My Crewe story - The Railwaymen on track to the top…

Managing Crewe Alexandra from the nPower League 2 to the Premier Division and European glory....

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    I used to play Championship Manager/ Football Manager a lot back in the days in the 90’s and early 2000, but then stopped for a lack of time. Back then, I usually managed lower league teams as well as all-time favourite Liverpool to the top. A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try my hands at management again in FM12. So, I bought it off steam and decided to start by managing an nPower League 2 team. My choice went to Crewe Alexandra because Anfield hero Danny Murphy came from Crewe!

    This story is at first going to be quite different since I did not pay attention that there was a manager story section. Also, since my early years on Championship Manager, it was always a joy to relate among friends playing the game like me what we did the previous night on CM! And so, this story will start on my third season with Crewe Alexandra with a summary of the two previous seasons and then follow the third season as it goes along with regular updates hopefully.

    I used League England on large database with players from European top division clubs and South American top clubs.

    On appointment as a Mauritian Head Coach in place of the Crewe Alexandra legend Dario Gradi, I realized my task was not going to be easy. Unlike some other clubs in the division, here I was with no money available for transfers. So I would have to rely on getting players in for free or on loan and my initial analysis of the squad at my disposal revealed shortage of players in several positions. My first match against the reserve side confirmed this. Only a 1-0 victory.

    Defense was short; I had only 3 senior central defenders and no backup on the left. Midfield was ok but required reinforcement for the long season ahead as well as up front, where I felt I had only one recognized striker, Shaun Miller. Also, apart from one or two players, this was a very young squad.

    I had to act quickly and get people in! That’s where the FM Scout best free agents came in handy. However, many of them were not interested in coming to Crewe (with an unknown Mauritian Head Coach at the helm)/had too high wage demands for my limited wage budget or others like Souhaieb El Amari, who impressed me in midfield, could not get a work permit after trial.

    My first transfer was to sign Quinton Fortune at the age of 34. I was hoping his versatility on the left side and midfield to be an asset for my young team short of experienced players.

    My second free transfer was to get an unknown Italian forward, Daniele Conti, aged 22, to Crewe. Though wanted by some lower league Italian team, I managed to get him and I’m lucky I did since he is today my Captain!

    My third transfer was to get a midfield player and when the Al Amari transfer collapsed, I brought in Ali Benomar on trial and signed him afterwards as I felt he had a good mixture of passing and technical ability that was a bit better than actual players at the club.

    Zeki Fryers came in at left back on a season loan from Man U and did very well.


    Aaron Martin came into central defence on a season loan from Southampton and did very well.


    Matt Doherty came in January on a three months loan at right back and had a great impact at right back. Unfortunately, I could not extend his loan. Ntambwe came in for 3 months as well in January but only as backup.


    On the tactics side, I opted to train my players on 3 tactics, the trusted 4-4-2, a defensive 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, though I mostly used 4-4-2 at home and 4-3-3 away.
    I decided to keep the actual captain, Lee Bell, and vice-captain so as not to disrupt harmony in my first season in charge.
    Since my players were mostly young, 18-21, I opted to play at a less than normal tempo since their stamina are still quite low. Passing style was direct. At home with 4-4-2, I started with an attacking strategy whereas away with 4-3-3 and depending on the opposition, I started with a control or counter strategy.

    This post was edited by Webslinger (2012-03-03 08:13, 3 years ago)
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    Season 11/12 – My first season

