A Clean Slate (Everton 1999/2000 – Season 1)

26th June 1999

The date is 26/06/1999. My older brother will turn 10 in just over a month. I won’t be 8 until August. Nevertheless, Walter Smith has kindly stepped aside from his duties as Everton manager so that I can take the reigns. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, as they say. I’m neither, but let’s not dwell.

After a wishy-washy 98/99 season in which the Toffees finished 14th in the FA Carling Premiership, the club have been struggling to stay on top of their mounting debts. The likes of Marco Materazzi, Olivier Dacourt, Ibrahima Bakayoko and (crushingly) Duncan Ferguson have been flogged to move the club into the black and erm… It seems to have worked! As detailed as this database is, the debts of every single club seem to have been wiped, which I’m not complaining about. For possibly the first time in my 20 year FM career, I’m starting with a debt-free Everton. We can’t make signings until January as I wanted to work with what I’ve got for the first few months and have disabled the first window, but after that we could be in a good position to strengthen.

There’s certainly talent in this squad, but more than that, there’s character. We ooze character. We’re choc full of hard workers, leaders and big game players and I like it. An example of all 3 is our captain, 37 year old centre back/coach Dave Watson. I don’t think we’ll play him all that often because even at 7 years old I could probably beat him in a 100m sprint, but he’s a hell of a man to have in the dressing room.

Tactically, I’m immediately thinking that we’re going to play some form of 4-4-2. This squad was built for 4-4-2 and it would be silly, at least to begin with, not to capitalise on that. I decide to plug in a 4-2-4 system that worked wonders for me on a previous save. It worked well with Barcelona and I worry that my much, much lower quality squad will struggle with it, but we may as well give it a go.

As far as my starting XI goes, this is what I’ve come up with:

In goal we have the one and only top class Scandinavian goalkeeper plying his trade in the late 90’s Premier League, Thomas Myhre.

At right back, a man who in another life appeared to me as a vision on top of a hill in the Azores Islands, Abel Xavier.

In the centre of our defence, the surprisingly pacy 37 year old nomadic Scotsman, Richard Gough, is partnered with the World’s greatest ever penalty taker, David Unsworth. Shame he only got that 1 England cap, really, isn’t it.

And on the left we have local lad and eventual raging homophobe, Michael Ball.

Our central midfield binds Scottish steel with Scottish silk. Scot Gemmill is one of those bustling midfielders I love so much and I look forward to watching him cover every blade of grass. John Collins is an expert set piece taker and is just generally a great footballer, although as a natural left midfielder, he’ll need coaxing into the centre.

Now we get onto the front 4, who are on the whole absolutely rapid. Danny Cadamarteri is my right winger, unfortunately not sporting the fantastic dreadlocks he had at the time.

On the left wing is the man who taught me to hate someone with all my heart, Nick Barmby. So that I don’t have to write it every time, every time I mention him I want you to append the phrase “But he can fuck right off” in your head. Let’s practice: Nick Barmby is a good and skilful winger………… Good job.

And finally up front we have my vice captain, Kevin “Super Kev” Campbell and Franny “Lol” Jeffers, 2 strikers that IRL will be remembered by Evertonians in extremely different ways.

I should probably mention, seeing as I’ve made my feelings about a few of these players pretty clear over the years, that everyone’s getting a clean slate for this save. Let bygones be bygones and let Nicky Barmby fuck right off. Had to get that in, but the clean slate starts now.

I think that’s everything covered. I also brought in a whole shit load of staff, including Glenn Hoddle as my assistant, but I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s jump ahead to the New Year and see how we got on.

1st Jan 2000

Fuck me, we’re incredible.

We’re 5th in the Premier League, some way short of the top 4 and tied on points with Villa and West Ham, but still, we’ve far exceeded my expectations. The 4-2-4’s still going strong too. In our first match of the season we went 2-0 up at Elland Road thanks to Campbell and Jeffers, but a late brace from David Hopkin and a winner at the death from Darren Huckerby resigned us to an opening day defeat. Nevertheless, this would be our last defeat for quite some time.

We went almost half the season undefeated after the loss to Leeds, dramatically beating Arsenal 4-3, fighting to a 4-4 draw at Anfield and sweeping aside some of the lesser teams in the division with ease. But then came the dreaded trip to Old Trafford, home of Fergie’s unstoppable United, who just last year won the treble. They absolutely demolished us. This kicked off a worrying little spell of form: No wins from 4 games, including 2 more drubbings away at Coventry City and Southampton. We got back on the horse for the last game of the millennium though, beating Middlesbrough 2-1 thanks to a John Collins double, but we’ve just opened the noughties with a drab 0-0 draw against Villa. So since December things have been looking bleak, but we had such a good time up until then that I’m still relatively happy.

The squad felt a little bit bloated when I took over. There were a lot of “decent” players in their mid-twenties to early-thirties that we didn’t need, so I got shot of the lot of them. Fare-thee-well Danny Williamson, Tony Grant, Gareth Farrelly and Terry Phelan. But I have also made a few signings.

I didn’t exactly come into this save with the mindset of “I’m going to go out and sign all my favourite players”. Quite the opposite actually, I wanted to do things properly, using my scouting network to find players rather than relying on my knowledge of the future. It seemed like the most interesting way to play this kind of database after all. But lo and behold, one of my scouts popped up with a report on Blackburn Rovers’ Lee Carsley, someone I’ve described to death in the past, so let’s just leave it at “He’s my kind of player”. He’s not exactly the Lee Carsley I remember, but he’ll be an excellent squad player for us and is a snip at £90k.

My 2nd signing of the January transfer window is Vitesse’s Mustapha Riga, a winger who’s comfortable on both the left and right, but who will I think be my right winger going forward. I really like Cadamarteri, but he’s got a pretty low ceiling and as I can’t really afford a top class right winger, I’d rather bring one in with top class potential.

Stein Huysegems was a player that I just couldn’t pass on, as he’s another with fantastic potential. We have a lot of extremely talented young strikers at the club already, but for £240k, why not have 1 more?

And the final item in my pound shop trolley is Rodolfo Arruabarrena, an enormous Argentine left back who can offer us an immediate upgrade on Michael Ball, although Ball could become better than him in the long run. They’re also quite different players, which I like, with Ball more defensively solid and Arruabarrena more attack-minded. For £1.4M and with Terry Phelan departing, this was a no brainer.

I’m happy with my bargain hunting so far and we’ve still got £6M in the coffers, which I’ll stash away until I see another good deal. I’d quite like a first choice right back still, but other than that we’re in pretty good shape.

1st February 2000

January was still a mixed bag, as it turned out. We beat Bradford and Portsmouth in the FA Cup and Southampton in the Premier League, but drew with West Ham and lost to Derby to balance things out. We have just started February with a 6-1 victory over Wednesday at Hillsborough though, which is promising. Incredibly, centre back David Unsworth has scored 6 goals over this run of games (3 from the spot) and he’s now on 13 for the season. He’s our top scorer, 1 goal ahead of Super Kev. What a man.

We’ve shifted a lot more dead weight over the transfer window too. Promising youngsters Huysegems, Leon Osman, Richard Dunne and Danny Cadamarteri have all left on loan, while a load more “decent” players have been flogged. With Riga effectively coming in to replace Cadamarteri, I thought it best that Danny go out to our new affiliate club Hibs to get some game time.

We’ve also continued to splash the cash. James Biggins is yet another talented youngster to join our ranks for a measly £250k from Forest.

And I once again purchased a real life former Evertonian in Tomasz Radzinski. I think that this one at least is justified though, even for almost £5M. Just look at this monster.

Tomasz scored off the bench against Wednesday on his debut and I’m planning to start deploying him alongside Jeffers so that we can absolutely tear defences apart with their combined pace. This could be the start of a beautiful partnership.

23rd May 2000

We only bloody won the FA Cup, didn’t we! Against Liverpool no less!

So instantly, that’s a successful season for the Toffees in my book. I’m chuffed to bits. We did pretty well in the Premier League too but that comes with a bit of an asterisk. See, it became clear pretty early on that Manchester United would win and then there would be Arsenal, Liverpool, Villa, Leeds, West Ham and Everton in some order behind them. 8th and below were cut adrift of the top 7. We were doing very well and were even 3rd at one point, but eventually we stumbled down to 7th. Comfortably bottom of the chasing pack. It’s still great and we’ll still be in Europe next season, but with a better end to the season we could have finished much, much higher, which leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

We settled some old scores from the first half of the season, though. After our disappointing defeats against Leeds and Coventry earlier, it was thoroughly satisfying to smash both teams to pulp at Goodison Park. We even scraped a home win against United thanks to our new look front 2 of Jeffers and Radzinski. Come to think of it, our home form’s been really good this season.

But yeah, I got sidetracked. The FA Cup. I’d argue we had a tougher run than most, seeing off Arsenal away, then Chelsea and Spurs at home. Luckily United had been knocked out by Chelsea in the 4th round, so they weren’t a threat, but Liverpool had taken 5 points off us in the Premier League and had the Premier League’s top scorer, Michael Owen, up front.

We absolutely thumped them. Somehow. And it ended 0-0. Somehow. Extra time failed to yield a goal, but I’d been preparing for penalties the whole time. I used my subs strategically to give us the highest amount of good penalty takers on the pitch by the 120th minute and we scored our first 3, while Liverpool only scored 2 out of 4. John Collins could win it by scoring our 4th… But he missed. Jamie Redknapp made it 3-3 and I had a horrible feeling that Michael Ball was going to miss and squander our advantage, but to my delight he thumped it home, handing the Blues a 2nd FA Cup win in 6 years. We celebrated into the night, but didn’t set any of Liverpool FC’s office buildings on fire, because we aren’t c**ts.

Our top scorer across all competitions actually did end up being David Unsworth, who scored a frankly disgusting 19 goals from centre back, including 7 from the 7 penalties he took. Radzinski put in a very good showing though, scoring 11 after only making his debut at the start of February. He’ll definitely be one to watch next season.

Unsurprisingly, set piece magician John Collins was the top creator for us and David Unsworth has a lot to thank him for, but I have to say, Kevin Campbell’s 17 goals and 9 assists is a hell of a return, especially as he was more often than not left out in favour of our 2 pacier strikers towards the end of the season.

I’ve already got a couple of players coming in for next season. I’ve raided amateur Czech First Division side Chmel Blsany and snapped up their young goalkeeper Petr Cech on a free. He looks alright.

And also, for those that haven’t used this database before, it’s not just full of players that were playing at the time. It’s also full of players who’ve played since. A lot of future notable players who were under 14 years old in 1999 are free agents waiting to be transferred to their clubs when they turn 14. I love this feature of the database as in theory it means that you’ll still end up with modern players mixed in with the ones from the late 90s. Over the next 11 seasons (I doubt I’ll play that long, but you never know), our academy will be receiving Shane Duffy, Shkodran Mustafi, Jonjoe Kenny, Jack Rodwell, Luke Garbutt, Tom Davies, John Lundstram, Ross Barkley, Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan. The only one joining me this Summer though is this young lad from Croxteth.

In all honesty, I don’t know what to expect. His attributes don’t look great and neither does his potential, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to drag all of that up. If he’s going to play for the first team I’ll want him to be a decent squad player by age 18, so I suppose we’ve got 4 years to figure out how to raise him to the standard we know he can be.

See you in 00/01.

Sidenote: Go play with this database, it’s fantastic. https://footballmanagerstory.com/fm-2020-retro-database-the-1999-2000-beta-retro-database-for-fm20/

Auxerre 23/24 v Doncaster Rovers 29/30 (Franjo: Slumberland – Match 5)

The half way point.

Good morning, ladies and gents!

Welcome once again to Franjo’s dreams and welcome of course to Slumberland, the show that brought you such unfathomable dreams as “Ricky Tomlinson’s Mario Cart-esque broomstick race around an airport.” Seriously.

I’m your host, John Hutchison.

Today we’re concluding the first half of the Slumberland First Division, a football league featuring 6 of Franjo’s favourite teams scraped from his overactive imagination. I’ll be basking in all of the footballing glory with you in our featured match, which sees your friendly neighbourhood WT Franjo’s Auxerre 21/22 host chronically unemployed 24 year old Dave O’Leary’s Doncaster Rovers 29/30. The 2 teams currently sit 2nd and 3rd in the table on equal points, but Donny have a substantially worse goal difference. A win for either side today would open up some welcome breathing room in 2nd place.

As we’re about to reach the half-way point, let’s check in with the man who’s irredeemably glass-half-empty. How’s it going, Don?

That’s where you’re wrong, ye daft wee c**t, I’m a happy man today.

Don, please, I’m going to have to sensor that. We’re on live television.

I thought it was text commentary? But in the dreams of a cyborg?

I don’t fucking know any more, actually. It’s a weird mash up. And wait your turn, Royston, we’ll come to you in a moment. What’s turned your frown upside down then, Don?

I’m watching the boys, aren’t I. Cut me, I bleed Bordeaux Blue, pal. They’re gunnae hammer County and I cannae wait. Luciano’s back in with the armband for GDB and Voli Bi’s oot. Richard Reeves, Richard Mohammed and Louie Barry all in for the shite stains and Murillo, Saka and Johnson are gone.

Quite drastic changes in County’s lineup there as they seek to turn their fortunes around. Mirrored quite neatly by your own drastic change in mood, too. Creepy. Anyway, let’s go to our half-baked, half-cocked halfwit. Who are you watching, Royston?

Hiya, John. Blackpool 21/22 v Hearts 21/22 for me. Excited for the Scots to kick seven bells again.

Very good indeed. Any team news?

Aye, looks like Higham and Freeman are in for Husband and Hodson for Blackpool. Gallagher in for Sheaf for Hearts.

I’m so proud of you I could actually weep, Royston. I take back the namecalling from a second ago.

Aye, ye can go and assume I’m never listening, John.

Comforting. Well great job, anyway. As for our featured match, Auxerre are making no changes whatsoever following their triumph over Notts County, but Doncaster are making a couple as a result of their capitulation at Hearts. 1st choice goalkeeper Borup Fleming is back in net replacing Raif Husic and Mark Collins is back in again for Esteban Devos. O’Leary clearly doesn’t have much faith in his right backs, I don’t think either of them’s stayed in the team for more than 1 match in a row yet. Auxerre’s Billy is apparently still going to be out for a while and is really in a race against time to feature again at all this season by the sounds of it.

Both sides are ready, the home side in their classic white and blue kit and shooting from left to right, the away side in their black and blue 2nd kit. The officials are donning green shirts and black shorts and socks for those of you interested… Might just be me. Just 1 more thing actually, if you’re going to watch the highlights later on, don’t be alarmed if some of the players don’t have feet. It’s actually surprisingly common here in Franjo’s dreams and is nothing to worry about.

Aye, it’s like he opened the game from Steam instead of Slider, so the boot pack hasn’t loaded correctly, John.

Try not to break the 4th wall, Royston, there’s a good lad. Let’s just all be really impressed that we’re nearly halfway through this tournament and this is the first time it’s happened. Hicham Aidir to get us underway in just a second.

And we’re off!

An early free kick for Auxerre in a dangerous position out on the right wing. Celsiney did really well there, taking on both Smith and Salinas and getting a cross in before Donny’s skipper trips him up.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 0 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Mamadou Doucouré (3)

What a start for l’AJA! McCarthy whips in a near post cross and Salinas can’t stay close enough to Auxerre’s left back, who leaps up and powers a header low into the goal.

CHANCE! Almost an immediate response from Rovers! Collins’ deflected cross floats into the box from the right wing, Captiste heads it clear but only as far as Sam Smith, who drills it inches wide of goal on the half volley. Lively start here.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 1 Hearts 21/22
Sean Clare (9)

That was as slick as ye like, John. One touch passes from Smith, Clare, Smith and Munro set up Clare for a tap in. The boys from aer the border are ahead.

Rovers have responded well to going behind and are in full control at the minute. Might have been a bit hasty calling it lively though, not a great deal of note is happening.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 0 Notts County 26/27
Konstantin Gerchev (14)

Name me a more iconic fuckin duo in this league that Lyndon and Gerchev, John. The big la gets the ball from Alles on the right, holds it up and squares it away tae Brazgarian, who thumps it past the pile of wet shite in County’s goal. Bordeaux on the way tae 5 wins from 5.

CHANCE! Not a fantastic one. Presumably out of frustration that Auxerre have been starved of possession, Amine Reynier tries a potshot from about 30 yards. It’s never ever troubling Borup, who catches it easily.

That was a bit better from the home side. Celsiney does well to get some space on the right flank, curls a cross in towards the 6 yard box but Aidir’s strayed offside.

Another Celsiney cross has to be tipped over the bar by Borup in the closest thing to a chance that we’ve had for some time… Anyone know any good jokes?

CHANCE! Oooof it should be 1-1. McCarthy turns over possession sloppily and Albian Ajeti sends Daniel Kubik racing behind Auxerre’s defensive line. He’s free of Isaac Sohna and gets one on one with Xavier Lenogue, but his drilled effort is turned behind well by the Martinique international. Good chance, but Kubik might think that he should’ve buried it.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Hearts 21/22

Both Hearts goals have been so pretty ye could take em home to meet yer ma, John. Barker plays a one-two with Diegui, who chips it back across the box and Barker pure dinks a header over Ruddy intae the far corner.

CHANCE! Another good chance down at the other end! Doucouré cuts in from the left and passes to McCarthy on the edge of the box. The South African’s side footed pass comes to Aidir, who turns but can’t get the ball out of his feet and scuffs a shot straight at Borup.

Isaac Sohna taking no chances there. A long ball comes into the box courtesy of Salinas and Kubik and Lenogue both rush to get to it, but the big Cameroonian defender gets there first and heads it behind. Good awareness from the centre back.

CHANCE! Reid takes the corner, swinging it in to Ben Youssef, who can only glance his header towards the right wing. Doncaster recover the ball and work it back into the box for Albian Ajeti, who shoots on the turn but Lenogue makes a reflex save to deny him an equaliser.

CHANCE! Auxerre counter attack with Celsiney, probably the player of the match so far, tears down the right wing. He lays a pass inside and Reynier gets a shot away just as Ben Youssef flattens him. There’s some power on the effort though and Borup does well to turn it behind.

CHANCE! McCarthy’s corner comes back to him and he chips the ball in again. Romagna beats Aidir in the air but can only head it as far as Reynier, who volleys it low into Borup’s arms. This game’s really come alive again.

CHANCE! I have absolutely no idea how the score’s still 1-0. Doncaster should score again as Pat Reid curls a delicious ball through to Kubik. With Sohna bearing down on him, the young Polish striker tries to hit it early but sends his shot inches wide.

HALF TIME. Auxerre 23/24 1 – 0 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Well apart from the rather severe lull in the middle, this has been a really action packed 1st half. Hopefully there’s more to come after the break.

HALF TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Hearts 21/22

Hearts well on top over here, John. Great performance, 2 great goals. Blackpool have barely had a sniff and they may as well go haem.

HALF TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 0 Notts County 26/27

This hasn’t been the stomping I’ve been lookin forward tae all week, John, but I’m confident we’ll see more goals in the 2nd half. County have done next to nothing.

Well, quite a quiet first half across the board then. 45 minutes played, 4 goals scored, 3 teams yet to score. In terms of our table, as it stands, Hearts are leapfrogging Doncaster into 3rd place. Not bad for a team that were predicted to finish rock bottom of the league. Everyone else is staying put at the minute. Let’s get the ad out of the way, shall we?

Play Player Power, the chaotic football arcade game by Dave O’Leary/O’Leary Games now available for £0.79 on Steam!

Really great, original message. I’m off for a steak and kidney and a mocha, back in a few.

Right, back in the saddle again, folks. Doncaster have made a change for the 2nd half, with leading goalscorer Daniel Kubik replaced by Roar Nyhus up front. Let’s see if the Norwegian can turn the tide for the visitors. Albian Ajeti’s ready to kick us off.

Aaaaaaand we’re off!

CHANCE! Doncaster clinging onto the ball in the early stages and they work it up to the edge of Auxerre’s box, where Ajeti takes control. He keeps Captiste at arms length as he turns onto his left foot, then lashes a shot towards Lenogue, who parries it behind for a Doncaster corner.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 1 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Albian Ajeti (48)

Rovers are back on level terms! The corner’s headed on, punched away, passed back into the box, then Ben Youssef passes to Ajeti, who spins away from Doucouré and whips the ball into the bottom corner. It’s pretty weird to watch the goalscorer sprint away to celebrate with no feet, but again this is no cause for alarm. Game on!

CHANCE! Ajeti’s really got the bit between his teeth now. Sam Smith finds him in the box, he turns past Captiste but shoots straight at Lenogue. Seconds later, Chris Beardsmore finds Nyhus inside the area and the substitute drills one wide. Auxerre desperately need to tighten things up defensively.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 3 Hearts 21/22
Sean Clare (56)

Clare and Munro are giving Gerchev and Lyndon a run for their money today, John. Another pass from Munro, Clare shifts it onto his left foot and blasts it past Ruddy from the edge of the box. Hearts have got it in the bag now.

CHANCE! Another close call for the hosts. Pet Reid plays yet another ball to Ajeti on the edge of the box and he tries to work a bit of space, but his shot deflects wide off the outstretched leg of Captiste.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 2 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Sam Smith (57)

And the 2nd half turnaround is complete before the hour mark! Pat Reid whips the corner in and left winger Smith dashes to the 6 yard box to meet it, completely losing his marker McCarthy. It’s a good header, directed low into the far corner and out of Lenogue’s reach. Donny lead.

The 4th goal is crucial now. With Auxerre looking completely bewildered, a 3rd for Rovers would surely finish them off. If they can rally to find an equaliser though, we could be on for a hell of an ending.

CHANCE! It’s all getting a bit scrappy since the 3rd goal, but that was a decent chance for Auxerre and their first since the break. Aidir passed into space in the left channel to release Reynier, who thumps a low drive towards goal from 20 yards. It’s too close to Borup though and the goalie parries it to safety.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 3 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Albian Ajeti (68)

And just as the green shoots were emerging for Franjo’s boys, the earth below them is salted. Not sure if that metaphor holds up, but moving on: Great pass down the right wing from Beardsmore, under pressure from Sissako. Ajeti latches on, escapes Captiste for the 5,000th time this match, sprints across the 6 yard box and clips the ball in at the far post to double his tally. That could well be the killing blow. Whatever O’Leary said at half time certainly had an impact, especially for the Albanian striker.

PENALTY! It just keeps getting worse and worse for Auxerre. Chances of a comeback were already bleak but it’s Ajeti again who turns inside away from Doucouré, only to be met by Abdoulaye “The Battering Ram” Sissako, who knocks him on his arse. Penalty for Rovers and a chance for 1-4.

Just before the penalty’s taken, Donny are bringing on Jeff Lawson for Sam Smith on the left wing. It’s not to take the penalty though, that’s a job for big Pat Reid. The midfielder looks dead set on taking this, despite Ajeti being on a hat trick. Can he put the game beyond doubt?

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Pat Reid (76 pen)

He can. The Irishman steps up confidently and as Lenogue dives to his right, the ball’s thumped straight down the middle. Stick a fork in this one.

Time for a 5th for Rovers? A pretty dangerous cross comes in from Roar Nyhus and Isaac Sohna denies Ajeti a hat trick by heading behind and conceding a corner.

Reid swings it in, Ben Youssef beats the woeful Captiste in the air but sends his header just wide. The Auxerre skipper’s had a torrid time of it today.

