out of the way we endured back to back losses, once to Gibraltar Phoenix in the league, they’d done the double over us now, then Lynx FC beat us 3-1 in the Rock Cup. Another thing I wasn’t too concerned with. Lynx were third in the Primera Division at the time and really I wanted to make sure we gave as good as we could in the league, so could do without extra games in a cup we wouldn’t be winning that season anyway.

 

As there’s not many teams in the second division in Gibraltar, like a flash the season was just about over. Like one of those movie scenes where it starts off and then it sort of fades to black, then the writing comes up saying 10 years later or whatever, but in our case to read 8 months later. It was officially confirmed some time in February what we already knew, that we’d be up against Angels in the cup final

 

We also found ourselves with 1 game left to play in the league. It’s easy enough to say how we got in the position we did. Second in the league on 30 points, 1 point behind leaders Gibraltar Phoenix and 1 point above third place Cannons FC. We needed to better the Phoenix result to go up as champions, and if not we had to better the Cannons result to be guaranteed the play off place

 

2 games to go in my maiden season as a manager, and potentially 2 trophies to boot. I didn’t want to think much of it or that it was beginners luck getting to the position we’d found ourselves in. Ace however had other plans.

 

‘Right chief, I’ve got my DJ gear on the way from Beefer (He called Ibiza, Beefer, no I’m not sure why either) and a couple of my running buddy’s are coming to really set the party off’

 

‘What party?’

 

‘The Boca Juniors double party of course! League and cup wins in 1 season me old mucker’

 

‘Mate, we haven’t won either yet, we could still end up in the promotion play off and get beat in the final. I don’t want you doing anything…’ He cut me off before I could say the word stupid

 

‘Don’t be daft lad. Angels, who the f**k are they? Haven’t we beat them already this season?’

 

‘We? No we haven’t, they gave us out first loss of the year actually!’

 

‘Oh, well f**k ‘em, we’ll hammer then in this final. And the league, who we got next?’

 

‘Cannons’

 

‘Thumped them already didn’t we’

 

‘Not really, got away with a 1 nil win, hardly….’ He cut me off again

 

‘Still beat them though. Look, I’m confident we’re gonna win both games, then the party can really start, thanks to yours truly Ace DJ!’

 

He always said we like we’re a team or he had some hand in the games, but I didn’t mind. He was my first friend when I got to Gibraltar and really, he’s actually a pretty decent guy.

 

As for both my own and the clubs first ever cup final, Angels FC were our opponents and my team talk before kick off was pretty simple really. Calmly telling the players that the best way to avenge our first loss that season would be to win the upcoming cup final against them, and all of the boys seemed to respond positively.

 

We didn’t change anything up and went with our strongest and regular starting 11, no point changing a winning formula, and the decision paid off early on.

Kevagn Robba latched onto a through ball from Sansolini to give us an early lead after 5 minutes. The Angels players were up in arms protesting for an offside flag that never came.

 

The inevitable attack from them came and they did test Hermida in our goal a couple of times, both shots easily held onto. We came back at them with a couple of attempts of our own, but both shots would end up in the tame folder, neither really threatening to double our lead.

 

But heading into the final 5 minutes of the half we doubled our lead. Robba taking a touch on the edge of the area, played a 1-2 with his strike partner Dan Lane, turned past the defender and slotted the ball into the far corner on the pass back. 2-0 heading into the break and we didn’t look like we’d be losing

 

I didn’t say much to the players at the half time break. I didn’t need to. They all knew the position we were in and what we had to do to keep it. They went back out and let Angels have the ball for the most part. When we had won it back we threatened to increase the lead but didn’t actually do so until right at then end, when 

 

Robba turned provider to Lane to wrap the game, and the cup final up

 

We had been excellent value for the cup win. Never once did we look like we wouldn’t be lifting the trophy. All 264 fans that turned out to see us lift it were in great spirits. I’m not sure how many were actually Boca fans though, but we didn’t care. We’d won the less prestigious cup in Gibraltar, and now had the league to concentrate on.

