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"The Prodigal Daughter Returns"

Started on 18 May 2019 by rien102
Latest Reply on 19 August 2019 by eyreplenh
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With the arrival of the month of October, Penny’s Arsenal still was cruising. Since the beginning the season, they have known nothing but wins. The season opener against City still was the highlight because so far, other than them and Spurs, they got an easy calendar and they wouldn’t have a very difficult match before the beginning of November when they should meet Manchester United. The next match would be against Ipswich, on 17 October, and it would be the first televised game from the Emirates this season. The two other games that were on the telly so far were away and had been the opener and the North London derby because… of course the derby needed to be be televised!

Just before the game against Brighton, on Saturday 2 October, which would also be the last match before the international break, Penny got confirmation about her first signing for the coming winter window. After some work, she finally secured a young player that was full of promises: Andre Aas. This twenty-one years old Norwegian midfielder was exactly what she wanted. He would never be a superstar but he would be a more than decent box-to-box midfielder and she desperately wanted one! She had to trigger the release clause to steal him from Bristol City, who was in Championship, but she didn’t really care. In the grand scheme of things, seventeen million pounds wasn’t that much. She had another young midfielder in her sight: Francisco Amo. He also was twenty one and since he was playing in Portugal, she was pretty sure she could have him on the cheap… This was something she had to consider because with only seven million pounds remaining in her transfer budget, she needed something on the cheap. He primarily was a deep lying playmaker but since he had good mental abilities, she wanted to convert him into a basic midfielder. If something had crept up since she arrived, was that Endri, her second most important midfielder, had some shortcomings, especially regarding pressure. He was good but, in the two big games, she saw that he didn’t performed as well as he should. After some talks with the coaches who were at the club before she arrived, it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but a deeper review with the analysts showed that yes, especially when it was time to be good, his performances were dipping. It wasn’t catastrophic but still, he definitely was showing signs that he had problems with pressure.

After the international break came time to play Ipswich and she decided to bring a mixture of regular and some rotation players. The Tractor Boys had a good start of the season, yes, but they still were a team called for the bottom five of the table. A 4-2-3-1 was her choice if only because Ikechukwu Nwokolo couldn’t play anywhere but as an AMC. Leon took a knock with the Three Lions so she decided to keep him out of the line-up. Moreno would be the front man. The match was a lacklustre one. The Blues parked the bus… even going as far as playing striker less! Only twelve minutes in, Endri got almost knocked out of his shoes so she brought in Diego. It took a superb ball holding from Moreno, at the edge of the box, on the seventy second minute to finally get the goal. Ikechukwu got his chance and made sure not to miss it. Other than the goal, nothing good came out of the match. «Missed passes, bad decision making…» said Penny to the players after the game. «In other words, you guys didn’t played at the level you are supposed to on attack!» The only comfort she got was that they let them fire only three times on goal; two of the shots being free kicks!

The following day, as scheduled, Jon, Max and she made a thorough review of the players’ performances since the beginning of the season. Max was used to this sort of exercise; he’d done many of them with her. First, Domingo was performing very well, conceding only four goals, Carabao Cup included. For the central defenders, Tim, Reuben and Jack performed well but not great. The trio made eleven mistakes so far but none leading to goals. Jason Gillespie and Cenyr, the two subs, did ok when they were needed. What she noticed was that the captain really was showing his lack of speed. For her fullbacks, Ruben and André performed very well, especially the latter! He was a good signing for sure and his speed and decision making were displayed time and over with runs on the flank that created all sorts of problems for the opponents. On the left side, Pablo Fernandez and Alberto Ramirez did what they were supposed to do in an ok fashion but nothing exceptional. In midfield though, the story was very different. Diego demonstrated, game after game, that he indeed was a world class player! Only two games out of the ten played so far, did he didn’t shine… Endri played well also but never in the manner of Diego; he was good for sure but just not that good. Finally, Takashi Kumashiro, her rotation midfielder, did very well when he came in. He pretty much was a vertically shorter version of Endri. He played better but his jumping reach put him in all sorts of situations that weren’t the best. His mental abilities, his vision and decision making were truly remarkable though… On the wings, one on each side performed above expectations: Damian on the left and Bienvenu on the right. The best thing was that the latter also have some defensive skills; she liked that! In front, Moreno and Leon, literally, were on fire! The former scored eight goals so far and assisted in three others. As for the latter, he got six goals but was the provider of over twenty chances for Moreno; six of them becoming assists! As for Abdelaziz, he did his duty exactly as expected. He only got three goals so far but he managed to get four assists! Ikechukwu did ok but since he only played the lesser teams, she wasn’t convinced…