Franjo keeps making this change nearly every match and it hasn’t paid off yet, but Nathan Andre’s replacing Amine Reynier on the left wing. At 1-4 and with 10 minutes to go, it’d be pretty optimistic to suggest it’s going to pay off today.

That’s a really ugly challenge by Jeff Lawson on Lamine Fomba, in roughly the same position that Auxerre scored from almost 2 hours ago. The referee plays advantage though and the home side play on, but it comes to nothing. I probably would’ve taken the free kick.

Issa Samba’s on replacing Celsiney for Auxerre. Not a game-changing substitute in my opinion. Where’s Soumahoro? Where’s Ferhat?? At least have a go!

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 1 Notts County 26/27
Dale Johnson (89)

I hate Notts County with all of my fucking heart, John. Ball over the top, baldie puts it in. Wankers.

Equally pointless substitute by Rovers! Arnold replaces Salinas at left back. Time wasting’s in their interest though, I suppose.

FULL TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 3 Hearts 21/22

Wonderful performance by the laddies today, John. Clare and Munro caused absolute havoc and Blackpool had nae answer tae it.

Great result for Hearts. Not much was expected to separate those 2 sides at the start of the season but they’ve really thrown the gauntlet down now to the likes of Auxerre and Bordeaux. They’re aiming for top half!

FULL TIME. Auxerre 23/24 1 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Speaking of which, Auxerre need to take a good hard look at themselves after that second half. How on Earth can a good, positive performance and a half time lead turn so dramatically? Take nothing away from Doncaster though, they were absolutely rampant.

FULL TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 1 Notts County 26/27

You can take care of this shite, John. I’m tae bed.

Oh. Cheers for the effort, anyway, Don. One thing I will say is that we’ve finally had our first draw of the competition and Bordeaux would’ve been the last team that I would have put money on to be frustrated at home. County have got to pleased with that, though. Judging from the stats, they matched their hosts stride for stride and got their reward.

So here we are at the halfway point. Bordeaux are still sitting quite pretty at the top with 13 points, despite dropping points for the first time. Doncaster and Hearts are following on 9 points, while the bottom half suddenly looks quite adrift. Auxerre will be disappointed to have slid down to match their expected finish of 4th place with half of the games played, but Notts County will be downright embarrassed. Blackpool it seems are just not going to come out of this campaign with many fond memories.

And that’s us done for another night. We’re going to take a midseason break, but we’ll be back in a week or so. Until then, good night and sleep tight.


Notts County 26/27 v Auxerre 23/24 (Franjo: Slumberland – Match 4)

A quick trip over to Nottingham for match number 4.

Good morning, ladies and gents!

Welcome once again to Franjo’s dreams and welcome of course to Slumberland, the show that brought you such unfortunate dreams as “The Night Of Piss”.

I’m your host, John Hutchison.

We are of course back today with another match day in the Slumberland First Division, a football league featuring 6 of Franjo’s favourite teams plucked from the recesses of his crazy brain. I’ll be plunging deep into the action with you in our featured match, as Nottinghamshire boy Dave O’Leary’s Notts County 26/27 welcome rowdy boy WT Franjo’s Auxerre 23/24 to Meadow Lane. The Magpies finally came alive on Saturday, following up 2 dour 0-1 losses with a 4-1 romp over Hearts. L’AJA’s season might be going in the other direction as they’ve now lost back to back games since their opening day victory. Franjo will be keen to move on from Wednesday’s 1-5 loss against Bordeaux. With both sides on the joint lowest points tally, who will take the crucial 3 points up for grabs today?

As we’re at the Magpies’ nest, let’s check in with our resident great tit, Don Collins. Who’ve you got today, Don?

Aye right, that shite stopped being funny in school, ye fanny. I’ve got Blackpool v Bordeaux. Might see a few fuckin goals for a change.

I hear Charlie Adam’s making his first start of the campaign today too. He’s a bit of a hero of yours if I remember right?

Aye, Chadam’s the captain today. He might sort em oot. Kigbu, Husband and Hodson all in for Blackpool too, but Freeman, Flynn, Wilson and Higham all left out. Thiago’s back in Bordeaux’s side for Besta.

Good stuff. And we’ll go live too to our helpless little yolk, hopelessly trying to smash his way through the shell. Who’s in your match, Royston?

Hiya John, I’ve got Hearts and Doncaster.

You actually have! Great job, young man. I’ll promote you to… Sparrow?

From wha? I wasnae listening.

Well then, never mind. Any team news?

Player names are still a work in progress I’m afraid, John.

Right. Really taking proper baby steps here, aren’t we? Maybe by time this league’s finished, you’ll be ready to commentate on a match.


Good, well luckily I’ve got your team news here: Ben Sheaf and Diegui are back in Hearts 21/22’s defence, along with Jordan Marshall who makes his first appearance of the season. Godinho, Gallagher and Ecrepont are all left on the bench, with Jeffers seemingly underwhelmed with their performances against County. Esteban Devos is back in at right back for Donny 29/30, with Mark Collins making way.

As far as our featured match goes, both captains are making their first appearances of the campaign today. Regan Booty takes Han-Noah Massengo’s place for County, while Baptiste “Captiste” Aloé replaces the unimpressive Mike Kakuba for Auxerre. Issa Samba was equally unimpressive against an admittedly excellent Bordeaux side, so Celsiney is back in defence in his stead. Bilal Souabni is still injured of course and will play no part for the visitors.

The teams are lined up and I’m sure raring to go. County have donned their… Possibly peach coloured third kit and are shooting left to right, while Auxerre are in their all-black away kit. Aaaaaaa…

…aaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re off!

CHANCE! Early pressure from County and an early first contribution from Captiste. Jake Doyle-Hughes nicks the ball from Hicham Aidir, feeds Dale Johnson 25 yards out and Captiste challenges the striker like a bowling ball challenges a pin, just as he manages to tee up Bukayo Saka. The winger’s shot is really comfortable for Lenogue to catch but play’s brought back for the foul on Johnson. This is a dangerous position to give away an early free kick.

Into the wall from Doyle-Hughes. Never mind.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 0 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Dylan Munro (6)

That looked pure easy, John. 1 pass up to Munro and he turned and smacked it.

That’s 1 player name down then, by the sounds of it.

Aye, the cameras just went on the back of his shirt.

Just 137 more to learn, now.


Really sloppy again from Auxerre. Doucouré’s pressed into turning the ball over to Keane Lewis-Potter deep into the away side’s half and the Senegalese defender responds by hacking the winger’s legs out from under him. It’s another dangerous free kick from a wider position and Doucouré’s really lucky to escape without a yellow card.

JDH drifts this one too deep and it loops just past the far post. It was a better shot than it was a cross, but I… I don’t think it was a shot. Maybe it’s time someone else took a free kick.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 1 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (9)

Aye right, this is the day I see more than 1 fuckin goal, John, I can fuckin feel it. Son wins it off Chadam, gives it tae big lad and he smashes it in the corner. Easy peasy.

We’re getting all our action from defensive cock ups here. Up the other end, Saka’s sloppy pass is picked up by Foden, who leathers a pass against Raúl Santos. The ball bounces kindly for Amine Reynier, who has a pop, but it’s straight at Gary Howard.

This is all getting a bit embarrassing, especially for the visitors. A hectic penalty box scramble is cleared by the Auxerre defence, but central midfielder Dawuda Bereng’s then knocked over by Abdoulaye Sissako 25 yards from goal. Bereng plays the free kick quickly, teeing up Lewis-Potter for a scorcher of a shot, but it flies just wide of the near post and smacks the stanchion behind the goal.

It seems like a matter of a time before the hosts take the lead here. Another period of pressure ends with full back Jason McCarthy looping a delicious cross into the 6 yard box, but luckily Captiste wins the aerial battle with Johnson and heads it behind.

CHANCE! Well what a turn up that would have been after the 29 minutes the Auxerre fans have just endured. Fabian McCarthy picks up the ball for Auxerre and drives into County’s half, then chips a delightful pass over the defence and right onto the chest of Reynier. The Frenchman controls it and shoots tamely at the keeper. For all County’s pressure, it probably should be 0-1.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Bordeaux 29/30
Konstantin Gerchev (34)

It fuckin happened, John! It finally fuckin happened! Son had a pop, Ruddy pushed it away tae the side, but Gerchev just nipped in and stuck it away. I’m supporting Bordeaux from noo, fuck it.

I don’t think we’re meant to do that, Don. It’s not very professional, publicly supporting a team that you’re commentating on.

Aye, is it not? Are the dream Police on their way, aye? Fuck aff.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 1 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Daniel Kubik (36)

Pure magic, John. He runs through on goal, the goalie comes out and he lobs it right aer the top of him.

Who does?


Good lad, Royston.

CHANCE! Again! How on Earth has he done that twice in 8 minutes?? McCarthy does the heavy lifting once more, spinning and spraying a perfectly weighted pass into Reynier’s path. He’s one-on-one, 6 yards out and he scuffs a really weak effort at Howard. I’ll remind you that this lad started the season by scoring a bicycle kick.

CHANCE! Notts County respond with another decent chance. Alberto Murillo’s got all the time in the World on the left wing to swing in a cross. Johnson rises above Sohna in the box but heads harmlessly over the bar. Sissako receives a yellow card for wiping out Bereng in the build up.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 2 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Daniel Kubik (40)

John, it’s Kubik again! Kubik’s scored! He takes the ball aff your man, turns and whips it past the goalie. 2 for the laddie.

GOAL! Notts County 26/27 0 – 1 Auxerre 23/24
Hicham Aidir (45)

It all comes crumbling down for County once again. In the end it’s a lovely move topped with a fortunate finish that’s given Auxerre the lead. Aidir holds the ball up and lays it off to Fomba and the Frenchman’s pass is flicked onto the right wing by Foden. Celsiney’s on the overlap and turns inside, then tees up the big Moroccan, whose shot bobbles up off Santos’ outstretched boot and wrong-foots the keeper, before drifting into the net.

HALF TIME. Notts County 26/27 0 – 1 Auxerre 23/24

Well, I can’t say they deserve to take a lead into half time, but frankly neither side really does. It’s been a poor half of football and I sincerely hope it improves. Nevertheless, Auxerre have quite literally fought for this lead and County need a response.

HALF TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Bordeaux 29/30

Ye may as well make this the featured one for the second half, John, there’s still 6 or 7 goals to come. Blackpool poor again, but the Bordeaux boys are bouncin.

HALF TIME. Hearts 21/22 1 – 2 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Really close one here, John, but it’s all been about the big fellas up front. Kubik and Munro are pure squaring up and I don’t think they’re done scoring.

Well as it stands, Doncaster are still clinging to hopes of the title win that was predicted by staying 3 points behind the behemoth that is Bordeaux, while Auxerre are jumping 3 points clear of Blackpool and Notts County into 3rd place. I’m off for my ritualistic coffee and pie, but let’s have a quick word from the sponsors before we toddle off.

Play Player Power, the chaotic football arcade game by Dave O’Leary/O’Leary Games now available for £0.79 on Steam!

I don’t know about you but I can recite that one off by heart now. Back in a few.

Back in the saddle over here and raring for another, hopefully higher quality half of football. Hope you are too. Be a dear and kick us off, please, Hicham.

Aaaaand we’re off! Thanks mate.

CHANCE! Promising early signs from the leaders as they work the ball rather silkily towards the County box. Aidir lays it off for Reynier, but the less said about his shot, the better as he falls on his arse and skews it wide.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 3 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Daniel Kubik (51)

There’s Kubik again, John. He looks pure happy with that, he’s scored all 3 for Doncaster. Just turns on the edge of the box and buries it low.

I almost wish someone else would score for so you’d learn a third name, Royston.

Aye, that’d help.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 3 Bordeaux 29/30
Konstantin Gerchev (51)

This is why I’ve always supported Bordeaux, John, ever since my da used to bring me along as a wain. Silky as fuck from Alles to take on 3 lads and square it for Brazgarian, who punts it right in the corner again.


Something tae say, aye?

No, nevermind.

They may have raised the quality of their football slightly, but no signs of Auxerre toning down the aggression. Fomba’s penalised for a reckless slide on Saka, but escapes a booking.

Time for a Notts County change and it seems like the right call. Something needs to change if they’re to find their way back into yet another match that’s slipping through their fingers. Louie Barry replaces Keane Lewis-Potter on the right wing.

GOAL! Notts County 26/27 0 – 2 Auxerre 23/24
Amine Reynier (63)

Well he’d have been 22nd on my list of players to get the next goal given his finishing today, but Reynier has doubled the visitors lead following an incisive counter attack. The winger plays a one-two with Aidir, a one-two with Doucouré, then spins past Santos and lashes a shot into the far corner. Great goal. Notts County have really got to pull out something special to save this now.

Auxerre are bringing young Bassani on again on the right wing. Phil Foden makes way.

Notts County are responding with another attacking change: young Demali Webster is making his first appearance of the season up front, replacing Dale Johnson.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 2 – 3 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Brandon Barker (72)

That’s a beauty, John! Baker pure lumps it from the edge of the box. Straight in. Hearts are in with a shout.

Barker. Brandon Barker.

Aye, alright.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 3 – 3 Doncaster Rovers
Brandon Barker (75)

Fuck me, they’ve done it as well! The right back laddie squares it into the box and Barker thumps another one in. This is really turning intae a game of 2 halves, John.

It actually sounds like it! Excellent.

GOAL! Notts County 26/27 0 – 3 Auxerre 23/24
Lamine Fomba (77)

What a day to be County defender Raúl Santos. He helped the ball past his keeper for 0-1, got turned for 0-2, now he’s helped the ball past his keeper again for 0-3! Reynier receives the ball from a short corner, dribbles to the edge of the box and squares for Fomba. The midfielder’s shot takes a wicked deflection off the 18 year old Mexican and loops over Howard to seal the points for the French side. County have invited this kind of scoreline upon themselves, showing very little intent to actually attack in this second half.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 3 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Dylan Brennan (78)

Awh, Hearts have blown it. The laddie with a mop’s come on for Doncaster and booted them back ahead.

Surely you know Dylan Brennan’s name, Royston. Franjo dreams about him about 5 times a week.

Oh aye.

First goal of the tournament there for the famous Mr Brennan. Big expectations were placed on him coming into this season, so maybe he’s about to start living up to them.

CHANCE! It was very nearly 0-4 here. Another short corner, this time played to Fomba, who swings a cross in deep towards the far post. Hicham Aidir beats Murillo in the air and heads low towards the bottom corner, but Howard does well to claw it behind. The hosts are in danger of being embarrassed. Another change for Auxerre by the way: Amine Reynier’s been replaced by Nathan Andre, who’s yet to make an impression in the Slumberland First Division.

Oof and he won’t do it like that. The corner’s cleared, but worked back towards the box and Fomba lays it off to Andre, who screws his shot well wide.

CHANCE! And possibly Notts County’s first of the half. Webster finds Barry on the edge of the box and he turns to fire one off, but hits it straight into the arms of Lenogue.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 4 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Sean Ward (85)

They’ve equalised again, John! Munro hits the post, the keeper falls over trying to save it and the wee ginner substitute comes and sticks it in.

Please, Royston. Please at least attempt their names. It’s Sean Ward. This is a real crash course for you today, isn’t it.

Aye, it is. Exciting, this, though.

Sounds it. Keep us posted.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 4 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (86)

Pure silky again, John. The boy Isimat-Mirin gets on the end of Brazgarian’s knock down, squares it away for Lyndon and he toe pokes it like a cocky wee bastart into the bottom corner. After the last 3 wee piles of shite I’ve watched for this league, this is like fuckin crack.

CHANCE! It’s County again, but you have to say a bit too little too late. Barry’s released by a superb ball from Bereng, clips a cross to the near post and Webster heads just wide of the near post.

Not too sure what happened there if I’m honest. To me it looked like Webster went through the back of Fabian McCarthy, but the ref’s called for a County free kick. The replay shows that Sissako made a tiny bit of contact with the striker just before, so must have been for that. Weak though, that.

CHANCE! An Auxerre corner’s drifted deep into the box, headed up in the air and Bassani tries to catch it on the volley. County have plenty of bodies on the line though and it ricochets behind for another corner, which comes to nothing.

FULL TIME. Notts County 26/27 0 – 3 Auxerre 23/24

Well that has to hurt if you’re a County fan. Nothing much separated the sides coming into this but they were out-battled in the first half and slaughtered in the second. Franjo’s Auxerre come away from Meadow Lane with a well earned 3 points. Thanks once again to our razor sharp producers for getting all of these highlights packages up nice and quickly.

FULL TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 4 Bordeaux 29/30

Beautiful. Tell the monkeys backstage I’ll have Bordeaux again at the weekend.

I’m sure we can sort that out. They’re playing County, your favourites.

Even better, they’ll crush the wee shit stains.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 5 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Dylan Munro (92)

Unbelievable, John! Munro’s under a pile of bodies, he’s pure turned it around! Ginner laddie sets him up, he belts it fae just inside the box and he’s won it right at the death. Great drama!

Incredible stuff. That’s the 18 year old’s 4th goal in 4 this season for his boyhood club, leaving him our joint 2nd highest goalscorer so far with Konstantin Gerchev, although they’re both trailing a long way behind Ben Lyndon and his 13 strikes.

FULL TIME. Hearts 21/22 5 – 4 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Aye, if Don wants Bordeaux, I’ll have Hearts again on Saturday, John. That was pure fuckin magic.

Well I’m glad you’re both finding your allegiances within this league, weird as that may be in a professional broadcasting environment. Let’s have a look at how those most recent games have affected our league table.

Another win for Bordeaux, coupled with Hearts’ 2nd half turnaround leaves the French side and their 100% record an entire 6 points clear at the top of the table. Auxerre’s victory has fully repaired their goal difference and they’re the best of the rest for now, but Doncaster and Hearts are mere goals behind them. County and Blackpool, meanwhile, are starting to look really quite stranded down at the bottom after both sides lost their 3rd game out of 4.

I can’t quite believe it, but on Saturday we’ll be completing the first half of our season. It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off! Oh well, we hope to see you then at the same time. For now, good night and sleep tight. Don?

Sweet fuckin dreams.


That was marginally better than usual. Night, all.

Bordeaux 29/30 v Auxerre 23/24 (Franjo: Slumberland – Match 3)

An all-French derby for our 3rd match.

Good morning, ladies and gents!

Welcome once again to Franjo’s dreams and welcome of course to Slumberland, the show that brought you such utterly confusing dreams as “Grandad’s shrinking on the bronco!”

I’m your host, John Hutchison.

Today we’re carrying on with our coverage of the Slumberland First Division, a football league featuring 6 of Franjo’s favourite teams from deep within his tortured psyche. I’ll be keeping you on top of all the action from this morning’s featured match, which sees God among men WT Franjo’s Auxerre 23/24 travel to seasoned pro Dave O’Leary’s Bordeaux 29/30. Bordeaux have made a rampant start to the campaign, scoring 10 goals and conceding just 1 in their first 2 match ups. Auxerre followed up a triumphant opening day win with a disappointing and frustrating loss in front of their own fans and will be eager to make amends, but will the gulf in quality between the sides prove too great for Franjo’s boys to overcome?

With an all-French rivalry in the offing, let’s catch up with the man who puts the “Pain” in “Pain-au-chocolat”, it’s Monsieur Don Collins. Comment ca va, Don?

I’m relieved, mate. The shites backstage have taken me off Notts County duty. They’ve still gien me 2 wank teams but I’m hopeful o seeing at least 2 goals for once. Rovers v Blackpool on it’s way.

Any team news there, sil vous plait?

Aye I’m not doing this whole show in Chinese, John, so ye can cut that bollocks right oot. Donny have changed near their whole squad by the looks. Only Ben Youssef and Reid kept on from that drubbin last week. No change for Blackpool.

Merci beaucoup, Don. How’s the wife doing?

Naw she’s aff again. Just leave it.

Fair enough. Let’s have a word with the man who puts the “Coq” in “Coq au vin” then. How’s it going, Royston?

Aye it’s alright, John. I think I’m finally hitting my broadcasting stride.

Well that’s excellent! Who are you covering today?

I cannae be sure.

That’s not a great start. You’ve got Hearts v Notts County, up in snowy Edinburgh.

Aye right, well I’ve been learning some commentatory things to say the last few days, I havnae had time to learn the names yet. If you ask me though, John, this is a game of 2 halves.

… Right, well luckily there’s no team news from your match. Neither side has made any changes. Make sure to start brushing up on your names though, Royston.

Aye alright.

But back to our eagerly anticipated featured match and firstly some unfortunate news for Auxerre fans – Bilal Souabni came off in the dying minutes of that defeat against Hearts on Wednesday and has been ruled out for up to a month, meaning he’s going to miss at least the vast majority of the remaining matches, if not all of them. Having sold Faouzi Hikem too, there is no understudy left back as such, but Franjo’s turning to Mamadou Doucouré to fill the left back role as he has many times before. Mike Kakuba’s coming in to partner Isaac Sohna in the centre of defence, while Issa Samba replaces Celsiney on the right. First appearances of the campaign for both of those players.

We’ve actually got a few changes for Bordeaux too, with O’Leary clearly not happy with the way the defence on Wednesday despite the 6-1 win. Guillot, Thiago and Captain Luciano all drop out of the defensive line and are replaced by Mert Cetin, Yan Besta and Armand Voli Bi.

We’re just about ready to get underway here. Both sides are lining up in their new 3rd kit: Bordeaux, shooting from left to right in this first half, are in red and Auxerre wear all blue.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re off!

Abdoulaye Sissako immediately penalised for bringing down Leon Alles in a dangerous position, but Iwata’s ball from the free kick comes to nothing.

Auxerre have their own dangerous free kick now. Didn’t see much in it myself, but Harris gets a warning for his challenge on Fomba.

McCarthy hits it… Straight into the wall.

The most striking mismatch that catches the eye today by the way has to be the sight of Armand Voli Bi going up against Phil Foden on Auxerre’s right wing. The 6’4″ Ivorian full back’s absolutely towering over the 5’5″ Englishman.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 0 Notts County 26/27
Dylan Munro (9)

It’s still a real game of 2 halves here, John. The laddie’s clearance gets blocked, it gets passed through to the red striker and he buries it.

I want you to cite your sources for this 1 piece of lingo you appear to have picked up, Royston, but we’ll talk about that after the games. Things are starting to look very, very worrying for Notts County now. 3 losses in 3 would be a miserable start.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 1 Notts County 26/27
Dale Johnson (11)

It’s an instant response, John. The left wing laddie crosses it in and the bald laddie rises like a salmon to head it in. This is shaping up to be a real game of 2-

That’s enough now, thanks, Royston. Good news for Magpies fans though, they’ve finally scored a goal.

Bordeaux under a bit of pressure here from the visitors. No real chances for either side yet but Franjo will be pleased with this start.

CHANCE! Almost the curse of the commentator there. Leon Alles slices the Auxerre defence apart on the break with a dazzling and quite uncharacteristic dribble inside from the right flank. He hands it off to Voli Bi, who tees up Makhlouf inside the box, but his shot’s tame and easy for Lenogue to gather.

Auxerre fans grumbling their disappointment there. Doucouré takes possession and somehow runs straight through the home side’s half unopposed. He’s got a clear line of sight at goal from the edge of the box, but opts to try and lay a directionless ball across the box and Besta clears it. Have a pop, lad.

Bordeaux break, but Kakuba gets back to make a vital interception, conceding our first corner.

