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"The Prodigal Daughter Returns"

Started on 18 May 2019 by rien102 / First Post
Latest Reply on 19 August 2019 by eyreplenh / Last Post
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Certainly a huge moment in football history that has just occurred. Penny has made history.
The biggest clash in the EPL this season so far was coming at great pace. For a week Penny prepared the boys for it and all were ready for the game against Chelsea; they were in second place, breathing down the Gunners’ neck… Some were even eager to show their craft because last week, against Cardiff, it has been a close call; a 2-1 score line with the win secured only on the eighty-ninth minute. After the match, she told the men that «…performances like the one you displayed today would make us lose our winning streak real fast against good teams…»

There also was a family twist to the match. Steven, not Britanny, called her and asked if she could get him tickets for it. She got the couple a pair of prime seat tickets right behind the Gunners’ dugout but, she warned him on the phone: «You better come with neutral colours in there. I have a name to hold on to!» He laughed and told Britanny what she just said. It took half a second for the daughter to tell her boyfriend that her mum would never joke about something like that…

Emirates was full again. The game was televised of course and the media has been hyping it all week. In the tunnel leading to the pitch, when she met Diego Simeone, the old man gave her a warm handshake. They’ve met numerous times and she always had a great relationship with the him. He asked her: «I see you decided to throw everything at me today instead of next Wednesday for the League Cup Quarter-final huh?» She laughed and he joined heartedly. It was true though; next Wednesday’s planned line-up was pretty much her B team…

When the game started, the excitement was palpable. Penny’s 4-2-4 against Diego’s 4-4-2 was ready to fight. She quickly saw that Chelsea was favouring their left flank; the four first pushes were created on that side. She quickly told André, her right back to be a bit more cautious. It took twenty-nine minutes for the crowd to see the first goal. Right in front of the Blues’ box, Moreno received a pass from Endri. He quickly decided to move to the right flank while Henrique started rushing the box. This move split the defenders and he found himself completely free in front of the net. When Moreno decided to cross the ball to the penalty area, Henrique and Leon were there. It was the latter that took the shot. Goal! 1-0. On the thirty third minute, Diego showed he was nothing but a world class striker. In between a sea of players, he made a thunderous shot from the right side of the box. Mario Oliveira, the Chelsea goalkeeper didn’t even move… 2-0! When the Blues restarted the game, they got intercepted by André who, with a header to Diego in midfield, launched a ferocious counter attack. When Jesus received the ball, on the left side of the box and started running to get himself into a crossing position, he was all alone. At the goal line, he made a whipping cross to Henrique that was rushing the box, all alone at the far post because the two central defenders were marking Moreno and Leon at the penalty area. Goal! 3-0! Penny looked at Jon who was jumping at her side! As she was getting out of the pitch after the referee called out the first half, she looked at Britanny and Steven who were behind the bench. If the former seemed happy, with her Gunners’ red kit, the latter wasn’t looking so good. Penny just winked at them before disappearing in the tunnel.

During the half time break, she reminded her boys that the game was far from over and that they should remember to stay focused. She felt that some players were starting to feel a little… too good. She was right because three minutes into the second half, Radim Ceny, a midfielder, received a long floating cross at the second post and he was all alone… 3-1! Penny saw Pablo Fernandez, her left back, look at her immediately; he knew he slept on the switch on that one. She gave him a deadly stare… On the sixty-second minute, André got book, she immediately told Ruben to warm-up fast. Two minutes later, the sub was done. When André passed by her, she held him and said: «I can’t keep you there with a yellow… I think you are a bit too… engaged at the moment». He looked at her with a deadpan stare; it was clear he didn’t like the sub. Pablo managed to repay his lapse in concentration on the sixty-fifth minute, by intercepting a dangerous pass. He immediately passed the ball to Jesus who redirected it toward Moreno in midfield. Seeing that the Blues right back was still out of position, he passed the ball to Leon who ran in the left channel. When he finally crossed the ball into the six yard box, at the first post, Moreno was all alone; the goal was swift! 4-1! Four minutes later, Leon received a nice ball from Moreno. Despite having the two central defenders on his back, he was able to enter the box, controlling the ball perfectly. When he was at the six yard box line, he placed a perfect shot in the right corner of the net… 5-1! The Gooners were absolutely crazy in the stands… and with good cause! Fifteen minutes before the end of the match, Moreno got tackled hard. It took Penny three minutes to know that he couldn’t continue. She told Takashi to go in midfield; she just wanted to hold on to the score. When the referee called the game off after four minutes of stoppage time, the crowd was wild and the three thousand Blues fans were very silent…

