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[FM15] Raising Cain

The story of a failed young manager's attempt to resurrect his career ... and his life.
Started on 1 September 2015 by tenthreeleader
Latest Reply on 12 August 2016 by zappo137
Can we?

They were sisters.

Kyle kicked himself for not figuring it out sooner. Their hair colors were different but the more he though about it, the more Kyle noticed a resemblance between Diana Moore and Charlotte Weber.

And it explained everything.

The next day, Kyle went to see Eales. He figured Moore had probably done so sooner, and as such he wanted to get his two cents worth in before anything else happened.

He showed the chairman the newspaper clipping.

“Did you have a hand in showing me this?” Kyle asked.

The chairman pushed his glasses up higher onto the bridge of his nose and smiled.

“Well, yes, Kyle, I did,” he said. “Diana was in here to request personal leave, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection that she’s related to a woman from your past.”

“She is, for all the wrong reasons, and that’s common knowledge,” Kyle said, the back of his neck starting to tingle with frustration.

“Kyle, this isn’t about that,” Eales said. “People do make mistakes in life, and that was yours, I’m sure. Anyhow, it has nothing whatever to do with your performance in your job, which has been exemplary. I just thought you might like to know.”

Kyle looked at his boss in a new light now.

“Yes, Daryl,” he said, in a very unusual use of Eales’ Christian name. “I did want to know and I thank you for that.”

There was only one reason why Eales would have done such a thing. He wanted Kyle to come out on top, without saying so in so many words.

“Your message was received,” Kyle said. “I promise you, I’ll give this playoff run everything I have. If we don’t make it, it will not be to lack of effort by either me or any of my players.”

“I know, Kyle,” Eales said. “But maybe now you can get a better idea of what’s happening in your life.”

Kyle left for the day at 7:00 p.m., as was becoming his custom, but before he went home he had something else he needed to do.

He stopped at a Tescos to buy a sympathy card.

He dropped it in the post – and the recipient would indeed be surprised when it arrived.

# # #
Great update mate, loving this!
Thanks as always, Griffo ... lots of work for Oxford to do to get this job done!


11 April 2015 – AFC Wimbledon (15-9-17, 13th place) v Oxford United (17-10-14, 9th place)
Sky Bet League Two Match Day #42 – The Fans’ Stadium, Kingsmeadow
Referee: Mark Haywood

“The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” – Henry Kissinger

This was the match that Oxford had to have. The first of five, actually.

Southwest London was a bear to get to on a weekend, and this day was no different. The team was on the coach early – 8 am – for the trip to Kingsmeadow which took just under two hours.

There was a lot to think about on that trip. Kyle conversed with Allison by text message from time to time – she had taken it as her personal responsibility to calm down the manager on the way to the big match – and to a large extent, it worked.

There was a lot at stake. Tranmere was away to Southend, and Northampton was away to Stevenage. So all three of the contenders for the final playoff spot had tricky away fixtures – but for Kyle, it was the second time seeing AFC Wimbledon.

They had been the opponents for his first match in charge of Oxford, and he had taken good notes.

“We want the double over these guys,” Kyle said as his players changed for the match. “We need the double over these guys. It’s up to you to work the match plan and figure out a way.”

With that, he headed into the visiting manager’s office and let the players have their customary pre-match banter.

Only this time there was an edge to it. Everyone knew what was at stake, and what might slip away if the results didn’t go the way they needed to go.

The York match meant that Oxford didn’t really control its own destiny heading into the two most important matches of the season, against Northampton and Tranmere.

As such, there was an element of desperation in the side as the team took the pitch. A certain amount of that isn’t a bad thing – but when it wrecks the team’s play, there’s a problem.

So it was that Kyle sent seventeen-year old James Roberts out onto the part in support of Hoban. There was just no way to deal with the young man’s undoubted nerves except to tell him to do his best, and then hope for the best.

The regular central defense pairing of Dunkley and Wright was restored, with Ssewankambo restored to the holding role and Maddison into the engine room in place of Ashby. Meades once again started on the right side of midfield while MacDonald watched, frustrated, from the stand.