CHANCE! Iwata’s delivery from the corner is good, Cetin rises to meet it, but his header has no power and is easy for the keeper to catch.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 1 – 0 Blackpool 21/22
Chris Beardsmore (25)

Aye right, marvellous finish from the boy Beardsmore, in today for the first time for Rovers. He takes it aff Smith on the edge of the box and curls it into the top corner. First of many goals in this one, mark my words, John.

10/10. Good showing from this new-look Donny side by the sounds of it.

Some lovely football on display from Bordeaux now as they find their stride. If only they’d shown some of that trademark lethal finishing, they could have a goal or two already.

Even Ben Lyndon’s not cutting it. Alles feeds him the ball with his back to goal on the edge of Auxerre’s box, he turns and tries to fire one off, but Kakuba’s straight on him, deflecting the ball out for a corner.

CHANCE! All of the pressure’s now on Auxerre but they’re defending resiliently in numbers. A period of possession ends with Lyndon playing a give-and-go with Voli Bi, who whips in a cross. Lyndon gets on the end of it and heads at goal, but Lenogue parries it away.

CHANCE! Decent effort up at the other end. Aidir plays it short to Reynier on the edge of the box. The Frenchman cuts inside to get half a yard of space from Cetin, then tries bending one towards the far corner. No problem for Dutra, who holds onto it.

And now Abdoulaye Sissako given what looks like a final warning for a late sliding challenge on Gerchev. In a match like this, Auxerre need one of their top ball winners to be better than that.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 2 Notts County 26/27
Bukayo Saka (41)

Aye I’m not sure what to say about this one, John. My confidence is shaken from ye cuttin me aff last time. 1-2.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 0 Auxerre 23/24
Konstantin Gerchev (41)

No time anyway, Royston! Well the visitors held on longer than anyone has so far, but this has been coming for 20 minutes or so. What a finish it is from Gerchev too, who scores his 2nd goal of the campaign. Aidir’s crowded out and dispossessed and Bordeaux break incisively, getting the ball from back to front with 3 slick passes. Lyndon taps the ball past Kakuba and Gerchev’s in acres of space. He takes 2 touches with his left – 1 to flick it up and 1 to volley it past Lenogue. Great technique, great counter, great goal.

Auxerre have shown a disappointing lack of creativity so far, with Foden’s long ball over the top vaguely towards Aidir a prime example. Bordeaux retake possession.

CHANCE! Iwata flashes a 25 yarder just past Lenogue’s post as the referee blows his whistle for half time. The keeper was beaten. Auxerre will count themselves fairly lucky to still be in this.

HALF TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 1 – 0 Auxerre 23/24

Auxerre aren’t out of this one yet and from the matches we’ve seen Bordeaux play so far, that should be a comfort to them. If they can hold the hosts at bay and nick a goal at the other end, who knows what might happen?

HALF TIME. Doncaster Rovers 29/30 1 – 0 Blackpool 21/22

Just the 1 goal so far, John, but I’m staying optimistic. Rovers have had a fair few near misses.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 -3 Notts County 26/27
Dale Johnson (45+3)

I’m gunnae learn a wee set of phrases to use, John. Ma bottle’s gone a bit. He just sort of shot and it went in.

HALF TIME. Hearts 21/22 1 – 3 Notts County 26/27

And that’s us noo. Half time straight from kick aff. It really has been a game of 2 halves this half, John.

Listen to yourself, man! Never mind. County look to be well on the way to their first victory of the campaign but both of our other matches are still up for grabs. With results as they stand, Doncaster are set to leapfrog Hearts, Blackpool and Auxerre into 2nd place, while Notts County jump up to joint 3rd, level with Auxerre. Bordeaux’s lead at the top, meanwhile, is growing ever larger. Let’s have a quick word from our sponsor overlords before I pop off for pie and a latte.

Play Player Power, the chaotic football arcade game by Dave O’Leary/O’Leary Games now available for £0.79 on Steam!

Really drumming that message home, aren’t they. Back in a few.

Mon Dieu, it feels good to be full of caffeine and gravy. Big Hicham Aidir’s ready to kick us off, if the referee would be so kind as to blow his whistle.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re off!

CHANCE! Bit better from Auxerre straight from kick off. The work the ball into Bordeaux’s final third and Aidir plays it out to Doucouré on the left before taking up a position at the near post. Doucouré picks him out but the Moroccan’s header sails high and wide.

I can read tomorrow’s headlines already: Foden beats Voli Bi in the air, wins header. Anyway, the Ivorian shoves the winger over and the referee brings play back for a free kick.

CHANCE! That’s right off the training ground from the visitors, I think. McCarthy takes the free kick, chipping it to Reynier 25 yards out. His header flicks the ball on for Aidir, who brings it down and shoots on the turn, but it’s just wide. Nice bit of play, that.

Getting a bit of a “Gulliver’s Kingdom” vibe from the amount of times Phil Foden keeps finding himself stood between Armand Voli Bi and Yan Besta. They’re keeping him fairly quiet at the minute.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 2 – 0 Auxerre 23/24
Ben Lyndon (51)

There he is. Issa Samba’s got to take the blame for that one. He fluffs a 5 yard pass and hands the ball straight to Makhlouf. It goes inside to Gerchev, then again to Lyndon, who shrugs off Sissako’s challenge and absolutely buries it in the top corner. Lovely finish and I think it could be already be a matter of damage limitation now for the visitors.

CHANCE! Oh dear, oh dear. Hicham Aidir has to score, he just has to. It’s a lovely move from Franjo’s men too. Samba drifts a cross so invitingly across the 6 yard box. Aidir shakes off Cetin and is all on his own against Dutra, but he slices his shot and the ball barely changes course. Anyone hoping that the big striker’s goal against Hearts would kickstart his campaign will be waiting a while longer yet, by the looks of it.

CHANCE! Superb ball over the top from Konstantin Gerchev, Lyndon wins the footrace against Sissako and catches it on the half volley, but he screw his shot just over the bar. Unlucky.

First substitution of the game now and it’s Bordeaux making it: Nathan Isimat-Mirin comes on for Makhlouf. I hope Issa Samba’s still got some left in the tank, because the Guadeloupean/French winger is lightning quick.

Phil Foden getting the best of Besta there with some tight footwork drawing a foul from the lumbering Czech defender. Before that though, Celsiney’s coming on for Samba. Matching Bordeaux pace-for-pace on the right hand side. I like it.

CHANCE! McCarthy and Foden are both stood over the free kick 25 yards out, it’s McCarthy who has a pop and he bends it towards the top right. Dutra scrambles across his line well though to bat the ball behind.

CHANCE! Harris dinks the ball over Auxerre’s back line and Lyndon beats Sohna in the air to head at goal, but it’s a tame effort and a simple save for Lenogue. Hicham Aidir’s not happy though, he feels he was fouled by Iwata when they clashed in the air during the build up.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 3 – 0 Auxerre 23/24
Ben Lyndon (69)

And that, you would think, is game over. Excellent assist from Voli Bi, who intercepts a pass in his own half and surges down the flank, evading Fomba and Celsiney. He gets into the box at the left byline, taps the ball across the 6 yard box and Lyndon turns it under Lenogue from close range.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 3 – 1 Auxerre 23/24
Hicham Aidir (70)

Well well well! Or is it game over? It’s a nice move from Auxerre straight from kick off, ending with McCarthy slipping a pass onto the left for Doucouré. The Senegalese international chips it across and Aidir volleys it home, before picking up the ball and heading back to his half. Game on?

Both sides have made changes on the right wing – 36 year old Harry Kane replaces Gerchev for the home side, while Alessandro Bassani replaces Foden for the visitors.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 4 – 1 Auxerre 23/24
Raymond Harris (74)

Yup, game over. Definitely game over. Alles has so much time to wander down the right flank and decide what to do. Eventually he opts to loft a perfect pass into the path of Harris in the penalty area. Sohna misses his interception as the English playmaker brings the ball down on his chest and places it coolly into the roof of the net.

CHANCE! Harry Kane’s first real involvement in the game is to slam a 20 yard shot against McCarthy’s legs, then he heads it comfortably into Lenogue’s arms seconds later.

CHANCE! Oof that’s more like it from Kane. Isimat-Mirin picks him out with a yard on Mike Kakuba and he stings Lenogue’s palms with a good strike. Corner for Bordeaux.

Iwata drifts it in, Voli Bi heads at goal but once again it isn’t troubling the keeper.

CHANCE! What an effort from Aidir! He wins the ball from Cetin just inside Bordeaux’s half, plays a one-two with Bassani, flicks the ball up and sends it looping down under Dutra’s crossbar from 25 yards. The big Portuguese goalie raises a firm paw to swat the ball away, but top marks for trying.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 5 – 1 Auxerre 23/24
Nathan Isimat-Mirin (87)

And there we go. Bordeaux 29/30’s quite embarrassing record of winning by at least 4 goals seems to be safe for another game. It’s almost like Franjo didn’t realise they’d be quite so strong until they were already dreamt into existence and now it’s too late to take them out. A simple pass along the ground from Yoon Taek splits almost the entire Auxerre team, Lyndon plays it on towards the box and Isimat-Mirin blasts his first goal of the campaign past Lenogue.

GOAL! Hearts 21/22 1 – 4 Notts County 26/27
Richard Mohammed (91)

We’ve got a late one too, John. I’m a wee bit surprised that Don doesn’t like County, they seem alright.

FULL TIME. Doncaster Rovers 29/30 1 – 0 Blackpool 21/22

Aye right, this is pure bollocks. Why does every match that wanker Royston touches turn into a fucking goalfest and mine are all shite? Sick of it, John. Shitty highlights below.

Well reminded: You can catch highlights of all of our matches right as they finish, thanks to the lightning-fast reflexes of our producers. And watch your language please, Don.

FULL TIME. Hearts 21/22 1 – 4 Notts County 26/27

Great match, John, I enjoyed that.

Glad to hear it. Broaden that commentating vocab for the next match though, there’s a good lad.

CHANCE! Quite a weak effort on the spin from Lyndon, but it hardly matters now. Both teams are just running down the clock.

FULL TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 5 – 1 Auxerre 23/24

Well, if this competition was using Goals Scored as a decider after Goal Difference, as competitions often do, Auxerre would technically have come away with the best result against Bordeaux out of any of the side’s they’ve played so far. So that’s something for the Auxerrois to cling to during what will probably be a long, cold night.

Well that was certainly an eventful round of matches, with only Blackpool failing to get the ball in the back of the net. Let’s have a goosey at how these games have affected our Slumberland First Division table.

Still extremely tight at the bottom end, isn’t it, with 4 teams on 3 points apiece and separated by goal difference. It’s also worth mentioning as Bordeaux have made themselves the team to beat that Notts County and Blackpool are still to play them, so could still slide down the table as we approach the halfway point of the season.

But that’s all from us tonight. We’ll see you again at the same time Wednesday for our next round of games. Until then, goodnight and sleep tight.


Fucking pish take.

We need to stop ending with you, Don. You really sour the mood we’re going for.

Auxerre 23/24 v Hearts 21/22 (Franjo: Slumberland – Match 2)

Back at the Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps for our 2nd match.

Good morning, ladies and gents!

Welcome once again to Franjo’s dreams and welcome of course to Slumberland, the show that brought you such family favourite dreams as “The inflatable Jar Jar Binks chair at the foot of my bed wants to peel the skin from my flesh!”

I’m your host, John Hutchison.

Today we’re back with the 2nd instalment of our 10-part special on the Slumberland First Division, a football league featuring 6 of Franjo’s favourite teams from his alternate timelines. I’ll be giving you the lowdown on all the happenings of this morning’s featured match, which sees sex icon WT Franjo’s Auxerre 23/24 host Big Dave O’Leary’s Hearts 21/22. Auxerre will no doubt come into this match on a high following Saturday’s opening day win over in Blackpool, while O’Leary’s youthful lot were left broken Hearted, losing 0-4 to Bordeaux. In case you were wondering, that’s but a taste of the kind of A*, 10/10, top drawer wordplay you can expect from me today. The jokes about these 2 Clubs will be coming in Spades, if you’re sophisticated enough to appreciate that level of humour.

Let’s not forget our Diamond in the rough though, Don Collins. How’s it going tonight, Don?

I spilt jalfrezi down ma laptop keyboard, John. It’s pure pandemonium in here. I’m gonna have tae fetch some bog roll, bare with.

Well hurry back, Don. The matches start in a few moments. Don’s going to be casting his glazed-over eyes across Blackpool 21/22’s match against Notts County 26/27 at Bloomfield Road and we do now have the team news from that match for you too. Blackpool make 2 changes, with Dylan Flynn and Luke Higham coming into defence to replace Ash Kigbu and James Husband, while Notts County make just 1: Vice-Captain Jason McCarthy replaces Kosuke Kajiyama at right back and takes the armband from Jake Doyle-Hughes.

And finally, our Joker of the pack: Largely ignored and often discarded, it’s Royston the intern. How are you today, young man?

Hiya John.

Why don’t you tell us about your game today, Royston?

Aye well I can see that big la from Saturday, so it must be Chelsea again.

No you’ve got Doncaster Rovers 29/30 v Bordeaux 29/30. It’s staggering how often I’ve had to tell you over the last few days that Chelsea are not in this competition.

Aye, Dunkster v Buddo then.

Just excruciating. I’ll do the team news, don’t worry. Young Charlie Arnold replaces Doncaster Captain Santi Salinas at left back after his sub-par first appearance, so vice-captain Dylan Brennan takes the armband for the hosts. Table toppers Bordeaux are, as you’d expect, unchanged.

And we’ve just time to have a look at the team news from our featured match before kick off. No changes for the hosts after their opening day win, but Hearts have made a double swap in defence, with Marcus Godinho and Declan Gallagher replacing Diegui and Ben Sheaf. Young Matty Spencer keeps his place in goal despite being taught some harsh lessons by Bordeaux’s Ben Lyndon at the weekend.

Aaaaaaaand we’re off! You did make it back in time didn’t you, Don?

Ae ha’s me noo. M keboard’s shied iself though b the looks of i. Some of the kes arenae working

Wonderful. Just a thought: This being a dream World, can’t you just conjure a working keyboard from thin air?

Ae mabe. I’ll give it a go in a minue, I’m jus ring to conjure up anoher jalfrezi.

Priorities, eh?

Ae. e wee fann.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 0 – 1 Hearts 21/22
Dylan Munro (4)

Hearts are off to an absolute flier and it’s all too easy! Auxerre committed too many men forwards and 1 long ball across the ground from Barker is enough to leave them 1 v 2 at the back. Dylan Munro and Sean Clare exchange passes around the overwhelmed Isaac Sohna and before the rest of the defence have a chance to catch up, Munro lashes the ball past Lenogue. It’s a perfect start for Hearts. Can they now add to their solitaire-y goal?

CHANCE! We’re off to a really energetic start at the Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps. Auxerre come straight back down the other end trying to get a quick response. McCarthy feeds the ball to Aidir after a good passing move, but the striker’s shot whistles past Spencer’s near post. The Hearts man looks furious at his defence, but he must be a little relived that that wasn’t a few inches further to the left.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 1 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (7)

Big la’s out again today John. Dunkster can’t get close to Buddo as they zip it aboot and he just slots it away.

That’s 5 goals in 97 minutes of football from the Bordeaux striker. Think he’s got to be in with a shout for the Golden Boot even at this early stage, hasn’t he?

CHANCE! Auxerre hit Hearts on the break. Aidir holds it up and plays a ball into the path of Foden, who’s searing in from the right. He does well to hold off the challenge from Clarke-Salter, but when he does get his right footed shot away he can only slice it wide of the far post. The Hearts centre back did enough there.

CHANCE! And again! Straight from the goal kick Auxerre win the ball back and McCarthy receives it in absolute acres of space from Fomba. He tries his luck from 25 yards, but his effort crashes back off the inside of the post and Hearts scramble it clear.

CHANCE! What a game this is shaping up to be! Again Auxerre win the ball straight back and again they carve Hearts open effortlessly. McCarthy releases Billy on the left wing this time and the Moroccan left back curls a great cross onto the head of his compatriot Aidir, but Spencer makes the save at his near post. This is a hell of a period of pressure from Auxerre but they are still somehow behind.

Right, while we’ve got a moment to compose ourselves, how’ve Doncaster responded to going behind, Royston?

They’ve had a couple o shots but from way oot.

And has there been much action at Bloomfield Road, Don?

Has there fuck.

Thank you, gentlemen.

CHANCE! Real heart-in-mouth stuff there for Auxerre fans. Under no pressure whatsoever Sohna fluffs a simple short pass outside his own box and gives it straight to Barker. The Hearts winger tees up the goalscorer Munro, but he’s unable to double his tally, sending his shot comfortably wide of the near post.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 2 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (18)

Just a big hoof up to big la in the box and noone’s even around him, John. I think they need to try and mark him.

You reckon? My God, that man’s threatening to make a mockery of this entire league! What a first couple of matches he’s having.

It’s been all Auxerre pressure for the last 6 or 7 minutes, but they’re failing to make any use of their possession in the final third. Foden, McCarthy and Billy are trying hard to find a way through Hearts’ back line, but the Scottish side look happy to defend in numbers and let Auxerre tire themselves out.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 3 Bordeaux 29/30
Konstantin Gerchev (27)

I don’t know who this one is, John, but it’s not the big la. Big la sets him up though and he just tings it in the corner. Easy as ya like.

Still Auxerre can’t get a clear sight at goal. Foden just went close, trying to drive a low one in from just inside the box, but Aaron Hickey throws his body in the way to block it.

CHANCE! Again Aidir holds the ball up well and lays the ball off for Reynier to have a go from the edge of the box. It’s hit well and is dipping awkwardly, but it’s just wide of Hearts’ far post. At the other end of the pitch, Dylan Munro’s trying hard to get the psychological upper hand on Auxerre’s 2 centre backs. In the last few minutes he’s had 2 little jabs at Sohna and 1 at Doucouré while challenging for long balls. WT Franjo will be hoping that the pair can keep their cool and not rise to it.

CHANCE! It’s the first nice move in a while from the visitors. They work the ball up the pitch towards Auxerre’s penalty area and Godinho loops a cross in to the 6 yard box. Sean Clare rises above Isaac Sohna to meet it, but his headed effort drifts harmlessly high and wide.

CHANCE! Straight back up the other end we go. Celsiney skims a pass along the outside of the Hearts box for McCarthy, who fashions himself enough space for a shot, but Spencer’s equal to it and parries it behind. They’re being restricted to shooting from distance at the minute and Hearts will be delighted with how resiliently they’ve defended so far, for the most part.

CHANCE! From McCarthy’s corner, Sohna powers a header at goal. It takes a nasty deflection off Declan Gallagher and spins towards the bottom corner of the goal, but Spencer pulls off a great save low to his right. The 19 year old’s really repaying his manager’s faith here at the moment.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 4 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (38)

It’s like, did ya remember back in school, John, where… Where ya’ve got an arse hole 6th former playing with the year 7s and just beating the shite out of em? Big la’s the big arse hole 6th former.

Well put, Royston.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 0 – 2 Hearts 21/22
Dylan Munro (39)

And that is Hearts’ reward for all of their defensive efforts! In the end it’s a simple ball through from captain Connor Smith to find Munro in the box and the 18 year old needs no 2nd invitation to double his tally. With Doucouré bearing down on him from one side and Sohna from the other, he picks his spot and leathers the ball past Lenogue.

CHANCE! It’s Auxerre who’re on the ropes now. They concede a free kick and from the free kick they concede a corner. Craig Sibbald curls it in, the hosts don’t clear their lines and Jake Clarke-Salter smashes a shot goalwards from the edge of the box. Lenogue’s on hand to make what I’m pretty sure is his first save of the game, but he’s conceded another corner in doing so. Hearts are piling on the pressure.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 5 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (43)

I dinnae really have anything tae add, John. I dinnae think that Dunkster are going to win.

CHANCE! If there’s one thing you can say about Auxerre’s attacking today, it’s that Hicham Aidir’s hold up and link up play has been great. Everything’s gone through him in this first half. Auxerre break and Foden gives the ball to the striker, who chips it up and then fizzes a ball ahead of Reynier on the left. The winger strides into the box, shimmies past Sibbald and then shoots just wide again.

PENALTY! Aidir plays a give and go with Foden, who chips it back into Aidir’s path. The big striker gets there just before Matt Spencer and tries a shot, but it’s blocked by the goalie just as he clatters into Aidir’s legs. You’ve seen them given, but that’s a little harsh for me. Especially as Spencer’s picked up a booking for his trouble. This is a clear-cut chance for Auxerre now though, something that they’ve massively struggled to create in this first half. Fabian McCarthy’s picked up the ball and he’s not letting go. He really wants this one.

SAVED! Matty Spencer redeems himself immediately! McCarthy looked confident, stepped up and hit his penalty firmly to the right, but it was at a comfortable height and not particularly close to any corner. Hearts maintain their 2-0 lead, but the 4th official’s signalled for 3 minutes of injury time. Auxerre still have time to claw one back before the break.

HALF TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 0 Notts County 26/27

Aye right, why can I no be given wan o these high scoring games? Twice on the trot I’ve been stuck wi Notts fuckin County who’ve never e’en heard the ball hit the back of the fuckin net. Blackpool are even worse.

The producers aren’t clairvoyant, Don, they just assign the games out randomly. I see you got a new keyboard by the way?

Aye it’s magic, this place. Brought the wife back too.

Oh, well good for you.

CHANCE! Auxerre should indeed have clawed one back! Celsiney drives up the right wing and send another low ball across the edge of the box to Reynier, who shoots straight at Spencer. He’s been wasteful today, Reynier, which is disappointing after a really good opening day performance.

HALF TIME. Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 5 Bordeaux 29/30

Fun match for you, by the looks of it, Royston?

Aye John, I’m all abuzz. Buddo havenae had that many maer shots but they’re still batterin Dunkster like a chip shop sausage.

Or indeed a mars bar!

Aye, but I was tryin tae no be a stereotype.



I bet you’d love a battered mars bar wouldn’t you, Don? It’s the perfect greasy accompaniment to a night of irresponsibly heavy drinking.

… I think he’s already gone for a top up. Never mind.

HALF TIME. Auxerre 23/24 0 – 2 Hearts 21/22

Well, that was a frustrating watch for Auxerre fans, I’m sure. They’ve spurned half-chance after half-chance and then a penalty, while Hearts have scored from 2 of their only 3 shots on Lenogue’s goal. The visitors should be delighted with how they’ve performed so far, their gameplan’s worked perfectly.

As things stand then, Hearts are leapfrogging Doncaster into 3rd place in the table, while everyone else stays put. Let’s hope the 2nd halves bring us some more twists and turns. Obligatory word from the sponsors:

Play Player Power, the chaotic football arcade game by Dave O’Leary/O’Leary Games now available for £0.79 on Steam!

Knock yourselves out, but personally I don’t see the appeal. Back in a few.

Right then, now that I’m full of coffee, pie and half of a king size snickers, who’s up for some more FOOTBALL? I would hope all of you, otherwise I don’t really have anything to offer you I’m afraid. No changes have been made by either side. How are Auxerre going to get out of this one?

Aaaaaaaaaaand we’re off!

CHANCE! An early statement of intent from Auxerre? Hicham Aidir carries the ball through the away half, easily holding off both Sibbald and Hickey as he goes and pings a low shot at goal. Spencer parries it away, but it looks like the hosts have come out to fight for a result.

On second thoughts, that might have been a one-off. All of the excitement of the first couple of minutes evaporated quickly and neither side now look to be in any great rush to score the next goal.

Gallagher penalised for what looked like quite a good challenge on McCarthy. Not sure what the ref saw there, but Auxerre have a free kick in a dangerous spot out on the left wing.

