Growing the Grecians #107 – The Grecian Gazette 03/12/17

Read my column in The Grecian Gazette after our trip to Watford. Read my column

Growing the Grecians #106 – Saturday afternoon’s alright for fighting

Re-read Growing the Grecians #105.

We move on from a somewhat disappointing late point and are on the road again.

Date: Saturday 2nd December 2017
Opponent: Watford (6th) Find out how we do against Watford

Growing the Grecians #105 – The Grecian Gazette 26/11/17

Following our game against Wigan, I penned my regular column for The Grecian Gazette. Read my column

Growing the Grecians #104 – It had better be a D(raw) or W(in)

Re-read Growing the Grecians #103.

Ten days after a fairly insipid display against Everton, we run out in front of our fans again. Everyone is expecting a better performance and result.

Date: Saturday 25th November 2017
Opponent: Wigan Athletic (20th) Read on to find out how we do against Wigan

Growing the Grecians #99 – The Grecian Gazette 29/10/17

My latest column in The Grecian Gazette after our game against Sunderland.

Read Growing the Grecians #100.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #98 – But this ground goes up to 12 (k)

Re-read Growing the Grecians #97.

A seven-goal thriller was the final game at St. James Park before the expansion work was completed. Would the first game with the increased capacity bring such excitement?

Date: Saturday 28th October 2017
Opponent: Sunderland (9th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=11/5, Draw-11/5, Sunderland=Evens
Weather: Dry, 9C
Referee: Mr. Alan Beck
Exeter City lineup:

Sunderland lineup:

As well as it being the first game at the expanded St. James Park, Jagos Vukovic makes his 125th career league appearance for the club. He’s been a stalwart at the back since joining us.

Thirteen minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu. Breu passes back. Cenci instantly shoots low from 10 yards and…

a diving Gordon pushes the ball around the post for a corner.

It’s not a game full of end to end excitement. Thirty one minutes in, Cenci crosses from the left and the ball falls to Breu. He’s 8 yards and steadies himself. The steadying gives Paolo Andre the chance to get back and slide in, taking the ball off his toe at the expense of a corner.

Two minutes later, we win a free kick 30 yards out. Instead of electing to shoot, Cenci passes to Bradley Johnson. He’s 25 yards out and unmarked, but shoots first time, low and hard…

It’s his first goal of the season. He’s evidently been saving it for the increased capacity!

Nothing further happens in the first half and Sunderland look to change things up at half time in an attempt to get into the game.

The 57th minute sees Sunderland have their first chance of note. Vossen is 20 yards out and shoots, but it’s safely over the bar.

Johnson finds himself 20 yards out in the 62nd minute. He’s got the taste and shoots again…

forcing a magnificent diving save from Gordon and we win a corner. Before it’s taken, Sunderland make their second change.

Five minutes later, Sunderland make their final change in an effort to rescue something from the game.

The change sees a chance a minute later. Johnson is 20 yards out again. He’s already had success shooting low, does it again and…

it’s straight at Gordon, who make a comfortable save.

Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book in the 73rd minute for a foul on Breu. Two minutes later, Ilica Perak is 25 yards out. He shoots. He…

fires just over the crossbar.

With seven minutes to go, Ortigoza takes a free kick from the left. Djuricic is 4 yards out at the far post and heads in, drawing the visitors level. They haven’t really deserved it, but we haven’t really threatened enough to make the game safe.

With four minutes to go, Ortigoza enters Mr. Beck’s book for a foul on Cenci. Four minutes later, Cenci has evidently recovered. He plays in Jonny Hayes who is 10 yards out. He goes to pull the trigger, but Paolo Andre is alert and slides in to take the ball off his foot.

He’s put it past Gordon and surely scored the deciding goal! Plenty of late drama to mark the opening of the expanded stadium! Before Sunderland kick off, I make a change.

It’s a defensive move as Marcel Hrubesch will play deeper. We see the game out and the larger crowd head home happy.

Result:

Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (6.9), Byrne (6.9), Ake (7.0), Vukovic (7.0), Riccardi (6.8), Perak (6.9), Matip (6.9), Johnson (8.1, G, sub 90), Hayes (7.3), Cenci (9.0, 2A), Breu (6.8). Sub-Hrubesch (on 90)
Attendance: 12,714
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

The increased capacity at St. James Park sees us set a record for gate receipts of £275,000.

Federico Cenci and Bradley Johnson get named in the Premier League Team of the Week.

Wrexham offer to loan Abraham Leggett for a month and he makes the switch. Yeovil Town would like Niklas Christensen on loan for a month and he agrees to spend time there. Crawley Town offer to extend Nicky Holmes’ loan spell by three months and all parties agree to the extension. I also receive and offer from Aldershot to extend Aaron Walker’s loan spell by three months, which I accept. Meanwhile, Bruno Pierrat returns from his loan spell at Carlisle United.

There’s good news on the injury front as Lubomir Zapotoka resumes full training.

Queens Park Rangers sack Julian De Guzman. The media make me the favourite to take over at Loftus Road and ask me about my interest. I tell them that I have no interest in taking the job.

Federico Cenci comes third in the Player of the Month award. For Young Player of the Month, Rainer Breu comes in second place and Bertin Matip rounds out the top three. The League One Young Player of the Month award sees Josef Neckar, on loan at Reading, claim second place.

Read Growing the Grecians #99.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #97 – The Grecian Gazette 22/10/17

My latest column in The Grecian Gazette following our home fixture against Aston Villa.

Read Growing the Grecians #98.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #96 – Moving up the Match of the Day order

Re-read Growing the Grecians #95.

We return to action after the shock result before the international break.

Date: Saturday 21st October 2017
Opponent: Aston Villa (13th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Aston Villa=13/8
Weather: Drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
Exeter City Lineup:

Aston Villa Lineup:

Bertin Matip makes his 75th career league appearance. Three minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu; he turns and fires low from 12 yards out. Loach dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes just wide of the post. Three minutes later, an inswinging Matip corner is met at the near post by Cenci. He heads downwards. Unlike Breu, he’s able to get his effort on target. However, a diving Agbonlahor header clears the ball off the line and keeps the scores level.