Things are looking very rosy at the moment for Penny and Arsenal. Hopefully this form can continue.
The form continues to impress and long may it continue. Good to see signings being wrapped up early aswell!
On the first day of November, Penny was in a training review meeting with Jon, Andy and Tim. «I think it is time for us to move onto a different regimen» she told her coaches. «Jon, I think we’ll need to go into refining our attacking transitions before we’ll need to lighten up the load for the winter crunch.
- Ok Penny» answered the Assistant Manager while taking notes.
- «Also…» she continued, I will need you to put more tactical training up to the next international break. You know that the game against Villa will be after it and I have the nagging feeling it will be hell on earth…»

Jon knew exactly what she was talking about. Cynthia O’Flaherty, the former Leeds United manager took on the job at Villa. This would be the first game, ever, where two female managers in a top league, would meet, face to face. Since the end of last season, when O’Flaherty got Leeds promoted, lots of noise in the media was made about the fact that the two would meet soon since Penny’s appointment to Arsenal was official at the time. When the season began, there always were references to the match, here and there but lately, the hype machine was slowly building up since the match was scheduled on the 27th, at the Emirates, and it would be televised because… of course it was. He already saw that the event was starting to influence Penny’s behaviour; he knew his boss well…

Penny changed the subject: «By the way, I want to tell you guys that I got the confirmation yesterday night: Franisco Amo will arrive at the beginning of the next transfer window!» It was Andy that talked first.
- «Really?» She nodded. «Damn! Congrats on the signing!
- Wasn’t a walk in the park, I can tell you that!» she said. «The youngster knows what he’s worth…» All chuckled. «…but I think that with Andre Aas, I may have found the players I wanted to have in the midfield to play alongside Diego or Endri.
- You’re planning to go toward a 3-5-2?» asked Jon.
- «Somewhere down the line, most probably» she answered. «Not until the end of the season anyway; we have a lot of wingers here…»