It comes to nothing. As you were.

McCarthy holds off Sibbald and wriggles himself into half a yard of space on the edge of the box, but shoots wide of the near post. That was eerily similar to nearly all of their chances in the first half.

A break in play here as McCarthy’s caught offside and Hearts are using the opportunity to introduce the game’s first substitute. Anthony McDonald replaces Brandon Barker as he did at the weekend.

Auxerre countering with a substitute of their own. Amine Reynier’s been wasteful with his chances today. Can home grown striker Nathan Andre make the difference from the left wing?

CHANCE! Almost! Godinho gifts the ball to Phil Foden, who plays it forward to Aidir. He turns Godinho inside out and passes it out to Sissako on the left hand side of the box. The midfielder has plenty of space, but bafflingly decides to play it back inside to Andre, whose snatched shot is turned behind by Spencer. Sissako should have hit that, but Godinho’s come out of that looking worse. That was a nightmare few seconds for the Canadian full back.

CHANCE! Spencer to the rescue again! Auxerre play the ball in from the right very well, Foden tees up Aidir, who forces yet another save from the young Englishman.

CHANCE! And again!! Again, nicely worked from the corner, Sohna sets up Foden, but his low drive is turned behind. It’s hard to believe that this is the same lad that shipped 4 goals on Saturday. Diegui’s come on for Godinho for Hearts, unsurprisingly. He’s not had a good day.

GOAL! Auxerre 23/24 1 – 2 Hearts 21/22
Hicham Aidir (72)

Well there’s only so much he can do, I suppose. Hearts have had that coming for a while. A sloppy pass by Smith is cut out and the home side break, with Fomba slotting a pinpoint pass through to Aidir. He takes it under control and fires past Spencer into the bottom left corner. The big Moroccan’s off the mark now, but can he rescue a point for his side? Interestingly, Franjo’s taking this break in play as an opportunity to make a change. Joël Soumahoro is making his first appearance of the tournament in place of Fabian McCarthy. The Ivorian midfielder’s set up a goal or two in his time, I’ll give him that.

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 0 – 6 Bordeaux 29/30
Ben Lyndon (74)

Aye this isnae much fun anymore, John. I feel quite bad for all the Dunksters.

Yes that’s looking like quite the massacre over there.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 1 – 0 Notts County 26/27
Kieran Dowell (76)

Thank fuck for that, John. Quite a tidy finish from the boy Dowell in the end but Christ it was a long old wander to the first goal. County have been slightly less shite, but Blackpool are 1 up.

I’d almost forgotten you were working today, Don!

GOAL! Doncaster Rovers 29/30 1 – 6 Bordeaux 29/30
Luciano OG (80)

Oh John, they got wan back! I still dinnae think they’ll win it but it’s quite nice of the Buddo captain to put it in his own goal. The goalie just kicked it against him to be fair so maybe he’s the nice one.

Some lovely footwork from the substitute as Auxerre put Hearts under pressure, but no chances come of it.

Oof, horrible sliding challenge from behind from Aaron Hickey on Lamine Fomba and it’s all getting a bit heated as a result. Hearts have played a really physical game today and I think it’s fair to say that it’s causing some of the Auxerre players some frustration. Celsiney, Gallagher and Soumahoro have to restrain Lamine Fomba as the referee shows Hickey a yellow card.

Billy’s looking in some discomfort and is holding his calf as the ball’s hoofed out of play. Looks like he might have tweaked something. A muscle injury could spell bad news in a 5 week tournament but we’ll hope for the best. Baptiste “Captiste” Aloé comes on to see out the game in his place.

FULL TIME. Blackpool 21/22 1 – 0 Notts County 26/27

I dinnae care if you have to get Mystic Bastart Meg in here, John, just get me some decent football on Saturday, for fucks sake. County may as well piss aff haem, they’re shite.

Eloquently put as always, thank you, Don. We’ll try and get you someone other than County for the next game.

FULL TIME. Auxerre 23/24 1 – 2 Hearts 21/22

Well they battled, they took their chances, they defended resolutely, the rode their luck a fair few times and Hearts have come away with their first 3 points of the season. Auxerre will be gutted to come out of this one with nothing, but they had more than enough chances and didn’t do enough with them.

Our sharp-as-a-tack producers have already got the highlights packages together for us again, so have a gander below if the spirits move you. Again, the top video is extended highlights and the bottom video will just show you the goals.

FULL TIME. Doncaster Rovers 29/30 1 – 6 Bordeaux 29/30

Aye that was a bit grim in the end, John. Big laddie’s gunnae bully his way to 100 goals here.

He might well do at this rate. Great job today by the way, Royston. Much improved. Work on actually getting to know the names of the teams and players and you’ll be our own John Motson.

Our own wha?

Never mind. Keep it up.

Aye alright.

Thank you all for following along with us at home. Let’s have a wee peak at what effect those results have had on our league table before we go.

Bordeaux are racing into an early lead and are looking unstoppable at present, with striker Ben Lyndon scoring an obscene 9 goals in 2 games. The middle of the table’s getting a bit congested with 4 teams on 3 points and Auxerre still leading the pack despite their loss today thanks to goal difference. It’s been a bleak start for Notts County 26/27 though, they’re yet to score or win a single point. They need to end that run ASAP, so it’s lucky that we’ll be back on Saturday with another round of games, where they’ll have the opportunity to turn their bad start around. They will have to have patience until then though.

Until then, good night and sleep tight.


Aye, sleep well, ye jeb ends.

Don, for fucks sake.

Blackpool 21/22 v Auxerre 23/24 (Franjo: Slumberland – Match 1)

Our season begins.

Good morning, ladies and gents!

Welcome once again to Franjo’s dreams, and welcome of course to Slumberland, the show that brought you such classic dreams as “Oops! Where’d all Mum’s teeth go?”

I’m your host, John Hutchison.

Today we’re bringing you something completely different. You join us on the precipice of the inaugural Slumberland First Division, a football league featuring 6 of Franjo’s favourite teams from his past lives. I’ll be keeping you bang up to date with live text commentary of this morning’s featured match, where fallen angel Franny Jeffers’ Blackpool 21/22 host my main man WT Franjo’s Auxerre 23/24.

My colleagues meanwhile, will be chipping in with updates from our other 2 matches to ensure that not a single beat is missed. The time is about 2:55am and the matches won’t be starting for a few moments, so while Danny Wilson and Mamadou Doucouré are leading their sides out, let’s have a word from the man sitting bollock naked, sipping special brew through a curly straw. You know him, you love him, you’re thoroughly terrified of him if you’re Norwegian: It’s Don Collins.

Aye right, what’s that meant to mean then? I can get pished if you want me pished up John, but ye won’t like some o the shite that’s gonna come oot me mooth. Notts County 26/27 v Doncaster Rovers 29/30 kicking off here in a few. Cannae contain myself.

Thanks Don, that’s the spirit. We’re also joined by our intern, Royston. Are you pumped up for the Slumberland First Division, Royston?


You’re over in France today aren’t you, Royston? Hows the atmosphere?


Excellent, well I look forward to pulling teeth together again later. Royston’s watching Bordeaux 29/30 v Hearts 21/22 and will give us his no doubt in-depth analysis as we go.

Back to today’s main event for now though, where Auxerre 23/24 travel to Blackpool 21/22. 2 teams predicted to finish in the bottom half of the league will scrap it out for a potential opening day 3 points. Aiden O’Brien will kick us off for Blackpool, who play in their classic tangerine home kit and will shoot from left to right. Auxerre line up in their new all-black away kit.

Aaaaaaand we’re off!

CHANCE! Oo it’s a good move from Auxerre after a scrappy first few minutes as the teams test each other out. Phil Foden latches onto a long pass from Isaac Sohna and passes infield to Amine Reynier. A quick one-two with big Moroccan striker Hicham Aidir later, the Frenchman’s in behind the defence, but flashes his shot just wide of the far post.

Lots of misplaced passes so far. Hopefully the quality can pick up just a tad as the teams warm up.

Not much here either John, the Irishman Brennan’s sliced wan wide though.

I think he’s English now Don.


GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 1 Auxerre 23/24
Lamine Fomba (14)

Wonderful stuff from Reynier. He exchanges passes again with Aidir, then lofts a beautiful ball into the path of Fomba as he charges into the box. 1 touch to control the ball, 1 more to blast it into the far corner. Lamine Fomba opens the scoring in the inaugural Slumberland First Division.

CHANCE! Kieran Dowell starting to pull the strings from midfield now. He passes to Aiden O’Brien, who easily shrugs off the pressure from Celsiney and powers a shot just wide.

Celsiney certainly knows where his strengths lie. He follows that near miss up with an electric run down the right wing. Noone can catch him and he gets a cross in towards the near post, but Danny Wilson gets in ahead of Aidir to clear.

CHANCE! Quite chaotic defending from Auxerre so far. A quick game of heads and volleys on the edge of the away side’s box ends in a volleyed effort from O’Brien, but it sails harmlessly wide.

All gone a bit quiet here hasn’t it. We’re back to misplaced passes and broken attacking patterns here. Anything over there, Don?

Aye right I could be in bed right noo. Instead I’m watching Doncaster pissing Rovers miss chance after chance and a County side that cannae string 2 fucking passes together. Naw there’s not much gaen on here, John. Ye fanny.

Good stuff.

CHANCE! Good lord, I thought both teams were done for the day for a while then. Phil Foden picks the ball up from Reynier, wriggles past Ash Kigbu on the edge of the box but fires wide.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Auxerre 23/24
Amine Reynier (44)

That’s far more like it! An excellent, slick move from Auxerre. Fabian McCarthy plays it forwards to Aidir, who lays it off for Reynier. The man who set up the first goal whips a ball ahead of Celsiney on the right and after turning Brad Potts, the full back drifts a beautiful ball in and there’s Reynier to meet it with a lovely bicycle kick.

HALF TIME. Blackpool 21/22 0 – 2 Auxerre 23/24

I’ve got to say, aside from the 2 goals we’ve had it’s been a poor quality watch so far. Both sides have looked a bit chaotic at times and there has’t been an abundance of chances. As the teams head back to the changing rooms though, Auxerre and WT Franjo will definitely be the happier team.

At least we got 2 goals though, eh Don?

HALF TIME. Notts County 26/27 0 – 0 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Aye this games bored the tits aff me so far. County had a few wee chances at the end but not wan a these las can shoot.

We’ve not heard from you so far, Royston. Quiet match is it?

Naw it’s quite good. 2-0.

2-0?? To who??


Chelsea aren’t playing. It’s Bordeaux 29/30 v Hearts 21/22.

Well I dinnae know then. The blue laddies.


Aye, Buddo then.

HALF TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 2 – 0 Hearts 21/22

I think we need to go over this again on Monday, you’re meant to keep us updated on what’s happening in the match as it’s going on.

Well ye never asked.

Don’t wait for me to ask! Bloody hell. Sorry about this everyone, he’s on work experience. It’s a favour to his Dad, he got me out of some unpleasantness in the 90’s. Just make sure to keep us updated in the 2nd half, Royston.

Aye alright.

Before I shoot off for a pie and a coffee, a quick word from our sponsors, who are also somehow the shirt sponsors for every single team in this competition:

Play Player Power, the chaotic football arcade game by Dave O’Leary/O’Leary Games now available for £0.79 on Steam! Because I like you lot and to celebrate the opening day of the Slumberland First Division, you can put your pennies away. Email playerpowergame@gmail.com with the subject line “Save Us Franjo” before 11:59pm BST tonight, Saturday 30th May 2020 and I’ll send you a Steam key to get the game for free!

So yes, if you want to do that… Good luck to you. Back in a few.

That’s better. Caffeinated and satiated. Hicham Aidir to kick off for Auxerre 23/24.

And we’re off.

Nothing’s going on so far.

…Thanks, Royston. Same here. Any early 2nd half action for you, Don?

2 wee chances for Rovers but tae be honest John it’s the same old shite.

Nothing’s going on, John.

Just let me know when something does happen, Royston, alright?

Aye alright.

Albian Ajeti’s come on on for Roar Nyhus for Rovers. Fuck me he’s a wrinkled bastart noo.

Well he’s from the future isn’t he. In a sense.


Never mind.

GOAL! Notts County 26/27 0 – 1 Doncaster Rovers 29/30
Mitch North (54)

Shite up the wall, John, I’ve found an actual quality footballer. The boy North just took 3 lads on and smacked it intae the corner. It’s a good job tae, I was drifting aff.

It’ll be the special brew, Don.

Aye will it? Fuck aff.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 3 – 0 Hearts 21/22
Ben Lyndon (58)

That same laddie’s got another. Big boy up front. He’s got 3 noo.

Excellent, I’m also being told by a slightly more descriptive source that that’s an opening day perfect hat trick for Ben Lyndon! Great job, Royston.

John why does my da call you the beaver cleaver of Geneva?

Eyes on the game now, Royston. Keep it up.

Aye alright.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 1 – 2 Auxerre 23/24
Aiden O’Brien (61)

Game on! Bloomfield Road erupts! It was a good but simple move and Auxerre will rue some poor defending there. Kieron Freeman sets Danny Philliskirk away down the right with a good through ball, Mamadou Doucouré can’t stop the cross and Celsiney’s left marking O’Brien in the centre, who barges the defender aside and heads Blackpool back into the game from close range. Sohna’s got some heated words for his right back but he should really have been the one tracking O’Brien.

Blackpool looking a bit livelier now and a bit more interested. Freeman’s hacked down on the right wing by Reynier and Dowell whips a dangerous ball into the box from the free kick, forcing Doucouré to concede a corner with a stretching diving header. The corner comes to nothing, but these are tense times for Auxerre.

GOAL! Bordeaux 29/30 4 – 0 Hearts 21/22
Ben Lyndon (68)

It’s still the same laddie, John. He’s got 4 noo and he’s taking the pish. Pure lobbed the goalie from oota the box.

What a day Ben Lyndon’s having! Any changes by either side so far?

Aye, Ward and Kane have come on.

Harry Kane?

Aye him n all. Harry for the blue ones and Herbie for the other ones. Actually they’re in blue too John, so I dinnae know what tae say.



CHANCE! Oof just as Blackpool were starting to pile on the pressure, Auxerre counter with a route-one whack up the field from skipper Doucouré. Fomba flicks the ball on, Foden gets between Husband and Wilson and smacks a shot goalwards from the edge of the box. Luckily John Ruddy’s on hand with a fine stop to concede a corner, but he does not look too happy with his defence.

CHANCE! It’s really swinging back Auxerre’s way now. Again Blackpool’s defence is caught in absolute disarray and Foden picks up the ball with 2 men ahead of him in acres of space. He threads a pass through to Reynier on the far side, but the Frenchman’s powerful shot is straight at Ruddy at the near post and Blackpool’s blushes are spared again. Blackpool are responding by making their first change of the game: Lee Hodson replaces Kieron Freeman at right back.

CHANCE! Blackpool really need to turn the momentum back around. They fail to clear the corner and Abdoulaye Sissako tees up Aidir on the edge of the box. Hodson’s in a good position to block the striker’s shot and concede another corner though.

Couple of changes here John, Louie Barry and his stupid hair cut on for County, and Minobe. Lawson on for Rovers. The wee bald prick Johnson’s gone off for County, he’s been shite.

CHANCE! This time Fomba sets up Reynier for a pop, but again Ruddy’s equal to it. Blackpool could have been buried by now without him.

GOAL! Blackpool 21/22 1 – 3 Auxerre 23/24
Phil Foden (89)

Ooooo ya beauty! What a finish from Phil Foden! Blackpool comitted too many forward and were hit on the break by an incisive counter attack. They then fail to properly clear their lines again and Reynier’s cross is headed away only as far as Fomba, who plays it to McCarthy, who passes to Foden, who chips the ball up for himself with his first touch and curls a sweetly struck volley into the bottom corner with his second. Game over.

Both sides are making changes for the final minute or so, with Nathan Andre given a run out in place of McCarthy and Younes Belhanda brought on for Dowell. Franny Jeffers has not shown much ambition with his substitutes today.

CHANCE! Hicham Aidir slides Foden through on goal and he tries a powerful shot, but again Ruddy keeps the scoreline respectful. Still time for another though.

FULL TIME. Bordeaux 29/30 4 – 0 Hearts 21/22

Your big laddie pure shat on the other team today, John.

Looks like it! Just to mention, our notoriously fast-working producers have already got the highlight packages compiled and uploaded so you can have a nosey at all the action from all of the matches as they finish. The first video is extended highlights, the second is just the goals.

FULL TIME. Notts County 26/27 0 – 1 Doncaster Rovers 29/30

Aye right ours is over n all. How many o these have we got left? Was that the Quarter Finals or wha?

It’s a league, Don. Still 27 games to play in total.

Ah, pish aff. I’m tae bed.

FULL TIME. Blackpool 21/22 1 – 3 Auxerre 23/24

Job done for Franjo’s men. It wasn’t perfect and they’ll certainly have tougher challenges ahead, but an away win is a great start.

Well there you go. No draws in our opening games, there have been 3 winners and 3 losers, giving us quite a cut-and-dry first Slumberland First Division Table.

So that’s all for us here at Slumberland. Bordeaux top the charts on goal difference after our first round of games. Will anything change on Wednesday when our next round takes place? We’ll find out. Good night, everyone and sleep tight.


… I think Don has actually gone to bed. So yes, on behalf of all of us, I suppose… Bye.

Meet Notts County 26/27 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 6/6)

Although they haven’t made the same sort of lasting impression on me that a lot of the other teams in this league have, this County side climbed through the leagues really surprisingly quickly and it was quite a successful save in that regard.


Game: FM19

Time In Charge: 8 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 10th in Premier League

Honours: Vanarama National Champions (18/19), League Two Runners-Up (19/20), League One Runners-Up (21/22), Championship Champions (24/25)

Predicted Finish: 3rd

FM19 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here

I played this save just before FM20 was released late last year and although they haven’t made the same sort of lasting impression on me that a lot of the other teams in this league have, this County side climbed through the leagues really surprisingly quickly and it was quite a successful save in that regard.


Back Story

TLDR: Harnessed the power of momentum to go from the Vanarama National to the Championship in 4 years, then it took us 3 more years to get to the Premier League, where we finished 10th.

The first season was a bit of a gimme if we’re being honest and that’s why I chose County to begin with. I wanted a nice easy save and smashing our way to the top of the Vanarama National was expected. Our second season wasn’t quite so expected but we took our momentum from the previous season plus a handful of new free signings and loan players and took second place in League 2, earning me back to back promotions for the first time in probably years. We were so close to 3 promotions in a row too, but after another summer of free transfers and loan signings, we finished 3rd in League 1, way adrift of the automatic promotion spots, before losing 1-0 to Sunderland in the play off final. Our second season in League 1 was much tighter at the top and on the final day, any 2 of Luton, us and Bolton could have snagged a promotion spot. We all won so Bolton lost out, allowing us to cruise up to the Championship.

This is where our momentum finally fell away though and we stayed in the Championship for a while, though thanks to some careful buying and selling we were able to raise some money to inject a substantial amount of quality into the squad. We spent a combined £7.6M during our 3 seasons in the Championship, compared to the £830k we’d spent in the 3 seasons before, and in our 3rd season in the 2nd tier we took off, blasting through the top of the division and out into the rarefied air of the Premier League. In our only full season in the Premier League we finished in a very respectable 10th place and currently sit 9th in October of the 26/27 season.

Starting Lineup

No 1 – Gary Howard – Goalkeeper

Gary’s just signed for us on a free transfer from Manchester City, although we have had him on loan for the past 3 seasons. He’s done really well for us and had a stellar season the year we got promoted from the Championship, but he appears to have just about hit his ceiling, which is a shame. Nevertheless he’s a solid goalie.


No 29 – Kosuke Kajiyama – Right Back

Kosuke is 1 of 3 Japanese players at the club and I categorically deny the slanderous rumour that the only reason I signed them was to sell shirts with our Japanese affiliate club, Matsumoto Yamaga. I mean just look at this boy! I snapped him up for £4M from FC Hiroshima before our first Premier League season and so far he’s done perfectly well on the right hand side of our defence. He’s absolutely rapid and is equally adept going forwards and backwards. At 19 he’s still got plenty of progressing to do too.


No 21 – Raúl Santos – Centre Back

Santos is a newbie, having signed from Cruz Azul in the Summer for a princely sum of £8.25M and he’s a very exciting prospect. He’s an excellent ball winner and has put in some strong performances so far, plus like Kosuke, he’s got so much time to progress and so much potential to fulfil.


No 6 – Walter Mertens – Centre Back

Walter is another newbie and was signed from genk for £17.75M! Just in case you weren’t sure at this point whether we were dealing with Premier League money. And I mean proper Premier League money, not like the Donny save. His mental and physical attributes are extremely good and his technical attributes aren’t awful, but hopefully he’ll progress them a little bit.


No 15 – Alberto Murillo – Left Back

Yet another new lad in our defence! And I’m just now realising that this may be the most multi-cultural back line I’ve ever put together, with East Asia, North America, Central Europe and now Central America all represented. At 20, Alberto’s already won 40 caps for Costa Rica and like the others, he still has potential to fulfil.


No 4 – Han-Noah Massengo – Deep Playmaker

Massengo joined us before our first Premier League season in a £4M move from Brighton, although I believe I’d been tracking him since I came up to the Championship when he was playing for Norwich. He’s been really solid for us so far and also managed to notch 7 goals from defensive midfield last season, which is surprisingly good.


No 16 – Dawuda Bereng – Box to Box Mid

Dawuda is the latest player I’ve signed from the South African top tier, who I don’t think like me anymore because of my frequent raids during my time at Auxerre. He joined in the Summer from Sundowns for £525k and I’ve been using him as a box to box midfielder, which he isn’t all that comfortable with yet. His performances will hopefully improve though and of course he’s got potential for days.


No 7 – Jake Doyle-Hughes – Advanced Playmaker

And finally we’ve found someone who’s been here longer than 1 full season. JDH has actually been with us all the way from our first season in the Championship when we signed him on a free from Aston Villa. He’s gone from strength to strength since, even going on to make 14 appearances for Ireland. His 27 goals and 23 assists in 154 appearances, as well as his consistently good form, have made him a fan favourite. With both our Captain and Vice-Captain starting on the bench, JDH will take the armband for the first game.


No 8 – Keane Lewis-Potter – Right Wing

KLP is another fan favourite and has been with us since our last season in the Championship, when you could say he took us up single-handed. 18 goals and 16 assists in 45 appearances that season speaks for itself. He’s since added 9 goals and 10 assists in his 32 Premier League appearances too, which is promising.


No 23 – Bukayo Saka – Left Wing

Here’s the big name then. Fun fact – I’d never heard of Bukayo Saka when I signed him up on a free transfer at the start of our first Premier League campaign, as I don’t think he properly got going for Arsenal until late last year when I’d moved onto FM20. SI knew he had potential though and although his attributes here probably don’t even compare with his real life ones, he’s an excellent and versatile wing option for us.


No 11 – Dale Johnson – Striker

Dale came in at the start of the 25/26 season, same as Saka, in a £7.5M move from Spurs. He’d caught my eye in the Championship, single handedly saving Birmingham from relegation with 23 goals in 40 appearances. I hoped he’d be able to step up to Premier League football and he has done well, scoring 17 goals and setting up 6 in 48 appearances for County.