    Pre-season went fine with wins against semi-professional teams and a strong Newcastle Reserves side and that made me optimistic for the season ahead.
    We started off with a 1-0 win against Morecambe and that gave us the confidence to go and beat a Preston side in a higher league away for the League Cup first round. I had to ask my players to play more aggressively and get stuck in for that win to be possible against more capable opposition.
    A couple of more wins gave us a respectable initial position in the league though an inevitable 1-4 defeat against West Ham away for the League Cup second round followed by another defeat 2-4 away to Macclesfield away in the league was a reality check. Rallying the troops because of the manner of this defeat, we went on an 11 match undefeated streak though halted by 0-3 defeat away to Oxford. Following harsh words in the dressing room after this defeat due to unacceptable poor performance from a couple of players, we went on a 14 match undefeated streak cut short by an away defeat to Championship side Cardiff in the FA Cup 3rd round.
    By that time, the players had all become fully accustomed to the 3 tactics trained and that showed on the pitch by the margin of victories recorded. Though the defense was taking in goals sometimes, we were most of the time out scoring the opposition to be winners at the end of 90 minutes.
    We managed to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy through grit and determination and then went on to claim the championship with a 5 points lead over favourites Swindon Town.
    Daniele Conti was my leading scorer with 25 goals in 46 appearances, followed by Miller with 21 goals.




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    Season 12/13 Summary

    With the on-loan players back to their club, I had to dip into the transfer market again to reinforce the defense and midfield and even attack for the level would be higher in the nPower League 1. I still preferred to sign on free transfer since I only had about 6K of transfer money.

    Got some younger players for the ‘future’ and then the first letter of intent as a sign we were here to compete and not be relegation fodder, was to bring in Marco Materazzi for his experience in defense and then Stefan Gislason for holding the midfield. Thomas Piemayr was someone who could play both on the right and left of defense but my role for him was on the left because I brought in Mathias Redsted on the right. At first I wanted to get Matt Doherty back on loan but Southampton was asking for 50% wage to be paid this time which I could not afford. Liam Gormley was a versatile attacker who could play as a striker as well as left and right winger so would suit my 4-3-3 tactic perfectly. Steven Howarth was in to bolster the striking department but though he had better finishing (13), composure(12) and pace(15) than Shaun Miller(13/10/13), after a good start he did not perform to the standards I required and was replaced by Gormley/Miller as partner for Conti. I think up to now, Howarth is my only transfer flop.

    The only mistake I made in transfer dealings was not to extend Quinton Fortune’s contract that was initially only for one year. Luckily I was able to cope without him as he refused to sign when I tried after he had already gone.

    As well, this season was the first time I was allowed to bring in new coaches and one of the first I signed who wanted to come to Crewe was Patrik Berger! And he had good stats as well. I got a new scout as well since those already at the club had scouting attributes below 10!

    The previous season in March when youth players came in, I was told by my assistant to watch out for Frankie Devlin, a promising defender. When in pre-season, I saw a wanted sign next to him and it was Aston Villa making rounds, I realized I maybe had a gem in my youth team. So I decided to try him straight away in the first team in pre-season and the kid never looked back, tThough I had to manage him and rest him when I saw signs of jadedness. He even had 5 goals, 3 assists and 5 MoM in 36 apps in his first season. Think he was up there 1st or 2nd in terms of average rating in the league at club and league level!



    After a defeat in my first league match away to Southend, the team followed by two wins and then a defeat again before embarking on an 8 match undefeated streak. The longest undefeated streak this time was 13 matches.

    We managed to go up till the 4th round in the league cup where we were defeated 0-3 by Tottenham.
    In the FA Cup, we were out in the 4th round to a home defeat by Liverpool but what was pleasing was the comment made by King Kenny after the match. It was like that “I have more appreciation for him now after seeing the way his players played with heart and determination”. Coming from King Kenny, who I watched playing when I was young and started my love affair with Liverpool, it meant I was on the right track! :) Hmmm, makes me want to start another save as Liverpool. Will probably do that soon…

    As for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, we managed back to back wins after victory against Crystal Palace 1-0 in the final.

    Crystal Palace was the champion but they were never able to beat us during that season. It was our defeats and draws against other teams that were to cost us the title as at one point, we were top of the league.




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    Season 3 – 2013/2014

    Expectations for this season will be to maintain Crewe’s status as a Championship team and I have advised the board that we can expect a mid-table finish. I have this confidence due to the new players signed though I am expecting they gel rapidly to fulfill my expectations and even push for promotion to the top Premier Division.

