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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
Great update, just caught up on this story myself, great read! Best of luck :)
The teams started tentatively, and that was to be expected. Town earned the first corner of the match in five minutes when Bennett was left open in front to receive a ball from Jermaine Grandison, only for Dunkley to intervene and clear behind. The corner came to nothing, but not for lack of effort.

Luke O’Neill’s effort found the forehead of the charging Nathaniel Knight-Percival, who drilled it straight at Ashdown, thankfully for Oxford. The crowd roared or sighed depending on which side it was sat, and Kyle swallowed hard after feeling his heart skip a beat.

But then it all went wrong again, as Ashby collapsed under a heavy and hard challenge from Shane Hill. Kyle also felt it was late, so he was up off the bench like a jack-in-the-box and in the face of fourth official Lee Mason. Lord was summoned onto the pitch and Ashby was carried off, the teenager’s face red with pain from a gash over the right ankle. Bloodstains had already soaked through his sock and it was obvious he needed substantial repair.

Kyle’s eyes were flashing with anger as Mason heard his case but waved him away. The second plan in central midfield was now gone as well, and Kyle looked down the bench, waiving to Hoskins first to warm up and then to enter the game after only eleven minutes.

He slotted Hoban behind him given the Irishman’s known excellence in the attacking midfield role, and play resumed.

O’Neill then clattered hard into Meades, which earned him a very strong admonition from Bankes. By golly, you’d better not do that again, the referee seemed to be saying, while Kyle shot an icy glance in the direction of Mason standing between the two technical areas.

He turned to Fazackerley as he sat back down in his seat, angry and upset.

“Long ways to go yet, Kyle, save that emotion,” his deputy advised.

Kyle nodded. Only once.

Ssewankambo then tackled Mason Bennett too hard for Bankes’ liking, giving away a soft free kick about forty yards from goal. O’Neill took it, and the Oxford defenders didn’t get Collins marked.

He ghosted between Dunkley and Wright and, sailing through the air, redirected the free kick past the flailing Ashdown and into the goal to get Shrewsbury ahead in nineteen minutes.

Half of Wembley erupted in celebration while the other half, unfortunately Kyle’s half, sat in sullen silence. It was time to chase the game.

It took four minutes for Oxford to respond with their only regular attacking midfielder – MacDonald – leading the way, freeing space in the Salops area after taking Hoban’s entry ball to the right. But keeper Callum Burton dove at full stretch to turn the effort behind for a corner, marking Oxford’s first real threat of the match.

Knight-Percival then got another of the ever-popular referee’s warnings for hacking down Potts, but Bankes had no hesitation in booking Skarz for achieving a measure of revenge against O’Neill in 36 minutes.

Kyle’s look of exasperation was caught by the television cameras, unfortunately, but his muttered words for the officials were thankfully not.

Then it was Aaron Wildig coming back for Town, getting the ball to Collins and moving to the left for a return. His cross to the right found both Collins in space and Ashdown too far off his line. The striker lobbed him, the ball finding a home in the upper right corner of the net for a two-nil lead to Shrewsbury six minutes from halftime.

That was a shock. Oxford hadn’t been two goals down in a long time, since the York match at home, mainly due to their offensive firepower. Yet the score simply showed the size of the mountain the team had to climb.

Kyle headed to the touchline to get Wright’s attention.

“Two strikers up,” he said. “We have to go back to two. I want 4-1-3-2 and high pressure on the ball.”

Wright nodded and headed back to his mates, who were understandably upset.

Meades responded with an effort from range that barely missed over the bar, and Hoskins did the same just before the whistle. But neither was on target, and Bankes blew for halftime to send Oxford to the changing room down two goals to nil.

# # #
It never rains but it pours. Hope the team can turn it around.
Tough tough tough tough... but I think you will mount a comeback with an incredible half time speeeech
Let's see what the boys have in them.

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’
You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

“You can still do this.”

The squad was expecting a roasting – and eventually, they got one – but Kyle’s message at half was that two goals were quite possible.

“Work for space, get possession, and press like you have never pressed before,” he told them. “There’s no sense in screaming, but also, if someone would like to remember the bloody match plan when Collins gets the ball, that would be magnificent.”

He neither planned nor made any substitutions, because he wanted these players to dig themselves out of the hole they had made.