— — — — — — — —

 

Cross posted at On The Break here

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - In our own hands
 

Cast your mind back to the beginning of my time on Gibraltar, the other Irish lad that greeted me on my first day, well that was Alex Zamboglou, and despite the surname he is definitely Irish. He was my on field confidant, my right hand man within the team so to speak, and he really helped out in my first season as a manager.

 

He pretty much confirmed everything I said in terms of tactics with the rest of the team, how and when to close down and backed me up on all decisions that I made. The players all listened to him as well, and I made a mental note to thank him in some way once the season was over with. And before I knew it, we had arrived at our last league game of the season. 1 game left to determine whether we’d be finishing the season as champions and getting promoted, or we’d have another game, a play off lottery to see if we’d go up or stay in the Segunda league.

 

On the eve of our final game of the season against Cannons we had a team meeting. Nothing informal or ‘official’, just me, the players and Ace having a get together at a local bar which Ace worked most weekends. We didn’t get too loud and rowdy and had a decent evening ahead of a big game. Alex himself did a pre game team talk in which he played up our chances of victory, I kept it chill and I said I’ll address the game tomorrow right before kick off. All in all I looked around the tables and saw a team hell bent on bettering the Phoenix result.

 

As all teams play in the same stadium in Gibraltar, we had to play our game against Cannons at 15:00, Phoenix would play College 75 at 19:00. I told the players in the dressing room before the game that it gives us the advantage, we could play our game, warm down, review the game and anything that comes up during it, get changed and be in the stands before the Phoenix players even get to the stadium and realise we’re there. The idea being we could put a little more pressure on them in their game. Of course we’d have to play our game first.

 

We started the game off slowly. Cannons had to get a win to have any chance of being promoted but they seemed content on sitting back and waiting for us to come on to them, probably hoping to counter attack. It was what you’d call a cagey match in all fairness, and barely anything of note happened in the first half.

 

At the break I told the players just to go back out and go for it, all out attack. There’s no point being conservative or cautious now, 45 minutes to get a win. We did push on right from the kick off, and managed to get a goal for our troubles, fortuitous it may have been.

 

I’d gone with Lara and Robba as the 2 forwards and both were getting into good positions, and it was Lara that seized the initiative. After getting a goal kick the Cannons keeper played it short to their left full back who came forward but had second thoughts so played it back to the center half, who also didn’t look confident going forward so tried to play it back to the goalkeeper but didn’t see or realise that Lara was on his blind side.

 

Lara burst forward as the ball was played back, it didn’t have enough pace to reach the keeper anyway so if Lara wasn’t there the keeper would have needed to move out, but didn’t once he saw Lara collect it on the edge of the box. Lara dropped a shoulder, shimmied to the left as the keeper finally advanced and placed it to the keepers right.
 

 

We expected a come back from Canonns which unbelievably didn’t come. We had the majority of the ball from the goal and had a number of chances to increase our lead. Their keeper and defence, that 1 mistake aside played reasonably well for the rest of the game, limiting our chances and managed to keep us at 1 goal to the good.

 

We got what we needed, a win which should put the pressure on Phoenix in their game. After the match I told the players as much, and that we’ve done all we can do. We got showered and changed, even managing to grab a bite to eat before we made our way to the main stand and sat right in the corner away from the dugouts but in plain view of anyone who looked our way.

 

As both sets of players walked out they didn’t notice us, or at least none of the players reacted liked they had done. College had been playing badly and were second bottom of the league at the start of the game and looked shaky for the opening few minutes, that soon changed however.

 

One their first drive forward they were given a penalty, which they converted and never looked back. We all celebrated as if we were fans of College and they’d just won the Champions League. I did tell the boys to make themselves heard.

 

The Phoenix players must’ve known we had been there as they absolutely fell apart. Unable to string a pass together or even get out of their half, they conceded another around the 18 minute mark and another just on the half hour, which effectively secured the league title for us along with more exaggerated celebrations from our players.