Penny walked to Diego and said: «Tough one Diego…» He offered a warm hug and he murmured back at her.
- «Tell me about it Penny… Good game… It shouldn’t be the same Wednesday though…» He smiled at her.
- «I bet it wouldn’t…» she answered. «Maybe it will be a clean sheet this time!» They both laughed.

When she entered the dressing room, she didn’t waste any time and asked for the stats’ sheet. She was looking at it when Jon arrived behind her: «It was nice to play against someone who wasn’t parking the bus!»
- «Yeah…» she answered back, showing him a stat. «I told you the low block was working good… Look at this: forty-six crosses and only three reaching a Chelsea player… and they weren’t in decent position to do anything at that!
- Yeah. Jack and Reuben played a hell of a game today!»
She thought that everybody had a good game, even Pablo, despite his mistake. Diego got a busy day too… She knew though that she outplayed Diego Simeone because of one other stat. Arsenal only got five fouls while the Blues got seventeen… This meant that her boys weren’t caught off position often… She felt good… Real good…

Despite the financial situation, there is plenty to be positive about on the pitch. A magnificent result against Chelsea there, which continues an excellent campaign thus far.
Big result against Chelsea. The finances however, certainly need sorting as soon as possible!
yeah, finances suck... ;)


On 21 December, Penny was walking toward Kim’s office. Yesterday night, she received an angry phone call from her boss and got ordered to go see her first thing in the morning. She already knew why she was summoned but she still was surprized about the reaction... Anyhow, the media report wasn’t accurate and she was pretty sure the leak didn’t come from her side.

«Good day ma’am!» said Penny as she entered the office.
- «Hi Penny. Is the headline true?» Penny smiled.
- «Not entirely, no. Yesterday afternoon, we did renegotiate the offer but not for the amount that was specified in the media. The amount is one hundred and fifteen million». Penny saw that her boss didn’t like it anyway.
- «I thought you said Damian was off limit?
- Yes ma’am, off limit at anything fewer than eighty million upfront. It’s the same amount I established for Endri as well and this is why Manchester United didn’t come back to us. Moonchi and Hans gave the go on the renegotiating for Damian. I thought the DOF and the CFO kept you in the loop…
- «I was coming back from the head office with Randy. The first news we got was from the media and when we tried to reach you, your cell was closed.
- Just muted ma’am. And when you sent the text, I was in the shower after another seventeen hour day…» She went to bed, exhausted, right after the shower and she saw the text only this morning because the phone was in the kitchen, on the charge. Kim seemed to cool down a bit. She made a conference call including Randy, Hans and Moonchi. When all were on the line, Kim continued.
- «Hans, how much, in total, we got as of today?
- Without the Zieba deal, we are at fifty-six million pounds. Fernandez got us thirty-seven and Nwokolo got us eighteen. Both are set to leave for PSG on the first day of January. There is also that young left back Brentford came in for but it should get us only a few thousand quid.
- Is the figure in the media accurate?» asked Randy.
- «No sir, as I said to Kim earlier, we asked for a hundred and fifteen million upfront with no sweetener of any kind.
- What are the chances that City would accept?» asked Kim.
- «From what I got, I think they’ll try to lower it a bit but we should get something close to one hundred… » said Moonchi. Penny decided to chip in.
- «Ma’am, When you called me for the meeting last month, you told me the club was in financial dire, right?» Kim nodded. «At the beginning of December, Mr. Willems sent me figures showing we were around eighty million in the red with an approximated loss of twenty million per month. Am I correct sir?
- «That’s correct. As of today, we are around one hundred million in the red.
- I say that we take that deal for two reasons…» Penny followed through. «First, with only four players leaving, we could rebalance the books for January. In wages, we should save about seven million for the rest of the season. Overall, we would still end-up in the red but I think that getting about one hundred and fifty million pounds, right now, is what the club needs to do…» She decided to be bold and a bit cocky. «Besides, this is what you wanted, right? For me to sell players? Well, I just did that!» Silence took hold in Kim’s office. Nobody on the phone, or Kim, dared to break it quickly.
- «When will Manchester City respond?» asked Randy after a good while.
- «My guess is tomorrow at the latest…» answered the DOF.

