Unlucky M1 Wanderers, standard-bearers of the English Premier Banking Division, may still rue their inability to score in the first leg against the wily Portuguese side, Sporting Casino, with the score sheet at 0-0 after 90 minutes. They hit the woodwork, they hit the goalkeeper, they hit the top of the main stand, they hit the TV cameraman running up and down the touchline, and very often they hit each other, but they just couldn't get the ball into the net, at least not by the big hole in front.
"Well, look on the bright side - at least we didn't hit the referee," said manager Gabby Frost, whose book I Managed All Right has just been published. "Otherwise, not much went right for us. But take nothing away from our lads. We threw everything we had at them. Unfortunately, they threw it back at us. Then we threw it back at them. Then... but you get the picture. In the second half I could see we needed a substitution, so I took off our ace striker Wagstaff. Unfortunately, I forgot to send anyone on to replace him, so we were down to 10 men for a while, but they held out magnificently. That'll be pounds 500 for the interview, please."
Meanwhile, over in Spain, the crack northern team Pennine Rangers took on the might of Real Franco in the seething Santa Pecora Stadium, and rose above everyone's expectations to come away with a 5-1 defeat.
"We really surprised them," said Pennine's manager Joe Firmly (whose book Managing to Survive is now out). "They thought we were going to put up a stone wall of defence and retreat behind it, hoping for a draw. Instead, we went out and attacked like madmen, exposed ourselves at the back and let through five easy goals. That surprised them. It certainly surprised the hell out of me. pounds 300, please."
In the calmer waters of the Cup-Losers Cup, the Scottish team Tay Bridge Disaster flew to Finland to take on the little-rated local side, Helsinki Harriers, and went down by only the odd goal in five, that is, 4-1.
"Aye, well, we did our research reasonably well beforehand," I was told on the phone from Finland by the manager Jock Crumlin, whose book Jock the Giant-Killer is now out in paperback, "and we knew that the average Finn loves gloomy music and gets paralytically drunk of an evening. I still believe that. Unfortunately, we ran into what must be the only 11 Finns in the country who don't drink before a game, and who can string a useful pass together. Still, I have to say that the hospitality here is terrific, and we're still celebrating with them, five hours later.
"That'll be pounds 200, and if I could have it right away in Finnish currency, I'd be dead grateful."
The Irish side Glenhoddle also did creditably when they took on the Maltese champions, Valletta Marina, in the Pre-Med Cup and came away with three yellow cards, two goals and a disputed penalty. The manager, Harry O'Barry, who has never written a book, but wants to call it I Demand to See the Manager if he ever does, had this to say about the incident.
"The ref pointed to the spot and awarded us a penalty kick. I thought it was very dubious, so I ran on and shouted at him and said we'd be happy with an indirect free kick. That surprised him all right - nobody had ever asked for their own penalty to be disallowed before - but he said the decision should stand. I told our spot-kicker, Paddy Quinlan, to miss on purpose, which so confused him that he tucked it in the corner of the goal, which is what I knew he would do. Psychology, that's the name of the game. Give us a hundred quid and we'll call the case closed."
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