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The Last Save

One last tale from the FM15 multiverse, told by a long time lurker to an expected audience of 0
Started on 2 July 2019 by eyreplenh
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by eyreplenh
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eyreplenh's avatar Group eyreplenh
5 yearsEdited
Summer 2014
It doesn't fucking slip now. Slip. Fuck. Steven, you're such a fucking moron. Idiot. Why shout something like that? Why? Why... slip? Fuuuuck.

Taking a sip of water and wiping sweat from his brow, Steven Gerrard looked up to see Daniel Sturridge approach, something clearly on his mind.

"Hey Cap! This Markovic kid and now talk of Balotelli... it's hardly replacing Suarez, is it? Shit, do you think we blew our shot last season?" "Let's give the lad a chance eh? And I'm sure they'll never go through signing Balotelli. I mean, the kid is funny and all, but hardly fits our system..." Gerrard smiled. "And what sense would it make, selling our crazy lad Suarez to then bring in the only one crazier in the game? Nah. Come on, lets get back to our sprints."

Fucking sprints. It wasn't like he's ever been the fastest or liked running the most, but man did they feel heavy this summer. Had they ever felt as droll to get through? And look at the gaffer over there, all smiles and happy vibes. Where's his disappointment? Shouldn't he be at least a little bit pissed for fucking missing out on the title, not happy to be second, smug about his this is Brendan tv fucking series and all the attention. Aaargh! Oh, come on Steven, don't be a miserable shit. Just run. It doesn't fucking slip now... Dammit!

Hiking over to the doc after a punishing set of intervals, Gerrard pointed the direction to his right knee.

"I don't know, doc, I've had my share of injuries, but..." Gerrard hunched his houlders. "Does it hurt bad? Sharp? Dull? Inside? Outside?" Sighing, he went on. "Kind of all over? It's hard to explain." Adopting a quizzical face, the doc lifted and prodded his right leg. "Hmm. Should we go over some of our old check-up drills to see what comes up? Does it feel similar to any previous injury?" "Not really. It's a kind of ache. I've never felt this kind of... ache before." Tilting his head sideways, the doc carefully worded a question that was not a question. "Well, Steven... might be time to ponder this - have you ever been this old before?"

June, 2011

«Guys, how cute was that Norwegian boy?» A giggling reply «I think they’re all cute – way cuter than the guys back home!» Vigorous nodding and smiling. «I can’t believe we’re going home in just a couple of days, Stavern has been perfect!» One of the sun-freckled faces broke into a wild grin, exclaiming «Mischa, it’s so good of your parents to take us along. Your dad is so cool!» «Hahahaha! …Mischa? Guys, where’s Mischa?!»

- - - -

«Help! Help us!». Thorbjørn Jagland abruptly turned his face from the somewhat ordinary ice cream he’d nevertheless been eating with extraordinary focus and exuberance. «Girls! What’s the matter?» «Our friend, she’s in the water! She doesn’t respond! Heeeelp!» Furious pointing. Shielding his eyes, Torbjørn Jagland looked out across the bay, and could just about make out the form of someone drifting face down on the water, slowly being dragged further out by the meticulous tidal stream. «Gro, call the ambulance. Someones drowning» he told his wife. Calm, but with an intonation that left no room for discussion or doubt. Even as he was pulling off his t-shirt and running for the water, he felt a smug satisfaction about just that tone. Now, why could he not pull that off with his boss at work?

Pulling himself and the prone young body towards the shore, he noticed the sounds of ambulance sirens approaching already. Good, he thought, someone else can do the resuscitation, he could answer questions. He was tan enough to keep his t-shirt off, wasn’t he?

- - - -

«Let me through, god damnit!» «Please calm down, my chap, the paramedics are doing their thing. I pulled her out of the water myself, I assure you she will be okay. I’m a relatively strong swimmer, you see, that means...» «I don’t care! I’m her father!» Not about to be put aside due to mere familiarity, Torbjørn kept an arm on the imposing tourist who was bete red in the face, chest puffing. «There there, I assume that this must be frihtening and stressful for you, but try to remain calm as the professionals» - his tone indicating that indeed, he was one of those – «do their job. Soon as she coughs, she’ll be all yours!». «Fuck you and your impeccable tan-line! They will be pounding her chest ‘til kingdom come – she has diabetes and is probably hypoglycemic!». Receiving a strong push to his chest, Torbjørn had the distinct feeling of toopling over, but kept enough of his wherewithal to mutter to himself «Oh.».