19 minutes in and Johansson passes to Agbonlahor. He’s 12 yards out and, like Breu, elects to shoot low. Amos dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes in and the visitors take the lead.

We look to hit straight back. One minute later, Cenci snaps a shot from 12 yards, but it’s straight at Loach who holds on to the ball. The 22nd minute sees Fabio Mora cross from the right. It gets deflected. To Cenci. 12 yards out. He makes no mistake, firing a low, powerful shot past Loach for his 5th goal of the season.

Cenci’s evidently got the taste and goes looking for more. Three minutes later, he’s 25 yards out and lets fly, but it’s no danger to Loach’s goal as it soars well over the crossbar.

Aston Villa go close to retaking the lead in the 31st minute when Agbonlahor crosses from the left; Kovacic meets it 10 yards out and hits the post, with Nathan Ake on hand to remove the danger. We go close to taking the lead in the 35th minute when Breu shoots from 20 yards. Loach saves on his line.

A goal before half time seems inevitable and it comes in the 40th minute. Muamba hits a free kick down the middle and Agbonlahor flicks on. The defence watches Amos come out, but no-one has gone with Bent, who gets to the ball first and finishes from 8 yards out. A straight free kick and no-one tracking a runner is a disappointing way to concede, especially with half time so close.

Whilst Villa’s second goal is disappointing, their third goal is outstanding. It comes two minutes later. Ku Ja-Cheol is 25 yards out and curls an effort into the top corner, putting Villa in complete control.

My half time words seem to have little impact and Villa start the second half the stronger of the two sides. Agbonlahor shoots wide from 16 yards in the 48th minute. Three minutes later, he’s 12 yards out and fires into the roof of the net, extending Villa’s lead further. Things are starting to get embarrassing now…

I make a straight swap substitution in the 53rd minute:

With little happening, I make another like-for-like substitution in the 62nd minute:

Aston Villa make a change of their own in the 67th minute:

With 74 minutes on the clock, Breu cuts the ball back from the right byeline. It reaches the penalty spot, where Cenci volleys in his 2nd of the game (and 6th of the season) for what can only be a consolation goal.

Aston Villa make two changes before restarting the game:

I make my final substitution a minute later, moving to a more defensive formation as I look to ensure our goal difference gets no worse:

Agbonlahor comes close to ruining this plan in the 79th minute when he hits the post from 8 yards. With three minutes to go, he enters Mr. Stroud’s book for a foul on Ilica Perak.

We win a corner in the 89th minute. Matip takes an outswinging corner and Breu flicks the ball on at the near post. It reaches Ake at the far post. He’s two yards out. He heads the ball. He scores! His first goal for the club! Surely we can’t snatch a draw…

The first minute of stoppage time sees Bent hit a ferocious shot from 16 yards as he looks to secure the points for Villa. Amos makes a wonderful save, diverting the ball behind for a corner. Kovacic shoots from 18 yards a minute later and Amos parries the ball. Although we clear the ball, it’s enough for all three points to head to the West Midlands.

Result:

Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (5.9), Mora (6.7, A), Ake, 7.2, G), Vukovic (5.6), Riccardi (6.3), Matip (6.9), Johnson (5.9, sub 62), Hayes (5.7, sub 53), Michel (6.6, sub 74), Cenci (9.2, 2G), Breu (7.3, 2A). Subs-Gazzoli (6.9, on 53), Norwood (6.9, on 62), Perak (6.9, on 74).
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

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Cenci’s two-goal stormer sees him make the Premier League Team of the Week.

Fabio Mora goes down with the flu and will be out for 5-7 days whilst he recovers. That means my top two right backs are out for our next game.

Kevin Bjerkestrand moves to Hereford United on loan for one month after an offer is made and all parties agree. I receive loan extension offers for Erik Stage and Bruno Pierrat from Yeovil Town and Carlisle United respectively. I agree to both; Stage agrees, but Pierrat rejects.

Our stadium expansion is completed and we will have an extra 4,000 seats for our next home match. We’ll have a five figure attendance!

Read Growing the Grecians #97.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #95 – The Grecian Gazette 8/10/2017

My post-match interview with The Grecian Gazette after our visit to the City of Manchester Stadium:

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Read Growing the Grecians #96.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #94 – You can’t please all of the people all of the time

Re-read Growing the Grecians #93.

A win last time out against QPR was a welcome boost and our first win in front of our fans in the league. Hopefully it will be a nice boost and we’ll see if we can record back-to-back wins…

Date: Saturday 7th October 2017
Opponent: Manchester City (1st)
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium
Odds: Manchester City=1/6, Draw=5/1, Exeter City=10/1
Weather: Drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Andre Marriner

Ok, maybe back-to-back wins is asking a bit much as we’ve got arguably our toughest test to date, but it’s nice to dream. It would be the most amazing way to mark Jagos Vukovic’s 250th career league appearance and Jonny Hayes’ 125th league appearance for us! I tweak our tactics, electing to counter attack and play more directly.

Unsurprisingly, we’re defending straight from kick off. And I mean straight from kick off. Manchester City attack from the start, Nathan Ake brings down Nangis and Mr. Marriner produces a yellow card. A centre back on a booking with just 89 minutes left; what could go wrong???? It certainly doesn’t make our task any easier.

Manchester City create their first clear chance in the 7th minute when Isimat-Mirin heads towards goal from 10 yards out. It’s close to Ben Amos and he tips over the bar for a corner.

Federico Cenci picks up his seemingly customary yellow card in the 14th minute for a foul on Savic. Two players booked within the opening quarter of an hour away against one of the league’s potent attacks is not how I’d have hoped things would be going. Still, at least they haven’t scored.

