#9 Crossing the border

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Having shifted out some undesirables last week and slashing £350 from the wage bill it didn’t take me long to undo most of that good work.

It took little persuasion by my Chief Scout Patrick Andersson to convince me to snap up young Burundi-born and exotically-named Mo Shariff on a free transfer. I was desperately short of depth on the flanks, and the fact that he could play on either side was enough to convince me to offer him £190 week (the grainy YouTube footage that Patrick shared with me also played a big part in assuring me that this kid could be the next Messi!)

Thankfully the positive response from the fans when Mo was unveiled outside the established portable cabins did a lot to ease my worries about the longer term financial damage I may had inflicted upon the club…

Anyway, I had to try and forget my concerns about the club’s financial fragility. I was only two games away from the start of the season and knew that a positive campaign would do wonders for the bank balance. The penultimate friendly of pre-season was a trip over the near border into Wales play Welshpool Town FC. I decided to start with what I believed to be my strongest 11 and what would likely be the team that would line up against Harrogate in a week’s time.

As it turned out, the season would be a walk in the park if the standard of opposition was anything like their Welsh counterparts. AA (the nickname had annoyingly stuck with everyone at the club, myself now included) set the tone early in the first half with two tremendous efforts. Firstly the young winger rattled ‘Pool’s crossbar from 40 yards with an audacious strike, and he then followed this up with a 20 yard rasping drive which required a fingertip save from the keeper to turn around the post. Shortly after the winger’s goalscoring efforts AA turned provider, setting up Nelson Addy on the edge of the box who expertly dropped his shoulder to create space before tucking the ball inside the post.

After taking the lead we didn’t look back, despite Lee Hughes missing two absolute sitters to the amazement of everyone inside the ground. Lee soon made up for these failings though, firstly by setting up Evans with a reverse pass for the winger to dispatch into the far corner, and then by finally putting the ball in the back of the net himself to make it 3-0 following more excellent work from the in-form AA.

With the game effectively wrapped up at halftime, I made wholesale changes in the second half. Within fifteen minutes I had replaced the entire outfield to give the fringe players the opportunity to make a name for themselves and force their way into contention for the season ahead.

It would be fair to say they didn’t quite step up to the challenge.

In the final half an hour we didn’t once threaten their goal, and the exhibition match eventually petered out with no further incidents taking place. Heading home I had a feeling of both excitement and disappointment. On one hand I was pleased with the way that we had completely controlled the first half, and in all honesty should have been 5-0, possibly more at the break. However, my concern was around the squad depth. Not a single player stood out as someone I could look to come those inevitably miserable mid-week matches, providing me with a soberingly depressing assessment of my current squad depth.

Looking at the positives though, so long as all of my boys kept match-fit and free of injuries, this season would be spectacular.

Surely not too much of an ask?

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