The conference call was terminated by Kim not long after. She asked Penny to stay put; she obliged. «Why Damian, specifically?» the boss asked. Penny took some time before answering. She was fuming at the money situation but knew there were things she couldn’t say…
- «Ma’am, I would have preferred to sell Jesus de La Torre but who would pay for a thirty-two years old winger that got bought last year for forty million pounds?» Penny saw that her boss really didn’t like the answer.
- «Isn’t he worth that?» Penny ate a few words before continuing.
- «Ma’am, I think no player in the world is worth forty million in transfer fees if he’s thirty-on years old except if he’s a goalkeeper or Ronaldo or Messi. Jesus is good, yes, but he started his normal decline already and, from what I saw of the scouting reports made at the time of the transfer, there already were concerns about his decline already happening…» She thought she had sugar coated the answer enough for the comment to be swallowed. She took a deep breath before continuing. «And ma’am, do you know what I don’t want to be stuck into?» Penny stopped talking; she absolutely wanted her boss to ask why. After a few seconds of silence, Kim finally asked.
- «What do you want to not get stuck into?
- Ma’am, I don’t want to be stuck in the same position Arsène Wenger was stuck into when the club built the Emirates! Because of the loan, for years, he was forced to sell his best players, year after year, just to keep the club afloat. Damian is twenty-five and is worth all that money; even more if I thought I could afford to be more patient… but I can’t. I would also prefer to have him join a club outside of England but I can’t either. City wants him, right now, and wants him bad! If by selling a top winger I can hold on to one of the best striker in the world? I will do it. If by selling a winger I can hold on to one of the best midfielder in the league? I will do it too! If by selling a winger, it gives me peace of mind until the end of the season, moneywise at least, I’ll do it!» She took another breath before hitting the final nail in the coffin. «And, prepare yourself ma’am ‘cause at the end of the season, there will be a thorough clean-up of our wages… Jesus? If I only get twenty percent of what it cost the club to save a base salary of fourteen million pounds per annum before any bonuses, I will take it!» She saw on Kim’s face that she didn’t like what she was hearing.
- «Penny…» Penny wasn’t in a mood to argue.
- «Ma’am, I’m sorry, but it is the way I see things. The CFO says that in player wages alone, monthly, we spend six millions pounds more than all our revenues put together. You see the effects… I already did house cleaning like that at Aston Villa ma’am… I would point out that in my fifth season; they had a bank balance so large that they were able to build their new stadium without a single quid of loan…» Kim’s eyes widened at the statement. «Anyhow ma’am, that is my plan and if you’re not happy? Just fire me!»

Penny is adamant in her stance here, which I admire. She presents herself as someone with a strong-mind and a determined attitude. It would be a huge loss to lose such a talented winger, but it would single-handedly improve the financial crisis at the club and allow Penny to retain other valuable assets, in which she may have had to sell without such a huge fee being paid, potentially.
Penny has a very definitive way of approaching things and people can argue all they want but if she's producing title-winning results, as the league table suggests she is currently doing, she must be in the right.
Penny was tired on this New Year day. The club was on his way for Goodison Park to play Everton but also, it was the day of the departure of three players while she was welcoming two. The negotiations with Manchester City over Damian Zieba’s transfer were harsh. Contrary to Monnchi’s prediction, they weren’t able to finalize the transfer before two days after Christmas! In the end, she was able to get all the money she wanted, in one single lump, and it would be welcomed in the Gunners coffers: one hundred million pounds was the final number. But still, the negotiations were a drag. The thing with this transfer, other than the money, was that Zieba declared in the press he wanted to leave. This he did the same day the media leak happened; it complicated the whole operation… At least, Pablo Fernandez and Ikechukwu Nwokolo were now gone for PSG and those got closed rapidly; it brought another sixty million pounds to the club. The other players that were leaving were from the U23 squad and were doing so mainly on a free or for negligible amounts of money.

