Belmondo August 2017

Resident guest author Matt Langdon is back with the latest chapter of his adventures.

FRIDAY August 4th, 2017
 
My professional debut is tomorrow, so I had a press conference today. I took the time to learn a few words in the local dialect for the event. My first words were “Ey Up” and I told them that it was completely up to them whether I’d be a tardy bum or not this season. I think my efforts were well received.
 
They asked me a lot about what other managers have been doing. Do I think Holloway was right to transfer list Luke Freeman? I don’t know who either of those people are. Do I think there will be issues with my opposing manager and one of my players due to their history? I don’t know their history and don’t care.
 
They did point out that fifty points is generally the goal for a manager aiming to stay up. I told them I was aiming for fifty by Christmas. That didn’t quite compute with them. They positioned Diamanti as our key figure for the season. I hope he can live up to their expectations.
 
SATURDAY August 5th, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Sheffield United v Brentford. Championship.
 
I’ll admit there were some nerves in the first quarter of an hour. For the players, not me. Then John Lundstram hit a one-time cannon from just inside the box into the top of the net and everyone seems a lot more relaxed. That carried us to halftime and I just urged the boys not to forget how much they owed me for picking them in the team.
 
In the 60th minute, Stevens threw the ball into a darting Diamanti who took the ball wide and deep before squaring the ball to Ched Evans. Evans had been on the pitch for a handful of seconds after Sharp picked up an injury. He scored the goal and wheeled in front of the fans. Two-nil. Super sub by me.
 
Brentford picked up a consolation goal in injury time, but it can’t possibly have actually consoled them. We won a game the pundits expected us to lose. It’s all we can do.
 
Lundstram won the man of the match. We had 58% of the possession with 17 shots. Only five were on target, so there’s some work to be done there. We completed exactly 500 passes, which seems like a nice number. I don’t know how to judge it. And the Fleckster completed 91% of his passes.
 
It looks like Sharp will be out for three weeks, but considering we have sixteen strikers, I’m not too concerned.
 
TUESDAY August 8th, 2017
 
We’re facing Doncaster tomorrow in the Carabao Cup. What is a carabao? They’re in a division below us, so it should be a romp.
 
WEDNESDAY August 9th, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Sheffield United v Doncaster. Carabao Cup.
 
I discovered that a carabao is an Asian water buffalo. I’m sure they’re a reason we’re playing for a buffalo trophy. Something to do with colonialism.
 
Seventeen shots in ninety minutes and we couldn’t score. Three shots bounced off the woodwork, but who’s counting? That lack of scoring gave us overtime. We did manage to score then, but so did Doncaster. Then Ched Evans was injured after all of our subs had been used. Then we went to penalty kicks.
 
We got to shoot first and John Fleck drilled the ball into the net. Blackman did him one better, saving Doncaster’s first attempt. I breathed a sigh of relief. A second Doncaster player came on to shoot. That didn’t seem right. For a minute I thought the refs were giving them a second chance. But apparently you don’t take turns kicking penalties in England. It didn’t matter because Blackman saved another and we were the winners!
 
Except Stearman and Baldock missed their chances and we kept going-  past seven shots each. Blackman saved Doncaster’s eighth attempt which allowed the teenager, Regan Slater, to win it for us. He swept his foot through the ball and it bulged the old onion bag. Through to the next round.
 
FRIDAY August 11th, 2017
 
We have signed Liverpool attacker, Harry Wilson. He’s from Wales, which is a state on the west side of the country. Apparently Ched Evans and Garth Brooks are from there too. We could have all of them leading the line in some games. The Killer Whales! Considering all three are currently injured it might be too early to be giving them nicknames.
 
William Hill has us at 10-1 to win at Middlesbrough tomorrow. Seems like this might be a good time to make a statement.
 
SATURDAY August 12th, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Middlesbrough v Sheffield United. Championship.
 