There’s some real quality on this bench. It pains me not to put Louie Barry in the starting 11 with the quality he has but he hasn’t played that much for me in FM yet so I thought it only fair. Captain Regan Booty, who’s been with me since the Vanarama National, and Vice-Captain Jason McCarthy, who joined us going into League 1, both provide good cover, while Richard Mohammed, on loan with us for the 5th consecutive season, and emerging youngster Damali Webster are both great young talents that will threaten if they get on the pitch. Actually this bench is really oozing with quality, although most of them are still developing. Look out for them all.



Yup, it’s a classic Franjo 4-3-3. It actually surprises me that only 2 of these teams are playing in this formation. I must be more versatile then I think. Pace down the wings, creativity, legs and grit in the middle. Positive football. County will do alright.

Meet Hearts 21/22 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 5/6)

This save had a bit of a weird concept. It was another network save with my mate Tom, who I mentioned in the Blackpool and Bordeaux intros and we called it the “Head Coach Challenge”.


Game: FM19

Time In Charge: 3 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 4th in SPL (19/20, 20/21)

Honours: Scottish Cup Runners-Up (19/20)

Predicted Finish: 6th

FM19 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here

This save had a bit of a weird concept. It was another network save with my mate Tom, who I mentioned in the Blackpool and Bordeaux intros and we called it the “Head Coach Challenge”. Basically, we were the head coach of our clubs and nothing more. Buying and selling, contract renewals and staff signing was all left to our directors of football, but we did allow ourselves 1 transfer per window that we could choose ourselves. Tom actually stopped playing after the 2nd season and I played on for 18 months without those restrictions, but yeah that’s how it started. He was big shot Europa League side Hibs and I was poor, penniless Hearts.


Back Story

TLDR: We finished 6th, 4th and 4th in the league, got beaten in the Scottish Cup Final by Celtic on penalties and in the Europa League 3rd Qualifying round by Slavia Prague on away goals. This season we’re below par in the league but looking good in the Europa Group stage.

Because of our self-imposed restrictions and Hearts’ absolutely woeful financial situation, I decided early on to lean heavily into the only thing that I could control: Developing youth. Throughout the first season the vast majority of my lazy, underperforming and overpaid first team were transfer listed and sent to train with the reserves while my youth players were drafted into the first team squad. We didn’t do that badly in the first season considering this upheaval, finishing as the best of the rest but a long way behind a top 5 of Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. The second season some of my young ‘uns found their stride and we climbed above both Killy and Aberdeen to 4th and a Europa League qualifying spot, while also narrowly missing out on Scottish Cup glory after a loss against Celtic on penalties. In our third season we progressed, still only maintaining a 4th place finish in the SPL but accruing 8 points more than the previous year. We did lose our Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round tie against Slavia Prague on away goals after a 5-5 aggregate draw though, which was gutting. In our current season we’re 6th in the league and beat PSV Eindhoven and hammered Levski Sofia to reach the group stages of the Europa though, where we’ve so far picked up 2 wins from 4 games, leaving us just 1 point below the qualification spots for the knockouts.

Starting Lineup

No 46 – Matthew Spencer – Goalkeeper

Spencer’s a new signing at Tynecastle Park, having joined on a free from Barnet in the Summer. Goalkeeper’s a position we’ve really struggled with during my tenure and at only 19 he’s a really good prospect, so I’m developing him as best I can. He’s doing well so far and has conceded 20 goals in 20 games.


No 32 – Diego “Diegui” Johannesson Pando – Right Back

For a club that’s spent £3.72M over 3 and a half seasons, a £500k outlay for one player is big, big money. I brought Diegui (His nickname, not mine) in from Real Oviedo in 2020 as his attributes were solid across the board and as an Icelandic international he could give our young squad some experience. He’s done just that and has been a good purchase I think, averaging just over a 7 rating last season and just below so far this season.


No 4 – Ben Sheaf – Centre Back

Ben Sheaf’s one of the most rounded defensive players I’ve ever seen and when Arsenal released him in 2020 I absolutely pounced. He can play anywhere but in net and in the final third and is a very consistent performer. He’s an incredibly useful player to have.


No 6 – Jake Clarke-Salter – Centre Back

Like Sheaf, Clarke-Salter was also released by a big London club, namely Chelsea. Brought in this Summer, he’s so far performed incredibly well, especially in Europe, and can hopefully form a long lasting partnership in defence with Sheaf.


No 3 – Finn Ecrepont – Left Back

Finn was one of my “One signing per window” signings back in the day – A £20k buy from Ayr in the first January window. He broke into the side 18 months later and had a terrific 20/21 season, but then heartbreakingly decided that he was going to let his contract run down, so in January I let him go to Spurs for free… But with a cheeky 50% buy-on clause. We’ve got him back on loan for this season and he’s doing alright.


No 8 – Craig Sibbald – Deep Playmaker

Craig is one of only 2 of my director of football’s dealings that has actually stood the test of time and stayed in my first team squad. He was brought in in 2019/20 for £500k and initially I cried and cried at that much money being spunked up the wall when I could do nothing to stop it, but he’s good! Average rating hovering around 7 every season, 14 goals and 13 assists in 108 appearances and it’s handy having a good penalty taker around. Not too shabby.


No 11 – Aaron Hickey – Box to Box Mid

Aaron Hickey (SI’s spelling mistake, not mine) epitomises my youth-first approach in this save for me. He’s got great talent and even in my first season when he was 16 years old he made 13 appearances. He was fucking awful, but luckily he’s been much, much better in the 2 and a half years since when he’s been an important part of our team. He’s prone to the odd screamer and the odd 2 footed lunge, so it’s always exciting to have him in the squad.


No 7 – Brandon Barker – Right Wing

Brandon was another of my “one-per-window” signings when he was released by Manchester City in 2019. He’s exactly the injection of quality we needed at the time and has been really good on whichever wing I’ve played him on, scoring 30 and setting up 17 in 106 games.


No 16 – Connor Smith – Attacking Mid

Connor’s another academy lad and like Hickey, he’s been in and around the squad since my first season. I saw him as Hearts’ answer to Steven Gerrard so as well as being a first team starter since my second season, he was made club captain in 2020. 27 goals and 13 assists in 114 games so far and he’s still got a lot of growing to do.


No 10 – Sean Clare – Left Inside Forward

Sean was brought in just before I arrived and has really stood the test of time cutting in from the left wing. He’s often made the difference for us, scoring 29 times and assisting 27 goals in 132 games.


No 9 – Dylan Munro – Striker

Dylan’s my absolute favourite from this side though. He emerged from the academy in my first season and went straight into the starting line up at 16, where he’s been ever since. 50 goals for Hearts and 6 for Scotland at 18 years old. He’s got a big future.



The rest of the squad is fairly young as you can imagine, but does have a few experienced heads in it. Kelly, Godinho, Gallagher, Marshall and Kane have all been around a little bit, while the rest have a tonne of potential but aren’t quite at the level yet. The squad’s average age is a major factor in why they’re predicted 6th and I think if I’d played them for a couple more years they’d be real contenders for at least a top half finish.



As PES isn’t quite as tactically flexible as FM, Hearts will be playing quite a standard, positive system. Again, the full backs push up and again the wingers cut in as I’m not sure how to keep Barker out wide. It was a fun save and they’ll have a good go, bless em, but I don’t see good times ahead for Hearts in this league.

Meet Doncaster Rovers 29/30 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 4/6)

Even though it wasn’t by any means a successful save, this sticks in my mind as one of the most enjoyable saves I’ve ever played.


Game: FM16

Time In Charge: 14 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 7th In Premier League

Honours: League 1 Runners-Up (16/17), Championship Runners-Up (18/19), Championship Champions (20/21)

Predicted Finish: 1st

FM16 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here

I was absolutely over the moon when I had the idea for this league and found a copy of my Donny save file in a 2016 email to myself, which is how I used to back up files. Even though it wasn’t by any means a successful save, this sticks in my mind as one of the most enjoyable saves I’ve ever played. I grew up not far away and at the time of playing this game I’d just moved back up North from London and was living in Doncaster. I went to the occasional match too, so even though I know all too well that Doncaster is a shit hole, I have a real soft spot for Rovers.


Back Story

TLDR: From League 1 to the Premier League in 4 years, then relegation and a player exodus followed by a rebuild and instant promotion. 7th place finish, then mid-table mediocrity ever since.

Forgive me if I’ve forgotten absolutely all of the details because this is a 15 year save I played 4 years ago, but the first 4 years after I took over Donny in 2015/16 were fairly run of the mill for a football manager save: Midtable in League 1, 2nd in League 1, midtable in Championship, 2nd in Championship. Our 5th year was our first in the Premier League and this is where this save got going for me, because we got a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y b.a.t.t.e.r.e.d. Seriously, I think it’s the worst that any team of mine has ever done in any league. Essentially we got up to the Prem unexpectedly quickly and did not have a squad or a financial structure capable of competing. From the start of the season til January, we won 1 game, drew 5 and lost 13. In desperation I threw all of my wage bill at 6 month contracts for big name free agents Andy Carroll, Kyle Walker, Matthew Targett, Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill, but our improvement wasn’t enough. We went down on 27 points, rock bottom of the Premier League.

Luckily I kept my job thanks to the good will I’d accrued from my recent promotions, so I survived the chop, only to have a mass player exodus on my hands. 20 players packed their bags and left us to an inevitable decline back down the league pyramid. BUT with the Premier League riches and fees from selling all of those players still dribbling into our bank account, we rebuilt. An army of new, better players were brought in, including personal favourites Angelino, who went on to be our starting left back for 9 years, Demarai Gray, who had 8 years with us, Patrick Roberts, who’s still with us 10 years later, and Diafra Sakho, whose 28 goals in 40 games the following season blasted us back to the top division.

We’ve stayed there ever since but we never did become a wealthy club or even a club capable of competing for Europe. We finished 7th in our first year back in the Premier League, but then normalised into mid-table mediocrity. With state of the art youth facilities now pumping out really good talent though, I don’t think that would have stayed the case for much longer had I kept playing. Despite their flaws, I love this group of players.

Starting Lineup

No 1 – Flemming Borup – Goalkeeper

Flemming’s not a modern sort of keeper, but as good old fashioned shot-stoppers go, he’s an exceptional talent and wouldn’t look out of place at a top club. My Doncaster team (you’ll be shocked to hear this I’m sure, after my first 3 club intros) play open, attacking football though, which doesn’t exactly help Borup’s stats. He’s conceded a whopping 173 goals in 101 appearances since his £12M move from Hoffenheim in 2027. I and my tactics will take the blame for that though, he’s a really good keeper.


No 2 – Esteban Devos – Right Back

As I said, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details from this save, but Esteban’s got a bit of a weird history. We loaned him from Bordeaux for that season back in the Championship in 20/21 and he was fantastic, notching 12 assists and averaging over a 7.5 rating. We couldn’t bring him back immediately once we got promoted, but he stayed on my mind and I brought him in for £13M in 2022. He had 5 really good years with us, but then was snapped up by Chelsea for £1M, I assume as he was running his contract down and I was resigned to losing him. Luckily, he warmed their bench for a year and came back, tail between legs, for £1.5M in 2027. He’s a solid and experienced full back, a fan favourite and I’ve obviously forgotten any differences we might have once had.


No 5 – Mourad Ben Youssef – Centre Back

Mourad’s the very definition of what FM once called a “Limited Defender”. He can tackle, mark and head the ball, position himself well and can get around the pitch thanks to his great athleticism. Nothing fancy required. I signed him from Tunisian side ES Sahel for £450k in 2024 and he’s been a staple of my back line ever since.


No 4 – Amadou Diallo – Centre Back

Diallo’s a new signing for Donny and it goes to show what a state our finances still are that he was my “big money” signing of 2030, signed for £18M from Southampton, which seems to have financially crippled us even further. He seems worth the investment though, with solid attributes across the board and infinite potential for growth. He’s also a bit more silky on the ball than Ben Youssef, which is bound to help.


No 3 – Santiago Salinas – Left Back

If you think Diallo’s transfer fee was impressive though, wait til you hear about Santiago’s gargantuan £24M move from Benfica in 2027. Salinas is one of the many players that really stuck with me from this save, no doubt thanks to his outstanding mental attributes. He’s a really polished all-rounder and he’s Doncaster Rovers’ captain.


No 7 – Mitch North – Right Mid

Mitch is 1 of 2 academy graduates in our starting lineup. At 20 years old he’s already been in my first team for 3 years and is really starting to shape up as a Premier League footballer. He’s quick, full of tricks and can take a man on or swing in a cross, as evidenced by his 22 assists in 77 appearances for the club so far.


No 8 – Pat Reid – Deep Playmaker

Maybe it’s rose-tinted glasses, but I remember Pat being genuinely one of the best 16 year olds I’ve ever seen on an FM save. To be honest though, I think I must’ve stunted his development a bit with some unhelpful loan moves. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still an excellent player and well worth the £500K I paid to prise him away from Derry City in 2021, but maybe he could’ve been better. As it stands, he’s still one of our best.


No 12 – Rodney Kongolo – Ball Winning Mid

Rodney, a DR Congo international, is a new signing at the Keepmoat. I really liked to have an experienced defensive marshal in my midfield in this save and Daniel Amartey was released in the Summer aged 35, so in came Kongolo. He looks good so far and is putting in some great performances for us. He complements Pat well too. Together they give us a good mixture of silk and steel.


No 17 – Patrick Roberts – Left Mid

It’s probably fair to say that at 32, Patrick’s best years are behind him, but what a servant he’s been for the club. Since signing on a free from Manchester City in 2020, he’s scored 52 goals and set up 71 more in 324 appearances. He is, as far as I’m aware, the only player in any of these 6 teams to achieve legend status at their club.


No 9 – Roar Nyhus – Striker

After 4 years of personal experience and growth, I still don’t know how to pronounce Roar’s surname. Nigh-Us? Nigh-Oos? Nee-Oos? Who cares though to be honest, because his name is ROAR. Signed from Norwegian side Jerv for a staggering £4k in 2024, Roar’s gone on to score 47 goals in 120 appearances. He’s quick, he knows where the goal is and he’s the 2nd biggest reason I was excited to find this save again.


No 10 – Dylan Brennan – Striker

And here’s the 1st biggest reason. I’ve been playing Football Manager/Championship Manager since I got the CM00/01 demo CD in a box of frosties and there has only been 1 player over these 20 years who’s moved me to buy a real life club shirt with their name and number on it. Here he is. Dylan came up through our academy as a young Irishman and has scored 46 goals in 126 appearances, leading to a change of heart and a first cap and goal for England a few months ago. It was against Northern Ireland though, so I’m assuming that that must have felt pretty good. He’s progressing like a monster and I’m tempted to revive this old save just to see how good I can get him to be. I’m incredibly happy that I finally get to show him off.



I think what sets this Doncaster side out from the rest and one of the reasons they’re predicted 1st in the League is because they have quite a bit of strength in depth. A lot of the players on their bench are young academy graduates, but the likes of seasoned centre back Filippo Romagna, seasoned playmaker Mikael Mansson (A club icon who deserves a special shout out for his 10 years of excellent service: 339 appearances since an £88k move from Hammarby), exciting playmaker Borja Lizárraga and experienced striker Albian Ajeti give them some fantastic options off the bench.



Would you like to take a guess as to our tactical style? That’s right! We play open, attacking football. We do play a 4-4-2 though, which is something a bit different. It’s probably one of the main reasons I haven’t won anything in this save to be fair as looking back on it, this group of players aren’t really good enough to have a 2 man central midfield and also to leave themselves wide open by playing expansive football, especially not in the Premier League. What an idiot I was back in 2016, eh? Thank God I’m now probably maybe marginally better at this fucking game.

Meet Bordeaux 29/30 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 3/6)

This Bordeaux team is a very recent addition to the list and my desire to recreate them on PES is actually what kicked this idea off.


Game: FM20

Time in charge: 3 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 1st in Ligue 1 (28/29, 29/30)

Honours: Ligue 1 Champions (28/29, 29/30), Trophée des Champions (29)

Predicted Finish: 2nd

FM20 Save: Here (This save is from February of my final season. Due to technical difficulties it’s the last save I have where I’m still at Bordeaux)

PES20 Team: Here

This Bordeaux team is a very recent addition to the list and my desire to recreate them on PES is actually what kicked this idea off. I was playing a network save with my mate Tom where we holidayed to the middle of the 26/27 season, started unemployed with decent reputation and top national qualifications, then raced to build our reputations and win the Champions League. Luckily I managed to snag the Bordeaux job, which was the first big one available.


Back Story

TLDR: I took over half way through 26/27 when the club was 14th and took them to Europe, then again the next season. We won the league in both of the following seasons and then I moved to Barcelona.

At the start of our save, November 2026, I took the reigns of a Bordeaux side desperately in need of motivation. They were 14th in Ligue 1 and morale was low, but they did have a pretty good team. I set up as I usually do (Although you wouldn’t know it from the tactics I’ve shown for Auxerre and Blackpool) in a 4-3-3, with inside forwards, marauding full backs and a midfield trio containing a sitter, an attacker and a chaser. We did well in the first 6 months, climbing up to 5th and a Europa League place, then did even better the next season and finished 4th, just 1 point off the Champions League. The two seasons that followed, we won the title, although the first season especially we accomplished this largely due to the fall of PSG and their ageing, slowing squad. The second season PSG weren’t even in the race. Marseille fought us hard until the final few games when they finally dropped off. Shortly after the season ended I joined Barcelona, where I’ve spent 3 years so far. I love this team and all of these players are instant FM classics for me.

Starting Lineup

No 1 – Sérgio Dutra – Goalkeeper

I reckon pound for pound, Dutra’s up there for my best signing of FM20. For £1.8M I snapped him up from Vitória de Guimarães in my first Summer and he was such a rock for Bordeaux. During my tenure he conceded 100 goals in 128 appearances, keeping 56 clean sheets. Also he loves a penalty save. What more could you ask for? After I practically begged him for 3 years, Portugal manager José Mourinho finally gave him his first cap in the 2030/31 season, after I’d left for Barca. He’s so far earned 5 caps and after a prolific 5 year spell with the club, he moved to Valencia in 2032 for £26M. Dutra’s my vice-captain.


No 4 – Leon Alles – Right Back

I brought Leon to the club on deadline day of my first Summer for £1.7M and practically robbed Schalke blind. He came in to provide cover in midfield but I ended up deploying and training him so much as a right back that he made it his third natural position. His form was consistently extremely good and he was a great utility man. I would say a great lad too, but he was angling for a move throughout my final year and eventually got it just after I left, moving to Arsenal for £38.5M. Still, not a bad piece of business for Bordeaux. He’s currently at Lille after making a £48.5M return to France in 2033.


No 19 – Romain Guillot – Centre Back

We’ve got a chequered history, Romain and I. When I first joined Bordeaux they had next to no great youth prospects, but he was the one that stood out as someone that could be a future star. My plan was to work him slowly into the team, but young and impatient as he was, he started angling for a move. This went on for 2 years of loans and arguments until he dropped his concerns and worked his way into my starting line up. He’s a man mountain and an absolute weapon from set pieces, as can be evidenced by the 9 goals he scored in my final season. In the end I really liked him, but after 2 exceptional years in my team, he moved to Newcastle for £10M right after I left, which is a real shame as I’d turned down bids of up to £30M for him previously. He’s made 33 appearances in the 3 years since.


No 6 – Thiago – Centre Back

Another signing from that first glorious Summer, Thiago was an absolute snip at £3.5M from Porto. He’s a little short for a stormtrooper but between he and Romain, I had the perfect balance of presence and finesse, with Thiago being the more cultured of the two defenders. His form, like probably all of these players, was consistently great and I never had a complaint or a bad day’s training out of him. He too joined the exodus after I left, sadly, and signed for FC Famalicão in an £8M deal in which the negotiators were spotted in balaclavas holding big sacks with dollar signs on them. The good news is though that he kept winning and has so far lifted 3 cups and a Liga Nos title with his new side, who are now one of the main players in Portuguese football.


No 21 – Luciano – Left Back

Luciano was one of those transfers where I had to pinch myself to make sure I hadn’t dreamt the whole thing. His contract with Flamengo ran out in the winter of my first full season and after having inherited a club with no natural left backs at all, I managed to sign a left back who was immediately the best player on my team for free. He’s an all-round top class full back and became Bordeaux’s vice-captain in 2029, then was promoted to captain in 2030. He went on to make a £61M move to Chelsea in 2031, where he’s so far won both domestic cups and a Premier League title.


No 16 – Son Yoon Taek – Defensive Mid

Son was my favourite and those who know me and my FM preferences will immediately be able to spot why. Brave, hard working and a team player, runs all day, defends til he passes out and he also sold mountains upon mountains of replica shirts for us. I signed him for £3.5M from Ulsan Hyundai in that magical first Summer and Bordeaux got 3 and a half excellent years from him before selling him for far too little in a £13.5M deal with Fiorentina.


No 17 – Raymond Harris – Centre Mid

Ray came up through the Chelsea ranks, made the obligatory loan move to the Eredivisie, then I snapped him up on a free. What a bargain he was. He was a starter for both of our title winning seasons, putting in good performances and scoring 13 goals in the last year. He’s since been snapped up by Tom’s Tottenham side for £38M, where he’s won the Premier League.


No 8 – Kanta Iwata – Deep Playmaker

Kanta’s one of my favourites and he’s also a favourite of the Bordeaux fans, with whom he’s achieved Icon status. I signed him for £4.3M in the Summer of 2028 and in our 2 seasons together he put in some mind-blowing displays, averaging a rating of close to 7.5 both years, scoring 14 goals and setting up 18 more. He’s Japanese-born but has chosen to represent Germany, which so far seems a poor choice as at time of writing he’s made just 3 appearances for the national team. After 4 years of great service, he moved to PSG for £45.5M in 2032, where he remains to this day.


No 20 – Konstantin “Brazgarian” Gerchev – Right Inside Forward

Brazgarian is a Bulgarian international with a Brazilian passport, in case you were wondering where that fantastically creative name came from. Signed from Cruzeiro in January 2028 for a measly £2.2M, he was a bit-part player for most of his time at Bordeaux. After I sold the player who was keeping him out of the team however, he came into his own and put in some really fantastic performances for us. Our final season together was a particular highlight, in which he was my first choice and repaid my faith by scoring 10 and assisting 14 goals. He’s since moved to Al-Hilal for a disappointing £8.75M and then to Fulham for the same fee, where he’s doing alright.


No 14 – Khalil Makhlouf – Left Inside Forward

You may have noticed by now that my focus during my time at Bordeaux was on signing young, cheap players who could be sold for various amounts of profit. I brought Makhlouf in at the start of the 28/29 season for £11.5M, at the time a bum-tightening amount of money. He wasn’t a star of the team but he did well over our 2 years, averaging ratings around 7. He joined in with exodus after I left, joining title rivals Marseille for £14.75M, before moving to Juventus for £29M 3 years later.


No 9 – Ben Lyndon – Striker

While we’re talking about big money signings, Ben Lyndon is a player that I brought in on loan from Man City to be my 3rd choice striker for my first full season. 26 games and 20 goals later, it was clear that I needed him back. While my stomach churned and my senses screamed, I shelled out £30M to bring him in permanently for the 28/29 season. He scored 65 goals in 104 appearances for me and 99 goals in 216 appearances during his entire 6 year stint at the club. He then moved to Liverpool for £41.5M in 2033 after falling out of favour, but he remains a Bordeaux icon and a hero to me, so much so that I named my Animal Crossing island Lyndonland.



