Its our fourth season in the Premiership, we managed to do the double last season by lifting the FA Cup and pipping Chelsea to the title last season on the final day. We strengthened our squad with two players and immediately went to work on another year in the Premiership, and its looking even better than the last, as we managed to score our way to some records beginning with a dream run in the Champions League
Touted to exit in the group stages, Stafford dumbfounded the punters by topping their group easily. Their early round knock out match featured a tussle with Benfica, a match Stafford were expected to lose. They held Benfica to a 1-1 draw away and in front of 30000 fans they put 3 past the Portuguese sending them crashing out of the competition.
Stafford have been setting records the whole season, and are feeling the pressure of acquiring a rare achievement : With 32 matches played they are leading the premiership 2 points ahead of Man City and are unbeaten all season in the Premiership. The cinderalla run has come at a steep price, they’ve already lost 3 key players and with their European Golden Boy also out injured, they find themselves limping through their last few league games, and awaiting them in the ECC Quarterfinals are Barcelona.
We decided to send out our reserves and save the big stars for the match against Barcelona, and still managed to get 3 points at St Mary’s. With league matches against United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton to follow, we aren’t even confident of retaining the title. Our first priority – Barcelona. We decided to adopt a counter attacking strategy using the 41221 against their wide 4231 and man marked their fullbacks and their central midfielders. They took an early lead off a corner within the first 5 minutes and we managed to pull a goal back by half time off another corner. Then tragedy struck with 3 minutes to go to half time, Noel Callaghan picked up a second yellow and marched off to the dressing room.
A quick readjustment of the formation and a heroic attempt by the back line ensured we walked away with a precious point. Our next match an FA Cup Semi final match against Villa, away. Stuck between our return leg with Barcelona, I had to make the hard decision of resting my key players once again and sent my reserves out, hoping that we could get some kind of result, deep down I was hoping we either won or lost, we couldn’t afford a replay. 85 minutes we score the solitary goal off a corner sending my players into ecstasy. The reserves had carried us into the Final to face Manchester City. Its our second FA Cup final appearance in a row.
Time now to face Barcelona, same strategy – 41221, man mark one of their MCs and both their fullbacks. We took a standard stance, and tried to keep a disciplined shape, and within the first 3 minutes almost bundled in a goal to give us the lead, 33 minutes in we rip through their middle on a quick counter and score a simple goal. As they pressed forward for the equaliser we countered from the flanks and nailed our second four minutes later. Going into the break 2 goals up. The Catalans started passing the ball around and passed their way to a quick goal after the break, but we managed to hold off their charge and eke out a precious, famous win, to send us through to the semi-finals to set up a date with…..Manchester City again!. Damn. Hmm before that I have the job of facing United, to maintain our unbeaten record in the premiership.