Oxford started very brightly, winning a corner half a minute into the match and getting a useful ball into the box, only to see Wright unable to keep his header down from a decent position just outside the six-yard box.

Then it was Dunkley coming close – far too far forward on a foray into the Wimbledon half, he also headed over and earned a word from Kyle for not minding his position.

Then Potts earned himself a booking from referee Mark Haywood, just four minutes into the match and that slowed down a bit of the team’s early momentum.

Craig Tanner, whose bursting run had gotten Potts booked, won a corner three minutes later and his swerving effort nearly wound up in the net, off the forehead of Dannie Bulman. Ashdown was correctly positioned, though, and saved by beating the ball to the left with two clenched fists.

It was an all-action start, and then the kid got involved. Roberts tried his luck from twenty yards and keeper Shwan Jalal punched the effort over the bar for a corner. After Wimbledon cleared its lines, Kyle whistled for the youngster’s attention and gave him two thumbs up for a solid effort.

That was the stuff Kyle needed to see, and it appeared as though his lads were for it. That was vital and so he headed to the touchline to be their cheerleader.

Oxford won yet another corner in nineteen minutes, and Maddison’s ball in was headed to the top of the area but only as far as Ssewankambo, who saw Hoban breaking to his left. The Irishman took the pass, wheeled to his right to clear his shooting foot, and blasted a seeing-eye strike into Jalal’s lower left corner to put Oxford in front.

The striker’s sixteenth goal of the season safely home, there was reason to celebrate.

But then the worst thing that could have happened, happened as Meades went down under a crunching but fair challenge from Adedeji Oshilaja and came up limping.

As he had done before in similar situations, Meades waved away treatment. He wanted to play, and as such he was going to do whatever he needed to do to stay in the match. When the ball wasn’t near him he ran up and down the touchline, minding his responsibilities, trying to get feeling back into what was evidently a dead leg.

Kyle had to applaud the young man’s effort – and he was jumping around with the rest of them a few minutes later.

Alfie Potter had the ball on the left of the Wimbledon back line, squared the ball to the middle – and found his effort intercepted by Maddison. The midfielder looked left for Hoban, and the Irishman immediately played a beautiful wall pass to his right for the run of Roberts, conveniently played onside from across the park by defender Jack Smith.

He was in alone on Jalal – and the boy didn’t miss, firing home his first senior goal in 25 minutes to get Oxford two to the good.

Roberts, not surprisingly, was over the moon, racing to the corner flag in front of the away support to introduce himself to a rapturous group of supporters.

This was more like it, Kyle thought, and proceeded to warn his players against complacency – a warning they promptly ignored as Alfie Potter broke behind the defense and beat Ashdown in 38 minutes, the keeper’s scream of frustration accentuating a ridiculous lack of attention to detail on the back line.

I gave you one job,” Kyle thought as he looked at Dunkley and Wright preparing for the restart, pointing at each other and accomplishing nothing constructive.

Kyle got off the bench and yelled for the two of them.

“You know what to do,” he yelled. “Both of you missed assignments so quit blaming each other!”

The players looked at him sheepishly as play resumed. Sometimes, a student gets caught by the teacher and has no excuse. This was one of those times.

A few minutes later, Haywood blew for halftime and Kyle had a chance to address his troops.

“You lads did well out there,” he said, “but one mistake cost you your padding. I want you to concentrate in the second half. You’ve done well but right now another mistake will be one that wrecks the season. Do not be the man who makes that mistake. Now go and get it done.”

He knew he was piling pressure on his players, but there was a reason for it.

Sometimes professionals have to be reminded that they are, in fact, professionals, and they need to act like the professionals they are. That means challenging them – and Kyle had done that in a very big way.

Neil Cox challenged his players in a different way – yanking Smith, who had been culpable on Roberts’ goal, and Dannie Bulman off the pitch in favor of Adebayo Akinfenwa and Elliot Lee to give his team a more attacking shape.