 

Half time came and went and Alex had said to the group ‘We’ve won it boyo’s, we’ve fucking won it’ before the game had resumed and Cannons added 2 more goals which gave them the win and us the league title, along with promotion to the Primera League

 

— — — — — — — —

Cross posted at On The Break here

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - Confidential information

 

Attachment – Op_RT_2.wav & Op_RT_3_.wav and text copies with annotations attached

Notes:

Use of code words present

Surveillance ongoing

Op_RT_2.wav

Recorded call of a series of comms between people suspected in Operation Rolling Thunder.

2 unidentified males. First believed to be Andy Montegriffo of Gibraltar, second believed to be Armando Flores of Madrid, Spain. Call recording commenced after 17 seconds of dialogue. Call made and received in Malaga, Spain.

[Male no.1] Take no liberties on this one

[Male no.2] The boats ready to go any minute

[Male no.1] Are you sure they can make it from the port to Tangier?

[Male no.2] Easy. They’ve done it enough times

[Male no.1] It worries me only 3 of them with all that cargo

[Male no.2] During the night they could go backwards and wouldn’t be seen

[Male no.1] It won’t look good if this goes wrong

[Male no.2] We know, it will be fine

— — —

Op_RT_3.wav

Recorded call of a series of comms between people suspected in Operation Rolling Thunder.

Leonardo Cali AKA Ace, identified as making the call, hereby referred to as LC. Call made from a Gibraltar payphone on 14 June 2017 at 16:04 local time

Santiago Damon identified as receiving the call, hereby referred to as SD. Call received at another Gibraltar address.

Persons referred to as ‘big guy’ & ‘little guy’ as yet remain unidentified. The big room also unknown at this time. Seth’s team are looking into this

[LC] I told you’d I had a good feeling about the dogs

[SD] The tips at the track were good this week

[LC] Plenty of books to be viewed in the big room next week

[SD] Have you checked in on the veal?

[LC] Plenty. All [inaudible] and waiting. Just need the [background noise / inaudible] confirming

[SD] Such as

[LC] End game, number of players, you know, the usual

[SD] I’ll speak with the bug guy, you tell the little guy to be ready

[LC] It will be done

Call ended 16:06 local time

— — — — — — — —

That was the first and second set of phone calls that were recorded during an investigation into match fixing, steroid use and distribution as well as money laundering. It was played to me at the first day of cross examination during the trial, which wouldn’t be for another few years yet.

 

— — — — — — — —

 

Cross posted at On The Break here

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' the Irish - The chairman's intent

 

I remember the day after the Cannons game, my phone rang, it was Andy, the clubs owner

 

‘Is it true then?’

 

‘Is what true?’

 

‘You won the fuckig league?’

 

‘Yeah we did, and what…..’ He cut me off, his usual trick.

 

‘For fuck sake. You weren’t even meant to stay in the division never mind win the f***ig thing!’

 

Confused, I told him ‘We’re not in it anymore, we’ve been promoted, I was expecting a bit more positivity from you to be fair’

 

‘Positivity? I’ve just got off the phone to those jumped up pen pushers down the leagues office, and because of your little stunt I’ve got to turn the club semi-professional now’

 

‘And that’s a bad thing because?’

 

‘Because now not only do I have to spend money on making things semi ba****ding professional around the club, I also have to pay you something as well now’

 

‘So, I…’ Cut off again

 

‘Now that we’ve been forced into turning semi pro all the existing players are probably going to want paying as well. Not to mention any new players you end up convincing to join’

 

I hadn’t thought about getting any wages to be fair, but if he was willing to pay me something, anything I’d have been happy.  But I’d have thought if we did well then as a club we’d make more money, not much due to being in little ol’ Gibraltar, but something is better than nothing. I couldn’t help remembering what Ace told me the first day I was at the club, that Andy was using it for laundering means. Not my place to do anything other than concentrate on the team however. As that call ended another took place

 

‘What in the name of Saint Mark have you done to rile up Monty so much lad?’ My old friend from back home said as I answered

 

‘Oh nothing much, just over achieved at every corner, won the league on the last day of the season and now we get to play in a higher division full of riches and fame this clubs never known of’ I exaggerated if you couldn’t tell

 

‘Well he’s all kinds of pissed off about it. I’m not sure why though, he’ll get to make some actual money at that club now. Anyways, looks like you’re staying there a while longer then?’