Once Andy and Tim left for their training sessions, Jon stayed behind to talk alone with her. «Penny, I know that those two young midfielders are potential box-to-box midfielder; I talked with Max…» Penny smiled at him.
- «Can’t I do anything without you too talking about it?» he laughed. «We have two excellent and one outstanding wingers and we are doing better than expected now, I won’t change anything before the end of the season. I still am not fixed on some players yet…
- Like?
- Ikechukwu for one… but anyway, there is no reason to break anything yet». Her face changed; she became very serious. «At some point though, I am thinking to go toward a narrow system, yes…» He looked at her and saw that the words she said didn’t really convey the intention; she would do it for sure. He didn’t mind. He learned to like narrow systems since they got so much success since they put those on the pitch.
- «You coming to the training session?» he asked, changing the subject.
- «Nope, I have a meeting with the scouts in ten minutes and then, I got summoned by the big honchos…» Jon was caught off guard.
- «Why? We are flying over everybody! We won all the games we played!» She smiled.
- «I know, but my guess is, they’ll want to talk about money…
- Didn’t you tell me last week that all our expenses were within the budgets?
- Yes, I did. Amo’s signing was so tough because of that. My transfer budget was at the limit. The wage budget is still under by about twenty million pounds but the transfer budget is empty now». She made him a mischievous smile. «Maybe they still think that to bring you with me was too expensive?» and she laughed.
- «Can you really live without me?» he asked.
- «Nope!» she shot back, smiling genuinely at him. «Hey, it’s not like I went overboard; only the former Assistant Manager got canned. I changed nobody else and only filled the vacancies, like Max in the Analysis department… Anyway, you remember when I told you at the beginning of the season about the wages at the club?
- Huh huh…
- Well, I think reality bit them in the arse. Can you imagine that, other than the players, we have four scouts with a minimum of seven hundred thousand pounds per annum in our scouting team?
- You’re pulling my leg!
- Nope. And those are scouts; I’m not even talking about the Head scout. He’s over a million.»
When Jon left Penny’s office, he was shaking his head in disbelief…
It's fantastic to see two female managers leading their clubs out in the top flight. It shows great progression.
Penny entered the conference room and saw that along Kim, there also was the other Managing Director, Randy Ooms and another man she never saw before. Kim got up of her chair and came to greet her. «Hi Penny.
- Hello ma’am.» Kim didn’t waste any time and waved Penny to a chair while going back in her own. Before sitting down, Penny shook hand with Ooms who got up as well and the unknown man.
- «Bang up start we got Penny!» said Randy. She smiled. «Let me present you Hans Willems. He’s the Chief Financial Officer of the group.
- Nice to meet you sir» said Penny as she was shaking his hand. She knew the meeting would be about finances now… When all were ready, it was Kim that started the meeting.
- «First Penny, I want to congratulate you too for the wonderful beginnings! We all are excited by what we are seeing on and off the pitch. The games are very entertaining and it is evident that the players are happy.
- Well ma’am, you hired me to make them perform…
- As true as this may be, Penny…» said Randy. «It is clear that there is more to it. We can see that when the players go on the pitch, they are confident. This is not what we saw in the last years…» Penny started to feel uncomfortable under the praises.
- «I don’t think I’m doing anything else than my job sir… but thanks. I’ll convey your feelings to the players.
- «We know that you don’t like praises…» said Kim who started to know Penny. «…but it doesn’t change the fact that you clearly have a big impact on the team!» Penny was on the verge of reddening. Luckily, the boss changed the subject. «Anyhow, we have a money problem at the moment…