The new-look Wimbledon got a corner five minutes into the second half and Ashdown had to be very quick to parry Tanner, who found himself with time and acres of space in a really poor effort to defend a set piece by Kyle’s men.

Still, the keeper bailed out his mates and the danger passed. In 56 minutes Cox used his last substitution, bringing on teenager Chace Jacquart for a clearly frustrated Sean Rigg.

Thus Wimbledon. With all three of his substitutions remaining as well as holding the lead, Kyle held most of the cards and he knew it. Maddison celebrated Dons running out of substitutions with a stinging drive from thirty yards that Jalal palmed around the post.

The ensuing corner saw Meades gifted the ball after a miscommunication at the defense – only to see Jalal make a reflex save worthy of David DeGea as the midfielder stabbed at the ball no more than five yards from goal. The ball wound up in the keeper’s stomach – there wasn’t even a rebound.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except applaud the other guy for being brilliant, and that was what Meades did, fair play to the lad. It was a save Kyle doubted Jalal could have made again even on instant replay and play resumed.

However, Oxford were in the ascendancy and Hoban nearly added a goal for his brace just after the hour, heading wide from a free header position about ten yards away from goal. The Us were wasteful and Kyle noted this as well.

Sammy Moore went into the book a few minutes later and Maddison fired over from the ensuing free kick, which didn’t improve Kyle’s mood any. However he noted with satisfaction that Wimbledon was rarely threatening and that was the most important thing.

After Moore missed wide in seventy minutes, Oxford caught Wimbledon with numbers and started a counter with Hoban contriving to miss the target this time. Seventy-five minutes had passed and it was time for the bench – and a different alignment.

The 4-2-3-1, which had proven so ineffective in keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard late, got one more try and it was done with a new player – Mullins came on for Meades, who never really did fully work off his dead leg.

There was more coming from Wimbledon, though, as Tanner wormed his way through the middle of the defense to sting Ashdown’s palms from twenty yards, the keeper beating the ball to the ground for Dunkley to clear into touch.

The crowd was fully into the match, even though it wasn’t very large, but Hoban and Roberts both found ways to miss open sides of the Wimbledon goal five minutes from time for the clincher that would have put the match to bed. The fact that the shots were consecutive – Hoban’s blocked and Roberts’ rebound pushed wide for a corner – made Kyle frown in frustration.

“Patience,” Fazackerley advised. “Don’t get wound up so, Kyle.”

The older man was giving wise counsel. Kyle remembered that his team held the lead. The corner wound up on O’Dowda’s foot and he squared to the middle – where the boy, Roberts, was there to convert.

A brace for the teenager – a win for Oxford – and hope for the playoffs.

Oxford United: Ashdown: Grimshaw, Dunkley, Wright (captain), Potts, Ssewankambo (Long 85), Meades (Mullins 72), Maddison (Hylton 85), O’Dowda, Roberts, Hoban. Unused subs: Clarke, Skarz, Ashby, Rose.

AFC Wimbledon 1 (Alfie Potter 38)
Oxford United 3 (Hoban 19, Roberts 25, 85)
H/T: 0-2
A – 4,402, The Fans’ Stadium, Kingsmeadow, Kingston-upon-Thames
Man of the Match: James Roberts, Oxford (MR 8.8)
GUMP: James Roberts

# # #
Great performance from the young one!
Just when the team needed one. Sometimes this game works out that way.

“If you like a close finish, this team is for you,” Kyle said after the match. Churchill was saying his piece and Kyle let him do so, even if he would rather have looked at Vic Young.

“It really is going to go down to the wire,” Churchill noted.

“I don’t see any other finish,” Kyle answered. “The lads really responded today, James Roberts had a very big game for his club in his first start, and we have given ourselves a chance to be relevant at the end of the season. I don’t know how we could ask for more.”

Tranmere had played a goalless draw at Southend, and Northampton had scraped out a one-nil win at Stevenage. Marc Richards had netted in the ninth minute, his team-leading 16th goal of the season, and Chris Wilder’s men had made it stand up.