    For this transitional season that will be a base to build upon, I will go along the Board’s expectation in terms of Cup showing.
    League Cup : have to reach second round
    FA Cup : Reach the third round

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    Pre-season and signings:

    Most of the signings were tied up during the past season from players with less than 6 months remaining on their contract. At that point, I was already planning on having a better team in case I did not manage to win promotion to the nPower Championship as well as with promotion in mind.

    Alexandrov had great mental stats as well as good technical stats and even though aged 38, I was hoping his experience would be helpful.

    Maclennan was a natural left defender unlike Piemayr.

    Mensah was to push Conti and Gormley for a first team place.

    Alex Tuninetti was going to slot straight in midfield as well as Torben Gernsoe. It seems I now have an embarrassment of riches in midfield.

    Lars Moller was for the right of midfield, competing with Nick Powell, since Byron Moore could not cut it in the nPower League 1 and I had decided to offload him.

    Zinda was still 16 and one for the future.

    Ruud Knol was to replace Materazzi who was now past it according to my assistant. Anyway, Materazzi had announced his retirement for May 2014.

    Daniel Gro came in after being released by Freiburg and upon scouting him, I wasted no time offering him a contracts as I felt he was more than good enough for the first team as well as for the long term. It was intriguing that he was released since I think he had great finishing (17) and composure (15). I guess maybe it was because of his average pace.

    First match
    Crewe - West Ham: 0 - 3
    Team: Martin-Piemayr,Knol,Redsted,Maclennan-Moller,Tuninetti,Gislasson(C),Gormley-Gro,Mensah

    This team needs to play together and gel as though we had more possession (56%) and 13 shots with 5 on target, more than West Ham had, they were more clinical in front. Gro indeed is slow and I will now put him on Quickness individual training.

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    Pre-Season (Continued)
    Bradford – Crewe: 2 – 4
    Team: Martin-Piemayr,Knol,Gislasson(C),Maclennan-Moller,Gernsoe,Tuninetti,Gormley-Conti,Gro
    Crewe – Reading: 3 – 1
    Team: Martin-Piemayr,Knol(C),Redsted,Tootle-Powell,Benomar,Gernsoe,Nellins-Mensah,Zinda

    New Signing:
    Max Konig, Defender (LC), released by Dortmund.

    Nantwich – Crewe: 0 – 6
    Team: Martin-Redsted,Gislasson(C),Konig,Maclennan-Moller,Gernsoe,Murphy,Nellins-Conti,Mensah

    Crewe – Wolves: 1 – 0
    Team: Martin-Redsted,Knol,Konig,Maclennan-Tuninetti,Harris-Gernsoe,Aleksandrov,Conti-Gro

    Crewe – Celtic: 3 – 4
    Team: Siadankay-Redsted,Devlin,Konig,Maclennan-Moller,Benomar,Aleksandrov,Nellins-Zinda,Gro

    Crewe – Bolton: 2 – 2
    Team: Siadankay-Redsted,Devlin,Konig,Maclennan-Moller,Benomar,Aleksandrov,Nellins-Zinda,Gro

    Crewe – Blackpool: 3 – 2
    Team: Siadankay-Redsted,Devlin,Knol,Maclennan-Moller,Murphy,Gernsoe,Gormley-Gro,Miller

    So, in all, a quite satisfactory pre-season with some new players in, hoping that they prove I was right to bring them in.
    The release of Lee Bell had some fans questioning though as they felt he still has a role to play at the club but they trust the club’s decision (my decision) to let the player go.

    [img]http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/1152/crewetransfersseason313.jpg[.img]

    Let’s get the season rolling![/img]

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    nPower Championship
    Burnley – Crewe: 1 – 3
    A good display for the first match of the season. A great start with Devlin’s goal on the 2nd minute from a corner and then an own goal on the 14th that put us firmly in the lead. Though Burnley had more possession and more shots on goal, we were the more efficient team this time and Captain Conti sealed the win in the 71st minute with a good strike following Gormley’s cross after Burnley got one back.

