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CM Stories - Stuart Capel's Hereford Story I  
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After several aborted games of CM99/00, I decided it was time to settle down with a club I have never managed before and to see how far I could take them. I always start in the lower leagues, as I do not believe taking over a big club is realistic. Imagine the outcry if Alex Ferguson WAS replaced by some kid who's only good with hacking into computer games. Thankfully I know little about computers, but enough to know how to play Championship Manager. I wanted a small club, and in Hereford United I found such a club.
Want to know how bad they actually are? Well, they do not even have a Chairman. I'm not sure whether this is a bad thing however. Sure it may cost you money occasionally when you try to increase your transfer coffers, but in my opinion, it stops you from being sacked quickly!

To start at Hereford mans that you have a lot of rebuilding to make, thus ready-made first teamers are not in abundance when you start, but I had a few decent starters. Gavin Williams (F RLC or S C) was a lock up front. Anyone with an 18 for finishing should be. Andrew Quy would be one of the best Conference Goalies. Chris Lane (D R) and Matt Clarke (D R/L) are useful full backs while Ian Wright (D C) is a solid Central Defender. Tony James is a useful D RLC but is better used as a bench defender rather than a starter. Midfield is pretty weak and needs to be addressed as soon as you join.
With that in mind, I started my reign at Edgar Street, knowing that there would be much work needed to be done to achieve what would be an unlikely promotion. I had some players already scouted, due to having played several seasons with various clubs, but certainly a list from this page assisted in my player search. The first player I went after?? Onesimo!!
Onesimo (F LC) is a 30-year-old striker at the start of the game and is available on free transfer. He looks much like David Ginola (SHOW OFF), no teamwork, no work rate, yet creative and with as much flair as you could hope for. He was the first player I signed.

At this point in time I would like to introduce the 1k cheat that I found, the rules of which are found elsewhere on this web site. Hereford has no back up keeper; so Grant Stewart was loaned, and then bought on the 1k cheat.
You may notice at the start of the game that many clubs are buying young players on free transfers but you yourself cannot find them. I stumbled on what seemed to be an oasis of young players. Go into player search and you'll notice that the starting point is page 1 of 500, or however many pages there are. If you scroll through to the end of the list (i.e. page 545 out of 545) you'll notice that there are several players listed as having no club. Scroll a few pages back and you'll see that there are over 10 pages full of young players listed as having No Club. Now not all of these guys will be stars in the making, but you should be able to find several players that take your eye, however to name all the prospects would be useless as I believe that all these young players are computer generated and therefore not in every game. I found seven players under this ruling, the main ones being Paul Owen (AM RC), David Moore (DM RC), and Mark Davis (D DM RC). Ian Sampson (D C), released from his club, was brought in on free transfer.

Two pre-season friendlies were arranged. The first against Dagenham and Redbridge (1-1), and the second against Australian team Gippsland Falcons (0-0). Trial form was not good but as with other managers, you're always hopeful for success come round 1. Success doesn't come easy however. Losing the first game of the season 1-0 and drawing the second 1-1 where we lost the great Onesimo for a couple of games due to injury, however, with a player shortage, and 90% fitness, he was included for the next game at Altrincham. Of course that was looming as a disaster. Altrincham 2-0 up after 75 minutes when start striker Williams is injured, meaning Onesimo has to make an appearance. Into injury time Onesimo picks the ball up on half way, rounds four defenders and scores an excellent consolation goal. Imagine my surprise when from the kick off he grabs the ball, rounds more defenders and scores again for a dramatic equaliser in the 2-2 draw.

If I was hoping for a form improvement, I was mistaken as Hereford played some disappointing football to be languishing in 18th position after 9 games. Paul Parry (AM LC), my only decent midfielder injured himself, meaning I had to play a 34 year old, Martin Taylor (DM RC) alongside John Snape (DM C) in central midfield. I was worried as to how these two would gel. Taylor on paper certainly looked much worse than Parry. Add to that Florin Batrinu (D C), my Romanian import, managed to get sent off 3 times in 5 games, raking up enough yellow cards to warrant an 11 match ban.
I shouldn't have worried. My pressing style actually worked better with two defensive minded midfielders in central midfield. The do zonal marking, therefore leading me to believe that if an attacking midfielder is in central midfield and has to mark, he will not be as effective as he loses some attacking punch and is not that good at marking in the first place. With the Taylor/Snape combination working well in midfield, and the Sampson/Wright teaming at the back, Hereford's fortunes began to rise, and so did our ladder position.

Parry returned to play on the left wing and with his return, Hereford's form was second only to the streaking Rushden and Diamonds who were clearly going to win the league, but Hereford could still play spoilers to many other teams looking for good table positions. A 4-3 win at Stevenage was followed by a 3-0 romp against Yeovil. Nothing too dramatic it may seem, yet it was the Onesimo show, scoring all four against Stevenage and scoring a hat trick against Yeovil. Fans were turning up just to watch Onesimo's twinkling feet in action. It was exciting to watch him grab the ball on half way, cut through defenders and rifle the ball past a quivering goalie.

The Conference Cup came and went. A developmental squad was tried in both games, winning the first one but losing to a strong Sutton United 2-0 in the second round. This gave me a chance to watch a few of the kids in action, and see how they reacted under pressure. I was pleased with some of their efforts.
The season kept going and the team kept performing. Yeovil tried to take revenge for Onesimo's hat trick against them leading 3 times before we triumphed 4-3. Onesimo's hat trick goal sealing the win. More goals kept flooding in as Gavin Williams and Onesimo formed a lethal combination. 5 went in against Doncaster and 6 against Scarborough. Even off the field we were achieving results. Jamie Victory (D L/C) who was disgruntled at Cheltenham, agreed to sign on the Bosman ruling. Good coaches were being signed and 2 physios rated at 20 for physiotherapy were brought into the club.

Eventually the season finished and to everyone's great shock, Hereford were the Conference runners-up to the powerful Rushden and Diamonds line up.
The season didn't end there. The FA Trophy final was held at Wembley and featured Hereford against non-league Chorley Town. Onesimo, our big game player scored a double (37th and 75th) and allowed Matthew Clarke, the years club captain was able to life the FA Trophy high into the air.

Thus a very successful year was completed. We celebrated our success with a tournament (Pepsi Cup), in which Hereford played against two Australian teams, beating the Newcastle Breakers 2-1 in the semi and Canberra Cosmos 1-0 in the final. This another chance for me to watch my youth players in action.
Both Ian Sampson and Onesimo were voted to the player's team of the year, whilst Onesimo was voted Supporters Player of the Year. Onesimo must be given a lot of credit. In 44 starts, he managed to score 43 league goals and 10 cup goals for a total of 53 for the season. His average rating of 8.06 lead the Conference and was clearly a threat whenever he had the ball. I doubt Hereford would have had that success without him.

Three players were sold during the season. Paul Fewings (Reading - 15k), Wayne Dyer (York - 8k) and Rob Elmes (Exeter - 6k) were all sold on, extra funds being recouped as to my placing a fee on them for a designated amount of appearances for the club. This is an excellent way of recouping money in transfers. Overall I made a loss of 45,000 on the season but to strengthen a team and be as competitive as that, I'm sure 45,000 won't be hard to recoup at a later date.

I'll follow this with a report on Hereford's second season at a later date. I can inform you all that the season has in fact been completed, but I'll let you know how we went at a later date.

Stuart Capel

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