Spoke too soon. Two minutes later, Ayew picks the ball up on the right wing, runs all the way across to the left side of our area, gets into it and shoots low from 12 yards into the net, with the ball going underneath Amos’ arm. A tackle or two along the way would have been nice, but it would probably have led to a third yellow card if we were lucky or Ake being dismissed if we weren’t.

It does seem to have acted as a bit of a wake up though and two minutes after conceding, Rainer Breu shoots from 20 yards. It’s a low effort and Hart saves it comfortably, but at least we’ve got to the right end of the pitch and shown that we can fleetingly cause them problems.

However, our effort seems to have the same effect as poking a bear with a stick. Nangis shoots just wide from 12 yards in the 22nd minute. One minute later, Kompany fires wide from 16 yards out. A minute after that, Ayew finds Nangis 12 yards out. As he did two minutes earlier, he shoots wide. It looks like a matter of time before there’s another goal.

Three minutes later, there’s another goal. It’s from a Kompany pass. A loose pass that Breu picks up and shoots from 18 yards, beating the dive from Hart to find the bottom corner and record his 4th goal of the season to draw us level – we’ll take that! The stadium is stunned into silence. Apart from a section going crazy.

It’s not just the crowd who seem stunned and Manchester City take a few minutes to get going again. Hazard shoots from 12 yards in the 37th minute, but has the same directional problems as Nangis from that distance. Isimat-Mirin earns a yellow card in the 39th minute for a foul on Breu – it seems we’ve got them rattled.

The important thing is that having drawn level, we hold on until half time. In stoppage time, the ball falls to Aguero. He’s 12 yards out. I can think of plenty of other players who I would prefer to see shooting against us from 12 yards out on the stroke of half time. Actually, no I can’t – he shoots wide and we go into the break with the scores level.

We start the second half as we started the first – a booking. This time, Fabio Mora enters Mr. Marriner’s book for fouling Hazard. Ten minutes later, a cross from the right finds Hazard 8 yards out. He hits an absolute thunderbolt that crashes off the bar before we clear to safety.

In the 57th minute, Nangis gets the wrong side of Ake and collects a ball over the top. Ake has already been booked, so any kind of a challenge is going to be fraught with danger. Nangis runs for 20 yards and elects to shoot from 18 yards, but fires harmlessly over the bar.

Rainer Breu is forced to go off injured in the 62nd minute and I bring on Adriano Gazzoli as his replacement. Gazzoli goes to the right wing, Hayes moves across to the left wing and Cenci plays as our striker.

Hazard takes an outswinging corner in the 67th minute. Defensively, it seems as though we’ve decided that Aguero 8 yards out doesn’t need marking. Unsurprisingly, a free header by Aguero from 8 yards out is on target. Thankfully, one of our defenders has stayed switched on – Gennaro Riccardi is manning the near post and he puts the ball behind for another corner, which we defend much better.

With 16 minutes to go, Aguero tries his luck from 25 yards, but is unable to get his shot on target. Three minutes later, he is able to get a shot on target from 18 yards out. Amos gets down quickly and makes a save, with Ake completing the clearance. Before the throw in can be taken, Bradley Johnson replaces Oliver Norwood, with the ex-Manchester United man coming on to a crescendo of boos.

In the third minute of stoppage time, I bring on Michel for Federico Cenci. It’s partly to ensure he doesn’t pick up a second yellow card, partly to play with no striker (Michel comes on as an attacking midfielder), but mainly to try and run the clock down.

We’re five minutes into stoppage time. I’m pointing frantically at my watch. Aguero is 30 yards out on the left hand side. He looks up. There’s few options ahead of him. He hits a wickedly curling shot. It’s a magnificent effort. The only thing that’s better than the shot is the save from Amos. A full length dive and he pushes it round the post for a corner. We defend the corner and Mr. Marriner finally blows his whistle for full time.

Result:

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Man of the Match: Ayew
Ratings: GK-Amos (7.0), DR-Mora (6.9, booked), DCR-Ake (7.2, booked), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Olivier (6.8), MCR-Matip (6.9), MCL-Johnson (6.9, sub 77), AMR-Hayes (6.9), AML-Cenci (5.9, booked, sub 90), ST-Breu (7.2, G, sub 62). Subs-Gazzoli (6.4, on 62), Norwood (on 77), Michel (on 90). Unused-Mello, Jenkins, Byrne, Hrubesch.
Attendance: 46,531
League Position: 12th
Match Stats:

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Charlie Howard, the spokesman for the fans, indicates that the fans are slightly concerned following our 1-1 draw at Manchester City. I accept it wasn’t pretty and we rode our luck, but considering we were 10/1 underdogs (and 5/1 to even get a draw), I’d say they should be pretty pleased that we’re travelling back to Devon with a point against the league leaders.

On the injury front, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that Ilica Perak and Alain Besse resume full training. The bad news is that Regis Olivier pulls his hamstring and will be out for 3-4 weeks.

There’s plenty of activity in the loan market. Burnley offer to loan Jon Rune Svendsen for 3 months; all parties agree and he moves. Aaron Walker joins Aldershot on loan for a month after an offer is accepted by all. We welcome back Adolfo Mannino from loan at Chesterfield. He barely has a chance to put his bags down before Rochdale offer to loan him for a month. I accept, so does he and he’s on his way. At least packing should have been easy! AFC Wimbledon would like Chris Hjort on loan for a month. I accept the offer, but he’s not keen and rejects it. Luton would like Nathan Holland on loan for a month. I agree and he also agrees to the temporary switch. Damien Lambert is the subject of a month-long loan offer from Oxford United and he makes the move after all parties agree.

Wrexham offer to extend the loan spell of Valery Tamitu for the 3 months – all parties agree and he’ll stay there until the New Year. Doncaster Rovers would like to extend Kevin Bjerkestrand’s loan by three months. I agree, but he rejects the extension. We also receive a three month loan extension offer from Crawley for Michel Krejcik and he’s happy to stay there.