    League Cup 1st round
    Crewe - Notts County: 4 – 2
    This match was the confirmation for me that Materazzi was past it. Notts County opened the scoring on the 44th but Conti replied straight away in first half added time. Right after the restart, Notts County was in front again following a huge mistake from Materazzi. Subtitute Tootle equalized to send to game to extra time during which we scored 2 more to get through to the next round

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Reading: 0 – 1
    We went down to a goal in the first minute when Devlin was dispossessed and though afterwards we had more possession and shots on goal, we never could find the net and suffered our first defeat in the Championship. That was a warning that the road ahead was probably going to be hard.

    nPower Championship
    Swansea – Crewe: 0 – 1
    A good battling display to get back to winning ways with a goal from Moller on the 86th minute.


    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Middlesbrough: 1 – 1
    A disappointing draw. We had 22 shots on goal with 10 on target to Middlesbrough’s 8(1) but it was not to be.

    League Cup 2nd round
    Leicester – Crewe: 2 – 0
    That’s the reality when you play a Premier Division side who will take their chances when they come due to being more experienced! A Gislasson own goal in the 15th gave us a mountain to climb and we never could get one back. Out!

    nPower Championship
    Coventry – Crewe: 0 – 5
    What a win! Coventry had 6 shots with none on target! Tuninetti, Nellings, Gislasson and Devlin (2) gave us an emphatic victory. We had 18 shots with 8 on target. Thumping achievement unlocked on steam.

    Here’s the league standings after the August matches:

    This post was edited by Webslinger (2012-03-04 11:46, 3 years ago)
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    Stop press!

    The Nigerian Football Association has offered me the job of Nigeria head coach.



    Should I accept it guys? What do you think?

    I want to accept and see how I can juggle being Crewe head coach as well as an international head coach. I guess if I do well, it would increase my reputation ten-fold and in return be beneficial to bringing star players to Crewe!

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    I would carry on with crewe and see if you can get them to the premiership see how you fare in that league and if you do well you could get a better job offer :)

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    it's a part time job, so i think i'll do both :), as of course i don't want to quit Crewe, they are the main story and the main quest of the game, for Crewe to become Champions of England and of Europe! Nigeria is just sort of a side quest i guess...

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    Accepted the Nigeria job, but nothing on the horizon until mid-November... Friendly match. Nigeria last of their World Cup Qual Group and eliminated, hence why my predecessor was sacked! I will just be doing some basic scouting of Nigerian players in action around the continent.

    Back to Crewe!

    September 2013
    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Southampton: 3 – 0
    After a two-week break, we resumed with a win at home against Southampton. A good win overall with a goal from Conti and two goals from central defender Knol.

    nPower Championship
    Derby – Crewe: 0 – 0
    A quite entertaining draw where both sides had chances. No complaints as long as we kept a clean sheet.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Bristol City: 3 – 0
    A great win where we were more clinical in front of goal than our opponent who had 11 shots but none on target. Young promising centre back Devlin again man of the match. 4th MoM for him already this season. We are top of the league.

    October 2013
    nPower Championship
    Crewe - Crystal Palace: 1 – 0
    Great defensive as well as overall performance. Conti came off the bench on 81st minute to replace Gro who was not in good finishing mood to settle the match with a great goal on 90th minute. Konig hit a great pass over the top from defense on his left channel and Conti beat the offside trap and raced away to beat the goalie with a fine strike that keeps us on top.

    nPower Championship
    Nottingham Forest – Crewe: 0 – 2
    A double from Gro gave us a good win where we were again the most clinical team in front of goal. Still top!

    nPower Championship
    Norwich – Crewe: 1 – 0
    Bad day at the office! We did not play well enough as we were not dangerous at all in the final third. Only 2 shots on goal and 1 on target. Norwich were the better team throughout and I made it clear after the match that we should perform better!