On the other side, she got two young prospects that arrived. First, there was André Aas and he was her ‘big’ transfer. Except for his jumping reach, the rest she liked… a lot! Determined, pretty agile, great in decision making and first touch; he would be a good box-to-box once trained. The second one was, in her opinion, a steal from a Portuguese team. Contrary to Aas, Francisco Amo was tall and had the jumping reach but his first touch was average at best. With his high vision, decision making and positioning attributes, he would become the midfielder she was looking for; one with a defensive mentality without being a defensive midfielder itself that could see the opportunity for counter attacks as well! Great things indeed, she expected from the young, nineteen years old…

Today though, there was tension because of the match itself and the fact that she was bringing the new tactic into the mix: her 3-5-2. The fact that it was the fourth game in eleven days meant that she wasn’t able to work a lot on it with the players. Something else was influencing this lack of training... By playing City, Liverpool and Southampton in succession, second, fourth, and fifth position on the table respectively, implied that these were all tough games that needed special preparations themselves. As for today’s opponent, Everton, they were eighth on the table right now and were on a good form run; winning four of their last six games. With Moreno still injured with his fractured ribs and Leon being overplayed, she had to go with Abdelaziz upfront alongside Jordan Jones, a young poacher from the U23 squad she thought had potential. She also had to put Ibrahim Boka in midfield because Endri got a severe knock against Southampton and was unfit to play…

«Don’t fret today, ok?» Penny said to her players in the dressing room. «Today, play your game and nothing else. Bienvenu?» she looked at her young winger she was retraining as a wingback, «…relax, ok?» He nodded. «It went well into training so don’t sweat. Think of it as going a bit deeper to defend. The rest? You’ve been doing it for years as a winger…» She wasn’t convinced that all would be good for him today; in training, he often hesitated… «Defence? Remember that an imperfect offside trap that foils a one-on-one is better than a perfect one that doesn’t prevent it! Use your head and stay a tad higher on the pitch! Come on now! Go show why we are at the top of the table!»

The weather was atrocious, it was zero degrees Celsius, it was raining, and it was windy… «What a way to earn a living» she thought when she arrived on the pitch. Abel Ferreira, the Toffees’ manager put a 4-4-2 on the pitch. She suspected as much. When André Luiz past her, she stopped him: «André, don’t forget to tuck in when the play transfers to the right…» He smiled at her. André was the first real transfer she did with Arsenal and he had given her everything she was hoping for. With the retraining of Bienvenu, she transferred André on the left side since the former couldn’t play on his left foot at all. He was a natural lefty anyway; it’s just that he has been played mostly on the right because he still was pretty good on his right foot.

The game started harshly. Ten minutes in, Robin Richter, Everton’s left winger, made a long floating cross directly at the far post. Domingo touched the ball with his fingertips but changed the trajectory. It landed on the interior of the post. Goal! 0-1. When the boys retreated to the dressing room at half time, she saw the men being a bit disenchanted. She knew this only was bad luck… «Men, you did good out there. This one is the unlucky goal of the year. We are controlling the midfield well and they didn’t get a lot of opportunities. You know those things happen… Now, just go out there and do what you did all year so far: play with your chin up!»