I also make a couple of new signings on free transfers. @AshTheNeon is unlikely to be surprised by the nationality of our new signings:

Niclas Lindegaard (ST)

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Rune Poulsen (DM/MC)

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Read Growing the Grecians #95.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #93 – The Grecian Gazette 1/10/17

My post match thoughts following our Premier League game against QPR.

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Grecian Gazette

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Read Growing the Grecians #94.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #92 – Big returns

Re-read Growing the Grecians #91.

After the squad players got a run out in the League Cup against Spurs, the regular starters return for an important match. Obviously the Premier League brings exciting games for us against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea et al, but the real big games for us are against the teams who are likely to be battling to avoid relegation.

Date: Saturday 30th September 2017
Opponent: Queens Park Rangers (19th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Queens Park Rangers=7/4
Weather: Wet, 13C
Referee: Mr. Lee Mason

Ten minutes in, Cox plays the ball over the top of our defence. They turn and chase, but Himcinschi was already running forwards and gets to the ball first. He shoots from 8 yards out. Ben Amos dives. He gets a firm hand to the ball and puts it behind for a corner.

On the quarter hour mark, Mutesa brings down Lubomir Zapotoka. Mr. Mason blows his whistle and comes running over, brandishing a yellow card to the retreating Mutesa. Whilst Mutesa is retreating, Zapotoka is still down. The physio comes running on and it soon signalling to the bench that a change is needed. I send on Fabio Mora as his replacement, which sees him make his first league appearance for the club. With the change completed, Bertin Matip stands over the ball on the right to take the free kick. Matip whips the free kick in. It hits Federico Cenci, heads goalwards and rolls under Woods. It’s in! His 4th goal of the season. He certainly didn’t mean it and has definitely scored better goals, but they all count. Perfect punishment for QPR for injuring Zapotoka.

We continue to probe and press, looking to extend our lead. In the 29th minute, Bradley Johnson plays a killer through ball. It’s a race between Michel and Woods for who will get to it first. If it’s Michel, the lead will double. If it’s Woods, the danger for QPR will be gone. First to the ball is… Woods.

Mr. Mason takes Brecko’s name in the 35th minute for a foul on Cenci. Four minutes later, Whelan takes an outswinging corner. It’s deep and reaches the far post. The head of Addison, 6 yards out, meets the ball and draws QPR level. After having had the best of the half, it’s disappointing to concede. Especially from a set piece.

We look to hit straight back. Two minutes after conceding, Cenci plays in Rainer Breu. He’s 12 yards out and hits the ball goalwards. Woods is forced into action and concedes a corner. The last action of the half is in stoppage time, with Jonny Hayes picking up a booking for a foul on Bennett.

I rally the troops at half time as I feel that this is a game we can win. Eight minutes into the second half, we win a free kick 20 yards out. The challenge with a free kick so close is getting the ball up and down in time. Cenci steps up. It’s up. It’s down. It’s on target. It’s in Woods’ hands. He looks to get a counter attack started, but we win the ball back. The ball ends up with Hayes. He passes to Breu, who is 8 yards out. Unfortunately, he’s leaning back and his shot goes harmlessly over the bar.

In the 64th minute, Brecko fouls Cenci. The crowd are chanting for his dismissal. It’s just a free kick. Two minutes later, Brecko brings down Gennaro Riccardi. Again, the crowd chant for his dismissal. As before, Mr. Mason is happy to just award a free kick.

In the 70th minute, Matip takes an inswinging corner. QPR meet it at the near post and clear from the danger zone. It’s only a half clearance and reaches the edge of the area. Johnson is lurking on the edge of the area. He runs on to the clearance and fires an absolute bullet from 18 yards. It whistles just wide.

With fourteen minutes to go, Cenci runs down the left and crosses. It’s every defender’s nightmare – a low cross along the 6 yards box. Any touch could divert it in. It reaches the far post. Hayes is there and he scores his 1st goal of the season from 2 yards.

Hayes is replaced two minutes after giving us the lead, with David Bentley his replacement. Hayes is experienced, but I’m looking for the extra experience that Bentley will bring as we hopefully close the game out and claim three points. I also bring on Regis Olivier for Michel in the 90th minute, sacrificing my attacking midfielder for a defensive midfielder. It has the desired effect, with Johnson having a shot in stoppage time that Woods catches.

Result:

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QPR

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Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (6.8, sub 18), DCR-Ake (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (6.9), MCR-Matip (6.9, A), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (7.4, G, booked, sub 78), AMC-Michel (6.9, sub 90), AML-Cenci (7.6, G), ST-Breu (6.9). Subs-Mora (6.9, on 18), Bentley (on 78), Olivier (on 90). Unused-Mello, Byrne, Norwood, Hrubesch.
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 12th
Match Stats:

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QPR

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The physio reports on Lubomir Zapotoka and it’s not good news. He will be out for 5-6 weeks with a sprained ankle.

There’s plenty of activity in the loan market. Carlisle United offer to loan Bruno Pierrat for a month, Yeovil Town offer to loan Erik Stage for a month, Crawley Town offer to loan Nicky Holmes for a month and Millwall offer to loan Arnaud Aubert for a month. I accept all offers and all the players make the temporary switch. Rochdale offer to extend the loan of Jon Rune Svendsen for three months; I accept, but he rejects and returns from his loan spell. Chesterfield offer to extend the loan of Adolfo Mannino for three months, whilst Brentford offer to extend Dariusz Lenartowski’s loan for three months. I agree to both extensions; Lenartowski agrees, but Mannino rejects.

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I sign Swiss midfielder Ermin Jakirovic on a free transfer. As with most of my signings, he’s one for the future. However, he may get a run out in the FA Cup.

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It’s just as well I’ve signed him as Oliver Norwood is unhappy about playing second fiddle to Bradley Johnson and hands in a transfer request. I reluctantly accept.