- We are running in the red since the last two months and it will deepen very quickly…» added the CFO. Penny went defensive instantly. Looking right at Kim, she answered back.
- «Ma’am, I respected all the limitations you gave me and…» Kim lifted both her hands in the air to interrupt her.
- «We know Penny, we know. You transfer budget is almost empty but your wages are still thirty million pounds under budget, we know…
- Ma’am for the staff…» It was Randy who interrupted her this time.
- «Penny, we know that nothing is your fault, alright? You asked for only one staff to quit so we needed to pay a severance package and that you still filled only positions you felt were crucial because there are still vacancies in numerous department. Nonetheless, we are in the red already and we need to take some actions.
- First Penny, know that if we are here, it is because it is becoming more than problematic and, according to our numbers, continuing down this line would mean that even if you would win every cups and leagues? We wouldn’t get enough money to fill back the losses…» said Kim. Penny was stunned. She knew what she saw at the beginning of the season seemed to be… problematic… but this much?
- «Ma’am, what are you telling me, exactly». It was the CFO that talked.
- «First, about transfer revenues? We will let you keep only forty percent of them…» Penny wasn’t surprised. She knew it usually was the first step taken by clubs. «Second, know that my team and me are actually polishing all the numbers and we’ll issue you a copy of them. What we are thinking to do is to freeze all budget’s modification and hires of any kind…» Penny knew that this sounded like the types of measures that were a bit… desperate.
- «What do you want me to do?» she asked.
- «To be aware of it… for start!» said Randy.
- «I think you want more than that sir… Tell me, ok? Don’t try and stuff me…» Penny quickly saw that Randy clearly never had an employee telling him to not lie to him. It was Kim that talked.
- «Penny, for now, we asked for this meeting to make you aware of the situation. If there is something that can be done on your side, please feel free to talk…» Penny felt that Kim decided to be honest… well, more honest…
- «Ma’am, first, if you can give me the numbers, not only my budgets, it would help me understand the magnitude of our money problem, ok?» Kim nodded. «I accept the slash in the transfer revenues and won’t fight over it. What I am asking you though, is to give me some time to try and figure out what I can do on my end… Let’s say, the end of the international break?» Penny saw the three of them look at each other. It was the CFO that spoke first.
- «In the situation we are now, three weeks is a lot of time…
- She can’t sell players in five days…» Kim shot at Hans. Penny now knew what they wanted of her.
- «Is Wednesday the 17 would be possible for you?» asked Randy to Penny while looking at his calendar. She didn’t have a choice now.
- «Alright sir, Wednesday the 17. I shall bring you a plan but I would need the numbers the day of the Manchester United game, no later than that.
- When is that game?» asked Hans.
«Next Saturday» Penny answered.
The financial situation sounds like something drastic needs to happen. It doesn't read particularly great for Penny.
Hopefully Penny's hand isn't forced into selling players, that would be a nightmare!
rien102's avatar Group rien102
1 yearEdited
When Penny entered her office on Saturday, she was in a foul mood. Not only she felt stress from today’s game but she also felt an added layer of it because of the financial situation of the club. Jon was the first person she talked to after the meeting with the big honchos and knew exactly what was at stake. She also told Niall, the boss of the Analysts that she would need to borrow Max for a special project in the coming weeks. Penny told Jon that he and Max would make the player reviews with her. She wanted the decisions be made with the help of peoples she already knew she could trust to not have emotional biases toward the players at the club…