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Preston: 2 – 2
    A disappointing draw! Maybe it’s due to my team selection. I decided to rest Devlin who was feeling a little jaded and put Konig in a central position where he did not perform as best he could. The players showed character though to come back from 2 nil down at the 51st minute to draw the game. Conti lead by example by pulling one back before Knol equalized with a header from a Nellins freekick.

    nPower Championship
    Barnsley – Crewe: 2 – 3
    Good away win that allows us to climb back to second in the table at the end of October. Leading by 2 goals in the 24th and 47th minute, we saw that lead reduced in the 81st minute and then a Devlin own goal had me fuming. Substitute Nellins had the last word for us though giving us the win in the 92nd minute at the second attempt after his header was parried.







    Next matches home to Leeds, away at QPR, then home to Hull and Birmingham and then away to Peterborough

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    Been unable to update these past 2 days due worked late and tired to boot the pc at home... so here goes November and December update

    November 2013
    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Leeds: 1 – 1
    We have not been dominating the possession department in the past few games but have been scoring goals nevertheless and this match was no different though only a draw. Substitute Powell provided the pass for Gro to score from close range in the 89th minute. But Leeds equalized right after the restart following a lapse in concentration from the defense to leave the scorer unmarked and the guy latched onto the ball and sent the ball into the opposite corner. Still second in the league.

    nPower Championship
    QPR – Crewe: 1 – 0
    The boys tried hard and were the better team in the first half restricting QPR to 0 shots on goal, but the experience of QPR players like Barton, Wright-Phillips showed in the second half when they took full advantage of a clear cut opportunity to score the only goal of the game. Conti and company tried to come back but were thwarted by good goalkeeping.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Hull: 1 – 1
    Disappointing draw to say the least. We could not hold on to our lead and conceded from a direct free kick in the top right corner. Our attacking play was quite ineffective today even with the best team on the field and I made it clear to them at the end that they have to improve.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Birmingham: 1 – 1
    Again a draw but I spirited performance from the team against the league leaders with a couple of clearance off the line and last ditched tackles. We opened the scoring in first half added time but Birmingham came back stronger after the break and equalized. Went down to 10 men with 10 minutes to go and it was defensive from then on so as not to concede and lose.


    nPower Championship
    Peterborough – Crewe: 2 – 2
    We went down, but the players responded well to equalize and then take the lead. Injury to my first choice keeper forced a substitution and I guess match rustiness of backup proved costly as we conceded to draw yet again. Will be without my first choice keeper for around 3 weeks.

    December 2013
    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Brighton: 0 – 2
    Very bad! That’s been my worst run as Crewe’s head coach! Though goalless at half-time, we went behind from an own goal from Conti after the defense did not clear the ball properly from a free kick and the goalie stood motionless! Brighton added a second when we left the scorer free in the area and we were duly punished. It may as well have been a mistake from my part not to have brought in a new goalkeeper. I wanted to give a chance to my young under-21 international keeper and he is not out injured, and my backup is not up to the task.

    nPower Championship
    Huddersfield – Crewe: 3 – 0
    Another poor performance. Think I’ll need to get back in the transfer market January and get a centre back. There will be some players out in the cold after this match most probably.

    nPower Championship
    Ipswich – Crewe: 1 – 0
    This is a game we should have at least come out of with a draw and a defensive mistake cost us. Artell dwelled on the ball and lost possession to the attacker who went on to score

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Blackpool: 2 – 0
    Finally a win! Changed the team a little bit and they responded magnificently. Nick Powell scored his first goal of the season and lady-luck was on our side this time with an own goal in our favour from Blackpool.

    nPower Championship
    Reading – Crewe: 0 – 0
    We seemed to have got back a certain defensive solidity. Team meeting and individual meetings seemed to have had a positive effect and we managed to hold out for a draw against a good Reading team 2 places above us, though we had chances to score ourselves. Looking forward to 4 consecutive home matches to go on a good run and get the player’s confidence back to a positive level, starting with a 3rd round FA Cup match against Blue Square Bet Premier team Wrexham. We finish the year in 10th position, and though the board has asked me whether I wish to review my expectations, I kept it at mid-finish standing.