As for the rest of the squad, we’re mainly filled out by youth players so Bordeaux don’t have the best quality depth in the World. Look out for 36 year old Harry Kane, who despite being slower than a dying turtle on his way to his inlaws’ still has the best quality you’ll find in the final third. Mert Cetin and Jesús Macías are quality players in their prime and are excellent options for defence and midfield, while home grown strikers Nathan Isimat-Mirin and Matheo Bouyer are full of pace. Special mention to both Josef Novak and NIM actually, as they were both such talented young players that I brought them with me to Barca. Novak’s not really made the cut but NIM’s won 3 Champions Leagues, 3 La Liga titles and a hat full of domestic cups with me and is now on loan at Southampton getting more regular game time.



Tactically, as I said way earlier in this post, we’re using an incredibly typical Franjo style: Inside forwards supplying a big striker, a midfield 3 with a good mixture of creativity, attacking impetus, legs and bite and marauding full backs ready to overlap down the wings. Bordeaux, like every other bloody team in this league, will be attacking but will be rightfully confident in outscoring most, if not all of them.

Meet Blackpool 21/22 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 2/6)

I wanted to take them all the way back up by playing the swashbuckling attacking football that had inspired me.


Game: FM17

Time In Charge: 5 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 15th In Championship (19/20)

Honours: League 1 Champions (18/19)

Predicted finish: 5th

FM17 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here

I dare say that likely noone who reads this story will remember the time that I dabbled in making Football Manager Youtube videos. They weren’t great. As I feel like I’ve said a lot recently, I’m more a writer than a talker, but I had a lot of fun making them. The channel that me and my mate Tom created videos on was called Wasted Talent and we named ourselves after wonderkids who’d never cut the mustard in real life. He was Freddy Adu and as a long, long, long suffering Everton fan, I was Franny Jeffers.


Back Story

TLDR: We went from League 2 to the Championship in 3 seasons, got stuck for 2 seasons due largely to financial limitations, then looked set to challenge for promotion.

My first youtube save followed 2 seasons in charge of Sheffield FC on a custom database, but that went tits up when the game glitched out and wouldn’t start Season 3. So I started anew and took over a Blackpool team languishing in League 2. I had fond memories of them getting into the Premier League with what felt to me like a team of unknowns. Nevertheless, they attacked these massive, massive teams, like a cornered mouse would attack a cat, before having to famously go home and wash their own kits. It took guts and courage and a swashbuckling spirit. Things that they now seemed to sadly lack. I wanted to bring those qualities back. I wanted to take them all the way back up by playing the swashbuckling attacking football that had inspired me.

It started out decently. We edged past Colchester in extra time to win the League 2 play off final and then reached the League 1 play off Semis the next season, only to be dumped out by Peterborough. The third season was where we really hit our stride, calmly sweeping League 1 aside and running out Champions, but that’s when we hit the wall. Run by the infamous Oyston family, the club was haemorrhaging cash and just could not compete financially with a league full of Premier League parachute payments. 2 seasons of Championship mid table mediocrity followed, before we finally were in a position to challenge for promotion to the Premier League, sitting in 2nd place in December, just 1 point behind Leeds. And then… Erm… I discovered writing and started a journeyman save instead. Oh well. No regrets.

Starting Lineup

No 1 – John Ruddy – Goalkeeper

Ruddy’s a fairly new signing in my Blackpool side, having joined at the end of his contract with Norwich to replace my retiring (And considerably weaker) goalkeeper Lee Camp. Up until I stopped playing this save though, Ruddy was a real breath of fresh air. He’d conceded less than a goal per game and was no doubt one of the reasons that we were looking towards the Premier League rather than the Championship. At 35 he’s obviously getting on, but he’s still a really solid shot stopper.


No 22 – Kieron Freeman – Right Back

I don’t want this to come across too negatively but Freeman was extremely average during my 2 and a half years with him. An average rating hovering around 6.8 every season is fine and nothing to be sniffed at, plus he had the added bonus of being equally proficient on the left and right of defence. Solid enough player. I’m just now realising that I’m going to be writing the words “Solid” and “Fine” quite a lot today.


No 6 – Danny Wilson – Centre Back

Danny Wilson’s a real FM stalwart for me, as I’m sure he is for a lot of you that have been playing the series since the early 2010’s or before. For a certain level of club in recent editions though, he can be a very easily attainable star player and that’s a really valuable trait. I signed him on a free from Rangers before we absolutely trounced League 1 and I’m sure he and his consistently good form are one of the main factors for our progress since. I also signed him for GKS Katowice in Franjo: A Journeyman Story during a season that shook me to my very core and I never want to speak of again. Wilson’s ever-dependable and… Erm… Solid. In the absence of my captain, Tom Aldred, who I just couldn’t find a place for in my squad weirdly enough, vice-captain Wilson is Blackpool’s skipper.


No 4 – Ash Kigbu – Centre Back

Another free signing. As I mentioned before, Blackpool’s finances are absolute arse on a stick, so this is going to be a theme. Kigbu was a great capture though and has been at the club since the Summer of 2017. A Manchester City academy graduate, he’s been at the heart of my defence for 4 seasons now and has recently switched his allegiance to Nigeria and made his deserved international debut.


No 3 – James Husband – Left Back

I signed Husband in the Summer of 2019, before our first season back in the Championship. He’s been a good if slightly underwhelming signing. Brought in from Burnley for a relatively massive £105k fee, his attributes suggested that he’d be one of our star players for years to come, but he’s not hit those heights. He is having a good season though with an average rating of 7.11.


No 10 – Michael Cain – Box to Box Mid

Cain might be the most consistent player we have. He was on loan at Blackpool before I joined and I made sure to sign him when his Leicester contract expired at the end of the first season on account of his good form, which has continued ever since. He’s a decent goalscorer too, notching 28 goals in 6 seasons as we’ve climbed through the pyramid.


No 16 – Jay Fulton – Sitting Mid

Fulton’s another new signing. He let his Rotherham contract run down in the Summer as he fancied getting out of League 1 and so far he’s been a fine player for us. He’s a defensively sound midfielder who’s happy to sit and allow our other more adventurous midfielders to roam forwards.


No 8 – Brad Potts – Ball Winning Mid

Potts and Cain have been running my midfield from day 1. They’re both quite similar players who like to get up and down the pitch, pressing relentlessly and adding some bite into the middle of the park. Like Cain, Potts has been very consistent, with an average rating just above or below 7 every single season. Also like Cain, Potts was here before I was and also like Cain, he’s chipped in with his fair share of goals, scoring 24 in 6 seasons.


No 17 – Kieran Dowell – Attacking Mid

Dowell has been a real difference maker so far in his Blackpool career. I signed him in Summer 2020 after he ran his contract down at Everton, as even once the Toffees dropped into the Championship he still only managed 3 appearances in 2 years. For us though he’s been stellar, setting up 12 goals and scoring twice in his debut season and getting involved in 9 more goals so far this campaign. He really added some creativity and culture to midfield that we’d needed for a good number of years.


No 18 – Danny Philliskirk – Supporting Striker

Philliskirk is another that predates me at Bloomfield Road and has been a regular in my starting lineup for all 6 years, scoring 61 goals and setting up 38 more in 226 appearances. It’s not an outstanding goals per game record, but he’s always been more of a workhorse than an out and out goalscorer. His form has always been consistently fine and he’s adapted to each of the leagues we’ve played in. I like Danny, he’s a good egg.


No 9 – Aiden O’Brien – Striker

Aiden joined in a gargantuan £400k deal in the Summer of 2019. I was taking a bit of a punt as I’d released the ageing and ineffective duo of Joe Garner and Adam Le Fondre on frees and options were thin off the ground. Aiden had just smashed in 12 goals in 20 League 2 games and I hoped he’d be able to manage the step up. The result? He’s been alright. 19 goals in 60 games. Sometimes he steps up and grabs an important goal, sometimes he makes me tear my hair out for weeks on end.



We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience throughout the rest of the squad. You’ve got the likes of Hodson, Higham, Owain “The Impact” Jones and Kyle Dempsey who’ve all been with us for a while and are dependable… Ish… Then you’ve got Charlie “Chadam” Adam and Younes Belhanda, who are the seasoned veterans with questionable physical attributes but unquestionable ability, but then you’ve also got the likes of Dylan Flynn, George Hirst and Stuart Wardle: The young lads with potential. My ones to look out for would be Chadam, Belhanda, Hirst and Wardle. Jones is an impact sub too, so might do well off the bench.



Our tactic in a word is “Bodies”. In defence, our back 4 is joined by our central midfield trio, while the strikers press the opposition defence. In attack, our front 3 is joined by the 2 wing backs and our 2 outer central midfielders, with Dowell the playmaker helping to tie it all together. And we go on the front foot playing swashbuckling football, because of course.

Meet Auxerre 23/24 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 1/6)

Beautiful bastards one and all, they are one of my favourite teams of all time.


Game: FM17

Time In Charge: Just Over 3 Years

Highest League Finish: 6th in Ligue 1 (23/24)

Honours: Ligue 2 Champions (21/22)

Predicted Finish: 4th

FM17 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here

Of course, long time readers will need no introduction to my Auxerre boys, because they’re the team I chose to recreate from my Franjo: A Journeyman Story save! Beautiful bastards one and all, they are one of my favourite teams of all time. We will be following Auxerre’s progress.


Back Story

TLDR: We went from relegation threatened in Ligue 2 to a Europa League finish in Ligue 1 in 3 years.

I joined Auxerre near the end of the 20/21 season after a successful-ish stint in South Africa managing Santos. It was a big step up for me to go from South Africa to France, albeit the second tier, but we were immediately threatened with relegation from Ligue 2. We swerved that bullet in my first 3 games and actually ended up 8 points clear of the drop, so the danger wasn’t as imminent as it had first appeared. After a Summer in which 27 players left the club permanently and 7 joined, including a trusted quartet brought in from Santos, we followed that minor achievement up by topping the bloody league, managing precisely twice the wins and half the defeats as the previous season.

We made things difficult for ourselves in my first Ligue 1 season, losing 7 times and drawing twice in a winless streak that lasted from February to April and sent us spiralling back towards Ligue 2. Luckily we recorded 3 wins in our final 6 games, the last of which included a memorable late goal from my record £500k signing Phil Foden that sealed our safety. I’ve recreated the team from my third and final year in Auxerre, when after a long season of ups and downs we finished 6th in Ligue 1, landing a Europa League qualifying spot. I got pinched by PSG before the second leg so I never got to get us into the group stages, but still. What a 3 years.

Starting Lineup

No 1 – Xavier Lenogue – Goalkeeper

Lovingly dubbed LeGod because of his knack of heroically saving penalties, the Martinique international was quickly promoted from understudy upon my arrival and stayed my number 1 for all 3 seasons.


No 22 – Celsiney – Right Back

An absolutely rapid academy graduate from Brazil, who later chose to represent France. He replaced previous first choice Issa Samba at 16 due to Samba’s lack of form and really never gave the position back. I turned down big money bids from Spurs and Liverpool and he… Eventually went to Toulouse in Ligue 2 after I left.


No 12 – Isaac Sohna – Centre Back

One of the Santos Four and one of only two of them make our starting eleven for the first match. Signed on a free for Santos from his boyhood club in the Cameroonian lower leagues, then signed again when I joined Auxerre, this time for £375k. After initially having to be sent out on loan in Ligue 2, he’s now a Cameroon international and a definite Auxerre starter.


No 5 – Mamadou Doucouré – Centre Back

Brought in 3 times in 3 years, twice on loan and once permanently from Mönchengladbach. All superb signings. Solid defender across the board and in the absence of Auxerre captain Baptiste Aloé from my starting lineup (And because I forgot Hicham Aidir was my vice captain until way too deep into this league), he’ll lead L’AJA out.


No 23 – Bilal “Billy” Souabni – Left Back

Understudy for most of my Auxerre tenure to Faouzi Hikem, who joined Bayern in January 2024, but for a player brought in for absolute pennies, Billy always offered a solid left back option.


No 6 – Lamine Fomba – Box to Box Mid

Not going to lie, Fomba annoyed me when I first joined Auxerre. We were mere points out of the relegation spots in Ligue 2 and for a player who should’ve been the best in the League, he’d had a woeful campaign. I decided to renew his contract beyond the Summer against my better judgement and it paid off in spades. He turned his form around so drastically that he went on to play for my France team and even scored off the bench in our 7-2 demolition of Ukraine in the Euro 24 Quarter Finals. Nailed on Auxerre starter every time.


No 16 – Abdoulaye Sissako – Ball Winning Mid

Abdoulaye’s the kind of player I’ve always loved. Never causes any bother, never complains, rarely has a bad day in training. He ran his heart out, chased til he was sick and he’s another who I very rarely left out. Coincidentally he also went on to score off the bench in that win over Ukraine. Well, coincidence… Nepitism… What’s the difference?


No 8 – Phil Foden – Right Inside Forward

As I mentioned before, Phil was my record signing when we snagged him for £500k. We saved him really as he’d spent the formative part of his career rotting in Man City’s reserves. His attributes may not even remotely compare to how good he’s already become in the real world, but 28 league goals and 24 league assists in 3 years from the right wing speaks for itself. He was a remarkable signing and is one of few players in the Slumberland First Division to have a really detailed face, so you know… That’s nice.


No 10 – Fabian McCarthy – Attacking Mid

The Summer after I signed Phil, I broke my transfer record again to sign Fabian McCarthy, another lad from South Africa who had been playing at one of Santos’ league rivals Ajax Cape Town. £675k was a lot of money for us, even now that we’d reached Ligue 1 and then results were… Mixed. He progressed slowly during our 2 years together and certainly wasn’t awful, but he never took off in the way that I’d hoped. Hopefully he can reach the heights in PES that he couldn’t in FM.


No 7 – Amine Reynier – Left Inside Forward

You may have already guessed that the season after I signed McCarthy… Yup. £3M for Amine Reynier from Lens in Ligue 2. A whopping amount of cash for us to outlay on a player. Again, he didn’t take off for me but we were only together for 6 months and he’s still young. His quality is obvious, so hopefully he can find form too.


No 9 – Hicham Aidir – Striker

All hail Hicham. I don’t really need to say more, but I will. Another player signed when I was in Santos from his local Moroccan team for £40k, Hicham fired in 23 goals in 29 games during his only season in South Africa. He then rejoined me immediately after my arrival in France for £450k. Aside from an extremely unfortunate 22/23 season in which he didn’t score for 5 months, then scored once, then broke his leg and missed the rest of the season, he’s been a phenomenon! If you discount that horrible season, which I do, he’s scored 47 goals in 75 games for Auxerre and 70 goals in 104 games for me overall. Hero.



I think we’re pretty well stocked in terms of depth. Our defence and midfield are all seasoned by a few years of experience, while our attackers are all young and hungry to prove themselves. Absolutely look out for Nathan Andre and Islam Ferhat, both of whom are unlucky to miss out on starting berths.



We will of course play an approximation of Project: Meatloaf, my simple but effective attacking 4-2-3-1 system that’s carried Franjo through most of his career. The plan is this: Win the ball with our battling midfield duo, overlap down the wings, feed Hicham, win.

Something A Little Different (Franjo: Slumberland)

I’ve lovingly but painstakingly recreated 6 teams of mine from 6 different FM saves in PES and I’m going to hold a little league between them.

Afternoon all!

So to get me into writing again so that I’m ready for the return of Franjo: A Journeyman Story, I thought I’d try something a little different. Because I’m aggressively nostalgic for a lot of my FM teams and also because I’ve recently been getting back into Pro Evolution Soccer 20, I’m going to experiment with a bit of a mash up between the 2. I’ve lovingly but painstakingly recreated 6 teams of mine from 6 different FM saves in PES and I’m going to hold a little league between them. Because they’re all essentially from different realities but I still wanted to keep it in-universe for F:AJS, it’s going to be taking place in Franjo’s fevered dreams following the Roma defeat, hence the mini-series’ name Franjo: Slumberland. Here’s more detail:

Slumberland First Division Rules:

  • I will be playing in coach mode, which means that I won’t be doing a sodding thing. The AI will be controlling all of the teams, playing all of the football, making all of the substitutes etc.
  • Matches are half an hour long.
  • Grass length is normal.
  • Weather is random.
  • 6 teams, home and away round robin. 10 matches each, or 30 in total. 1 episode of the story will cover all 3 matches of a game round simultaneously in a live text commentary format, so there’ll be 10 match episodes all in all (Unless a tie breaker is needed).
  • Fixtures have been randomly drawn by a site I found on the internet.
  • 3 points per win, 1 point per draw, 0 points per loss. You know how it goes. Team with highest points at the end wins. If points can’t separate the teams, goal difference will. If goal difference can’t separate them, a tie breaker match will. Why use all this goals scored malarky when we can just have more football?
  • I’ll be releasing introductory episodes for each team over the next 2 weeks, then Match episodes will be coming out every Saturday and Wednesday.
  • Each team contains 23 players, chosen by their ability and/or importance to the team in FM. 12 subs are named for each match but only 3 can be used.
  • Tactics for each team will be as close to their FM tactics as I can make them. The AI will not be allowed to change my tactics or formation, the only thing they’ll control is how attacking/defensive the team is and substitutes.
  • Initial lineups will be my preferred lineups while playing the FM save. If a starting outfield player gets below a 6.0 rating though they’ll be dropped for at least the next match, depending on how well their replacement does. I’ve put this rule in place so that we can change the lineups a bit, introduce more players and add some variety. After some test matches, it seems goalkeepers tend to get rated very poorly for doing very little wrong, so they’ll be exempt from this rule and will only be rotated if I deem it necessary, like if they concede a hat full of goals.
  • Player form will be random every game, hopefully to ensure some unexpected twists and turns.
  • 2 bookings accrued = 1 match suspension. 1 red card (2 yellows) = 2 match suspension. 1 red card (Straight red) = 3 match suspension. If we encounter any injuries I’ll use a random number generator to determine how many games that player will miss.
  • VERY IMPORTANTLY: Because I only have 1 working controller, PES won’t let me host a league in which I’m “in control” of all of the teams, even in coach mode. Therefore, I’m playing friendly matches while maintaining an absolute monster of a spreadsheet to keep track of results, points, goal difference, stats etc. If I say something that you can see doesn’t stack up, I would really appreciate it if you let me know in the comments here or at franjofm23@gmail.com

By the way, I can’t control just 1 of the teams in a tournament on coach mode because I want to be able to make hopefully nice looking highlights packages from all the matches! Now that we’re in a detailed 3D world, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it, so I need them to actually play out on screen so that I can record them. I’ll be making the latest FM save game I have and the exported teams, kits, logos on PES20 available for each team too, so you can load them up and have a look/have a go with them on either game if you like.

I’ll be introducing you to the teams as we get closer to kick off. It’s starting soon. Should be fun!



The Franjo Show (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep216)

I’ve got some demons to exercise.

The State of Franjo (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Meta-sode 216.5)

My Experience With Game Development (So Far)

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 215

I feel powerful since our victory over Monaco. It’s an odd feeling for me to be honest. I’ve made my career for the most part by improving relegation scrappers or lower-midtable teams and trying to secure their futures. Even until now as Paris Saint-Germain manager, I’ve seen us as the underdogs in the title race. It’s Monaco who are the reigning Champions. It’s Monaco who have had a stranglehold on Ligue 1 for the last few years. But suddenly it’s as if a switch has flipped. We’re 6 points clear at the top, we’ve defeated our rivals and the title is now clearly ours to lose. We’re the favourites to win the bloody thing.

I’ve won two domestic league titles in my career: When Sport Clube Angrense romped to the Portuguese Championship undefeated and when Auxerre fought off Bourg-en-Bresse to win Ligue 2. In many ways though this is a completely different proposition to both. Nobody expected Angrense or Auxerre to even be in the conversation for promotion and we certainly didn’t have a team of international all-stars on our books. Everyone knows that Ligue 1 is a two horse race though. Paris Saint-Germain are no surprise package and there’ll be no pity if we lose the advantage we’ve earned so far. This is Paris Saint-Germain and we expect titles. We have 23 matches left to play and we have to keep this form going throughout every single one. We can’t let it slip.

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With that in mind, we need to keep our feet on the ground when we travel to Nice today. Although we’ve been picking up wins, our away performances have been far from convincing lately and underperforming Nice are due a win. With that being said though, I’m making alterations to the team sheet. Yes, we need to keep our league form going but in a few days we have an absolutely crucial Champions League tie against Roma and I want us in top knick for it. A loss in that one would drop us into second place in our group and most likely hand us a tough First Knockout Round and so should be avoided at all costs.

Only Gigi Donnarumma and Philipe Coutinho keep their places from the Monaco game as we make sweeping changes: Lucas and Triponez are in for Marquinhos and Ibarra in defence, Renan and Dobby replace Bologna and Lato as wingbacks and Kovacic and Veiga replace Neves and Éder in central midfield. Young forward Christian Osséré makes his full league debut as Coman’s rested from the right wing, Orlando comes back from injury to replace Cvitanovic on the left and Moise Kean is in for Manuel Bueno. Yes, it’s a second string, but… What a bloody second string, eh?

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We fly out of the traps, winning ourselves a second minute corner that Kovacic takes. The ball’s cleared but given back to the Croatian, who swings another cross in towards the far post. Osséré’s there but the angle’s tight, so he heads it back across goal for Kean, who volleys us ahead. 5 minutes later we have another decent chance when Coutinho plays a nice reverse ball to Orlando, who cuts across the box but miscues his right footed shot, sending the ball trickling wide of the far post.

The action dies down for the majority of the quiet half, but does build momentarily when Nice come forward threateningly with a few minutes to play before the break. Ivanovic squares the ball to Testolini 25 yards out, who dribbles to the edge of the box but lashes his shot over Donnarumma’s goal.

On the hour I make a couple of changes to keep a couple of key players fresh: Coutinho and Kovacic are replaced by Hutka and Éder. Just 6 minutes later we have a good chance when Osséré passes it short to Hutka and the substitute launches a great pass into the left channel for Kean. With almost effortless quality, the Italian takes a single touch to take him free of the pair of chasing defenders into the box and then slots the ball beyond Cardinale into the far bottom corner. A couple of minutes after our second goal, Hutka plays another nice chipped ball towards the left wing and this time Orlando chests it down as he cuts inside. Kean cleverly draws both centre backs to the left side of the area, leaving Orlando with a clear pass to Osséré on the far side. The youngster has a free shot from 8 yards out but can only slam the ball against the post.

With just under 20 minutes to play we’re putting on a show with some nice zipped passes around the edge of the final third. Éder passes to Renan, who spots an opportunity and plays the ball around the Nice left back for Osséré, who puts a low first time cross into the 6 yard box for Kean, who sidefoots it home for his second hat trick in three games. I allow him his own ovation from the fans and give Manuel Bueno a 15 minute run out in which he really should score our fourth: Just minutes later, Orlando wriggles down the left and chips a cross in to the big man 4 yards out, but he heads it clean over. 3-0 it finishes.

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We get a couple of bits of pleasant news over the next couple of days. We draw either Rouais or Fleury, both of whom are lower league teams, at home in the 9th round of the French Cup and then we have a few players in the Team of the Week: Lucas, Silvio Cvitanovic, Moise Kean and pleasingly, Christian Osséré. It’s a shame the lad couldn’t bag a goal but he had a good game nonetheless.

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I’ve been looking forward to this match ever since the draw was made. I’m returning to Rome, the site of my last match as France manager. I’ve got some demons to exercise at the Stadio Olympico and defeating Roma to secure the top spot in Group C would, I think, be a fitting way to return.