As such, the table could hardly have been closer, with four matches to play:

Place	Club			Pts	GD
7. 	Tranmere		67	+11
8.	Northampton		65	+11
9. 	Oxford			64	+12

Oxford could now control its own destiny again, to a point, with matches against the Cobblers and Rovers coming up within the next week. There was all to play for.

Portsmouth punched its ticket for League One that day as well, a 3-1 win at Morecambe assuring promotion for League Two’s best team. They were now ten points clear of second-placed Shrewsbury, which had already clinched a playoff place.

The rest of the league, though, was in considerably more flux.

Relegation wasn’t yet assured for anyone, either. Cheltenham still occupied the foot of the table and it didn’t look good for them on 33 points, but mathematically they were still alive. Dag and Red held 23rd place with 38 points, trailing Exeter and Carlisle by two with four matches to go and holding goal difference on both.

But for now all Kyle could think about was the Cobblers, and in particular how to beat them without Hoskins.

The injured striker would officially miss about another ten days – putting him out for both the Northampton and the Tranmere crunch clashes. That took some living for Kyle to accept.

MacDonald would be back, rested and ready, and that counted for much, but Hoskins on his game was one of the better strikers in League Two and he would be missed.

The three playoff contenders all had difficult run-ins so it was difficult to choose a favorite. Tranmere had to be considered the front runner due to having the home match against Oxford but it was all up for grabs:

Tranmere (18-13-11, 7th place)
@ Mansfield Town (10th place)
Oxford (9th place)
@ Plymouth (3rd place)
Bury (15th place)

Northampton (18-11-13, 8th place)
@ Oxford (9th place)
Cheltenham (24th place)
@ Burton (18th place)
Wycombe (4th place)

Oxford (18-10-14, 9th place)
Northampton (8th place)
@Tranmere (7th place)
Cambridge (14th place)
@ Newport County (12th place)

So it was that Kyle enjoyed a glass of wine with Neil Cox, who sportingly wished Kyle the best of luck down the stretch – and then headed home on the coach.

He wondered whether Diana had gotten the card he left for her, realized that he would probably never hear from her about it, and settled back in his seat to think about how to get the best of Northampton Town.

The road ahead was difficult, and success vital for any playoff hopes the team might entertain. But Kyle felt that better was in them – and as a result, it was time for Oxford’s players to see a new Kyle Cain.

# # #
I have faith, I think you will sneak in and cause some trouble in the playoffs!
They have work to do but anything is possible!

“That’s it, Jimmy, use your body as a brace against that defender.”

Kyle took to the training pitch personally to work with the striker who had opened so many eyes in the last few weeks.

James Roberts was eating up the attention. Fresh off a brace – and a spot in the League Two Team of the Week – he was trying not to let all the attention go to his head.

He had earned the teasing nickname “Vardy” from the senior squad for his performance against Wimbledon and he tried not to let that go to his head too – but he was proving his worth as a member of the team and that was what all the fuss was about.

The strikers had all done their part – even the departed Godden, recovering from his ankle injury with the Oxford medical staff as part of his prior loan arrangement – and they had overcome a lot. Now the brown-haired, brown-eyed teenager was the flavor of the month and he loved it.

However, there’s a big difference between “flavor of the month” and “functional footballer” and it was Kyle Cain’s job to teach Roberts the difference.

Kyle was demonstrating how he wanted to see the striker play with his back to goal when the situation required it. “If you get closed down hard – and if you keep playing like you are, you will be – you can initiate contact like this…” and the manager turned his back to Roberts and bumped him hard in the mid-section.

“…and when he recoils looking for the foul you didn’t commit, he’s off balance and you can choose your direction, and draw defenders to you or shoot if they don’t make the move. Maddy, help me out here.”

The midfielder, now looking interested as the manager explained how to bend the laws of the game, stood ten yards away, while Kyle bumped Roberts, who had closed him – and then was off to the player’s left, the ball at his feet thanks to a hard pass from Maddison.

“No ref will let you get away with that, gaffer,” Roberts laughed.

