International football begins after a winter break and I receive a whole host of U21 and U19 call-ups:
Of the 41 called up, only Catalin Rentea can be considered a first team regular, although Metodi Spasov had a run in the first team others have had made a few appearances, mainly in Cup competitions.
We host 16th-placed Sheffield Wednesday at St. James Park in a mid-week fixture. One change is made from the game against Burnley as Jagos Vukovic returns in place of Daniel Berger. With that being the only change, three players reach milestones; Gennaro Riccardi makes his 25th league appearance for the club, Michele Marconi makes his 175th career league appearance and Dacian Varga makes his 300th career league appearance. 8,714 turn up, including the Bristol City manager (Gordon Strachan) who is rumoured to be interested in Jonny Hayes and Dacian Varga. In the 12th minute, Savolainen (one of my former players) plays in Trajkovski, but Sean Morrison is tracking back and gets to the ball ahead of him. However, Morrison only gets to the ball first by sliding in and unfortunately knocks it past Jonathan Bond and into the net. Bertin Matip picks up the first booking of the game in the 24th minute when he fouls O’Connor. Two minutes later, Jonny Hayes tests Flinders from 25 yards, but Flinders is equal to it and tips it over. Michel shoots from 29 yards three minutes later, but it goes wide. Bradley Johnson joins Matip in the book in the 36th minute after a foul. My former player, Savolainen, is in the action again in the 37th minute, this time injuring Michel who is replaced by Manuel Gavilan. Gavilan is quickly into the action and in stoppage time he plays in Varga, but Flinders tips over to keep Sheffield Wednesday in the lead.
Hayes starts the second half with real purpose as he runs from the halfway line in the 50th minute, but only shoots tamely at Flinders. Gavilan may be a striker, but he’s playing well in the Number 10 position and in the 52nd minute, he slides in Marconi, who finishes from 18 yards to level the score. Except the linesman has his flag up. Marconi is fractionally offside and it’s ruled out. Sheffield Wednesday pick up a couple of quick yellow cards with Williams fouling Hayes in the 53rd minute and Savolainen fouling Gavilan in the 57th minute. Two minutes after being fouled by Savolainen, Gavilan shoots from 20 minutes, but Flinders pushes it over the bar. One minute later, Bond is called into action and pushes a Trajovski shot from 12 yards around the post. The 67th minute sees Gavilan pass to Varga, who makes no mistake from 18 yards. Well, he makes one mistake and that’s being offside – the linesman’s flag is up again. Eight minutes later, Gavilan is pulling the strings again, playing in Varga again. I check the linesman and his flag is down. Varga is 8 yards out. Varga rolls it under Flinders and… it’s wide. With five minutes left, an inswinging Federico Cenci free-kick is dropped by Flinders and cleared back to Cenci; he plays in Marconi, who can only shoot tamely at Flinders from 8 yards. Sheffield Wednesday hold on John-Baptiste is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.4. We remain in 5th, but it’s a tough defeat to take as they scored through an own goal and only had one other chance of any real note, whilst we controlled much of the game, but couldn’t finish it (at least not without straying offside).
The physio reports on Michel and he’s suffering from bruised ribs, which is likely to keep him out for 6-8 days. Meanwhile, 22nd-placed Swansea decide that it’s the time to act and sack Frans Adelaar. Danny Swanson of Norwich City speaks with the media and declares that he wants to leave and for me to sign him. After all the U21 and U19 call-ups, two of my players receive senior side call-ups – Bradley Johnson and Jonathan Bond for USA and Wales respectively.