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I’ve got a full strength squad to select from, so once again I’m picking a full strength line up. Donnarumma and Coutinho keep their places again and after his last few matches, I think it’d be silly to drop Moise Kean. Aside from those 3 though, it’s all change again. Marquinhos, Ibarra, Bologna, Neves, Lato, Éder, Coman and Cvitanovic all come back in. As he did against Monaco, Éder will take up a slightly more defensive role than usual, but apart from that it’s the classic Project: InSeine formula.

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Again, we start like a blue and red thunderbolt. 13 seconds into the game, Moise Kean chips the ball down the left, Coutinho crosses from the byline and Coman pops up 6 yards out to head us in front. What a start. Before the first 10 minutes are up, the same trio links again too when Kean draws Coly out of his centre back position and slips Coutinho through. Coly’s centre back partner Babic comes across to cover, but the Brazilian magician plays the ball into the space for Coman, who bursts in on goal and wellies it low, but Alisson pulls off a fantastic save to deny us a second. From the resulting corner the ball comes out to Coutinho 20 yards out and he passes to Neves, who lays it off for Kean. I’d back him to score from anywhere given his recent form but his 18 yard strike flashes just wide of the far post.

Then it’s finally Roma’s turn to attack in the 11th minute when Embolo finds Nnam in space just outside our box. He wriggles into a shooting position and drills a shot inches wide. 3 minutes later the end to end action continues. Cvitanovic passes to Kean just inside Roma’s half and the striker jinks through into the final third, but again shoots wide from 25 yards. 2 minutes after that, Salah turns superbly on the left wing, taking Neves and Bologna instantly out of the equation. He whips a cross in, Embolo cushions it down with his head for Muñoz 10 yards out, who places his shot against the foot of the post. It should be 1-1.

We get about 10 minutes to relax after an action packed first quarter of an hour, but then when Cvitanovic curls a cross into a messy penalty area from our corner, Salah unsubtly bats it clear with his hand. The referee points straight to the spot. The unflappable Rúben Neves steps up and places the ball perfectly into the top left corner from 12 yards, giving Alisson absolutely no chance. 2-0 and we’re looking good value to win the group.

Before the half hour a long ball from Ibarra is helped on by Cvitanovic for Kean, who touches it straight through into the box where Coutinho’s waiting in space. He should make it 3 but can only poke his effort against the near post. Straight from the goal kick Roma come back at us through Muñoz, who breaks quickly through our half leaving Neves for dead. He plays it inside for Nnam, who passes it on for Rajkovic but the midfielder is forced out wide by Marquinhos. He does manage to get a cross in from the left byline and Embolo rises at the far post with the goal at his mercy, but whether it’s a pass or a really poor shot, his header goes straight back to Rajkovic, who’s offside. That’s another let off to be fair.

Roma push us again a minute later but we win the ball and break with Cvitanovic. The German playmaker passes to Kean 35 yards from Roma’s goal and he spins past Coly with ease before bearing down on the penalty area, but again he fizzes a shot just wide. I’d really appreciate it if he could remember how to shoot at least until we’ve put this game to bed.

Half time has never been so welcome and I’m glad to put a nervy first half behind us. We hold a 2 goal lead but it’s been anything but convincing. It could be 4-4 if both sides were a bit more clinical. I’m tempted to drop back and try to kill the game, but decide against it. We go back out for the second half unchanged.

Within seconds of the restart, Roma waltz straight through us. Nnam gets the ball out onto the right wing, squares it for Muñoz inside the area and the striker shoots low but is denied by Éder’s outstretched leg. Call it knee-jerk, but fuck this. We immediately drop back to a counter attacking 4-2-3-1, featuring Éder and Neves as a deeper defensive midfield duo. The full backs will actually play as full backs instead of inverted wing backs and we’ll have our front 4 waiting to break down the flanks when possible.

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By the 54th minute, we’re under siege. Instead of making us more solid, all my changes seem to have done is invite Roma onto us. Pérez plays the ball out to Karsdorp on the right wing and the full back fizzes a vicious low cross diagonally into the box. Rajkovic, kept marginally onside by Toni Lato, arrives to blast the ball past our stranded goalkeeper. 5 minutes later, a Muñoz corner is flicked on by Nnam, left in acres of space by his marker Marquinhos at the near post. It drifts across the goalmouth and falls to Embolo, who nods his side level.

Bollocks. I may have made a mistake. We go hastily back to Project: InSeine and the fresh and pacy Darcílio comes on replacing Cvitanovic, with Coutinho moving to the number 10 position. I also bring on Manuel Bueno for the uncharacteristically wasteful Moise Kean and we’ll try and play a bit more direct up to him.

With 25 minutes to go, Haksabanovic plays a one-two with Rajkovic and then squares the ball to Muñoz, who has all the space in the world thanks to Ibarra’s lax marking. In torturous slow motion, he draws back his boot on the edge of the box and places a shot into the far bottom corner. Roma 3 – 2 PSG.

A few minutes later we finally come up for air after seemingly being trapped in our own half for over 20 minutes. Éder plays the ball over the top for Darcílio to run onto on the left and he tears to the byline before sliding a pass into the 6 yard box. Bueno arrives… BUENO SURELY… Blasts it against the underside of the bar and away. I think I see where this is going. For the last 17 minutes I bring off Lato, who’s had a disastrous match thanks to Roma’s ruthless attacking movement down the flanks. Lucas comes on to replace him and we go on the attack. We need at least a point because as it stands we’re finishing behind Roma.

In the final few minutes, Lucas is on the attack in the final third but is dispossessed by Karsdorp, who plays it straight down the line for Muñoz, who’s waiting on the halfway line. He sprints through our half, dodges Ibarra’s slide tackle, ghosts past Neves and reaches the right byline, where he plants a superb cross straight on Embolo’s forehead. We all know where the ball’s going. Sure enough, right into the top corner. After an even first half, we have been pulverised 2-4.

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Did you ever see The Truman Show? You know, the one where Jim Carrey is living in an artificial World, unknowingly the star of a Worldwide phenomenon television show based on his everyday life? At moments like this I wonder momentarily whether I’m the unwitting star of The Franjo Show. My players are all actors who have this week been given the brief of “Get a couple of goals, then crumble, so he gets all annoyed and goes one of those rants. Really crush his dreams, that’ll boost our ratings.” It’s a silly thought really because a day like today doesn’t need to be manufactured for a television show. It doesn’t need to be carefully crafted by Ed Harris as he broods himself silly in a studio somewhere wearing a stupid little beret, because sometimes, for no reason at all, life will just shit on you. Sometimes you can stem the tide. As powerful as I felt beforehand as much as it seemed like everything was falling into place for our season, my game management was poor today. By falling back too far too soon I allowed Roma the freedom of the pitch and let them build up a head of steam. I failed to stem the tide and that’s on me, but overall I still very much feel shat on.

So we’ve finished 2nd in our Champions League Group and we’ll take our medicine. We’ll almost certainly face a much stronger opponent in the next round than we would have as Champions, but we’ll pick ourselves up out of this shit, brush ourselves off… Probably hose ourselves down and give it everything. Good morning, Champions League Knockout Stage. And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.

Oh and seriously, fuck Rome.

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Meta-sode 216.5

Franjo v Enrique: Round 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep215)

Surely we won’t get a better chance to beat them all season.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 214

“Hey Boss,” Says Paris Saint-Germain captain and Brazilian international centre back Marquinhos, striding into my office with a cheeky grin, “How many AS Monaco footballers does it take to change a lightbulb?” I look up from my desk and eye him cautiously.

“Go on.”

“Five. Do you know why?”

“No.” I admit.

“Because AS Monaco footballers are idiots.” With that, Paris Saint-Germain captain and Brazilian international centre back Marquinhos throws his head back and howls with laughter. I watch him do so stoney-faced, simultaneously parsing his words in a desperate attempt to find some missed deeper meaning and wondering if I’d ever been this far away from wanting to laugh. After a moment, I come to the conclusions that A) there isn’t one and B) Maybe when I lost Meatloaf and Burnie, although it’s close.

“Right.” I say, as he wipes a tear from his eye.

“It’s good, yes? I have decided that I want to be the joker of the pack!” He stammers, still laughing.


“The joker of the pack.” He repeats, straightening up. “I want to make the team laugh with my funny jokes. For example, have you ever heard the one about the successful AS Monaco footballer?” He’s giggling before he even finishes the question.


“Me neither!” He roars, literally doubling up with a fresh wave of laughter.

“It’s better.” I begrudgingly concede. “Still not great though, is it? I mean Monaco have won Ligue 1 three years in-”

“Or here’s one! Here’s one!” Marquinhos steamrolls ahead with gusto. “Tell me knock knock.”

“You want… Ok. Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?” He grins.

“Well I don’t bloody know, do I?”

“Say ‘An AS Monaco footballer’.” He whispers.

“Ok. An AS Monac-”

“Eww go away, AS Monaco Footballer! I don’t want to see you!” He shouts, dramatically recoiling and plugging his nose before yet another baffling laughing fit.

“Good stuff,” I humour him with a kind smile. “And you’re going to be doing… This… A lot going forwards, are you?”

“Yes, I will be dropping by regularly with more funny jokes, I imagine.” He beams.

“Excellent.” I nod. “Unless I sell you first, eh?”

“Ah Boss, you would never sell me!” He heads for the door. “I just convinced Silvio Cvitanovic not to move to Chelsea! He and I and my funny, funny jokes are here to stay.” And with that, Paris Saint-Germain captain and Brazilian international centre back Marquinhos steps out of my office, letting the door swing shut behind him. Fantastic.

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Marquinhos does pop up a couple of times in the build up to our trip to Guingamp with more jokes, although I’ll spare you the details. All I’ll say is that his dislike of AS Monaco is intensifying as we get closer to what will be a crucial match in the title race. As I say though, before that match we’ve got one against Guingamp to think about.

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Marquinhos doesn’t travel for the Sunday tie, partially because he could do with a rest before the big game on Wednesday and partially because by this point I just need a fucking break, but the good news is that his compatriot Orlando has overcome his pesky calf strain and is fit enough for the bench. Guingamp are a poor side and are currently sat precariously above the relegation zone, but we can’t afford to rest too many players. As excellent a start to the season as we’ve had, I’m still not entirely convinced by our ability to kick down a door that’s been shut in our face. Guingamp, with their deep, compact 4-2-3-1, are a closed door. Éder is suspended, so the more attack-minded Kovacic replaces him, while Bologna returns to the starting line up ahead of Renan. Otherwise we’re unchanged.

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The closed door draws first blood just 4 minutes in when Serban crosses low from the left for Pavlovic, who isn’t marked tightly enough by Triponez and makes us pay for it by stroking the ball into the far corner of the net. Much of the half is played on the home side’s tight and scrappy terms, but we eventually draw level 5 minutes before the break when Bueno fires a pass down the left ahead of Coutinho, who keeps the ball from going out of play and floats a cross to the far post, where Coman volleys it in.

Our celebrations last under a minute however, because we switch off and are punished from kick off. Djuricic chips a quick pass into the right channel for Pavlovic, who bring the ball down well and half-volleys into the bottom corner to put Guingamp back in front. But still hellbent on not being behind at half time, PSG reply under 2 minutes later. This time Coman sprints down the right wing and curls cross from a deep position. It’s perfectly aimed towards Manuel Bueno on the edge of the 6 yard box and the big Spaniard tucks in another equaliser.

Rúben Neves comes off at the break because of his tired legs and the booking he’s picked up in the first half. Kovacic will drop back into the deep lying playmaker role while Cvitanovic comes on to play as a central midfield roamer. The Germany captain vindicates his inclusion within 5 minutes of the second half too, curling a 20 yard free kick into the top corner to put us into the league for the first time.

The rest of the match is a bit quiet, with Guingamp reluctant to leave their defensive shape and chase the lead. I bring Orlando on for Veiga for the last half hour to attempt to stretch their defence, but to no avail. They actually nearly level the scores in the 91st minute, but when Himeno chips a cross in from the right wing, Lefeuvre can only head the ball against the foot of the near post. It’s an uncomfortable 3 points, but it’s 3 points that really piles the pressure onto our next opponents and that’ll do for me.

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Before our midweek showdown though, we do get a bit of distracting news. After beating Spain and qualifying from our EIL group, England have drawn European Champions Portugal in the Semi-Finals in June. It’ll be a tough ask to take on Gelson and co, but I have to fancy our chances of an upset.

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But there’ll be time for that. For now it’s Paris Saint-Germain v AS Monaco. 1st v 2nd. Franjo v Enrique: Round 2. Monaco can move level on points with us if they win and they can move top if they win by 5 goals or more. Obviously I’d really rather that doesn’t happen. If we win, we can go 6 entire points clear at the top. I know it’s still early days as far as the title’s concerned, but that’d be a hell of a boost to our chances.

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I’m going full strength for obvious reasons. Out comes Kovacic for the more defensive Éder, out comes Veiga for the more influential Cvitanovic and out come Triponez and Lucas for Ibarra and Marquinhos, who got shouted down by his teammates mid-doctor-doctor-joke during training this morning. Ibarra’s given strict instructions to stay tight to Vinícius Júnior as the lone striker is one of Monaco’s main threats. Bernardo Silva will also need to be watched but the good news is that again, Kylian Mbappé misses out through injury. Surely we won’t get a better chance to beat them all season.

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10 minutes in, we break down the right hand side, creating the first good chance of the match. Coman races down the line from our third to Monaco’s byline leaving Chiesa and Theo Hernández choking on dust in his wake. He chips a cross in, Fabinho heads it clear to the edge of the box where Cvitanovic lurks. He catches it perfectly with his laces on the half volley and bloody leathers it into the top corner of Audero’s net. It’s definitely too early to celebrate, but fuck it. I allow myself a fistpump. Before my hand even returns to my side though, we win possession from kick off, Bologna plays the ball out to Coman, the superb Frenchman swings a cross to the far post and Bueno heads the ball back across goal and in. I half-laugh as my players sprint to congratulate the target man in the corner of the pitch. Ever since I joined PSG, my every other thought has been of Monaco. That we’d need to play them, beat them in matches and over the course of the campaign. I’ve had one eye on this match for nearly 4 months and within 11 minutes we’re 2-0 up and cruising.

5 minutes later it should be 3. Cvitanovic this time chips the ball over the top of the defence, commencing a race between Bueno and Fabinho which the former wins at a canter. Bueno takes a touch inside the box and shoots from a narrow angle, but Audero stretches out a hand to claw the ball behind. Just before the break we’re pegged back when Tolisso chips the ball forwards for Silva, who chests it down and shoots low. Gigi beats it back into danger and Marquinhos gets to the loose ball first, but his clearance is mishit and only goes as far as Chiesa, who slots it into the bottom corner.

The second half is low quality, but I’m fine with that. Orlando comes on for Coutinho to give us more pace on the break and Bernardo has a 35 yard potshot caught by Gigi on the hour, but as the half goes on we grow more and more comfortable. With 20 minutes to play I decide to shut up shop. We drop to a defensive 4-1-4-1 with the energetic Moise Kean replacing the tiring Manuel Bueno.

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Kean has a potshot of his own in the dying moments of the match, but as I say, the half is really poor quality. Neither side has a clear cut chance or even a decent one. We see the match out at 2-1 and open up a 6 point lead at the top of Ligue 1. I said after our last encounter with Enrique’s men that the league is my priority and I stand right by that. We’ve not lost a league match yet and if we can beat the reigning champions, why on Earth should we lose one all season? Hand me my trusty grey coat and get a message to the boys in Hero Creek: Fuck Monaco and Fuck the title. Old Franjo’s going for a second invincible season.

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Episode 216 >

Allez Paris! (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep214)

It’s hypnotic, it’s mesmerising, it’s beautiful and fucking hell it might be my favourite goal ever.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 213

It’s really obscene, some of the things you start to take for granted as manager of Paris Saint-Germain, you know. International players for example. I’ve already spoken about how far we’ve come from the days of getting overly excited about Lassina Touré nearly playing for Burkina Faso to now having a squad full of World-renowned talent, but over the break Alon Keren made his debut for Israel. When the news broke, I had what I’m sure is the same question you have: Who the fuck is Alon Keren?

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Well I’m telling a bit of a porky really, because of course I know Alon. He was in our first team when I arrived in Paris but was quickly moved to the reserves and I’ve barely heard his name since. My point still stands though, which is that even Paris Saint-Germain’s reserve players, who are quite frankly nowhere near the first team, are considered sufficient quality to play international football. To be fair, Alon’s only so far away because we have so many attacking midfielders, which I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned. I almost feel ashamed to have such depth at my disposal though, as if I’m hoarding an army of wasted talent from the rest of the world. And you know that somewhere in the Israeli leagues there’s a Yossi Benayoun-esque journeyman midfielder playing 40 first team matches per season and fuming his tits off that he’s been beaten to a cap by a lad playing for a big club’s reserves. Anyway I suppose my point is… Good job, Alon.

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In other international break related news, Boris Triponez came back nursing a broken nose that he picked up during Switzerland’s match against Sweden and will be out for a couple of weeks, while Orlando, who was very stubbornly not selected for the Brazil squad by Argel Fucks, picked up a calf strain in training and is also out for a short spell.

Orlando made the last Team of the Week after we beat Stade Rennais 4-3, along with Matteo Kovacic, whose Croatia side gave me a headache and Silvio Cvitanovic, who’s come back from Germany absolutely knackered. We’ve also drawn Guingamp in what should hopefully be a straightforward Coupe de la Ligue fourth round tie.

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So with a crucial Champions League match against København just days away, what do we do about Ajaccio? On paper it’s another straightforward tie: We should sweep a probable relegation battling team aside, especially with home advantage, but with Orlando and Triponez out, Ricardo Ibarra suspended and Cvitanovic blowimg out of his arse, we’re going to have to make some decisions. I want a full strength side at full fitness against the Danes as we could qualify from our group with a win. You could even say that I’d be willing to play a second string against Ajaccio and risk sacrificing 3 points in the league to achieve that. Just to add an extra spice though, Monaco have just lost their first Ligue 1 match of the season against Lyon and so the top spot is ours for the taking. I’d take a scrappy win.

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Although we’re resting some players, we’ve still got a strong lineup: Donnarumma starts in net with Marquinhos and Lucas in defence, Renan and Lato are our wingbacks, Neves and Éder are in central midfield and Coman, Veiga, Coutinho and Bueno are our front 4. Ajaccio look like they’re set up to frustrate and to grind out a clean sheet. Allez, Paris.

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13 minutes in, Éder plays the ball to Veiga and sets off sprinting towards the box, but the Spanish playmaker spins and attempts to loft a ball over the top for Coman to run onto. Padovano rises to head the ball clear but only as far as Éder, who brings the ball down expertly just outside the box and drills it into the bottom corner to open his PSG account. Good lad.

Almost quarter of an hour later, Renan breaks up a rare Ajaccio foray into our half by winning the ball from Vasseur and hoofing it down the line for Coman to chase. Coman leaves Padovano in his dust, sprints to the byline, pulls the ball across and Bueno slides in to knock in our second.

Before the match, I said that a scrappy win would do. Well, at half time I bring on Dobby, Hutka and Osséré so that Lato, Neves and Coman can have a bit of a rest, after which… Fuck all happens. The match makes for grim viewing, but all that matters is that another 3 points lifts us clear at the top of Ligue 1.

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Quite annoyingly, Rodolfo Chao goes and picks up a bruised shin in the buildup to the København match. Seeing as he’s not actually registered for Ligue 1 it would be handy to have him available for our Champions League ties, but to be fair we do have a lot of other options available ahead of him. Elsewhere, our unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 stretches to 20 matches and Éder makes Team of the Week alongside Auxerre’s Amine Reynier. My two biggest signings have had a good week.

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The ideal scenario for our next match is that we win and Roma lose. Currently we’re tied for first place in the group on 7 points apiece and I’d rather we put ourselves firmly in the driving seat at the top before we have to face them in the final game of the group stage.

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For København’s visit we’re making just 2 changes: Marquinhos is short on fitness and so makes way for Triponez, while Silvio Cvitanovic replaces Veiga. I was also going to bring Kovacic in for Éder, but as the Brazilian picked up a booking against Ajaccio he’s now banned for our next match against Guingamp, so I may as well swap Kovacic in for that one instead. Ibarra and Darcílio both join the bench.

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The first 20 minutes of the match is disappointing. We’re having a lot of possession but our passes into the final third are woefully inaccurate. We need to pass to feet to work the ball through the visitors’ half more effectively. 7 minutes from half time however we get our first chance and in blatant disregard for my tactical instructions, Cvitanovic chips the ball down the left for Coutinho to run onto. Coutinho crosses for Manuel Bueno, who volleys the ball low and hard into the net to open the scoring.

Here’s a strange one: When I get into the changing room at half time, the team’s in good spirits. They’re relieved and happy and Bueno’s getting pats on his big balding head from everyone in reach. However despite the fact that he’s put us in front, I feel like he’s holding us back. Yes he got on the end of a cross, but during our build up play he’s being absolutely dominated and is losing the ball every time it’s played to him. Ignoring his look of dismay, I tell Manuel he won’t be going back onto the pitch for the second half. Moise Kean will be coming on instead as a deep lying forward. The opposition centre backs looked quite comfortable marking our static target man, but Kean will be dropping into space, moving into channels and giving them a bit more to think about.

We restart for the second half and Kean instantly makes a difference, giving the rest of the team a more mobile target who they can spring into space. Approaching the hour, a particularly good ball from Kingsley Coman is fired into the right channel and Kean beats the offside trap, latches onto the pass, sprints into the box and drills our second under Radu’s flailing body. God, I’m good. Kean’s not bad either.

A shot’s soon fired across the bows of my ego though when the Danes put together a good move: Thomsen passes to Kishna, who slips the ball into the channel for Benali, who shoots just inches wide of the near post. I make a few subs shortly afterwards, with Kovacic and Darcílio replacing Neves and Cvitanovic. Kovacic moves into Éder’s role while the Brazilian drops back to protect the defence and Darcílio goes out onto the left wing, allowing Coutinho to move behind the striker.

With 15 minutes to go we’re looking good value for the win and nearly get a third goal when Kovacic’s corner is cleared and given back to him by Darcílio. Kovacic crosses again, Varela tries to head the ball clear but only succeeds in flicking it on across goal and Moise Kean arrives to head it low against the foot of the post.

5 minutes later we put together a really fantastic move. It starts when Éder slides in perfectly on Benali to win us possession and Lucas takes over, passing to Triponez who then plays it to Lato on the left. The Spanish left back dribbles to the halfway line and passes it to Darcílio, who cuts in from the byline, surges past 2 København players and gives the ball to Coutinho. Coutinho plays it straight to Kovacic, who carries it into the final third and plays a one-two with Coman before digging his foot under the ball and chipping it into the box. Moise Kean chests it down on the turn, jinks past the outrushing Radu and rolls the ball into the empty net. It’s hypnotic, it’s mesmerising, it’s beautiful and fucking hell it might be my favourite goal ever. 3-0.

The visitors continue to offer very little going forwards. 7 minutes from time, Benali tries a really optimistic potshot from the right wing and hits the side netting. From the goal kick, we build another attack: Lato winds up with the ball in a deep position on the left wing, swings a cross in, Kean leaps to beat Radu in the air and guides his header into the net. The substitute’s hat trick is completed. Game over.

A couple of minutes later, Strand’s hoofed ball bounces over our back line and Gigi Donnarumma rushes out of his area to meet it, but Benali beats him to it, takes a touch to go round our keeper and slots in a consolation goal. It would’ve been nice to come away from such an impressive win with a clean sheet, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ve turned up in the second half playing attractive and effective football and we’ve largely got Moise Kean to thank. What a performance.