“Try me,” Kyle challenged, opting not to take the youngster’s words as criticism, as a different Kyle Cain surely would have. “Or better yet, try it yourself. Even if you foul, that will make a defender think twice because maybe next time he won’t get the call. Be smart about when you try it, but remember you have just as much right to that space as the defender does.”

Kyle knew full well that his team scored the majority of its goals by not holding up the ball, but there were times when it was necessary. His team was earning a deserved reputation for being deadly on the break and it was job one for any team wanting points off Oxford United to find a way to stop the “Flying Circus”, as BBC Oxford now called it.

When the team was ‘on’ in attack, it was really ‘on’, and there was no way for some teams to stop what was coming to them. It was the culmination of everything Kyle had tried to do at Torquay but couldn’t. It was just that simple.

The players loved seeing Kyle on the training pitch – it was a refreshing change at a time when change was really needed. Everyone had Northampton on their minds and that was understandable, but finding a different, and better, way to do things was the order of the day.

They liked the change from Taskmaster Kyle to Teacher Kyle, and the resulting lift to the squad was well worth the effort.

With a short week in preparation for the home match, maximizing effort was essential. The Sunday before the match, with the next day an off day, Kyle called in the troops for a short session to make sure the match plan was well in place.

He arrived to a high-spirited room, with players focused on their task. The workout was short and brisk and at a very good level of quality, so he gave the team the Monday away from training without hesitation. There would be just light weight work and cardio for players who needed it.

He entered his office to work on the team sheet and flipped on the light. There was an envelope on his desk.

He crossed the room and opened it, seeing his name written on the front in a woman’s handwriting.

Inside was his card, ripped into pieces. A post-it note was attached inside. It read:

“You hurt her. I’ll never forgive you, and I’ll make sure you never forget.”

# # #
4 tough games remaining, but with a bit of luck you'll ease through them!
Great to see Kyle getting more hands on with his players!
It's time to show a different side of the boss! And yes, the run in is challenging but hopefully the club can find its form again for the stretch run!

14 April 2015 – Oxford United (18-10-14, 9th place) v Northampton Town (18-11-13, 8th place)
Sky Bet League Two Match Day #43 – The Kassam Stadium, Oxford
Referee: Carl Sarginson

Kyle hadn’t taken kindly to that sort of threat, and was in fact more than happy to pass it along to Eales. When questioned, Moore simply said she had a personal issue with the Oxford manager which should not be interpreted in any way as a threat against his safety.

He now knew who had leaked the story to Churchill, and even though he couldn’t prove it, the truth was as plain as the nose on his face. Diana Moore now had a major problem on her hands and now that the ground rules for her continued employment had been laid, staying within them would be her first order of business.

Unfortunately, there was no rule that said she couldn’t rip up a greeting card if she felt like it, so there was little else Kyle could do. He also couldn’t afford to let it ruin his concentration for the biggest match of Oxford’s season.

The clubs were as evenly matched in record as they could be and not be level with each other– one more draw for the Cobblers meant one less defeat – and so 65 points traveled to play 64 in the table.

MacDonald was restored to the right side of midfield, his suspension over, but the rest of the Oxford XI was unchanged. Meades dropped to the bench in place of Rose, and the continuity of the eleven from the Wimbledon match was lost on no one.

Kyle’s words were short and sweet.

“This is a chance for you to get rid of a team that is in your way. Do your jobs like we all know you can and this match is there for you to take. Do your best, work hard for each other, and relax. Let’s have some fun out there and when we’re done, we’ll look back on a good result. Get it done.”

With that, Oxford took the pitch to a stadium less than half full for the biggest match of the season. Kyle couldn’t believe it – but he dared not criticize the fans. Those that were there were loud, raucous and fully behind the team.

The Cobblers started out in a 4-4-1-1 alignment – looking to stop the “Flying Circus”, as it were – and Oxford jumped on them.

They earned a corner after only three minutes, which came to nothing, but Kyle was pleased at how the team came out of the gate with an intensity that was very gratifying.

