Hello and welcome to what I hope will be a long term series here at the Higher Tempo Press. Brits Abroad is not a late night TV show showing various upstanding members of the British public making love to a shopping trolley in Kavos, but rather I’m going to make a team entirely of players from Britain and hopefully win the Champions League and dominate world football.
Right off the bat, you’re probably thinking – Why would you do that, you daft racist? Well, there’s two answers to that. Firstly, I’m taking the Brits abroad, hence the title, this isn’t some sort of crazy secure your borders type manoeuvre. Secondly, and most importantly, Graeme Souness did it first and therefore it is his fault. Allow me to explain.
In 1997, the Benfica presidency was up for grabs. Dr Joao Vale e Azevedo promised to bring in a successful manager, which turned out to be Graeme Souness. I’m no expert but I wouldn’t go to that particular Doctor for anything – if Souness is the answer, I don’t want to know the question. Anyway, personal grudges aside, Souness decided the way to success was to bring in British players. Scott Minto was already there, inexplicably, but Brian Deane soon followed once the Scot was in charge. It’s at this point CM9798’s database was finalised, and where we pick up for the new save. Incidentally, to read more about Souness’ terrific transfer strategy, you can click here.
Long story short, I’ve taken over at Benfica. With Deane & Minto already there, it makes sense. Here’s the squad from the outset:
You’ll notice I’ve listed everybody not British – I’m afraid that’ll have to be the way of it. With only £4m in the bank and at least 14 Brits to buy, probably more, I’ll need to be savvy with the cash and releasing players isn’t really an option, I need the money from sales. A month of buying and selling before the first game of the season ensues, here’s the gist:
Yes, I’ve had to bring in some players you’d mostly get for lower league clubs, but with money tight I’ve got to flesh the squad out somehow and it’s better than signing random freebies.
The first day line-up is bang average.
Gallen & Deane. What have I done!? I’m a stickler for the rules, so I can only name 2 subs. What a world. My main worry, and believe me when I say I have a few, is that this team is awful and I get fired for being midtable. I’ve signed what I hope is a competent goalkeeper as I fear he will be busy.
It’s an unbelievable start!
Game 2, 3 days later, is less productive.
Robert Dunn loves the Portugese league. I’m loathe to use my only outfield sub in case I get an injury. Better fill that last squad space.
A month!? Sorry Nigel, but I can’t really afford to wait that long.
Oh for crying out loud. Now I need another keeper. Nobody wants this guy and his contract is next up, so I’ll take the £20k hit.
I hope Deportivo aren’t planning the same thing as me. That would be embarrassing.
So we’re down to one sub by the time Leca come to visit us – fortunately, will power is not their strong point and they crumble once we equalise.
Big problem though – Haslam off injured means my only sub was on, it was pretty much all out attack. It’s a couple of weeks without big Steve but fortunately it’s time for an International break.
Being sensible, I take the opportunity to get in a 3rd goalkeeper for free:
Then it’s an extra centre half for just £1m. Our first Northern Irishman.
Two spaces to fill then. Quashie is one, I’ve decided to play it safe and go for versatility with the other.
So far so good then, but being very honest I didn’t see this coming.
6-0 down after 31 minutes. Wow. Richard Wright was at fault for 5 of the first 6 goals, unfortunately he has that in him as a young keeper.
We’re in the UEFA Cup, but as I only had 13 signed by the cut off for players to play in Europe, I don’t suppose we’ll be in very long. This uninspiring 0-0 draw does very little to help on that front.
Least inspiring-but-necessary transfer so far goes to this guy:
Versatility is king in getting this Leyton Orient defender to Benfica. This season is going to get worse before it gets any better…
We’re up to 16 players (15 fit) as Rio Ave roll into town, we’re lacking a fair bit but edge a 1-0 win.
I regret everything.
This won’t please the fans.
Richard Rufus has a 2 week injury so the UEFA Cup game sees us have 11 players only.
Away goals win! However, now Minto is banned for a game, it’s a headache I could do without.
I have two squad places to fill and 2 weeks to do it. This is a new low.
There’s actually no midfielders interested who will really help me, so I’m going to keep my powder dry on that front. Darren Anderton is keen but he’s out for 5 months, so we’ll see. With just 6 games under our belts as we reach October, there’s plenty to improve on.
I’m already scraping the barrel.
It does mean that I can name a full 16 for the first time, even if there are two keepers on the bench in Richard Rufus’ absence.
However, we’re short of goals and creativity…and talent.
Then a lead is thrown away in Braga.
However we get back to winning ways thanks to the Deane & Gallen duo.
That brings us to the end of October, which seems like a good way to round up part 1. We’re in a respectable 5th position, but we’re closer to mid table than the upper echelons.
We’re just getting started though, so if you want to see more of this Souness experiment, do come back. Granted, I will go to sleep tonight realising I’ve paired Brian Deane with Kevin Gallen at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, but we’ve all made mistakes. That’s why they put rubbers on pencils…and Gifton Noel-Williams. See you next time!
Written, as ever, by @www.thehighertempopress.comcm9798 who has a blog out there somewhere….