- - - -

«Hello. Welcome. Mischa, Susan and Brendan is it? I hear you got quite a scare the other day. Please, sit wherever you like. I’m Bjørn, a community psychologist here. Let’s hear it.»
Summer 2014

It's time for sports here at BBC Radio Merseyside, and with us on the phone is Echo journalist James Pearce with some crazy news out of the Liverpool FC training camp. James?

- Well, as I reported for the Echo and via my twitteraccount, @jamespearceecho, things have gone quiet over here. All the players and staff have retreated early from their sessions. While no official communiqé has been released, there's rumours that there is some discontent with the American owners about manager Brendan Rodgers, with the latters extramarital adventures and coming divorce seemingly adding to a growing sentiment that he might not be their man.

- Surely, Jimmie-
- James!
- James. Surely these are only rumours? Second place last season and with solid british inforcements this summer, the club looks bolted on for success. And Rodgers is the man that has delivered them to the doorstep?
- Well, yeah, but there have been an air around some of the established players as well of something foul, and a personal source of mine let slip that they're not really satisfied with recruitment this summer or Rodgers ability to transform what they call lofty visions into actual gameplay. Several figures seem to be more of the opinion that they were lucky to have maybe the worlds best footballer tearing defenses apart more than a tactical wizard behind the helm - and say what you will about Rickie Lambert, he's no Suarez!
- Okay, thank you James. We'll be back for more on this if it turns out to be something substantial.
Summer 2014

"Steven... Look. I'm not going to discard it right off the bat - my confidence is not that low, but still. It's pretty farfetched." Bjørn Karstensen, the Norwegian psychologist and performance expert, spoke calmly and quietly like always. On the inside, however, the butterflies were having an absolute stormer, things were chaotic.

"It was just a training session, you know?" Stated as truth, yet obviously far underselling the point, Karstensen had just been part of the most intense and queer training session this Liverpool pre-season so far. Although usually a peripheral character in the Liverpool setup - out on the grass, at least - the norwegian stoic had suddenly turned animated after a drill turned sour with 'old guard' players like Lucas Leiva, Daniel Sturrigde and Glen Johnson openly critizising the commitment and ability of some of the teams new signings. Feeling that boss Brendan Rodgers did not jump into the new guys defence quickly enough, Karstensen had suggested a tournament, four-a-side, to prove a point and build better squad coherence. Trying to ease pressure and to make it a funny thing for everyone to enjoy, the increasingly under pressure Rodgers, perhaps in an attempt to keep the respect of key figures in the team had instead decided to make it an official tournament, calling out Karstensen to do his best - 'If you think you can do it better than me'.

The following tournament grew in stature to uncomfortable levels, as senior players laid down side-bets and promises about who would win the tournament. Not able to settle on clear selection terms, Karstensen asked for Gerrard in his fourtet, along with often critizised signings Balotelli, Markovic and Manquillo.

'Bjørn, this was no ordinary training session, and you know it. i should know, this is like my millionth pre-season... I've never seen anything like it.' Steven Gerrard, dipped his head low, scratching his brows. 'I mean, I've felt... old. This summer. You know -well, you do know, we've been talking about it - I've felt less motivated and filled with doubt. Today? Me and Mario and Lazar destroying out there? That was FUN! For some reason, and I don't know what you've told them, but those guys played their hearts out for you. And when they did, when they went 100% in stead of the 80 something we've been seeing... Wow. They are footballers. Did you see the look on Sakho's face when Mario bullied him out of the way? Haha, that was so much fun!'