Just before they went to the pitch for the second half, she subbed Jordan; the kid shot five times so far but didn’t even come close to even be on target. Leon took his place. On the sixty first minute, on a free kick, Everton got a scrappy goal… 0-2. Penny was trying to get the boys to react but it was too little too late. On the seventieth minute, Reuben got one of those brain cramps he sometime gets on the pitch and it lead to a third goal for Everton… 0-3! When the referee called the end of the match, she retreated quickly to the dressing room. «I think we just saw what happened in the last four years…» said Jon to Penny when they still were alone in the dressing room.
- «I think so too…» she answered him. «After the second goal, Reuben just stood there on the pitch, completely catatonic…»

To the players, she downplayed the result as being only bad luck and that after all, it was the very first time this season, on the twenty-fourth game, that they lost! In the bus, she spent a lot of time with Jon, Andy and Tim reviewing the game and analysing the stats. The overall conclusion was that they didn’t play bad. They really totally controlled the midfield but two goals were the direct results of mistakes. As for the impact of the new system itself, André Luiz on the left side instead of the right didn’t play a really bad game; just not as good as usual. For Bienvenu, who played his first ever game as a wingback, he did just like Luiz, not the worst game he ever played but far from his best... André Aas, who started, played ok. The only player that played badly was, in the end, Jordan, which she subbed after the first half. The consensus when they were arriving at Colney was this was the result of adapting to a new system coupled with lacks in concentration… Sigh…




I’m leaving on holiday with the family so, there will be a hiatus on posting the story … It’s about the only time of the year I really have with the children…
After a brilliant start to the season, that's a devastating loss. On another note, I hope you enjoy your holiday with the family.
Hey guys, holiday time with the family is over and the story should start soon...
Looking forward to your imminent return!
When Penny entered her office the following Wednesday, the day of the return leg of the North London derby, she got greeted by a series of emails that she wasn’t keen on going through if only because she was deeply conflicted between anger or shrugging all of it. The evening before, she received a message telling her that Takashi Kumashiro, her rotation midfielder has been selected to play for Japan in the Asian cup. The news in itself wasn’t bad; for the time he played, he proved reliable. What was bothering her was that his leave with the Japanese national team, was for at least fifteen days and could inflate to up to twenty-five!

«Are you serious?» It was Jon, reacting to her comment on the midfielder’s unavailability.
- «He will be with the national team at least until the first day of February and it could extend to mid-February…
- We got Francisco and André to fill in for him… Why not use them?» Penny lifted both her hands in the air.
- «I will use them, it’s not the point! It’s the unavailability in the winter crunch. It’s not an intense one since we are nowhere in Europe but it’s still the crunch…», she said while rummaging through her papers on her desk. When she found the one she was looking for, she gave it to Jon. «The Blancos are interested in him; they just haven’t made a bid yet… Considering how deep we will be in the red at the end of the season, I’m starting to wonder if it shouldn’t be a window of opportunity to look into…»

Jon read the sheet of paper and he put it back on her desk. He didn’t know how to react to the news. She was too; she usually would not voice stuff like that to him. In all their years together, except when making player evaluations, he never heard voice anything like that before. When they did the last evaluations, after the meeting she got with the bosses, they decided that they would keep Takashi because he was the only natural defensive midfielder they got on the team and that he performed well when he was put on the pitch. Even if he was more of a technical player than a physical one, like they tend to favour, he was excellent in defensive phases, with high resistance to pressure because of his awesome composure and, most of all, he was excellent at decision making… It was the first time, for both of them, to have an Asian player and, just like for Penny, he had to admit he was stun at the news of a losing a player in the middle of the season to go play for a national team...
«Penny, how much you think we can get for him?», he asked her.
- «Moonchi tells me we’d probably get around twenty-five to thirty million…» Jon’s eyes popped.
- «Ouch! I understand the dilemma better now…
- And two years ago, they got him on the cheap too! I think it was around thirteen million. Since he’s got over a hundred caps for Japan, I think we can say it was on the cheap.
- Yeah, I’d agree on that.» Jon took a sip of coffee before continuing. «What are you going to do then?» Penny turned around to look at the players who were entering the pitch for their warm-up through the giant window behind her desk.
- «I don’t know… and I don’t know if he wants to leave or not either…»

Silence took hold in Penny’s office. Jon was watching her looking outside while sipping his coffee. She was biting her nails and that was something he never saw her do before. After about a minute, she turned toward her Assistant Manager.
«I think I’ll just ask him… After all, I don’t know what he wants and heck! It’s Real Madrid we are talking about!» She took her phone and called, apparently, one of her fitness coach by the words exchanged. A few seconds later, she cut the communication. «He’s coming. Can you switch your Chance Creation training with my Tactical Positioning one?» Jon smiled at her as he started to get up.
- «Sure!» he said. «We still do the last pre-game Tactical Preparation before lunch?
- Yes. The talk with Takashi shouldn’t be long.» Jon started to walk out the door.

