Guest author Ben a.k.a. Rien102 continues his story in the latest part of The Prodigal Daughter Returns.
When she walked into her office the day the season would begin, she was in a good mood. First and foremost, the friendlies she had arranged have played well. Despite losses right at the start against PSG and Bayern, she got a good run afterwards. The losses were close calls and were punctuated with mistakes due to using a new formation; it wasn’t dramatic. Some adjustments were made for game four and then game eight and she felt that now, the system was pretty solid. Second, there was the unavoidable train of players who would have wanted, and rightly so she had to admit, to move to clubs playing in the Champions League. Her speech had worked though; only four came and she only had trouble with two. After review, she figured she got herself a year of peace and that was all she wanted. Last, but by far not the least, according to Jon, about a third of the squad already supported her. That was by far the best thing. She wanted leverage early and she got it! The arrival of Leon, Reuben and Domingo certainly helped accelerate all that; they all knew her and two of them were known as team leaders while the last was very well established…
Now, the real work would start and it would be a good test too: Manchester City, on their grounds. As she was putting her purse on her chair, she heard a familiar knock on her door: We leave in thirty? she said without looking.
Yes, Penny… answered Jon.
Are all the players ready?
They are into warm up at the moment.
None. We’re all good to go.
Are they confident? Jon took some time to answer. Penny turned toward him.
I’d say there are some latent doubts…
It worked well in the last two friendlies.
Yes, but they weren’t the best of quality but now, it’s City… They’re called for first place this year.
You’re scared too I see… His own doubts were showing… a little.
I must admit the low block is giving me the creeps… She walked toward him. When she was close enough, she put her left hand on his shoulder and smiled while thumping her crutch on the ground twice.
Clean sheets may be harder to get and the close calls might be more numerous but, I think we will do well because of the quality of the jumpers we have, because of Domingo who is in the top three goalkeepers in the world and because of whom we have in front. Leon, you know full well all he can do. As for Moreno, we saw what he can do. I am sure those two will give us the goals we need to overcome the low block’s mistakes… His eyes showed that he wanted to believe her. Come on my old friend, can’t you trust me? He took a deep breath.
I trust your judgement on defence, as I learned to do.
Then trust your own judgement on offence, my friend, like I learned to do! and she smiled.
When she set foot on City’s pitch, she knew the players were anxious to play; she had thrown another gauntlet in the pre-match talk and some were pissed! That was fine for her. The starting XI was composed of all her best and she was confident of leaving the place with a point on the table; she was shown wrong quickly. Endri got booked sixteen minutes in and first blood was drawn six minutes later. On a corner, Moreno scored. Diego decided to kick at Leon that was rushing the box; his header was sent to Moreno’s feet, where he was pressuring the goalkeeper. City just started to be more attacking and Penny reminded her boys of the message: let them in and counter attack; don’t care about ball possession. On the twenty-ninth minute, the Citizens were playing with the ball for almost two minutes, incapable of breaching the defence when Damian Zieba, her left Interior forward, did what he was supposed to do. At the top edge of the box, he tackled the midfielder who was going to shoot and stole the ball. He instantly kicked it far over everybody, for Leon to grab. He ran with it in the left half space up to the goal line before cutting it to Moreno who was all alone at the penalty area. The coup de grace was given seven minutes into the second half. Bienvenu Makengo, her right winger, went up to the six yard box to receive a header coming from Diego. While all went to celebrate with Bienvenu, Diego took the time to look at Penny. With a smug look, he winked at her and mouthed silently: “Take that boss!” He knew she knew that he knew…
As the players were entering their dressing room after the match, they only saw a smiling Penny standing in the middle of the place. Once all were seated, Penny started to talk: This was a nice opening act, my boys! Starting a season on a clean sheet, on the opponent’s grounds, is always nice. Starting a season, with a clean sheet, against the called-to-be winner of the league on their grounds, is even better… She started to slowly walk closer to them. When she was in front of Moreno, she continued louder. But starting a season against the called-to-be champions, on their grounds, with a clean sheet and a real good spanking? Well, it is even better! Good job boys!!! As she turned toward Jon, she gave him a wink, a smile and sparkling eyes…