Looking out the window, Karstensen could not help let a smile touch his mouth. It had been... pretty awesome. Like he predicted, given the appropriate feedback, expectations and instructions, his star four: Gerrard, Markovic, Balotelli and Manquillo had destroyed every constellation Brendan Rodgers and the other players had been able to throw together. It was a rather simple ploy, really, hearkening from Giovanni Trappatoni's time at Juventus (four well-instructed players will defend and beat any other loosely organized force in a small pitch), but it had been effective. Balotelli got to show just how good he is, a complete monster package of physicality and technical prowess, Markovic had an absolute stormer, running up and down the picth with the ball, driving his opponents crazy, while Javi Manquillo quitely got on with business, taking the brunt of the defensive running following pointers from Gerrard. The other players had quieted down after the fifteenth straight win of his small group, exhausted beyond making fun or trouble.

'Here's my point'. Gerrard took a step into the room, making a big movement with his arm. 'Brendan is finished. I know, I know, it's harsh. The media have taken this whole divorce thing too far, and alone it's just silly. But the owners are not happy, and before today, the players were not either. You know it, you've felt it. Heck, you've talked to most of us. You know. The guys, me - I don't know. We don't trust him. He's a good guy, you know, likeable, but I wouldn't take a bullet for him. I would take a bullet for King Kenny, but not for Brendan. And here's the thing: a lot of the younger guys in the squad, I think... I think they'd take a bullet for you. They appreciate the talks with you, the help with the personal life and with their money and stuff... But they also trust you on the pitch - what you say make sense out there.

Gerrard paused, pacing about the room. 'Bjørn, I'm getting older. I don't think Brendan can take us where I want to go. But neither do I think I can take another big turnaround with someone from outside coming in, having to learn everything and wanting to sign players and make a show. I feel I have some good matches still in me, and I want to win some more fucking trophies. I know the owners have a nice feel for you - fuck, how did you make everyone like you? Haha! No, but seriously, I know they respect your ambitions for the club, and the ideas you have for the running of the club. I can help get the players behind this... What do you say? Can we do this? Obvously, you'd come to me a lot and involve me in the squad, the team and so on. Could we do it, B?
Summer 2014

Breaking news: Liverpool hire complete unknown after bizarre Rodgers fallout

James Pearce, Liverpool Echo.

There's an air of disbelief and shock at Melwood today, as the lock ins, meetings and rumours during the clubs recent training camp have culminated in the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. We've so far only gotten a brief press statement through the official channels thanking Rodgers for his service without offering a concrete reason for the contract termination. Sources from within the club, however, more than hint that the owners were unconvinced by the managers conduct on and off the pitch recently and had uncertainties about the road lined up ahead. This, coupled with reports of unrest in the squad - and fanbase - after a hectic yet somewhat underwhelming transfer summer so far, have apparently been enough to take action for the American owners.

Although shocking in itself - Rodgers led the club closer to a league title than they've been for many years with blistering attack-minded football last season, the real shock is really the announced replacement. “Improve when on top” is a worthy mantra in sports, and the american owners, who've seen their investment in Liverpool FC double since their purchase four years ago, could certainly be understood had there been one of the top dogs in modern management suddenly available. Instead, in an even shorter press release, the club simply stated psychologist and Rodgers peripheral assistant Bjørn Karstensen will assume control as manager of the club, starting today.

Just who is Bjørn Karstensen? I am sorry and a bit embarrassed to admit it - we don’t really know. A sports psychologist favoured by Rodgers since his Swansea days, the Norwegian moved to Liverpool when the Northern-Irishman assumed the mantle in LFC, but have been a peripheral figure since - or so we’ve thought. We’ll be back on more on Liverpool's new manager shortly, for now we’ve gotten permission to post an excerpt from a profile done by the South Wales Guardian back in 2012.

“Norwegian psychologist Bjørn Karstensen have been contracted by Swansea on a year-long project after an expressed wish from Brendan Rodgers, and we are happy to say he has, along with his girlfriend, moved to Wales! We meet Karstensen at The George Mumbles for a pint and a talk a short month into his appointment for the Swans.