Four minutes later, they got a second corner and this time Maddison took a short option, finding O’Dowda at the right edge of the eighteen. He tried to force the ball into the six-yard box, and somewhat surprisingly, found Hoban in the middle of a mob of players. With arms and legs flailing everywhere around the ball, Hoban took a shot – and defender Steven Hewitt turned the ball into his own goal to fire Oxford into the lead by mistake.

That was the break Kyle wanted and his team needed, with the supporters in the Mail stand behind the goal going wild with excitement and relief. Kyle looked behind the goal to see Allison jumping around like a wild woman, hugging a friend of hers – thankfully, female – and the sight made Kyle smile twice.

Off to a fast start, the Us kept up the pace and the pressure. Twelve minutes later they were celebrating again as Grimshaw took off down the right, forwarding the ball to Roberts, playing with his back to goal.

Then it happened. He got closed, and Roberts moved into the defender. Then he laid the ball off to the right for MacDonald, spinning to find space between the central defenders. The return pass was perfect and the eighteen-year old found the range again to make it 2-0.

“You are one lucky man,” Fazackerley marveled as Roberts celebrated his goal.

“Nobody calls me that,” Kyle said simply. “I scored a few like that in my day.”

As for the start to the match, Oxford could hardly have asked for better, and the fans made their appreciation known to their second ‘teen idol’ – the eighteen-year old Maddison being the other – and Oxford got down to the business of protecting its new-found lead.

That was more difficult once striker Joel Byrom came fully into the contest, coming close twice between twenty and twenty-five minutes, but Oxford’s midfield was playing beautifully with four facing five, and that was a very pleasant surprise.

Fazackerley’s usual moaning about getting outnumbered in the midfield didn’t matter so much when the Us were moving the ball like they were moving it, especially when the hole striker dropped back slightly deeper to help out and link play. Kyle’s team was in command and as a result the rest of the first half was quiet.

Northampton didn’t get near the Oxford goal in the first half and Kyle’s message was simple.

“Do not be the man who lets Northampton back into this game. You’ve earned this lead. Protect it like it was your kids.”

The second half began, and Kyle was surprised to find that his players had actually listened to him.

It shouldn’t have been surprising – they really had been trying as hard as they could to ‘buy in’ almost from the start – but this time the application they showed in the defensive side of their game was gratifying in many ways.

Harry Hooman’s early effort was charged down with authority by Ssewankambo, with the enigmatic Swede pumping his fists in celebration as the ball spun out of play for a throw.

That was the stuff – and the crowd reacted with the player, a truly wonderful development. Dunkley got into the act with a perfectly timed tackle – in the area – to dispossess Cobblers skipper Marc Richards and win possession.

The crowd in the Mail stand, behind the Oxford goal in the second half, roared with appreciation and Kyle looked to see Allison bouncing delightfully up and down once more.

“Do that again, Dunks,” Kyle thought to himself with a rueful smile.

Richards soon came off in favor of Devarn Green for the visitors but it didn’t matter. The Oxford back four was air-tight. O’Dowda got the best chance for Oxford, managing to put the ball wide in 75 minutes when scoring would have been the much easier option.

But still, it hardly mattered. Kyle made a very rare (for him) triple substitution in 77 minutes, removing Maddison, O’Dowda and Roberts in favor of Whing, Skarz and Hylton, still looking for match fitness after a successful stint in the reserves.

They were there to play 4-2-3-1 and hold Northampton off the scoresheet.

They did. With ease. The Cobblers managed only two shots on target all afternoon against Ashdown, who was never really tested.

The battle for eighth place was over, well and truly won. The bigger fight, though, still lay ahead.

Oxford United: Ashdown: Grimshaw, Dunkley, Wright (captain), Potts, Ssewankambo, MacDonald, Maddison (Whing 77), O’Dowda (Skarz 77), Roberts (Hylton 77), Hoban.
Unused subs: Clarke, Bevans, Mullins, Meades.