Penny went back to her computer to go through some of the pile of emails while waiting for Takashi to arrive. It didn’t take long that knocks on the door were heard. «Come in Takashi!» she said while getting up to go sit on one of the two couches. «When are you leaving?», she asked as she was pointing to the couch she wasn’t going to sit on.
- «The plane leaves tomorrow morning at five.» he said to his boss as he sat down.
- «Takashi, I won’t dance around the subject... I’m a bit stuck into a decision to make and since you are the one that will have to live with it, I decided to talk to you directly.» He became immediately defensive.
- «You want me to leave?
- Want? No, not really. I think you saw there were big changes with the transfer window, right?
- Yes coach. I think money is an issue at the moment, especially if what I read in the press is exact about Damian going to City…
- Well, they don’t have the entire story… I think you know that Real Madrid would like to see you coming to their club, right?
- Yes, Marco Shreiber, my agent, called me about it last week. Did they make an offer?
- No, but we are thinking about gauging them on their interest… but before we do this? I want to know what you want...» The player looked at her for a few seconds before speaking again.
- «You really are asking me if I want to go to Real Madrid or not?» Penny smiled while extending her arm to grab a bottle of water on the table. She opened it as she answered.
- «Yes Takashi, I am…» she took a sip of water. «I don’t need an answer right away. I just want to you to tell me if you’d want to continue here or go to Real Madrid before the end of the week. Is that ok with you?»
Three days later, as promised, Takashi called her to give his answer. A week later, a deal was struck with Real Madrid for twenty-nine million plus some other clauses that weren’t relevant for Penny at that moment…
Very few players would decline the opportunity to leave to join a club like Real Madrid. Hopefully this is a decision which will aid the club financially, despite the clauses, but will also not have too much of a direct impact on results.
«This was a poor performance…» Penny and one of her bosses, Kim Franssen, were eating lunch together “as suggested” by the Managing Director.
- «Ma’am, I can’t say more than I said before. I decided to put youngsters in the first FA Cup game against Swansea and it bit us in the butt. I have no excuses to offer ‘cause I honestly don’t care at the point I am right now…»
Penny was tired of all of this. The game was played four days ago and since then, all she could hear was about how bad that game was played. She knew they meant managed but, just like the morning before the match, she thought it was the only opportunity the youngsters would have a chance to play. She was unhappy too but what could she do? The kids hit the framework three times and Jamarley Desnoes, her back-up keeper, had butterfingers.
«Anyhow, we can’t change anything at this point. At least, we are still in the League Cup!» finally said Kim.
- «I can guaranty you that I won’t let this one go…
- We hope so too... On another topic, I’ve been told by the Head office, to convey to you, that we are satisfied with the money you brought to the club during the Transfer Window. The twenty-nine million for Takashi was unexpected but welcomed nonetheless». After he said he’d be ok with going to the Real, the deal was concluded in a quick fashion.
- «Thank you ma’am…» answered Penny. «Now that the window is closed, I can’t do anything else…
- We can’t ask you more than what you did Penny! Over a hundred and forty million, plus some add-ons, in total? It was all you could do without gutting the team mid-season.
- I hope you will not ask me to do this again ma’am…» Penny was eyeing her boss with deed darkened eyes.
- «No, it shouldn’t be the case, not with the plan you gave us for the Summer Window…
- Ma’am, afterward, will I have the right to get back some of the money of the transfers?
- Until the moment where we are able to get out of the red ink, nothing will be done, on any front.
- I understand… but I’d like you to consider giving me some money so I could send Cenyr, our captain, on a coaching course. I plan to bring him in the U18 and…
- No, we cannot Penny!» interrupted Kim. «Nothing will be done on any front...»
Penny sighed heavily at the answer. She knew she couldn’t fight the tide… Anyway, she just didn’t really have the head to money at the moment; she was just thinking about tonight’s game against Fulham.