But he had something else to tell them.

“If we die, we die together,” he said. “But before we are next in this room, I want every one of you to dedicate yourselves to making sure we don’t die today.”

With that, he left the talks to Fazackerley and a motivational speech to Wright, who was now in fine oratorical form.

Win or lose, he wanted the players together and fighting for each other. That was the way the second half began.

Two minutes after the restart, Whing found MacDonald down the right and the Scot smashed a drive into the side netting. Shrewsbury had not failed to note Oxford’s depleted midfield, and was giving him extra attention by trying to close him down.

Hoskins then ripped a shot off the crossbar, the long carom finding defender Connor Goldson, the Shrewsbury skipper putting the ball into touch. Skarz quickly took the throw, finding Hoban, who found Ssewankambo. His ball into the area reached Hoskins completely and gloriously unmarked to cut the arrears in half.

Or, not. The far side assistant had his flag up for offside and Hoskins was going wild.

Right along with the Oxford bench. It had been an extremely tight decision and Kyle wanted nothing more than to see a replay on the large screens at the stadium.

He waited. And waited. Finally, he realized it wasn’t going to happen. Kyle went to talk with Lee Mason again, but the referee had his hand up, palm facing forward, warning Kyle off him before he ever got there.

Angered, MacDonald won the ball back and dribbled through the Shrewsbury defense by himself, before hitting the foot of Burton’s left post with his shot.

Two shots off the woodwork and a disallowed goal. Quite a haul in five minutes.

Then it was Ssewankambo trying from distance, only to be denied by Burton’s full-length dive to his left. Oxford was now dominating the match and Kyle was up and on the touchline to shout encouragement to his men.

Then Oxford was caught on the counter and it was Ashdown saving the day with a great stop on Bennett, keeping the arrears at two goals even when all the Oxford faithful knew it should only be one.

Just before the hour, another chance came. Hoban, doing a fine job playing off Hoskins up front, laid the ball to the left for Meades. The replacement midfielder took three powerful strides and was off down the left, leaving defenders in his wake. His cross for MacDonald in the six-yard box found the winger in space and this time he left absolutely no doubt, sidefooting home the simplest of finishes to get Oxford officially on the board in 58 minutes.

That was much better stuff and Kyle knew his squad had Shrewsbury fully on the back foot. But Jermaine Grandison surged forward and worked a great 1-2 ball with O’Neill, getting his shot saved by Ashdown and finding the rebound at his feet.

That effort somehow went wide, and Oxford had dodged a significant bullet. Yet time was starting to become a factor. Ashdown robbed Collins in his effort for a hat trick moments later, and it was pretty apparent that if Oxford was going to find a way back, their goalkeeper needed to stay sharp.

As the match passed seventy minutes, Kyle realized that more firepower was needed. Meades was willing, but he wasn’t as able as some, and so he left in favor of Hylton. All three of Oxford’s senior strikers were now on the pitch at the same time and, needing a goal, that was where they all needed to be. For Oxford, it was “Triple-H” or bust.

Defender Cameron Gayle came on for Shrewsbury, as Mellon went to five at the back with fifteen minutes to play. It was the logical move, and Stephen Jordan replaced Mickey Demetriou three minutes later in a like-for-like move for fresh legs.

That said, it was Shrewsbury which got the next decent chance, with Collins hitting the side netting in 77 minutes, and Gayle trying to cross moments later and nearly beating Ashdown, who got back to tip the ball over the bar.

Potts had a raking chance in eighty minutes which came to nothing and finally, Kyle knew there was nothing else for it but to tell Ashdown to get forward if the opportunity arose.

Hoskins picked up a clear header in 84 minutes but found the keeper’s arms with it, and with Kyle considering moving to 4-2-4 for the first time in his tenure, Whing collided with Hill and couldn’t continue. He had to come off, and Kyle replaced him with Grimshaw, who was much more mobile and could get forward.

At the start of added time, everyone did get forward, including Ashdown, as Potts earned a corner on the right. It was a short ball, and on the return Potts moved forward, skipped past a challenge, got to the byline and got in a cross – but Burton grabbed it and got the ball into the Oxford half where Ashdown chased it down.

But there the ball stayed as Oxford’s dream died, one goal short.