She needed to focus on the game now though. She and Jon worked a lot on the tactical preparation and she knew it would be a tough game. So far, Manchester United played mostly a 4-2-3-1 and usually put more pressure with their left flank. It wasn’t surprizing, really. With Santi Nunez, despite his thirty-three years of age and a decline in physical attributes; he was smart and had the best technical attributes in the league! Being primarily a right winger, Wesley Sneijder, the manager, often uses him as an inverted wingback on the left side. She knew he was one of the biggest threats, especially when he was making driving runs in the half space from the midfield line… Penny was worried for the second time this season; it was against the two Manchester teams! Both Jon and she focused the training on defence this week and she took extra time with André, her right back.

«Ok boys, listen up!» she started the team talk before going on the pitch. «Be aggressive but be smart, ok? André, Diego? Make sure you use your heads, ok?» Both nodded at Penny. «Henrique, when you drive deep without the ball, don’t go too deep; make sure to stay close to Nunez…» Henrique Canastro, her right winger in advanced position made a thumbs-up. «As for you Leon and Moreno, be sure to make those shots count!» The forwards smiled at her; they had done exactly that all season so far… «Now, let’s go out there and hammer the second team of Manchester!» All the players got up and clearly were pumped. As the players left the dressing room, she went to Jon and murmured: «I’m scared of playing open like that but I think we’ll discover a lot about our players…» He looked at her and nodded discreetly. He very well knew what she was talking about. She wanted the players to play an almost all out type of game. He knew the risks and he knew she knew but he felt that she wanted to make a point with the players. Undefeated so far, it was time for them to show they could deliver when it was needed too and in another mentality…

When she arrived on the pitch of Emirates, she saw that the place was full again. Since her arrival, every competitive games played here were in front of a full stadium. As good as it felt, it showed how problematic the finances must be… She quickly forced herself to focus on the game. The line-up of United was the one she thought would be played and she felt a bit confident despite her worries. It took twenty-four minutes for the Gunners to open up the score. The run of goals on dead balls continued with Henrique making a perfect floating ball in the box on a free kick. Leon was the one to make the touch, directing the ball straight to Tim Moore’s foot at the penalty area. Goal! Fourteen minutes later, Moreno forced Douglas Pazos, the Reds’ goalkeeper to kick far in front where André made a great reception. He quickly passed the ball to Henrique who, from ten yards into the Reds’ half, lumped the ball over the defence for Leon. He fired an unstoppable shot and brought the score at 2-0. On the forty-second minute, Endri had his pocket picked at the edge of United’s box. The counter attack was savage and Tim missed the interception. Davide Rinaldi brought the score at 2-1.

In between the halves, Penny told her players that they were working well. She told Endri that he wasn’t playing his best football with four errors so far. He acquiesced. The continuous work on free kicks and corners paid off again in the second half. From the right side, Diego kicked the ball right at the penalty area but a Red central defender headed the ball out. Luckily, the ball arrived right at the feet of Endri who was in front of the box. He made a pass to Leon who was just outside the six yard box, on the right. Score! 3-1 with twenty-four minutes to play. Sneiijder made his three subs at the same time at that exact moment. From a 4-2-3-1, it became a 3-4-3. Penny quickly shouted tweaks. On the sixty-eighth minute, Santi Nunez, now on a right winger position, made a perfect cross to Callum Birch, the striker. 3-2. Five minutes later, Diego got tackled hard in midfield and Penny was forced to pull him off. Takashi Kumashiro took his place in midfield. She decided to make another substitution and brought Ruben Portas in place of André as a right back; the latter starting to piling up little mistakes. Four minutes later, Leon made a perfect low cross to Moreno who was charging the penalty area. Goal! 4-2. Penny started to breathe a little more. At the eighty-four minutes mark, Reuben missed an interception and Birch scored his second goal. 4-3. Then, on the ninetieth minute, recuperating a ball in midfield, Nunez made a devastating through ball to Danilo Luiz, the other striker that came in as a sub. Score! 4-4.