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September

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There’s also an award for Busao, who is on loan at Hereford United – he wins League 1 Young Player of the Month.

Read Growing the Grecians #93.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #91 – The Grecian Gazette 27/09/2017

My post-match thoughts in The Grecian Gazette following our League Cup game against Spurs:

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Read Growing the Grecians #92.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #90 – All change

Re-read Growing the Grecians #89.

It’s the return of the League Cup for us following our dull and disappointing performance against Blackpool. And in Round 3, we will play…

Date: Tuesday 26th September 2017
Opponent: Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=11/5, Tottenham Hotspur=Evens
Weather: Dry, 11C
Referee: Mr. Howard Webb

It’s the League Cup, so it’s a completely changed XI that takes to the field. It’s obviously going to take the players a little bit of time to gel and Spurs have early pressure without creating anything. Witsel limps off in the 9th minute for the visitors.

Although Spurs have had the better of the opening exchanges, we have the first chance of note. It comes in the 25th minute. David Bentley is 20 yards out and elects to shoot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t catch it cleanly and it’s a tame effort that Pantilimon saves with ease. Pantilimon gets Spurs moving and Ideye gets played in. He shoots and Carmine Mello makes a smart save at the expense of a corner.

We win a corner 10 minutes before half time. Spurs win the ball and counter down the right. Djalma crosses and it gets deflected. To the feet of Gutierrez. He shoots from 18 yards and puts the visitors in the lead.

Ideye is given the chance to double the lead in the 41st minute. The ball is with Pjanic and he spots Ideye. He plays a perfect pass. Ideye is 10 yards out, but makes an even worse contact than Bentley did earlier. The shot dribbles across the face of the goal and limps over the line for a goal kick.

I look to rally the troops at half time, hoping we can put a bit of pressure on Spurs. I’m looking for an early goal in the second half. It’s just what I get. Two minutes into the half and an effort from 2 yards goes in. Sadly, it’s to double the lead, with Winters the man on hand to turn in Djalma’s cross from the left. Wijnaldum is only denied by the crossbar in the 52nd minute as Spurs look to put the game to bed. Mick Byrne completes the clearance from the danger zone for us.

I look to the bench and Adriano Gazzoli gets the nod in the 53rd minute, replacing Bentley. It doesn’t have a noticeable impact on the side and the next chance also falls the way of Spurs in the 62nd minute. A cross from the right finds Djalma arriving at the far post. He’s unmarked. He’s 8 yards out. It’s a powerful header, but Mello is equal to the challenge, clawing the ball to safety.

Will Keane replaces Michele Marconi in the 71st minute and Harry Maguire comes on for Daniel Berger in the 78th minute as I complete my changes as the game approaches the end. Five minutes after coming on, Maguire loses the ball to Winters and he quickly shoots from 18 yards. To Maguire’s relief, it’s wide. With the game petering out, Gazzoli incurs Mr. Webb’s wrath for a foul and enters the book.

Result: Exeter City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Man of the Match: Djalma
Ratings: GK-Mello (6.6), DR-Mora (6.9), DCR-Byrne (6.5), DCL-Berger (6.1, sub 78), DL-Jenkins (5.8), MCR-Hrubesch (6.9), MCL-Fournier (6.8), AMR-Bentley (6.0, sub 53), AMC-Dubois (6.6), AML-Laudicina (6.8), ST-Marconi (6.5, sub 71). Subs-Gazzoli (6.3, on 53, booked), Keane (6.6, on 71), Maguire (on 78). Unused-Bond, Leggett, Norwood, Francioni.
Attendance: 8,105
Match Stats:

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Growing the Grecians #89 -The Grecian Gazette 24/09/2017

After our loss at Blackpool, I spoke with The Grecian Gazette:

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Growing the Grecians #88 – Poor Gary Lineker

Re-read Growing the Grecians #87.

Following an exciting draw with Wolves, would we be able to use it as a springboard to start to take the league by storm?

Date: Saturday 23rd September 2017
Opponent: Blackpool (19th)
Venue: Bloomfield Road
Odds: Blackpool=Evens, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=11/5
Weather: Dry, 14C
Referee: Mr. Mark Clattenburg

It’s a bit of a slow start at Bloomfield Road, but we win a corner in the 13th minute. Bertin Matip goes across to take it and swings it in to the near post. The ball falls to Rainer Breu and he shoots from a tight angle 2 yards out. Kearns gets down remarkably quickly and saves the ball on the line.

Torpor resumes. The next action of note comes 4 minutes before half time when Bapeta looks up 18 yards out and shoots. He beats Ben Amos, but not the post and it bounces away to safety and bring the curtain down on a half lacking, well, anything to be honest.

Both managers have the chance to inspire their troops at half time, but if there were any Churchillian speeches at half time, it can only be assumed that the players were not listening. Mr. Clattenburg books Breu in the 63rd minute for a foul on Connolly, arguably to try and bring some interest to the game. Five minutes later, I replace Breu with Bentley; Bentley plays on the right, Hayes switches across to the left and Cenci moves to centre forward.

Blackpool play a long ball in the 73rd minute and Amos collects it easily at the edge of the area. It’s actually just beyond the line and spotted by the officials. Mr. Clattenburg walks over to Amos. The home fans are chanting ‘Off’ as Mr. Clattenburg reaches into his pocket. Is there finally going to be some excitement? It’s… yellow.

The game continues to drift towards the inevitable draw. In the first minute of stoppage time, a loose ball falls to Hoesen in our area. He’s 6 yards out. He shoots. Disaster! He scores. Blackpool have surely pinched the points. I replace Regis Olivier with Michel and throw players forward, but there’s only time for Bradley Johnson to get booked for fouling Taylor.