The Norwegian allegedly came in contact with Rodgers after a minor incident on the Rodgers family vacation in Stavern where he lives, and somehow the Swansea manager was besotten and kept in touch the next year, before convincing Karstensen to join him this summer.

Karstensen is a quiet but well-spoken man, with a scandinavian accent and a love of beer. After complimenting the pub and the Swansea surroundings, he turns the table and asks this reporter questions about the area, my work and the state of published news here. After a while though, we manage to get in some questions.

-Having been here a month, Bjørn, could you shed some light on what it is that you do for the club? We’ve not been able to glean it from club communications so far!
-Well, generally I talk with people. With Brendan, some of the players… I know that talking to people is probably not a very good or precise description, but that is the core of it.
-Talk about what exactly?
-Specifically, I cannot say, there’s some professional ethics as well as club interests to take into consideration. But again, generally, I talk to people about life. Their job, which is footballing, of course, their life and relationships. Sometimes I talk about money and money management, and money and happiness. Whatever they want to talk to me about.
-Talking to footballers, we guess you are a coach of sorts then? We’ve heard teams on the continent appointing mental trainers, or performance coaches… That it, are you a performance coach then?
-Well, no. But in a sense. I’m not really that performance-oriented in a direct way. But I am a firm believer that if you’re happy and enjoy life, you are more likely to perform well - if your job is a professional footballer or, haha, a journalist for a struggling newspaper.

There’s a constant almost-smile lurking on Karstensen’s features, who seems to have a ready quip at every turn. He tells us he’s rented a house near Oxwich for the time being, relishing being near the ocean.

We certainly hope the fresh-faced young man can have a positive impact on the Swansea squad before the new season, and that he'll enjoy this beautiful part of the country together with his girlfriend.

Hello, listener-reader on this nice little place on the internet. Welcome to this story, where I will try to make something entertaining out of the adventures of Bjørn Karstensen and his players after a player-led rebellion made him manager after the well-spoken Brendan Rodgers.

I have called my story the last save, because I intend it to be just that. My last save on FM15, possibly my last FM save overall. There's no drama behind it, just life that does not have as much space in it as it used to.

Why FM15? Mostly because this part of the forum is more hidden and my english is so forced and bad after a long pause from writing... ;) No, the reason is because that's the version I have been playing on and off since it came. Before that? I played CM01/02 on and off since that came. So yes: I am both old and boring, and like my computer games old and boring to! And, you know, compatible with my soon-to-be-discontinued Windows 7 laptop.

I am from Norway, and live in the south of the country with my girlfriend (soon wife) and 11 month old daughter - hence less time! Like many others, I'd guess, I found this place after a google search for FM15 wonderkids - thanks! Really enjoyed reading stories and wanted to contribute myself, but then it fizzled out for me and I yellowed. Reading stories have remained a favourite pasttime (and procrastination tool!) throughout, however, both in the periods where I've played myself and where I've had self-imposed breaks.

I am a clinical psychologist by profession, and as such I noticed over the years that even though I am some way from being a problem gamer / addict, there's distinct differences in how I enjoy playing. I LOVE CM01/02 and FM15, but there are times where I am able to notice that I am just going through the motions, clicking the 'Continue' button repeatedly, forgetting to rotate my team, not really reading updates or scouting players. Times when I realize that I am playing to hide from stress, unpleasant feelings or something else - not to enjoy the game.

For this reason, and because my life at this point is crammed with stuff to do - both positive and stressfull - I laid out some rules for myself when starting this save.
1 - Stop a playing session if I notice I'm not enjoying myself properly or am consciously or unconsciously using the game to avoid something else.
2 - Write a story about it, both to keep it interesting for longer and (hopefully) to give something back. Plus, you know, writing is a useful skill to practice.
3 - Read a book before starting the save (I was about to lose the habit) and at least one before starting each new season.

It will probably take some time for me to find the 'final form' - my writing is far from Super Saiyan at the moment - and I will try some different angles along the way. Overall, it will probably be multiple angles and perspectives, and there will be the occasional meta like this, which I'll use to write a bit about my playing experience and how it ties at times to addiction, or about the book I read before I allowed myself to start a new season (I am a couple of season's in at the moment)... or about something else.