Oxford United 2 (Steven Hewitt o/g 7, Roberts 19)
Northampton Town 0
H/T: 2-0
A – 5,647, The Kassam Stadium, Oxford
Man of the Match: Jake Wright, Oxford (MR 8.1)
GUMP: James Roberts

# # #
BIG win there, great stuff!
I was pleased :D

“Nice job in every way. The players did superbly well, we were air tight in front of goal and we’ve given ourselves a chance to play some very meaningful matches at the end of our season.”

Kyle couldn’t hide his excitement. The team had responded perfectly and that meant much. With three matches to play – and a crunch clash at Tranmere the next item on the agenda with a playoff place surely on the line – it was the right time to be in form.

The crowd hadn’t been huge but it had been very vocal, and with the penultimate match of the season at home to Cambridge, the next crowd figured to be considerably larger and hopefully even more boisterous.

Kyle took the opportunity to praise the fans and at the same time ask for a few more of them in his post-match comments, before the talk turned to Tranmere.

“They hold the spot you want,” Churchill reminded him.

“That would be obvious from looking at the table,” Kyle admitted. “But in the main, if we play like we played today, I think we have a great chance to go there and get a result. I’m busting my buttons over how these lads worked today. They were excellent.”

It all came back to motivating players – and that was what Kyle hadn’t done at Torquay at the end of the last season.

Vic read his mind.

“Kyle, what were you going through at this time last season and what is the difference between you now and you then?”

It was a superb question and Kyle had to think about his answer for a moment.

“Last year I was learning, and I was scared, if I’m honest,” he said. “I was trying to reverse a dip in form and keep Torquay up. I failed. But I think I learned from that experience and I learned a bit about how to handle pressure while trying to motivate players. Right now the manager you see is a bit different from that one.”

“In what way?” Churchill horned in on Vic’s question.

“Well, I try to be more positive,” Kyle answered. “It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but having been in that situation where pressure is piled on you is a hard place to be. I think I learned from it and Oxford is getting some of the benefit of that now. And so am I.”

“Your own standards have always been the highest ones, though, or so we are told,” Vic said.

“Who told you that?” Kyle frowned, trying not to bristle.

“Well, we asked around at Torquay. It’s what we journalists do.” There was a hint of a smile on her face, enough to soothe Kyle’s wrath in any event.

“Well, to be fair, I do set high standards for myself in my work. I think the fans deserve that and if I am going to be a successful manager, I think that’s important. But I do think I learned from last year and right now there is a happy group of young men in my changing room celebrating a victory because we’re working as a unit – coaches and players.”

“We Are Familyyyyy.” That was Churchill, attempting to conjure memories of the old 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team with their use of the Sister Sledge disco-era hit. Somehow it didn’t sound quite the same.

That team rode the song to a sense of community spirit that was hard to beat – and a championship at the same time. They had even printed the words “The Family” on top of their dugout so the fans could identify with them.

“If you like,” Kyle said. “I don’t think there are a lot of players who invite each other over for dinner, if that’s what you mean, but when they play together these days they play for each other, they work hard for each other, and they are succeeding for each other. That’s what a little motivation can do and I’m happy to be a part of that.”

The press event broke up and Kyle retreated to his office, where Jenna was waiting with a hug.

“We’re invited upstairs,” Kyle said to his daughter, who smiled in return. The Christchurch Suite awaited, and that meant a nice dinner and for Jenna, another chance to show off Miles.

That was good for her. Kyle wasn’t so sure, but then he tried not to refuse any reasonable request from his daughter and on a day where victory of this magnitude was achieved, there was no sense in being a spoilsport.

# # #
Interesting to see the relationship with Churchill improving... maybe our lead protagonist is becoming more professional?
You never know with some people ... do you? :)

“You can’t teach the beast. It’s either in you or it isn’t. You can’t just go to the store and
buy a six-pack of beast. It don’t work like that.” – Kevin Garnett

The news in the short run-up to the match at Tranmere was generally good.

Maddison was being shortlisted for League Two Player of the Year – a remarkable accomplishment for a lad who wasn’t playing when Kyle took over.