Result: Blackpool 1-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Nathan Ake
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.7, booked), DR-Zapotoka (6.9), DCR-Ake (7.4), DCL-Vukovic (6.7), DL-Riccardi (7.0), DMC-Olivier (6.8, sub 90), MCR-Matip (6.6), MCL-Johnson (7.0, booked), AMR-Hayes (6.7), AML-Cenci (6.8), ST-Breu (5.8, booked, sub 68). Subs-Bentley (6.5, on 68), Michel (on 90). Unused-Mello, Mora, Jenkins, Norwood, Hrubesch.
Attendance: 19,320
League Position: 17th
Match Stats:

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Crawley Town offer to loan Michal Krejcik for one month. All parties agree and he makes the temporary switch.

Read Growing the Grecians #89.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #87 – Introducing the Grecian Gazette…

Following our game against Wolves, I spoke with the Grecian Gazette:

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Growing the Grecians #86 – Good viewing for the Big Bank

After a lacklustre (to put it politely!) display at Elland Road, we return to home comforts. Hopefully we will give the home fans something to be happy about.

Date: Saturday 16th September 2017
Opponent: Wolverhampton Wanderers (13th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=5/4, Draw=11/5, Wolverhampton Wanderers=7/4
Weather: Gusty, 18C
Referee: Mr. Mike Dean

Gennaro Riccardi leads the team out on his 75th league appearance for the club in a game described as a relegation six-pointer. A slow start to the game springs into life in the 11th minute; Bradley Johnson passes to Jonny Hayes and he coolly slots home from 8 yards. He wheels away in celebration, arms aloft. They instantly drop as the linesman’s flag is up for offside and the away fans groans turn to jeers. Three minutes later, Mpoku crosses from the left and we switch off completely at the far post and Boudebouz has a simple finish from 6 yards. We search for the linesman’s flag to rescue us. The search is in vain and the visitors take the lead.

At the 20 minute mark, David Bentley unleashes a curling shot from 18 yards out. It’s across the face of the goal and is curling back. It doesn’t come back enough and goes wide. Three minutes later, Hayes crosses from the left and it’s cut out by a defender. But Bentley robs him! He’s 6 yards out. He shoots. He s… ees his shot parried by Steele and cleared for a throw. We take the throw and Wolves gain possession. They start a counter. It reaches Fletcher on the halfway line. He gets to the edge of the penalty area and slots calmly under the onrushing Ben Amos to double the lead of the visitors. A real suckerpunch and we’ve been heavily punished again.

Fletcher has his name taken by Mr. Dean on the half hour mark for a foul on Nathan Ake. Elm looks to extend the lead of the visitors in the 32nd minute, but his shot from 16 yards only finds the side netting. Mr. Dean takes Bertin Matip’s name in stoppage time for a foul on Elm.

We haven’t played too bad, but we’ve been punished heavily for switching off. A few strong words at half time will hopefully see the lads keep the pressure on and not switch off. Seven minutes into the half, an inswinging Matip corner is met by Federico Cenci six yards out at the near post. He powers a header goalwards, but Mpoku is well positioned on the near post and heads to safety. A minute later the same two combine, but this time Cenci is denied by Steele, who gets down well and holds onto the ball.

Cenci fouls Mogstad in the 56th minute and picks up what seems to be his customary yellow card. Riccardi looks to mark his milestone a minute before the hour mark, but his effort from 30 yards goes just over the bar. On the hour mark, Michel is fouled by Petrovic and Mr. Dean’s yellow card makes another appearance. Michel is unaffected by the foul and a minute later, shoots from 8 yards. Steele is equal to the shot and although he can’t hold on, Wolves are able to clear. The 63rd minute sees a corner fall to Johnson 2 yards out at the near post. It’s a tight angle, but he gets a shot on goal. It’s going in, but Mogstad is on the line and able to maintain the two-goal lead for the visitors.

We’re piling on the pressure and I make my first change in the 65th minute; Rainer Breu replaces Bentley. Breu plays as striker, Cenci moves to the left wing and Hayes switches to the right wing. The substitution has an almost instant impact. Riccardi crosses from the left in the 67th minute and Breu scores his 3rd of the season from 6 yards. Game most definitely on!

Michel shoots from 20 yards in the 72nd minute and the side net is in action. A minute later, Johnson and Hayes combine, but Steele parries Hayes’ shot from 8 yards. The rebound falls to Hayes and his second effort is deflected wide for a corner. Surely we’re going to find an equaliser?

In the 79th minute, Matip takes an outswinging corner. Cenci meets it with his head 6 yards out at the near post. It’s in! His 3rd of the season! We’ve levelled! He turns away in celebration and runs towards the packed Big Bank that’s celebrating. Eleven minutes to find a winner.

With nine minutes to go, Johnson plays in Michel. He finishes from 10 yards for his first of the season in front of an ecstatic Big Bank. What a comeback! We’ve just got to keep our heads now an… disaster! The linesman has his flag up. Offside. It’s still 2-2 and the Big Bank have plenty of suggestions for the linesman.

Michel looks to turn provider in the 84th minute and sends a delightful through-ball for Breu. Steele is alert and just gets to the ball ahead of Breu. Steele looks to start a counter with a quick ball upfield but we win it back. It ends up with Breu 30 yards out. He looks up and unleashes a fierce shot. Steele is just about equal to it and is able to tip it over for a corner. With two minutes to go, Cenci passes to Breu and he shoots from 12 yards. Steele parries and Wolves clear to keep the score level. There’s just time for a final chance in the 90th minute; Breu crosses from the left and finds Hayes at the far post. He’s 6 yards out and heads goalwards. The Big Bank holds its breath. It’s… a magnificent diving save by Steele, who somehow gets across the goal and tips the ball over for a corner.

Result: Exeter City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Man of the Match: Boudebouz
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.8), DR-Zapotoka (6.1), DCR-Ake (6.0), DCL-Vukovic (6.7), DL-Riccardi (7.1, A), MCR-Matip (7.6, A, booked), MCL-Johnson (7.3), AMR-Bentley (6.2, sub 65), AMC-Michel (6.9), AML-Hayes (6.9), ST-Cenci (7.7, G). Sub-Breu (7.4, G, on 65). Unused-Mello, Mora, Jenkins, Norwood, Hrubesch, Olivier.
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 14th
Match Stats:

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The late drama sees the fans emotionally exhausted. To be fair, they’re not the only ones! Certainly an entertaining game.