If anyone reading has questions, comments or requests along the way, they are of course welcome! But for now, we'll get the matches rolling.

Oh! The book I read before starting the save was "Fire and Blood" by George RR Martin. It was, regrettably and very expectedly, a completely unnecessary read. Not without it's moments, but unless you are a big fan of the universe, stay away. The bearded big man should have put his efforts into Winds of Winter in stead...


Jon Sims took a deep breath. With a speed managed by only a true nevrotic he went through his a mental checklist. Shoes - polished, but not overly so. Pants - tight, correct lenght, proper height, latest fasion. Shirt - white, ironed, no bravado, all buttons buttoned save the top one. Chesthair - trimmed. Jacket - right lenght, ironed, top button buttoned, perfect fit. Hands - one casually in pocket, the other hanging still - stop fidgeting! - hanging still by the side. Face - neutral, 2mm beard, new glasses - nothing to crazy. Okay. Deep breath. Four weeks into his job as press officer he'd started to feel he'd landed a sweet deal, with nothing to demanding going on. Doing the odd press-release, dealing with various media outlets (some of which paid for the dinner!) and copping odd favours around town for being an employee of the club. Then came the hiring of mr Karstensen, and the world had been a different kind of hell, with the norwegian giving instructions not to give any public announcements "until he'd gotten an overview of things". Just that. And then one million angry phonecalls from every news outlet, reporter and blogger in the country, blaming him for the lack of access and in general calling him all sorts of things. Deep breath. Here they were, just him and mr Karstensen, and a pack of frothing journalists. As could be excpected, they had not exactly gone easy on the new manager after being denied their time and interviews, and there was an air of hostility in the packed pressroom. Stay calm, he thought to himself, they are angry with him, not you. Just do the usual schtick, efficient, and then blend into the background. Deep breath.

"Welcome guys! I know you want to - finally - get to ask mr Karstensen some questions, so I'll skip my usual stand-up routine. Who wants to go first?"

"Mr Karstensen - why has it taken you so long to speak to the press? Do you have an agenda, or have you been afraid?"

- Er... Hello, to you as well. First off, you may, all of you may, in fact, just call me Bjørn. Secondly - is why I haven't talked to the press in the weeks since I've taken over, the first question the press would like to ask? Is that what your readers are most interested in? - laden silence - In that case, thank you! That one is easy! I've been busy. It's kind of a big job at a big club, this.

"Mr Karstensen - why did you get hired? Did you have to stab Brendan in the back to do it?"

- Bjørn. And I believe I got hired because the board thinks I can deliver on a plan to take this club back to where it belongs. But they've said as much to you already, no? I consider Brendan a friend and don't usually stab friends in the back, so no? But you have to ask him, maybe?

"Mr Karstensen, Bjørn, please! Are you mocking us, mocking the press?"

- Again, easy question. No. I am answering your questions. If I am going to be a bit direct though, I'll venture this - I don't think they have been particularly good questions.

Oh my god oh my goooood, thought Jon Sims, sweating through his shirt and working on the jacket. What is he doing?! They look proper riled up, I'll have to do something... Running through his list of de-escalating jokes, banter and quips, he came up with exactly zero that could salvage this massive cockup.

"How are you qualified to have this job exactly? How did you manage to get hired?"

- Again, you'd be better off asking the people who actually made the hiring decision, but I'd imagine a mix of education and experience, and a couple of good references. And a good interview. That's how people mostly gets hired, I think. And before this goes on like this; I'll answer any more questions about my hiring, Brendan Rodgers or things beyond my control our outside matters relating to the football club from here on out with a simple no comment, and I'll leave. Those of you that want to can go and publish your pieces about me already, no need to wait. Those that want something on the players or the club as we are about to start the season, stay and ask. I'll answer.