After the added time from the midweek game, a few players needed a rest. Carter-Vickers came in for his first start. Fleck also needed a rest. It was a concern, considering Middlesbrough are considered one of the top teams in the division.
 
The game was a bit of a chess match, i.e. boring. We controlled the midfield, happily allowing our opponents the wide areas. With big and strong centre-backs, I wasn’t too worried about crosses. Neither team scored. We hit the woodwork with the best chance of the game.
 
A point away to a title contender is good. I mean, I don’t value it as much as Joey Mourinho does, but it’s not the worst result.
 
Richard Stearman is going to be out for two months after he miskicked a ball during the match and somehow damaged his hip. Good luck for Carter-Vickers. Not for us.
 
MONDAY August 14th, 2017
 
Caolan Lavery scored a hattrick in the reserves today, so he may be in for a start in one of the two games this week. The press is frequently pointing out that players get tired in congested fixtures. Thanks press.
 
Garth Brooks started full training today, so I gave him a big black cowboy hat as a reward. We’re heading to his home state of Wales today to play against Cardiff, so we’ll bring him with us for translation needs. He won’t be able to play, but hopefully the Killer Whales will play Cardiff when they visit us.
 
TUESDAY August 15th, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Cardiff v Sheffield United. Championship.
 
Twenty-five minutes in and a free kick from Cardiff dinged off the crossbar to be cleared away by Carter-Vickers. That was about all the excitement for the first half. We had quite a few shots, but nothing clear-cut. Cardiff had a lot of fouls but didn’t manage to injure anyone.
 
The second half continued same as the first. Until, of course, one of their shots actually went in. It was the fault of Enda Stevens and he will be punished accordingly. He actually made quite a few mistakes over the course of the game. Maybe Lafferty was the right guy after all.
 
A one goal loss away from home against yet another contender. Not horrible, but we need to win a few games here. In other news, Middlesbrough beat Burton 5-2, so we can feel good about our start.
 
I told the press after the game that I thought we were unlucky not to get more out of the game. That’s a fact, but apparently Neil Warnock thought it was an opinion. He had some not nice words to say about me. That’s one fewer Christmas cards I need to send out.
 
THURSDAY August 17th, 2017
 
Caolan Lavery booted another couple of goals in the reserves today. Definitely need to bring him in soon. I have another couple of trialists in at the moment too. Yarouba Cissako is a right back who seems good enough for the squad. I’ll give him a week to see what the coaches think about him and then see how much money he wants.
 
SATURDAY August 19th, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Sheffield United v Barnsley. Championship.
 
There are way too many teams starting with B in this division. No way I can remember them all. Barnsley is apparently just north of Sheffield, so maybe that will help me remember.
 
I kept the same team from Tuesday, despite a strong temptation to bench Stevens. I brought Garth in to sit on the bench, perhaps to come on as a super sub, though more likely for a run once we sealed the game. Barnsley fielded a 4-4-2.
 
Diamanti took the captain’s armband today and then proceeded to take everyone’s breath away by sending a free kick into John Fleck for a goal in the third minute of the game. If not for the Italian’s sublime delivery, Fleck’s scissor kick goal from inside a crowd would have received all the plaudits.
 
Three minutes later, Diamanti sprinted onto a through ball to get one on one with the keeper. He basically handed the ball to the keeper, but the run and the ball were enough to get me excited.
 
Barnsley’s first shot on target was a goal. Of course. Their strikers tore off down the field, one to the right, one to the left. The one on the right had the ball and he crossed it from the byline. My central defenders were holding hands in front of the keeper, so Thiam had an uncontested header for the goal.
 
The second half just never really got going with neither team scoring. We had 59% possession for the game and John Fleck managed a 98% passing rate. Twenty-one shots from us, but only seven on target. Ched Evans was the main culprit with only 20% of his shots being useful. Losing two points at home to one of the B teams is not good. Thankfully we’ll have the Killer Whales in full flight (swim?) soon.
 