We receive month-long loan offers for Valery Tamitu and Kevin Bjerkestrand from Wrexham and Doncaster Rovers respectively. Both accept and move. Luton Town offer to loan Abraham Leggett for a month and I ask for the ability to recall him, which Luton refuse to accept.

Read Growing the Grecians #87.

Read from Growing the Grecians #1.

Growing the Grecians #85 – Giving Gareth Gates something to sing about

After brushing aside Colchester in the League Cup, we turn our attentions back to the League and head up North. Although all our away games see us heading North…

Date: Saturday 2nd September 2017
Opponent: Leeds United (18th)
Venue: Elland Road
Odds: Leeds United=Evens, Draw=11/5, Exeter City=11/5
Weather: Breezy, drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Mike Jones

Those who impressed in the League Cup drop to the bench (if selected) for another match described as a relegation six-pointer. Chamberlain looks to put the hosts into the lead in the 4th minute, but he can’t keep his shot from 20 yards down.

Bertin Matip takes an inswinging corner in the 10th minute. The head of Lubomir Zapotoka, six yards out at the near post, flicks on and Lewis pushes the ball wide for another corner. Matip jogs across to take the corner from the other side. Both hands go up and he swings the ball out towards the near post. Federico Cenci runs onto it and meets it with a header six yards out. Lewis isn’t going to get near to Cenci’s header, but the post denies him the opener and Leeds put the rebound behind for another corner. Matip takes another outswinger to the near post, but Leeds prevent Zapotoka or Cenci meeting it with their head. They intercept and counter. Movsisyvan runs down the left and squares the ball into the area. Wilfried is on hand to sweep the ball into the net from 8 yards and open the scoring. An absolute sucker punch.

We respond well and Bradley Johnson shoots from 30 yards in the 18th minute, forcing Lewis to push the ball away. Ben Amos is called into action six minutes later, making a good diving save when Gosling shoots from 18 yards. Cenci shoots from 25 yards in the 27th minute, but Lewis makes a comfortable catch. Wilfried looks to grab his second in the 31st minute with an absolute rocket of a shot, but Amos is able to put it behind at the expense of a corner. As half time approaches, Hamill shoots from 18 yards and Amos saves. He can’t hold on and Hamill shoots again from 18 yards; Amos saves again for a good double save.

I get the troops into the dressing room at half time and look to fire them up. An early goal would certainly help. And there is an early goal. Unfortunately, it’s for Leeds; Addy curls in a beautiful cross from the left seconds into the half and Lester at the far post makes no mistake from 6 yards out with his header. It’s an outstanding cross and it was all but impossible for Lester to miss.

Nathan Ake brings down Movsisyvan in the 52nd minute and Mr. Jones produces the first card of the game. Bradley Johnson shoots from distance again in the 59th minute. He’s only 20 yards out this time, but it sails wide. Before Lewis takes the goal kick, I make my first substitution as Jonny Hayes replaces the anonymous David Bentley on the right. I make a double substitution 10 minutes later as Rainer Breu replaces Regis Olivier and Oliver Norwood comes on for Johnson. Olivier was playing as a defensive midfielder and Breu, making his 100th career league appearance, drops in behind Cenci, whilst Norwood is a straight swap for Johnson in the middle of the park.

Norwood take a free kick from 25 yards out in the 74th minute, but it goes just wide as we look to pull one back. Four minutes later, Breu feeds Cenci and Lewis needs to be sharp to push away his effort from 16 yards. In stoppage time, Gosling shoots from 20 yards and hits the post. Movsisyvan reacts quickest, he squares the ball from the left and Vokes is on hand to tap home from 6 yards.

Result: Leeds United 3-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Addy
Ratings: GK-Amos (6.4), DR-Zapotoka (6.9), DCR-Ake (6.0, booked), DCL-Vukovic (5.9), DL-Riccardi (6.1), DMC-Olivier (6.7, sub 69), MCR-Matip (6.7), MCL-Johnson (6.6, sub 69), AMR-Bentley (5.7, sub 59), AML-Besse (6.0), ST-Cenci (6.8). Subs-Hayes (6.8, on 59), Norwood (6.8, on 69), Breu (6.7, on 69).
Attendance: 27,604
League Position: 15th
Match Stats:

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Another bad result at Leeds, this one a goal worse than our loss when in poor form at the start of the season. I felt as though we had the better of the game, but Leeds were ruthless in front of goal and ran out comfortable winners. It looks as though it could be a long season ahead of us. On the plus side, Federico Cenci has gone a game without picking up a yellow card!

The game against Leeds takes us into the international break. I arrange a friendly to keep players match sharp and we host Manchester United. It’s televised and we run out 3-0 winners. It’s an expensive friendly as Melvin Dubois is forced off injured with a dead leg that will keep him out for 3-4 days and Alain Besse sprains his ankle and will be out for 5-6 weeks. More positive news on the injury front sees Loic Fournier resume full training.

Rochdale offer to loan Jon Rune Svendson for a month, I agree and he moves. I also accept month-long loan offers for Adolfo Mannino and Dariusz Lenartowski from Chestefield and Brentford respectively as two more players leave the club temporarily.

Although the transfer window has closed, free agents can still be signed. And the biggest free agent? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. We’re one of many interested clubs. I know I normally sign young player, but how can I turn down the chance to sign Zlatan. Whilst we’re interested in signing him, he’s not interested in moving to Exeter. He also rejects Everton in favour of signing for newly-promoted Birmingham City.

Read Growing the Grecians #86.

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Growing the Grecians #84 – Inspired for the League Cup

After our defeat against Liverpool, we turn our attention to the League Cup.