-- --

Jon Sims looked over at Mr Karstensen as the swearing and angry mutterings broke out after, but just got a calm smile back. Struggling to feel at ease, but increasingly feeling the pressure exerted by a poorly balanced but very trendy vegan diet on his bowel, Jon Sims leaned slightly over to turn on his mike again, it was time maybe to try one of his best jokes. Maybe. Flipping on the switch, nervous sweat down his back at that precise time combined beautifully with the gases created by hard to break down food in his bowels, and Jon Sims duly farted.

Starting from Mr Karstensen himself, laughter gradually spread through the room as Jon Sims took on a red colour and lost contact with most of his body, steaying himself against the wall.

- Hahahaha! Jon, I'm sorry, but that was some timing! Are you okay? Thank you John! So that you liked, eh? Well, I'll make a small change to my earlier statement; those that want to ask some questions about the football side of things or about Jons diet or stomach condition - stay and ask.

"How do you rate preseason, Mr Karstensen, and how will you fix the leaky defence that has conceded eight goals against dubious opposition?"

- Again, Bjørn. But in fact, I'll tell you how I'll rate preseason. Like I've told the board and the other people bahind the scenes. It's not been good enough. Too few matches, too many flights, weird scheduling. It's something that we definitively will improve on before next season. As for our defence, I hope we'll be more coherent and do better as the season starts, because that part of our game has not been good enough.

"Do you reckon you'll be here for next season then?"

- I very much think so, yes. Hope so, too! I've been given a one year contract, because that's how things are at this level, but my goals and aspirations for this team are long-term.

"Brendan Rodgers lead the team within inches of the title last season, how will you improve on that and bring the title home this season?"

- Through hard work and smart decisions, I hope to sometime soon bring the title home - just as much as you do. This season I think it will heap unduly pressure on the lads to expect the title. No, our stated goal is to qualify for the Champions League again, and to do so reliably going forward. Should everything click and we have a bit of luck, then anything could happen, buuuut. There are better teams in the league than us, at the moment.

"Wait, wait, wait. Second place last season, massive spending this summer on proven PL talent, and no ambition for the title? My god, how on earth did they hire you?!"

- Second place in large part due to a Luis Suarez that probably was the best player in the world for long periods of time last season - and who no longer are at the club. And the recruitment strategy at the club has been... imperfect, for some time. Lots of players can, with hard work and dedication, be "proven PL talent" - very few will be championship-winning material. For your second question, no comment. Thank you for coming, this press conference is over.

-- --

Jon Sims quickly found out that whatever goodwill his fart had brought earlier had, in fact, evaporated, like gas.

Welcome to this Sky sports transfer window special where we put the spotlight on Liverpool

With us in the studio is Steven Gerrard along with our hosts Carra and Nev.

Stevie, thank you for joining us to shed some insight into the transfer business this summer at Liverpool. Your new boss, he did not wait to get busy, did he? After Rodgers signings earlier in the window, another 10 players in! Remarkable, right? What's your thoughts on this?

It was a bit surprising, to be honest, but something were quite obvious. Simon were lacking competition on the line, and Timo Horn looks like a great signing for us, with Kalinic coming in for a small fee to offer backup as well. Other than that, the most recent arrival, Pione Sisto, was someone the boss knew from back home, and despite being very young he's been tearing it up in training and have slotted right in. Then there's some talented young guys that'll probably not feature that much this season... Oh, and I've been told to say that if you two can conduct yourselves properly - I doubt it, eh Car? - then I'll tell you about the managers swoop in Paris.

Intriguing! We'll just have to try and be nice then, Nev, haven't we? But in all fairness, as Karstensen openly critizised the earlier signings as not being good enough in an earlier press conference, there's not exactly a new Suarez here either, am I right? Is Liverpool ready for the new season?

It's hard to replace someone as Luis, for sure. But remember, he wasn't the Suarez who just left for Barcelona those years ago when he signed for us. We're seeing steady improvements in training, and although we've registered that people like you two have your doubts about Mario [Balotelli], the boss is certain he can deliver. Other than that, preseason have gone as preseasons do, we are starting to adapt to our new system, and we're ready to kick on.