    On another note, something worth commenting on. King Kenny awarded December manager of the month after following results


    Here’s the Premier League standings as well

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    January 2014

    Signed Mattia Tirloni, who I have been chasing for a year or so, publicly talking about the kid’s ability to increase my chance of luring him to Crewe and now it’s mission accomplished.
    I have great hope on this youngsters becoming one of the first name on the team sheet, and maybe a future Italian international!



    FA Cup 3rd round
    Crewe – Wrexham: 1 – 0
    Gave a chance to some of the fringe players, but though we won, those fringe players did not impress me, especially Howarth. We finally got the goal through a poacher’s effort from Conti

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Swansea: 2 – 1
    In an evenly contested match, we went one up just before half time and then doubled the lead our lead in the 75th minute. But Swansea hit back straight away to reduce the gap and we had to dig deep to come out winners in the end.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Burnley: 1 – 1
    Burnley took the lead in the 30th minute and we had to wait till the 89th minute for the equalizer when substitute Mensah was fouled just outside the penalty box and Nellins converted from the free-kick.

    nPower Championship
    Middlesbrough – Crewe: 3 – 3
    Great goal from Nick Powell from the edge of the area from a layoff to an indirect free-kick. We doubled the lead on the 34th minute with Moller goal, but Borough hit back on the 41st minute. Borough equalized on the 73rd minute but 3 minutes later, Tirloni scored his first goal for the club from a direct free-kick on the edge on the area. Middlesborough equalized though with 2 minutes to go, but overall a good battling display.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Millwall: 3 – 1
    Good win with lots of chances. Score could have been bigger if shots were placed/hit on target.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Coventry: 2 – 1
    Another good win where we restricted the opposition to only three shots, none on target though I would have liked to win by a bigger margin. Mattia Tirloni long ranged shot in added time from the middle of the Coventry’s half later earned the goal of the month award.

    FA Cup 4th round
    Crewe – Walsall: 0 – 0
    Disappointing draw to a lower division team. We’ll now have to win away. Though past confrontations are in our favour.

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    February 2014
    nPower Championship
    Southampton – Crewe: 5 – 4
    We went ahead in the 2nd minute but Southampton equalized through a penalty 3 minutes later. They went ahead on 14th minute but we pegged them back immediately through a shot outside the box by Tirloni. We conceded two goals through back defending but managed to pull level at 4-4, only to concede in added time. Bad defending cost us today as the rest of the team performed much better.


    FA Cup 4th round replay
    Walsall - Crewe: 0 – 1
    A good win overall in a match we controlled. Substitute Gernsoe scored the winner with a good finish from the right edge of the penalty box.

    nPower Championship
    Bristol City – Crewe: 0 – 3
    Great win against a team higher up in the table in 3rd position. Changed the team a bit to have more pace in attack and it paid off with 3 good goals.

    nPower Championship
    Crewe – Nottingham Forest: 0 – 0
    A winnable match where we were the better team. Credit to the opposition goalkeeper, man of the match who kept us out.

    FA Cup 5th round
    QPR – Crewe: 1 – 1
    We went ahead through a good goal by Mensah but then conceded at the start of the second half. Though both sides had chances, no one could get the decisive. Replay at home now.

    nPower Championship
    Crystal Palace – Crewe: 1 – 1
    Crystal Palace took the lead early in the first half but we equalized on the 80th and then had a chance to win the game when Nellins hit the post. Siadankay made some important saves as well to keep us from conceding again and was man of the match.

    We finish the month in 10th position.

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    I love the boards expectations. Its something genuine about it. Good for you accepting the Nigeria job. Hope you reach further than Lagerstöm did. What´s the expectations of the National team? A great way also to built on your own status in the FM world.


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