Some fans on social media were less than complimentary to John Fleck, making jokes about him just going for the simple passes. I told the club social media director (yes, that’s a job) to block anyone who is an idiot. I mean, Fleck kicked a goal in mid-air with his legs scissoring as he went. What do these morons want?
 
MONDAY August 21st, 2017
 
We’re playing Barnsley again tomorrow! This time in the water buffalo cup, but I hardly think it’s fair to have to line up against an opponent twice in a row. At least they’re having to come to Bramall Lane again. What’s worse is that someone in the cafeteria just let me know that they’re one of our rivals. If I’d known that I would have yelled at our players more. And theirs.
 
I signed Yarouba Cissako. Backup at right back is important and he might even develop into a starter.
 
TUESDAY August 22nd, 2017
 
GAME DAY
Sheffield United v Doncaster. Carabao Cup.
 
Well, Ched Evans started the game taking shots from outside the box like it’s his job. It’s not his job, I can assure you. Thankfully, he actually looked for a pass towards the end of the first half and Garth took it in stride, just connecting with the keeper’s fingers with his shot. The ensuing corner resulted in a shot on target, making a grand total of two for the half.
 
The second half was just as dire. This is becoming a pattern. No goals. No highlights. The only marvellous thing to happen was that Stevens was injured two minutes into injury time which meant we got to play with ten men for the half hour of extra time. Ten very tired men.
 
Extra time started with Coutts inexplicably kicking the ball out from Blackman’s feet on a routine back pass. So instead of a simple kick back into play, we had to defend a corner.
 
Then Mamadou Thiam scored a hat trick and I wanted to die. Or perhaps kill someone.
 
This managing gig is terrible. I’ve got a squad full of tired and injured people, we’re sitting in the bottom third of the league, and have been knocked out of the buffalo cup.
 
WEDNESDAY August 23rd, 2017
 
Another person on the social media ban list. “Sack Belmondo now!” You must be kidding. It’s the players’ fault, not mine. In other news, Lafferty is out for seven weeks, so that makes the left back position less stressful.
 
I’ve decided to push things back a little bit to provide some defensive cover. Basically, it comes down to pushing a forward back into the midfield and the defensive midfielder back into central defence. That means we’re playing with a back three, which I’m told is the hip thing to do. While it appears more defensive, I’m actually trying to get the team counter-attacking when appropriate and building slowly when it’s not.
 
SATURDAY August 26th, 2017
 
Game Day.
Sheffield United v Derby. Championship.
 
I’d say three goals in thirteen minutes justifies the change in tactical approach. Garth started things off with a sublime ball from inside the box to Baldock outside of it, who whipped it back in to the running Garth who tapped it in. Amazing stuff.
 
Fleck doubled the score three minutes later with a curling free kick. The third came from Samir Carruthers who banged home from an angle that he had no business shooting from. He took the ball from Diamanti who had attracted three men in the box (something he does off the pitch too). We’ll take it. They were given a soft penalty in the 28th minute, but Blackman rose to the task. Well, he actually dove sideways, but he saved it.
 
In the 41st minute, Garth was hacked down from behind as he was running down the sideline. Somehow no-one got a card for that. Diamanti took the free kick (he’s amazing at this stuff) and dropped it right onto the head of Basham at the far post. Four to one at the half. Except they scored a second goal deep into injury time. When I say deep, I mean cheating. Oh well, four to two is still a reasonable first half.
 
I’d like to say our fifth goal was down to my coaching, but these guys have obviously been working on corner routines themselves. Diamanti kicked the ball in to Lundstram who one-time it toward Fleck who one-timed it into the net. I mean, I’m a beauty connoisseur, and I can honestly say that was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
 
They scored a couple of consolation goals at the end, but we walked away with a five to three win. The fans were delighted. We had eleven of sixteen shots on target but conceded the possession battle. All part of counter-attacking soccer, I suppose. The Fleckster was the man of the match with his two goals and 90% passing success. I’m starting to like this guy.

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