When she retreated to the dressing room, Penny was livid. She waited for the players in the middle of the room. Jon arrived with the stats sheet and the players saw her scanning it when they arrived. «We got lucky the referee didn’t add more than two minutes of stoppage time, aren’t we?» She saw a lot of players looking at their feet; the defenders in particular. «Reuben, I don’t know where your head was on that ball…» She sighed heavily. She started to pace the floor, slowly and silently except for the regular thump of her crutch. After about a minute, she just added «At least our forwards did their jobs today…» before going to her press duties…
A tough result to take for Penny. Sacrificing a lead in the manner Arsenal did is never ideal. I do find the fact Wesley Sneijder is Manchester United manager quite funny, given the continuous links with him during his playing days!
The seventieth of November, Penny was walking to the meeting with the bosses. After spending ten days with Jon and Max, going through every player reports, hours of gameplay footage and evaluating each performance, she finally was able to formulate a plan. The international break, which she hoped would have given her a week-end off to see Britanny and her dad, proved to be nothing but wishful thinking…

When she entered the conference room, she was accompanied by Jon. She saw the both Managing Directors were there, Kim Franssen and Randy Ooms, with Hans Willems, the CFO. All shook hands before sitting down. It was Kim that talked first. «Penny, before we start, I want to tell you that the corporation decided that if your proposition does not coincide with our financial objectives, a ban on transfer will be applied, and the wages will be frozen for players and staffs». She gave Penny a small sign of hope though by adding «…but I am sure you did your best.
- «Thank you ma’am» answered Penny. She took a sip of water while Jon started the slideshow of her proposition. «After reviewing everybody in the club and by gauging the depth of the financial situation, I have prepared this proposition. As of right now, we have seven of our players who are looked at by several clubs. Three players being called as priority targets by big clubs: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern. What I believe… No, sorry, what we believe…» pointing to Jon, «…is that there is a clean-up in the wages that can be done but not only in the senior squad. I understand that one of the staple of the club is to have many players in the U23 squads and to go heavy on loans for them to develop. The problem is, the squad itself, if it is well furbished in players, is very thin on quality prospects for the senior squad. We think that the reason why talent is so scarce is a direct result of the instability in the coaching staffs in the last eight years. The succession of managers, coaches and Head of Youth Development all influenced the situation in a significant way. Hence, what we propose to you is a plan that is two fold…» she got interrupted by Randy.
- «You are saying that the U23 squad doesn’t have quality in it… On what scale?
- Well sir, after thorough evaluation, we believe that from the fifty-four players that are currently part of the squad, excluding the three older players who doesn’t have the level to play with the Senior squad, only eight to ten probably will have the level to play in the Premiere League but only three may be of sufficient level to be with us specifically». She saw the effect of the statement.
- «Three?» It was Kim who spoke.
- «Yes ma’am. As I said, the instability and the… irregular quality of the training that ensued is most probably the cause for it all…
- Ok. Continue please» said Randy. His demeanor showing that he wasn’t a happy camper.
- «Well, first, we will offer on free transfers a lot of players from the U23 squad. Half of the squad, composed of 54 players I’d like to remind you, is already past twenty one so, this mean that to even use them as emergency subs wouldn’t be possible since we already have a full registration for the Senior squad. The goal here is simple: to shave as much on wages as we could, period. It wouldn’t be a lot overall, I know, but I think that considering the situation, anything will be welcome…» She looked at the CFO when she said that and saw that he seemed to agree with the statement. I don’t have any target except to keep the players that have at least a chance to be Premiere League level and to those that we think would never be higher than Championship; it will be a one way ticket to anywhere who will want them. I won’t waste time haggling over a few thousand quid for transfers; I have bigger fish to fry!» Kim smiled.
- «We can agree on that!
- For the Senior squad, it’s going to be much different. It’s more than wages; it’s a deep hole that needs to be filled up as much as possible. So far, five keys players are followed by big clubs and three, as I said, has been targeted as priority signings. I won’t accept to lose our two best forwards, Leon and Moreno, under no circumstances. They are at the top of every possible positive league stats: in goals, assists, passes, chances created, chances converted, etc…» She saw Randy lift a finger but she didn’t give him a chance to speak. «Sir, Leon is the second best forward in the League. Moreno is on the short list to be Ballon d’Or. What we will do instead, is change our tactical formation. With the two young midfielders who are coming in and by incorporating the only decent central defender we have in the U23 squad, we will go toward a narrow system. We have five wingers at the club, one is twenty-four years of age, another is twenty-five but the other three are at least thirty. Damin Zieba is wanted by Manchester City, he’s twenty-five and since they want him a lot, I think he would be the best money-maker for us. Bienvenu, he’s got sufficient defensive chop to be converted into a wingback. This means that we have three wingers we can, and must, let go: Henrique Canastro, Jesus Angel De la Torre and Ikechukwu. The latter is more of an advanced midfielder but he got played a lot as a winger. Not to mention the fact that Southampton wants him a lot… If we convert Bienvenu as a wingback, this means we’ll need to sell one of our fullbacks. So, overall, by selling five players, one who could bring a lot of money, another who should bring a good amount too, we think we could bring around, at least, a hundred million pounds in the club’s coffer…» She saw that they were a bit under shock.
- «A hundred million?» asked Hans.
- «Yes sir» answered Penny. «If we are lucky, maybe a hundred and thirty…
- Are you sure about this?» asked Randy.
- «Sir, I can’t be sure. Nonetheless, we know what our players are worth on the market. The thing is, since we want to sell them, their price usually drops a little. We are pretty sure to be able to get a very large amount for Damian though. City is continuously calling him their target and they already made an offer last week, which I rejected after talking to Moonchi, our Director of Football.
- What?» It was Kim that talked.
- «Yes ma’am, it was rejected. First, I wasn’t sure of the plan at that stage. Second, it gave me an idea of the starting point for negotiating. They offered sixty million total but with lots of instalments and “ifs”, like winning the League, cups, and the such… Since it was their first offer, it was very low. My guess is that I can drive up to one hundred I think…» She saw Hans’ eyes widened at the number. She decided to push further. «They have a very healthy balance apparently and I think I will drive them to pay a big lump without instalments, if I can of course…»
Four days later, Penny got called by Kim to come see her. The plan was accepted.