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Elsewhere, Roma drew with Sevilla. This means that we’re out of reach of third placed Sevilla and have qualified from our group. Obviously that was expected and not doing so would’ve been seen as a complete failure, but I’m happy nonetheless that we’ve managed it with a game to spare. It also means that a draw from our final match against Roma will clinch us the top spot and a more favourable First Knockout Round matchup. Allez Paris!

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Episode 215 >

The Nuevo Mestalla Showdown (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep213)

I fear that I may have brought this on myself.

Side note: I’m off on holiday so won’t be posting. See you in a couple of weeks!

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“Franjo?” A reporter near the front raises her hand and I nod for her to continue. “What would you say to the claims that you’re slowly eroding the quality of this England side?” I blink, momentarily taken aback, but quickly put on a composed facade.

“I’ve not really heard those claims.” I reply slowly. “Could you elaborate?”

“Well,” She continues, “Some are pointing towards the fact that you seem to be building around a core of Championship and lower Premier League players, players not proven at the top level and players like Phil Jones whose better days are behind them. You’re also playing an awful lot of them out of their natural positions.” I pause for a moment, parsing the criticism.

“Phil Jones has won 2 Serie A titles in the last 3 seasons.” I say coldly.

“As a centre back.” Another journalist pipes up. “And he’s 32, shouldn’t we be looking towards the future?”

“We are!” I laugh in disbelief. “But they’re apparently too young, so I’m not sure what you want.” I force myself to remain calm, but the dam that holds back the dyke of my 3 decades of international frustration is bulging and straining with the effort of it. “Was Teddy Sheringham too old at 36 when he scored against Greece and got us to the World Cup in 2002? Was Wayne Rooney too young when he broke into the England team at 17? Was he too immature and inexperienced when he was running rings around international defenders in 04 and 06?”

“Probably.” Says the first journalist bluntly. “He stamped on Ricardo Carvalho.”

“Look, there’s no magic formula for this, you know. I’ve been England manager for 3 months and I’m casting a wide net. Yes, that includes some Championship footballers that have impressed me. Yes, that includes some young players who I think can lead us into the future and yes that includes Phil Jones. In Midfield. Any more questions?” The first journalist smiles as she begins scribbling away in her notepad, but nobody speaks. “Right. Cheers.”

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Jordan Pickford (Sunderland), Jack Butland (Arsenal), Will Mannion (Norwich City)

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John Stones (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Real Madrid), Juddy Lokando (Manchester City), Louis Winterton (Southampton), Harry Winks (West Bromwich Albion), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Real Sociedad on loan from Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Charlie Taylor (Swansea City)

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Eric Dier, Dele Alli (Both Tottenham Hotspur), Reece Oxford (Watford), Jordan O’Halloran (Stoke City), Jack Willis (Arsenal), Stuart Coleman (Manchester United), Phil Jones (AC Milan), Adam Bell (Leicester City)

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Oliver Webb (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Real Madrid), Frank Udeh (Middlesborough) 

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I’ve made a few changes for England’s matches against Croatia and Spain and if I’m honest, they’ve been met with some bemusement. The first is in defence, where I’ve chosen to swap out Mason Holgate for his uncapped Southampton teammate Louis Winterton. Holgate’s a fine player and like Winterton he’s in good form, but the way I reason it, there isn’t much difference in ability between the two, Louis has actually been playing at centre back as oppose to Mason, who plays right back for his club and Louis is 7 years younger. It’s really a no brainer. Louis can also play in midfield, which you might think I would utilise given my recent trend of playing centre backs as ball winners, but for me he’s a back liner. He’s not tenacious or aggressive enough to play the midfield role I want.

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My second change is the inclusion of Arsenal’s Jack Willis ahead of Bournemouth’s Ed Salmon in the box-to-box role. I like Ed and I have absolutely no doubt that he’ll be back in the England team in time, but his form’s been sliding in the Championship and Jack deserves a chance to impress having had a decent start to the season. He’ll be celebrating the second anniversary of his first and only cap under Eddie Howe in two days time and although he doesn’t exactly scream “World Class” to me, he’s a good player, a good worker and I reckon he’ll fit in fine.

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The third change really pains me. Over the last year I’ve gawped at Eddie Howe’s ridiculous decision to overlook Jobel in his England squads while the Stoke City man topped all the Premier League goalscoring charts. 3 months into my England reign he’s managed 4 goals in 12 appearances and I just can’t justify his inclusion. His replacement is the uncapped Frank Udeh, who was unlucky to be kept out of my last squad by Jobel’s decent form and Harry Kane’s return from injury, but now I have space to give another striker a look and he’s next in the queue. Frank’s had a decent couple of seasons in the Championship on loan at Millwall and Wolves from Arsenal, in which time he made 93 appearances and scored 41 goals. After his £7M summer switch to Middlesborough though he’s been on fire, scoring 8 in his first 14 games and positioning the Boro in a relatively comfortable 2nd place.

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Just while we’re on strikers, David Crammond is the man who was left out of my last squad to facilitate Harry Kane’s inclusion but he’s nowhere near breaking back in after a horrible few months. The striker somewhat justifiably feels that he’s outgrown West Ham but made the eyerollingly poor decision to throw his toys out of the pram and demand a move that never came. Now he’s found himself in what I like to call “The Berahino Zone”, where he’s unhappy with the club, the club are unhappy with him and his form is reflecting it. 2 goals in 10 is not good enough, Davey boy. Also he’s sprained his ankle, just to pile on the misery. And speaking of players nowhere near this squad, Lewis Cook is still not playing for City. The pair of them are really good players and I wish I had a reason to include them, but between them they’re earning almost £300k per week, so maybe I’m the one making poor life decisions.

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To warm us up for our final EIL match away at Pep’s place, we’re travelling to Zagreb to take on one of Euro 24’s most laughably poor sides, Croatia. After watching them over the Summer I do expect us to win, but we can’t overlook Mateo Kovacic, who’s been excellent for my PSG side. As it’s a friendly I’ll also be experimenting a bit with personnel, giving some of my “first choice” side a bit of a rest before the Spain game.

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Let’s talk about keepers for a second, actually. Jordan Pickford’s starting this match and unless he cocks up monumentally, he’ll start against Spain too as he’s my first choice. To be perfectly honest though, I’m not happy with any of the goalkeepers in my squad. Pickford and Butland are both decent but prone to flappy hand syndrome, while Mannion seems fine but will never grow into an international starter. We need fresh blood but I just don’t know where it’s going to come from. There are a few good young keepers playing in the reserves of Premier League teams but until their clubs give them a chance I’m certainly not going to. We’ll keep an eye on that.

Ahead of Pickford, Louis Winterton makes his debut alongside our experienced vice-captain John Stones, Reece Oxford is ahead of them as the half back, while TAA and Shaw are going to be the wing backs. Jordan O’Halloran starts with Stu Coleman in midfield, with Abel playing just behind Oliver Webb and debutant Frank Udeh.

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We push Croatia back with some nice football in the opening minutes and our first chance comes when Webb spreads the ball out to the left wing, Shaw heads it into the box and Udeh gets a header on goal, but he can’t find enough power and the effort’s caught by Maric.

After quarter of an hour, Croatia have their first go when Damjanovic surges onto the left wing from a central position and drills what I think is a cross against the near post. To be fair, Pickford had it covered anyway. A minute later, Damjanovic cuts in from the right but is dispossessed by a perfect Coleman slide tackle, sending the ball sliding away across the turf towards our box. Krovinovic picks up the loose ball, finds a yard of space ahead of Stones and places a shot into the top left corner to give the Croatians the lead.

10 minutes on, Udeh tees a shot up perfectly for Stuart Coleman, who lashes the ball straight down the middle from the edge of the box, forcing Maric to push it behind for a corner, which comes to nothing. On the half hour, Croatian dangerman Vlasic runs at our defence and shoots low and hard towards the corner, but Pickford, in true Pickford style, pulls off an excellent fingertip save and parries the ball right back into danger in the 6 yard box. Luckily Winterton’s there to clear our lines.

Croatia frustrate us for the remainder of the first half and for the majority of the second. On the hour I bring Rashford on for Webb, in the 75th minute we go all out attack and with just 10 minutes to go, we make a rare formation change to a 4-2-3-1. Jack Willis and Harry Kane come on replacing Coleman and Oxford as we pile more and more players forward in search of the equaliser.

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We enter injury time still thoroughly frustrated and Harry Kane even picks up a gash on his head, which I hope won’t keep him out of the next match. For now, he’s bandaged up and plays on but it takes us until the 93rd minute to create our next good chance. John Stones plays a long ball forward into the right channel, it bounces over the defence, Rashford brings it down and powers it low past Maric to finally get us back onto level pegging.

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I’ll take that. Not exactly a vintage performance but a late goal is always a confidence booster and there were definitely some positives. Winterton for example had a really good debut… Actually no, that’s about it.

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Now this is a very interesting development.

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While we were busy playing out a forgettable draw against Croatia, Austria were doing us a hell of a favour in the European International League, beating Pep’s Spain 2-1. I assumed that Spain would win and would sit on top of our group on 9 points going into the final match and in doing so, I made an ass out of you and me. Weirdly the shock result doesn’t actually change the context of our match at all though. If Spain were on 9 points, we’d have to beat them in more convincing fashion than they beat us to go to the top of the league and qualify for the Semi-Finals in the Summer. Now though, we’re both on 6 points and we… Need to beat them anyway. If it came down to goal difference a draw would do as we’re doing 6 goals better, but it doesn’t, so it wouldn’t. I am hoping though that losing to the group’s whipping boys will put a dent in Spain’s confidence, which we can take advantage of.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece Oxford and Abel are all coming out of the side to make way for Harry Winks, Eric Dier and Dele Alli, who quite frankly I just trust more. I’m also bringing Frank Udeh out and although Harry Kane’s gashed head has healed up quite nicely, I’m going to start Marcus Rashford ahead of him. Rashford’s been one of our better players under my regime and I think he and Webb are probably our best attacking configuration. The final change is at the back, where Louis Winterton is coming out to be hesitantly replaced by Juddy Lokando. Winterton had a good debut and Lokando made a couple of mistakes in the home tie against the Spaniards that really cost us, but I can’t hold it against him. He’s probably our best defensive prospect going forwards so I have to just trust that he’s learned from that match and put it behind him. Tactically I’m making a little tweak in midfield, with Coleman given a more defensive ball winning role so that Spain can’t break on us through the space we often granted them in the middle last time.

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As I step out onto the Nuevo Mestalla touchline, Guardiola appears by my side and claps a hand around my shoulders. “Good luck, my friend and may the best team win.” He smiles. I don’t. It’s time to take your medicine, Josep.

The action begins immediately as Spain barrel through our half and win a corner. Isco swings it in but the ball’s cleared and we counter through Marcus Rashford, who surges dangerously through Spain’s half and lets fly from the edge of the box, sending his shot just wide of the far post. In the 5th minute Isco finds himself in space on the left wing and gets a cross in. Lokando and Pickford both come to claim it but the keeper misjudges the flight of the ball and it’s Lokando that gets to it, rising well to head it clear. The defender’s header gets as far as the edge of the box however and with Pickford still in no man’s land, Pérez takes the opportunity to smash a volley over his head and put Spain into the lead. The corner of my mouth twitches. That was so poor by our number 1. Change is needed.

In the 13th minute we put a lovely move together. Alli sprays the ball out to Winks on the right wing, who holds it up for a second before playing it around the corner to meet the run of Ollie Webb. Webb takes a touch, fizzes a low cross towards the 6 yard box and Dele Alli Arrives to tuck in the equaliser. This is more like it.

2 minutes later we win a corner and Webb goes across to take it. He swings the ball in, it’s headed back out and Alli nods it back out to Webb, who whips a cross in towards the near post… Where Juddy Lokando glances a header across goal and in. I punch the air fiercely as Juddy wheels away to celebrate his first international goal, but then I have to move quickly to restrain Rui Faria, who’s shouting unwritable things towards the home dugout. 2-1 England.

Just a minute after we take the lead however, Spain put together a good move of their own. Isco squares the ball inside from the right and Ramos has all the time in the World to slide it into the path of Pérez inside the box. Pérez cuts it back for Grimaldo, who also has acres of space to send a shot pinballing through the crowd of bodies and into the net. 2-2. The breathless start to the match continues when Rashford slips Alli through straight from kick off, but De Gea keeps the Spurs man’s shot out at his near post. We round off the first half with another chance when Rashford cuts in from the right wing while we counter a failed Spanish attack. Rashford plays it into the channel for Webb, who blasts it left footed and just misses the near post.

The second half starts in a similar vein to the first, with Ramos speeding down the left wing just 5 minutes in and hanging a cross up at the far post for Isco, who heads against the post from point blank range. It’s probably just as well for the sake of mine and Pep’s health that the match calms down a bit after that chance though. The next big chance doesn’t come until the 68th minute when Stuart Coleman wins possession in our box with another perfect slide tackle and Alli punts the ball forward to start a counter attack. Ollie Webb takes it down near the centre circle and curls a great pass over Spain’s defence for Rashford to run onto. The Madrid man has the beating of the defenders and runs through on goal as De Gea rushes out to meet him. Rashford dinks it low… AND IN AT THE FAR POST.

“Come on!” I scream, as my mind races to think of something slightly more constructive to do. “Charlie, Michael…” I gesture over to Taylor and Keane on the bench and signal for them to warm up. We’ll try to soak up pressure for the remaining 20 minutes, with Taylor coming on as a winger capable of tracking back and Keane coming on as a more defensive alternative to winks on the right of defence. We still have plenty of pace that we can use to hit them on the break, so we shouldn’t invite too much pressure onto ourselves.

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2 minutes later, Alli fires a weak shot at De Gea, who catches the ball and begins a period of immense Spanish pressure in our half. First Pablo lifts the ball over our defence for Villalibre, who lets it bounce and then half-volleys towards Pickford’s top corner, but the keeper uses his black-cat-like reflexes to tip the ball behind at full stretch. From the corner, the ball’s worked around our box and ends up with Pedro Javier, who drives a low shot which Pickford also turns behind with an excellent diving save. Good lad, Jordan.

5 minutes later, Pablo plays a beautiful, flat diagonal ahead of Lirola on the right wing. Lirola crosses it towards the penalty spot and Villalibre executes a perfect volley, rifling the ball into the back of the net before Pickford can even move. I fear that I may have brought this on myself, but not to worry. We hastily backpedal to the original plan of Project: Pride and introduce TAA in place of Luke Shaw. We now have Trent at right wing back, Taylor at left wing back and Michael Keane in central midfield, making him the 4th centre back I’ve subjected to this mad but fairly successful experiment in the space of 3 months.

With 7 minutes to play and with Spain back at the top of the EIL Division A Group 3 table, Isco finds space on the edge of our box and tries his luck from 25 yards, but it’s easy for Jordan Pickford to catch and he launches the ball up field as he so often does. Webb nods the ball on and Rashford brings it down, then fires it back in front of Webb on the right wing as the travelling fans roar encouragement for the striking pair. Red and white bodies are tearing through the Spanish half in equal measure, determined to either halt or help the developing attack, but they’re all ignored as Webb surges down the right, reaches the byline and pulls it back into the box for RASHFORD!

Pandemonium. Absolute fucking pandemonium as Marcus Rashford nearly takes the net off from 6 yards. People are jumping up on their seats, bottles are being thrown, shirts are coming off… And that’s just in our dugout. Not yet ready to join in the celebrations, I glance over to Pep, who’s stood on the touchline with his half on his chin, blankly staring over towards the Spanish goal. We pull back to our defensive 4-1-4-1 and eventually, after each remaining minute drags on for at least half an hour, we see the game out. We’ve bloody done it. We’ve won the pivotal game in a complete reversal of our previous match up.

My winless record against Josep Guardiola has been ended, Saint George’s cross has been flying throughout, the three lions have been thumped and kissed, Lokando has been vindicated, Rashford has been ruthless and Oliver Webb has just earned himself a mention in my fucking will. The inexperienced players, the out-of-position players, the Championship players, the players past their prime; They’ve all played their part in one way or another in this Group Stage.

So for the love of God, somebody hand me my vindication blanket afore I freeze amidst the icy glares of the tabloid press and while you’re it, hand Mr Guardiola a notebook and a pen, for he must be reminded and he must take note: That, sir, is how you win a fucking league.

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Episode 214 >

F*cks Off, Franjo! (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep212)

It’s taxing on the brain, you know; Being a man of the World.

Sidenote: Friday’s episode will be coming out Saturday instead. I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to write when this series eventually ends so excitedly researching and planning for that has eaten most of my week! Back on schedule next week.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 211

Bechkoura chortles over the morning paper. “You’re in here again. Have you seen the headline Le Monde’s gone with?” He asks, pushing the publication towards me. I glance down.

F*cks Off, Franjo!

“Charming.” I grin. I start to read the article aloud. “Argel F*cks has hit out aggressively at Paris Saint-Germain boss WT Franjo after he urged Brazil’s head coach to… What’s this word? Rec… Reconnaître-”

“Recognise. How long have you been in France now?”

“To recognise Orlando’s recent form and call him up to his latest squad. F*cks reportedly said that Franjo’s hands were full enough already and he should concentrate on picking his own teams. Blimey. Do they really have to censor his na-”

“I’m serious.” Bechkoura cuts in with a smirk. “You’ve been here for over 3 years and you’re not exactly fluent in French, are you?”

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“Well give me a break, will you? I’ve got all sorts rattling around up there nowadays! It gets confusing! Swedish, Portuguese-”

“Oh, learned a lot of Swedish in those 6 weeks did you?” His smirk grows wider.

Portuguese,” I reiterate, “Polish… Even a bit of German from the Liechtenstein days. It’s taxing on the brain, you know; Being a man of the World. You wouldn’t understand. How come you speak such good English?”

“Because I had to learn! You and Crouch were in at Auxerre and I had to learn to keep up. I had to pander to you English like the rest of the World always does.”

“Pander’s a good word. Good vocab.” I give him a thumbs up. He scowls back at me as if I’ve missed his point.

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You know what I’d love today? A bit of bloody payback for the thumping we received from Sevilla a few weeks ago. We’re in decent form now with 2 wins on the bounce and Dobby, Kovacic and Orlando are all deservedly included in Ligue 1’s Team of the Week. Kovacic and Orlando especially have had a magnificent couple of matches and if they recreate that form in the Champions League, we should be laughing.

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In other news, Rodolfo Borrell has finally caught up with me after watching Brahim Ferhat for what gelt like a full 6 months in Auxerre. He was in the crowd for our win over Rennes and is apparently interested in Marquinhos, our club captain who’s only just starting his season. If I have to say this any more the words are going to start lose meaning, so please Rodolfo, take the hint and jog the fuck on.

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We’ve pretty much got a full squad to pick from now. The only man that won’t be fit for this one is Manuel Bueno, who twisted his knee in the dying moments of the Rennes match and is out for about a week. He comes out of the side, as do Renan, Dobby and Coutinho who I want to rest. Bologna, Lato, Cvitanovic and Kean are all in.

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Our 2 in-form midfielders combine to create a chance in the 14th minute when our cleared corner leaves the ball with Orlando on the right hand side of the box. The winger, who we’ll assume will not be winning his first cap over the upcoming break, floats a cross to the back stick and Kovacic has to leap to stop the ball going out for a goal kick, instead sending it looping off his head, back across goal and clipping the top of the bar. 5 minutes later, Moise Kean holds the ball up 25 yards out and spins to slip Orlando through on the left. Orlando looks up from the byline and fizzes a low cross into the 6 yard box, where Dani Bologna of all people arrives to bundle home his first goal of the season.

A few minutes after the opener and with blood in the water, my Parisian sharks are circling. This time Cvitanovic switches the ball expertly to the left wing, where Orlando drives for the byline like he does and crosses for Kean, who turns a header over the bar from inside the 6 yard box. A disappointing end to a good move. In the 26th minute a patient bit of Sevilla play ends with a bit of a whimper as Youri Tielemans chips a pass into our left channel and Bologna easily beats García to it. The goalscorer’s touch takes him into our box though and in a breakdown of communication, fellow Italian Gigi Donnarumma comes charging out to boot the ball clear. Bologna does it first, leaving our keeper in no mans land and when Dani’s poor clearance is volleyed straight back into danger by Pozo, Abba merely has to wriggle free of Ibarra and nod the ball into the empty net to equalise. Excellent.

Just after the half hour, Toni Lato makes the exact same mistake, winning the ball from Pozo and playing a really awful clearance straight to García on the opposite wing, midway into our half. García passes inside to Tielemans, who plays it forward to Óliver and a quick round-the-corner pass later, Abba should put Sevilla ahead but thankfully blazes his shot wide of the near post. What’s happened to my sharks? Why is it suddenly our blood in the water and why are Sevilla so pissing frustrating to play against? I call Marquinhos over to take instructions to the rest of the team: Keep it on the floor, lower the tempo, stop giving them the bloody ball 30 yards out.

1-1 is still the scoreline when we get the second half underway. Orlando shows another little flash of brilliance in the 52nd minute, jinking across the width of Sevilla’s box and doing well to create a pocket of space, but then shooting with his weaker right foot straight into Zoet’s arms. A few minutes later though the action’s back down at our end: Óliver swings a corner to the far side of the box and Kurt Zouma rises above both Ibarra and Marquinhos to head the ball back across, where Abba chests it down and Pozo lashes it in on the volley from 6 yards, completing the Spaniards’ turnaround.

We nearly find the equaliser straight from kick off when Kean latches onto a zipped Kovacic pass, but he drags his effort well wide from inside the box. I’ve seen quite enough of our ineffectiveness for one day so decide to shake things up: Éder comes on for Orlando and we go to a narrow, attacking 2-3-2-1-2. Essentially a midfield diamond with overlapping wingbacks. We’ll focus down the middle, trying to overwhelm the visitors with high tempo, direct football. Coman plays as a second striker, joining Kean, who I think will be glad of a striking partner after a quiet few games on his own.

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So close! 5 minutes after the changes, Toni Lato hooks a cross in from the left wing, Kean brings it down coolly at the near post and squares for Coman just outside the 6 yard box. The winger shoots but is denied by a tremendous last ditch tackle from Popescu that deflects the ball wide. With 13 minutes to go and time running out to even salvage a point from what was meant to be Sevilla’s brutal retribution, I throw massive winger Rodolfo Chao on in place of Moise Kean as a makeshift target man. I already really miss Bueno.

We enter the final 10 minutes playing the ball patiently around Sevilla’s half but don’t look too threatening, that is until Neves plays the ball to Germany captain Silvio Cvitanovic, who spins on the spot 35 yards out and fires a pass out ahead of Bologna, who has space to move into. Bologna brings the ball down and into the box with his first touch and strokes it into the far corner of the net with his second, sending a wave of relief rippling over me. Dani Bologna is just about the unlikeliest hero we could have had today. Well played, you brilliant bastard.

We drop off slightly after equalising as at this point I’m ready to take the draw, but we go oh so close to a winner when Coman releases fellow makeshift striker Chao in the left channel. The Argentinian charges into the box and shoots from a tight angle, but can only hit the near post.

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I’ll be honest, that’s really annoying. What could have been a nice straightforward win very nearly turned into a loss because of a couple of mistakes. Bologna redeemed himself pretty well but there’s no doubt that his poor clearance directly lead to Sevilla’s first goal, while Kurt Zouma beating both of my centre backs in the air from a set piece is downright unforgivable. We’ll be doing extra set piece training this week.