 

‘Yep, guess it does. Thanks for calling’

— — — — — — — —

 

So my first proper pre season and transfer window were set to begin and the mission objective is simple, stay in the Primera league next season. Nice and easy and nothing too technical, I was sure any and all players young and old would be able to get on board with that. I didn’t feel like asking Andy what the transfer budget or even new wage budget would be as I knew the answer I would get would vary from being an outright lie or as far from the truth as you could get. So I turned to Ace.

 

I didn’t know if he would cut corners, he never struck me as the type to do so, so when he asked what I was looking for, I took a pen and wrote in big bold letters – 1 OF EVERYTHING

 

‘Seriously, everything?’

 

I just nodded.

 

‘You do mean everything, as in every position, not things like PED’s or other questionable related items to enhance a players, erm, perception?

 

‘What?!? I don’t want any performance enhancers, what is wrong with you?’

 

‘Oh a lot to be fair. I just wondered what else you’d possibly want from me in terms of helping the team out’

 

Despite the initial lack of foresight from him, I outlined that despite not knowing much about the Primera league I was sure there’s bound to be better players there just by default, and that we’d not have the luxury of carrying any passengers, despite having not 1 but 2 full time coach drivers currently playing for us on their weekends off.

 

In Kevagn Robba, 10 in 16 we’ve got a decent finisher for the second division, but can he get even half of that in the top league? Alex Zamboglou, diligent, professional, hard working and all round nice guy is a good player to have around but will he be up to the task in a higher league? Other than Ellul at right wing being able to do more than 2 step overs before tripping up we’ve really not got much pace or creativity anywhere else on the pitch. In an ideal world, we’d bring in a couple of strong center halves and a decent finisher, in the hopes of sitting back and defending for our lives and grabbing some goals on the break.

 

It didn’t take Ace long before not 1, not 2 but 3 new faces came through the door in our bid for survival. 2 new center halves came in to replace the couple that left. 

 

Brad Power, great name by the way, and Lee Coombs were signed by the club, probably without Andy’s consent or knowledge and immediately would be starters for us.

 

We also snapped up attacking midfielder Alfonso Gonzalez who we’d be looking at to score some goals to hopefully keep us in the division.
 

On the eve of the first league game I was sat with Ace in 1 of the dugouts at the stadium. He’d got his phone out and had said the odds of us staying in the league are 95-1.

 

‘Never tell me the odds!’ I snapped back at him, hoping he’d not seen Star Wars, or at the least not clicked on to where I borrowed the line from. We’d be the favourites to finish bottom of the league just like we were last season, and we’d overachieved then so the hope was we’d overachieve again.

 

Hopefully.

— — — — — — — —

Cross posted with images at On The Break here

bigmattb28
9 years ago
5 hours ago
1,368

Luck o' The Irish - The quartermaster's wife

 

The doors to the bar slammed shut as I walked in but no one paid it any mind. I’d been coming to this little bar, The Quartermasters Wife, on and off since I landed in Gibraltar. I’d got to know the bar staff, all 2 of them pretty well. I sat at the end of the long bar where I usually sat, and the girl, Ali, brings me the pint of Guinness I always have.

 

‘Tastes like piss’

 

‘I’ll give you 1 thousand Euro if you say that out loud where I’m from’

 

‘You’re on’ she says, smiling, in a conversation we have every day

 

After looking around the place our eyes catch each others and I say ‘Just the 2 of us, how terribly exciting’

 

‘Lock the door, I’ll get the stuff’ she says and by the time I’ve locked the door and sat back down she’s made her way around the bar with the bag and a needle.