Matt Tubbs of Portsmouth was the odds-on choice to win, though, with his 27 goals from 39 matches for Pompey. Plymouth’s Rueben Reid (26 goals from 43 matches) and the currently injured Rory Donnelly of Tranmere (20 goals from 38 matches) were the other three. Donnelly, who was recovering from a sports hernia, would be a big miss for Rovers on the Saturday and Kyle wished him the very best of good fortune – starting on the 19th April.

But now, much of his squad was returning to full health. Skarz was ready for ninety minutes and at Prenton Park, Kyle would try to let him play them. Hylton was nearly ready for the same, and though Hoskins wouldn’t be there to answer the bell, there was adequate cover for him through Roberts.

In short, there was reason for optimism. Kyle enjoyed that prospect.

Luton also hired a new boss – David Flitcroft, Garry’s brother and former manager of Bury, a club at which he had once played. He had never played above the modern League One level in a long career, though it wasn’t called that when he started to play, but now he inherited a team which would surely reach the playoffs and had seen John Still resign two weeks earlier to take over League One Bradford City, another playoff-bound side.

Yet Luton had been sliding, and results weren’t good. Perhaps the time was right for the 65-year old to move on for a shot at the Championship.

And besides, who wouldn’t mind moving up a league?

Kyle didn’t begrudge Still a thing. He hoped to move his existing club up a league – in fact, he had promised the board when he was hired that he wouldn’t look to leave as a condition of his employment – and so it was a simple thing to concentrate on the task at hand, which was finding a way to win in Birkenhead.

The night of the Northampton match, Kyle stayed up all night looking at video. That meant he was a tired pup when the team gathered for a light training session the next day. The close of the season meant a lot of matches in quick succession and Kyle knew fresh legs were the most important gift he could give his players.

Besides, if they didn’t know the tactics by now they’d never learn, so the focus was on keeping it light, keeping it fun, and watching video so players would see how to react when it mattered the most.

Kyle didn’t see Diana Moore around the office either, and that was a very good thing too. He had meant the card to be a peace offering, but to see it torn up and put back on his desk was uncouth to say the least and classless to say the most.

You can disagree with someone without being disagreeable, he had thought, but when the other person throws it back in your face then they can get stuffed.

He hadn’t even seen Charlotte Weber since that day she had visited the Leyton Orient Christmas party, and the kind of grudge her sister held made little sense to him. But old hatred dies hard.

Kyle wondered what on earth Diana was going to do if he led the club into the playoff places. Finding out drove him as much as anything else.

He wanted to succeed for himself, but he also wanted to succeed because it would stick in that woman’s craw.

It was a very poor way to do business, but football is a gentlemanly game played by beasts, as half of the old saying went.

So, it was time to unleash that beast. He had been held back for far too long and Kyle knew that the moment had arrived.

As he left the ground, his phone flashed on. It was Allison, calling instead of texting.

He answered.

“Hi, Allison,” he replied, sweeping his hair out of his eyes as the wind blew it. Real suave answer, that.

“Hi, Kyle,” she responded. “Before you head off to Birkenhead, how about meeting for dinner?” Nothing like the direct approach.

He was now comfortable with that sort of talk from the young lady, and was glad she had suggested dinner so he didn’t have to feel uncomfortable about thinking of doing it himself.

He knew Stacy was seeing someone and even though she hadn’t pulled the trigger yet on a divorce Kyle knew it was only a matter of time. He was ready to start living again. He had a solicitor lined up, but he had some big decisions to make. One of them involved the baby growing inside his estranged wife and he really wasn’t sure what to do.

So he lived in the moment.

Kyle smiled, even though he knew Allison couldn’t see, and agreed.

“That would be wonderful,” he said. “You pick the place and I’ll bring the money. Fair enough?”

“I don’t know what’s come over you, Kyle Cain,” she responded, “but whatever it is, I want to bottle it. See you tomorrow night. Pick me up at seven.”

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Great update, still loving the story mate and I promise I will get around to reading the other one soon :)

You are reading "[FM15] Raising Cain".

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