The plan is in place then. It seems to be well-thought out and let's hope it can boost the ailing finances.
The date, 27 November 2038, would be written in bold fonts in all football history books. It was the first game in top level leagues where two female managers went head-to-head in a competitive match. Emirates was full and the Aston Villa section of fans was bigger than usual; the club releasing one thousand more tickets in Clock End. When Penny stepped on the pitch, followed by four cameras, she walked, limp and crutch, straight to her technical area and stayed there. Cynthia O’Flaherty, the new Villa manager did the same.

The former Villa manager accepted an offer to go to Real Hispalis, in La Ligua, in the summer after promoting the club to PL. This meant that the club who grabbed the Championship trophy, one point ahead of Leeds, got their manager spot open. They made a move toward O’Flaherty, who was managing Leeds at the time, and she said yes. So, after five years with Leeds, where she proved she was more than capable, she got her first chance in the Premiere League with the same team that offered Penny her first shot. The only difference was that O’Flaherty was coming anyway and, as opposed to Penny, she didn’t come in with seven games to play for a team that was in the red zone. Aston Villa was in the relegation zone while Arsenal was at the top of the table, it’s true, but the stakes were elsewhere. Penny knew it better than anybody else. She was just happy that the match wasn’t done last week, after the long international break.

The training leading to the game was harsh and she pushed her players to the brink of insanity. Some said she showed respect, some like Bosz said it was overkill, but Penny put her very best XI on the pitch except for Endri and Damian, both being injured. There was no way she would accept anything but a win today… Before the game began, she said something she never thought, in her entire life, she would ever say: «I want to ask you a favour… No, demand a favour… Score goals, yes. Win, yes; nothing else than a win tonight is acceptable but, I am demanding you not to celebrate a lot please, if not at all…» She saw the players’ faces change a bit. «…You all know what it is for me today… So please, just don’t…» As the players went to the pitch, Leon, Domingo and Diego, of course came to her and murmured their agreement. What happened next caught her off guard. Reuben and Cenyr both came to her as a pair and, as captains, told her that all was already agreed among the players since yesterday...

Leon drew first blood twenty-eight minutes in. Jesus De la Torre recuperated the ball in the Gunners’ territory and initiated the counter attack. Switching the ball on the other side to Henrique, the latter brought the ball almost to the goal line on the right side of the box before floating the cross to Leon who made a perfect header. 1-0! The Emirates exploded with joy but the players didn’t celebrate at all. Instead, Penny saw the XI come to her, with a determined expression and all just put a hand on her shoulder before going back to their positions. Leon, who was the last, in the line of players told her in the ear: «I got your back boss…» On the sixtieth minute, Leon showed his skills again and drew the two central defenders toward him. The Villa left back hesitated between covering Moreno, that was midway to the penalty area by now, or Henrique, that was driving into the box. When Jesus made the cross, Henrique was all alone and scored the second and last goal of the match! The players again did the same procession toward Penny but this time, the fans, for a fair number of them anyway, didn’t scream in happiness; they understood. The rest of the match, the Gunners did nothing but preventing the Villans to make any serious push toward the goal…

When the referee called the end of the match, Penny looked at Jon, by her side, and her eyes filled up. The stress and the sudden realization that all was over was too much to handle. Her players came to her and all hugged her in succession. When all the emotions were dried out, she went to meet O’Flaherty on the other side. Both Gooners and Villans’ fans and players started to cheer when the two women met, for all to see. Penny shook O’Flaherty’s hand vigorously: «Come…» Penny guided the Aston Villa manager to the middle of the pitch, holding her hand all the way. She faced the Villans’ fan section in the Clock End and offered them something she felt was needed: she bowed to them while holding O’Flaherty’s hand. The latter was surprised by the action but, with a few seconds of delay, did the same. Both women than shared an embrace in front of the crowd, who was going completely nuts, and the numerous telly cameras and photographers that were surrounding them. Penny than made a sign to the referee to come to her. When he was there, she asked: «Is your PA mic still working?
- Of course!» he answered. Without a word, he handed Penny the earpiece with the mic attached to it and pushed the ON button. She started to talk to the crowd.
- «Arsenal is where I grew up… but Aston Villa was the club that offered me my big chance…» The crowd was ecstatic. Penny dropped the mic and turned toward O’Flaherty. As she offered her another handshake, she said in her ear: «Villa is a great club and I am certain you will be able to achieve great things!»
The reporters on the pitch took hundreds of pictures of the two women facing the crowd and the players. It took about five minutes to have all the players from both teams to come to the managers and started shaking hands with each of them. When the teams left the pitch, the crowd still was standing and cheering…

When Penny finally reached the dressing room, she sat down, exhausted and emotionally drained… All her players came to her and gave her smiles and kind words. Once all of them were at their bench, she stood up and went to the middle of the room. She stood for a minute, just looking at them, in silence, before starting to speak: «I will not say if the game was good or not; my head is just not there… I will only say you this: Thank you for the performance you offered me today and thank you for… well… for…» She couldn’t finish her sentence, choking on the words. Leon stood-up.
- «Boss, you deserved nothing less than that today!» The rest of the players stood and started clapping. Emotions were high in the place and a single tear started to roll on Penny’s cheek…


For those who could be interested, I made a short story specifically around this event. You can find the first part of the story here: https://thefictionchronicler.home.blog/2019/05/02/this-is-my-place-part-1/. Two exclusive stories are in preparation too on my blog so, to be sure not to miss them, don’t forget to subscribe. You can do it via the website directly or through my Twitter handle that you will also find on my blog.
Great update. A touching moment for women and football, which will seek to inspire so many young women around the world who share a passion for the beautiful game. I can only hope that one day, a woman is given a chance and can succeed like Penny has, thus far.
Great update showing the emotions of not just returning to Penny’s old club but also finally having two female managers at the highest level. Good work mate!

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