 

I don’t regret many things I’ve done over the years, I kind of regret not giving more to my own playing career but I’d been given the chance to right that wrong with the managers job at Boca. I’m Irish so I need to drink, I think it’s part of being from Ireland that you have to drink. Where was I? Oh yeah, regrets.

 

You seen that film The Business? It’s got Danny Dyer in it before he became a plastic hard guy wannabe and it’s pretty good. I’d seen it long before I got to Gibraltar. Anyway they make smuggling runs from the Costa del Sol, where coincidentally Ace had regular gigs lined up and travelled to and from places along there. I got to talking with the staff at the bar and found out about some of the real life smuggling runs. This is where it started.

 

I’d been told that a lot of things can be brought over from Morocco and Algeria, and at that time my main concern was painkillers. The stuff the docs in Gibraltar had given me barely scratched the surface of stopping the pain I was in, and they couldn’t get any of the prescribed stuff I was on back home for whatever reason, so I got pain relief from other sources.

 

The painkillers I started taking were described to me as tramadol but on steroids. It helped me out a lot and I won’t sugar coat it, I got hooked. I felt like Superman every day and it helped me get through each day pain free. My only concern was not getting any more when I needed it, but that never became an issue as Gibraltar and most of the Costa del Sol are gateways for people smuggling things into Europe from Africa.

 

By this point in the year we’d played a lot of football and for a promoted team with next to zero quality, we’d done alright. Starting off with no fear whatsoever, we put 4 past joint title favourites College Europa in a 4-0 win which was as good as it got for us early on really.

 

Despite getting battered in most games, we picked off Manchester 62 2-1 and even got a credible 1 all draw with the Celtic of Gibraltar and defending champions, Lincoln Red Imps which would be notable for me come the end of the season.

 

After 14 played we held a good enough place in the league, 7th on 13 points, 5 above the drop zone which all things considered was very good.

Up and down league form aside, due to being promoted we’d get a bye in the first rounds of the Rock Cup, Gibraltar’s FA cup, and were drawn against Europa Point in the quarter final.

 

I told the players that we’ve got a good chance of progressing in the cup and if we can get a couple of decent showings, then who knows we might make it all the way. I was kind of hoping to use the cup to help our league form. I also started having ideas on different ways of playing and trying to mix things up, but survival was the priority so nothing drastic was changed.

 

Our collective thinking of progressing in the cup worked wonders as Europa were dispatched 4-0 again in the same scoreline we beat them in the first game of the season. It was probably more them not wanting the extra games than our hard work to be fair, but another win was always going to help. Glacis were next up in the semi final and this would be a different game. Glacis beat us 2-0 in the league game before the semi, but much like last season in the division 2 cup against Angels, I told the players to extract revenge in the cup, which we just about did.

 

We took the lead early in the second half when a cross from our left hand side was fumbled by the Glacis goalkeeper and it bobbled over the line, just.  We then gave them the equaliser when Brad Power attempted to clear the ball but he spooned it with the outside of his foot and it flew in the net. 1 all with a couple of minutes to go. 

 

I wasn’t flustered or concerned as we’d been the better team, in my opinion anyway. We got a last minute winner when Leblanc stroked it home after we went all out attack. We didn’t deserve anything less than to win that game and book our place in the Rock Cup final!

Before then we had our final league game of the season and had found ourselves 1 place above the relegation play off places, and 1 point ahead of Manchester 62. All we had to do was match their result and we’d be safe.

 

We had Lincoln Red Imps in the final game, and they’d given up hope of winning the league anyway as College Europe had wrapped it by then anyway. We got the lead from a penalty and looked like we’d see the game out, but they scored a late equaliser to give us a 1 all draw and with it league survival.

A second successive cup final and survival in the Primera league, all in all a good season for us I’d say. The next hurdle would be winning the cup.

 

— — — — — — — —

Cross posted at On The Break here

 

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