Oxford United: Ashdown: Potts, Dunkley, Wright (captain), Skarz, Ssewankambo, Whing (injured, Grimshaw 87), MacDonald, Ashby (injured, Hoskins 11), Meades (Hylton 73), Hoban. Unused subs: Clarke, Mullins, Bevans, Rose.

Shrewsbury Town 2 (James Collins 19, 38)
Oxford United 1 (MacDonald 58)
H/T: 2-0
A – 51,765, Wembley Stadium, London
Man of the Match: James Collins, Shrewsbury Town (MR 8.8)

# # #
Heart wrenching stuff ,mate! Keep going for next season :)
Won't lie ... this hurt.

Kyle walked toward Micky Mellon and, numbly, shook his hand. Then he headed onto the Wembley pitch to try to console his players.

They were standing, kneeling and prone on the turf in various states of despair.

Wright, the captain, stood with his hands on top of his head in disbelief. MacDonald, who had played and lost in a playoff final for the second season on the spin, lay face down on the grass, shoulders heaving. He was giving in to emotion. Hoban and Hylton were each down on a knee near the center circle, facing in opposite directions with nothing to say to each other.

It was the most personal of moments for a player – that moment when all the work, all the effort and all the pain is measured and found to be an inch short of the mark.

Kyle first went to Ashdown, who had played very well and earned his place, and embraced his veteran keeper. Next was Wright, as teammates tried to console MacDonald, and the manager had a kind word for his captain.

“We don’t get this far without you,” Kyle reminded him, and Wright nodded, finding it hard to speak. Eventually, he got to every one of his players and then applauded the huge Oxford support.

Across the way, the Shrewsbury players were finishing their on-pitch celebrations and Kyle noted some of his players heading over to congratulate them. It was the sporting thing to do and even though he wasn’t feeling especially sporting at that moment, Kyle knew what his next instruction had to be.

After the handshakes, he called his players to him and there they gathered, in the middle of the Oxford penalty area.

“You did everything I could have asked of you,” he told them, trying not to look them in the eyes just yet. “I am very proud of this team and very proud to be your manager. Next year it’s going to be this team that’s going to be doing the arse-kicking in this league and we won’t be playing in this game. We’ll earn our way to League One without any debate. Now, remember how this feels and do whatever you have to do this summer to make sure you never have this feeling again.”

With that, Kyle lined up his players in front of the stairs to the famed Wembley balcony to give the Shrewsbury players a guard of honor while they claimed their trophy and medals.

That hurt. The natural expressions of joy from Mellon and his players were perfectly understandable but very hard to watch. The moment they were all on the balcony, Kyle directed his players to their supporters for one final time. Players and fans shared one last moment together before the players began the long walk to the tunnel.

As Kyle arrived at the tunnel entrance, he heard a roar from the crowd. He turned to see Mellon holding up the playoff trophy and he had to fight back tears. He wanted to be in Mellon’s position more than anything in the world.

And he wasn’t.

Kyle took a turn in the opposite direction and headed to the post-match news conference, which was harder still.

“I thought we did enough,” he said. “I won’t ever believe that Will was offside, and our second half showed we deserved a better fate. But credit to Shrewsbury, they won the match, and they are going up while we are going back to the drawing board.”

“Is that what you told the players?” Kyle couldn’t see his questioner due to the glare of television lights but he agreed.

“In essence, yes,” he said. “Right now there really isn’t anything I can say to them that would be a comfort. We’ve just lost a final and they need time to absorb that.”

“And so do you.” That was Churchill, whose voice Kyle would recognize anywhere.

“Yes, so do I,” he said. “I really thought we’d do this.”

“The injuries really had to hurt you,” he followed.

“Well, I think it’s fairly obvious that we approach this game differently if we have Callum O’Dowda and James Maddison in our eleven,” he said. “But this game is ‘next man up’ when people are hurt and we all know that. It would be a slight to our existing players to say anything more than that. We played a very strong match with the eleven we had and our fans had every right to expect that.”

Mellon was gracious once he finally got to the media room, and Kyle appreciated that. It wouldn’t have done to talk badly, and Oxford had been much the better side for the entire second half.

Yet, it hadn’t been enough. Mellon finished his news conference with the trophy sitting next to him on the interview table, and Kyle stared at it from a distance until he couldn’t look any more.