The ride toward Craven Cottage was spent in silence. Jon saw that Penny was in a dark mood after lunch. After the meet with Kim, she went directly to pitch number five to watch the Pre-Game Physical warm-up. Jon saw her stay put, at the corner of the pitch, her free hand in her jacket’s pocket and leaning heavily on her crutch. This was the typical pose she would take when she was brooding. Once the training was over, she didn’t say a thing and started to walk toward the main building. Jon ran to her so she wouldn’t be alone but she didn’t say a word other than asking if all were ready to leave Colney in an hour. When Penny entered the bus, she took her usual place without a word and when Jon sat at her side, she didn’t say anything at all...

«We need to be better boys…» she said to the players before going out to the tunnel. They needed to do better… The game started very well. On an interception at the edge of the Gunners’ box, Alberto Ramirez, her left back, made a long bomb over the defensive line toward Leon. Three players started to press him but he still was able to make a pass to Moreno who was all alone. The latter didn’t even wait for a second and completed the one-two to Leon who took the shot as he entered the box. Score! 1-0 after fourteen minutes of play! The rest of the half was intense; Fulham were trying their very best. Three minutes into stoppage time, her central defenders all got a simultaneous brain cramps and Sebastian Real found himself all alone in the box facing Diego. The score became one-all with a precise shot in the top right corner!

At half-time, she merely paced back and forth in front of the players, saying nothing. Just before leaving the dressing room, she looked at Leon and Moreno: «It would be nice if you guys could hit the target…» her voice wasn’t kind. When the second half started, she quickly saw that, from a defensive 4-2-3-1, Fulham went to a full bus parking, switching to a 4-2-3-1DM Deep… On the sixty-third minute, on a free kick, the Cottagers scored a second time… 2-1! Penny tried to change things around but to no avail. On the eighty-ninth minute, Tim Moore, one of her back-up central defender who was playing his second game of the season, fouled Sebastian Real inside the box. Luckily, Domingo was able to stop the shot! When the referee ended the game, Penny was livid… Of the twelve shots taken by her players, nine of which were from inside the box, only a single one was on target and it was Leon’s goal…

When the players were all in the dressing room, Penny arrived. She stood, silently, in front of them for a long time before talking… «One. Lousy. Shot!» she said with a low, threatening voice. Leon, who knew the boss well, looked at his feet in a heartbeat. «One… Lousy… Shot!» she repeated… She quickly checked if the door of the dressing room was closed before continuing. This time, she exploded: «What was that out there? Huh?» she was scanning the room and saw that very few players were looking elsewhere than to their own feet. «You guys better step it up… and fast! ‘Cause if you never knew what pain ever was? You’ll know it big time!» She then looked specifically at the forwards: «Leon? When did you start arguing with the referees? Huh?» Leon lifted his head toward his boss; her eyes were like daggers… he looked back at his feet quickly! «Next time you do that, I’ll do what I did when you arrived with the Senior squad at Villa…» He swallowed with difficulty at the memory… «Do you hear me?» He lifted his head reluctantly.
- «I… It won’t happen again boss…» he said with a weak voice. She took three steps toward him before speaking again.
- «See that you do… or else…» She turned only after he looked at her one last time.

Jon, was looking with great interest at the players’ reaction. He saw that all were making themselves as small as possible. He knew he’d have some “mummying” to do but he knew what she just did. She never accepted that players argue with referees, for any reason. She didn’t press the issue that much so far but he knew that today’s performance triggered something in her… Leon was the scapegoat, yes, but only because she worked so hard to make him accept things like she wanted them, good and bad… sometime in a very painful way… He refrained a tiny smile that wanted to come up as he was remembering a young Leon being pushed to the limit of physical exhaustion in training while being benched for three weeks… She kept him in the Senior squad just so that everybody would see, day in and day out, what she was doing to him! But, all in all, she needed to pass a message… It was all about that, and Leon would the carrier…

Some harsh words from Penny, but sometimes they are needed. I'm sure the players will learn from this and look to improve, which is what Penny wants from her team.

You are reading ""The Prodigal Daughter Returns"".

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