Date: Tuesday 29th August 2017
Opponent: Colchester United (15th in League 1)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City-2/5, Colchester United=13/2
Weather: Dry, 13C
Referee: Mr. Howard Webb

It’s a sign of how we’re developing as a club that we enter the competition at the Second Round for the first time ever. We’re definitely starting to be seen as a big scalp now. Which is a concern for this game, as Colchester have won 4 of our 8 games and we only have one victory. Showing that I’m adapting to the Premier League, I make eleven changes, resulting in debut appearances for Carmine Mello, Matthew Jenkins and Harry Maguire. Federico Cenci is given express orders to not even enter the ground as I fear that he’ll managed to get booked even watching the game.

The changed XI settle well and in the 2nd minute, Oliver Norwood takes a free kick from the right. The head of Maguire meets the ball 8 yards out. The ball hits the bar and bounces over for a goal kick. Two minutes later, a Rainer Breu shot from 25 yards goes just over the crossbar.

We’re piling the pressure on and make the breakthrough in the 7th minute. Michel passes to Breu, who is 18 yards out. He shoots with the outside of his left boot and scores his first ever goal for the club. It’s a pretty decent effort for a first goal and endears him to the fans immediately.

Kutka runs through our defence in the 12th minute and shoots over from 12 yards. It’s a reminder that Colchester are still in the game and we need to not assume the job is done just because we have scored.

The warning is heeded. Marcel Hrubesch passes to Michel, who beats a defender. He shoots from 12 yards and fires his shot into the roof of the net for his first goal of the season. A really important second goal and puts us in complete control of the tie.

Kutka looks to pull a goal back for the visitors in the 17th minute when he shoots from 18 yards. Mello is able to parry the ball and we clear. A minute later, Breu shoots from the same distance and Townsend makes a diving save at full length before Colchester clear the ball for a throw.

Jonny Hayes crosses the ball from the left in the 23rd minute. It’s an accurate cross and met by Breu. He’s 8 yards out. He heads the ball. And watches it wide of the target. A third goal could have really opened the floodgates, but it was not to be.

Fabio Mora enters Mr. Webb’s book in the 26th minute for a foul on the ever-dangerous Kutka. Adriano Gazzoli picks the ball up on the halfway line in the 29th minute and runs down the right. He crosses the ball and the cross finds Michel running in at the far post. He’s 6 yards out at the far post, but can’t get on top of his header and it goes over. If I could have picked a player attacking the ball to head it in, it would not have been Michel; Breu would have been my player of choice.

Spicic crosses from the left in the 31st minute. Mello is just off his line, but spills the ball. We recover quickly from the surprise spill and clear from the danger zone. With five minutes of the half remaining, Norwood passes to Michel. He turns a man and fires into the roof of the net for his second goal of the season with a carbon copy of his first strike.

The second half gets off to a slow start and eleven minutes in, I take off the carded Mora for Abraham Leggett to make his debut; three minutes later, Norwood is replaced by Renzo Francioni, who also makes his debut for the club.

A minute after the hour mark, Michel picks out Breu and he attempts a lob. He lifts the ball over Townsend, but it falls wide. Moments later, Breu shoots just over from 20 yards. Spicic is brought down in the 65th minute and Mick Byrne enters Mr. Webb’s book.

I make my final substitution in the 67th minute. Philipp Langer replaces Michel. Langer plays as the striker, with Breu dropping back into the attacking midfield role. Four minutes after my final substitution, Baxter shoots from 16 yards. It beats Mello, but not the post and we watch it bounce to safety. It’s unlikely that it would have altered the result, but a clean sheet would be nice.

Breu hits a curling effort from 30 yards in the 77th minute. Townsend is diving at full stretch and is able to just get his fingertips to it to tip it over for a corner. With seven minutes remaining, Hrubesch plays a delightful through ball. Langer gets to it first, but his shot from 10 yards is smothered by the onrushing Townsend. The loose ball falls to Breu and he rolls the ball into an empty net from 16 yards for his second of the game and season. There’s just time in stoppage time for Okuonghae to enter Mr. Webb’s book for a foul on Hayes.

Result: Exeter City 4-0 Colchester United
Man of the Match: Michel
Ratings: GK-Mello (7.4), DR-Mora (7.2, booked, sub 56), DCR-Byrne (7.5, booked), DCL-Maguire (7.5), DL-Jenkins (7.6), MCR-Norwood (7.1, A, sub 59), MCL-Hrubesch (8.4, 2A), AMR-Gazzoli (7.3), AMC-Michel (9.4, 2G, A, sub 67), AML-Hayes (7.2), ST-Breu (9.3, 2G). Subs-Leggett (6.8, on 56), Francioni (6.7, on 59), Langer (6.8, on 67). Unused-Bond, Vukovic, Dubois, Makris.
Attendance: 6,797
Match Stats:

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An excellent performance and result. Everyone who came in played well, although it was against a team two leagues below us so I was expecting a strong performance. It’s a good indicator of how far we’ve come as we were in League 1 when I took over. The draw for the 3rd Round will see us at home again. It’s likely to be a bigger test, with Tottenham Hotspur the visitors.

Greppi rejects the loan move to Nocerina, whilst Miltos Makris joins Portsmouth on a season-long loan. Hopefully it will aid his development. Daniel Berger is also looking to move and hands in a transfer request. It will be a shame if he goes, but I accept the request.

The end of the month sees the first awards made. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Liverpool) is Player of the Month (well-deserved following his performance against us!), Angleo Winters (Tottenham Hotspur) is Young Player of the Month and Filip Djuricic (Manchester City) wins Goal of the Month. Manager of the Month heads to Merseyside, with Liverpool’s Rafael Benitez scooping the award.

We may have kept Jim White and company busy throughout the summer with our ins and outs, but there’s no late drama or deals and the reporters leave with no story on transfer deadline day. It was a busy window though…

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