With that, he took the long walk down the tunnel to his players, and finally, Kyle gave in to the consequences of failure.

By the time he reached the changing room, tears finally stung his eyes, the salt burning as they rolled down his cheeks. He wanted this win more than anything else he had experienced in football because it meant redemption and success.

Like so much else in his life, both had eluded Kyle Cain.

# # #
Really looking forward to see where the multiple storylines go from here on in and watching you kick ass in the league next season!
That hurts. After all the trials and tribulations of the season you deserved better. A couple of new faces in the summer, replace or retain those who made an impact on loan, and hopefully you'll be going up automatic next season.

Looking forward to the next updates. :)
Thanks for the kind words, fellows. It's a bit tough to see a team that came so far lose out by a single goal.

“Fight on, my men,” Sir Andrew Said
“A little I’m hurt but not yet slain.
“I’ll just lie down and bleed a while,
“And then I’ll rise and Fight again.”

- The Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton

The coach ride back to Oxfordshire was long. It seemed like it would last forever.

Not surprisingly, it was also silent for the vast majority of the trip. Players were lost in thought, some in their music, others simply looking out the window.

The devastation of losing a final hung like a pall over the players as the miles rolled under the coach wheels. It was only fifty miles, but for a losing team the distance from Wembley to the Kassam seemed only slightly less than that of Earth to Mars.

It took awhile to get onto the M40, which only made things worse. Defeat was bad enough. Defeat and being stopped on the freeway was nearly intolerable.

Texts started to flood onto Kyle’s phone. Club officials, Eales, Jenna, friends. They all seemed to say the same general thing: nice try. At least Jenna’s said “I love you, dad,” at the end.

He even got a text from Moore, which he cringed to read. It read:

“League Two isn’t so bad. Maybe you’ll get it right next time.”

He wasn’t sure how to take that given the woman’s known history of muckraking, but he chose to take it as supportive even as the woman who had sworn Kyle as an enemy had sent a message which could have been taken either way.

Finally, though, the Oxford coach reached home. A decent crowd was gathered at the Kassam to welcome the team back – many of the fans who hadn’t attended the match but rather followed it at the stadium were there to wait to the bitter end.

The coach rolled to a stop and Kyle stepped into the aisle.

“Thank you for all you’ve done,” he said. “Enjoy your holidays and we’ll see what we can do to grow the club from here. You’ve all played a part and I’m grateful to all of you.”

With that, he got off the coach.

Kyle looked to his left. He saw Allison standing near a light standard by the player’s entrance.

Kyle looked to his right. He saw Stacy standing less than twenty feet away.

Both women were waiting for him.

He had decisions to make, on more than one front.
# # #
Decisions, decisions. Love how much drama you are building into this; can't wait to see where it leads.
Obviously, May had been a great month financially for Oxford United, one which put the club over the top for the season in terms of its bottom line.

The club earned £560,000 as its share of gate receipts from the playoffs in addition to £250,000 in prize money for reaching the playoff final. Oxford United made a profit of £680,000 for the month even after paying a tax bill, and the net result was a profit of £650,000 for the season.

Diana Moore did her job as well, earning the club substantial upgrades in sponsorships for the coming season. The amount of money generated by sponsorships nearly doubled including large increases to sponsorship totals on both the home and away kits.

Andy Drury of Luton Town, who was not fancied by media in any reasonable fashion prior to the voting, snipped the Player of the Year award thanks to his six goals and league-leading 18 assists.

As expected, O’Dowda, Maddison and MacDonald all were named to the Team of the Year, with the team’s three entrants second only to league champion Portsmouth’s four.

And as for the Manager of the Year …

…Gareth Ainsworth, who guided Wycombe Wanderers to second place with 86 points and automatic promotion, won the honor and would receive it with his team playing in League One.

Kyle Cain did not feature in the final voting. And his major decision remains, as yet, unmade.


# # #
“Remember, kid. No one knows nothing. You hire the greatest composer,
the hottest choreographer, the biggest star, the best orchestrator, and, when
you put ‘em all together, it just lies there and it dies there.” – Irving Caesar
Who to choooseeee... who to chose!
You deserved so much better matey! Heart wrenching stuff, I feel for the players! Shocking that you aren't even on the ballot :)

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