We'll of course try to be nice, Stevie, but in all fairness, we have to ask about outgoing business as well. Rumours have been swirling that Karstensen offered anyone in sight to other clubs on transfers, including recent signings like Lallana and Lambert as well as experienced guys like Toure and Enrique... Again, this is after admitting the squad is not good enough, and after signing nothing but untested boys. Where's the logic, G?

Sigh. Well, to be honest, it has put a strain on the mood at times.

It's all true then?

Umm yeah. The boss has been honest, maybe a bit too honest for some of the guys, about the realities of beeing a footballer and a part of a football club. At this point, sadly, a football club that cannot compete financially with out biggest rivals. But credit to the man, he's been honest and open and talked and explained to anyone with an ear for it. So currently we are focused, if not happy, and working hard to improve our bit on the pitch, while I trust the gaffer to improve on other bits. I really do. He's quite a character, you know? You'd like him if you were still playing, Car. No beating around the bush.

Well, we could certainly sense that in his recent presser!

Haha, yes. Indeed? Well, here's the thing. Recently he went to Paris along with Dave Fallows to have a look at Lucas Digne, a left back there. Just a look, see? And then, and Dave refuse to tell us everything, he and Dave met some PSG representatives. The dinner went on for quite a while, like restaurant closed, bottles of wines on the table kind of late. And at the end, not only had we signed Digne, says Dave, at one point we invited in the agent of Marquinhos and negotiated a deal to sign him to. And let me tell you, that kid is a monster! No guys can get around him in training!

Talented, yes, but still unproven? Like Karstensen's other signings? I just cannot see how the club - the board, the owners, the players, for gods sake how you, Steven, can accept this? You pushed for the title last season, now you've got an untested manager buying foreign, untested talent and playing down expectations before the season. How? Why is this acceptable to you?

In a nutshell? We believe in him, I think. Not in a mumbo-jumbo kind of religious way, but in his vision and ability. At one point in summer, when several of us felt like focus was drifting and kind of dropping off a bit, he made us believe again. We used to believe in simple things at this club I think. In hard work, and long term work. The boss he made the case to us, first the board, then to the board and some of us players, then to the full squad. The case of how we need to change the focus from trying desperately to win the one league title we've been waiting 25 years on, to focusing on how to be a club again that wins again and again. The ideas are old, but he's supplemented it with a deep understanding of the modern football world, the stuff outside the pitch, the things that build the club as well as the squad. The board were impressed as hell at his first presentation - even though I couldn't follow all of it, I could see it in their face. And to be a part of that kind of team, club? Like in the Shankly days? I'll walk through fire to do that, Car, as you would have back in the day.


Hi there, strong and silent reader.

I am getting married in three weeks, and reality has kicked in with little time to play/write. But I'll be back, hung-over and be-ringed, in a not too distant future.

Hope to see you there
30th December, 2014. Woolton athletic running track. 10 PM.

A few minutes early and nervous, James Pearce, in the cold and the dark, stepped out onto the Woolton athletic running track. Some snow had fallen the last days, but of course out here they’d taken care of that. The arena looked spotless, if a bit gloomy under floodlights just 50% activated. Hearing sounds of steps coming his way, he turned around, making out the approaching figure of Bjørn Karstensen, Liverpool’s so far enigmatic manager, padding along the track, steam pouring from his mouth and rising from his head. The Norwegian beckoned with his right hand, and James Pearce moaned inwardly - he was not in the best shape of his life - but still eagerly moved into speed to slot alongside the manager as he trotted around the pitch.

- Evening! Karstensen opened cheerfully. Good evening, mr Karstensen - Bjørn - and thank you for this opportunity, but can I ask -

Three more rounds first, please James. You set the pace, and we’ll do three rounds first, then we’ll walk one round, and then you can ask. Okay?

Thanks again, Mr Karstensen, for this opportunity. If you don’t mind me asking - and don’t think I don’t appreciate it, but why did you invite me here? You hardly speak to us journalists at all during press conferences or other occasions?

To be honest, in part because the public relations people at the club made some quite strong suggestions, repeated suggestions, that it would be beneficial that we, I, open up a bit. The here is because I like running, need it even, to smooth out the stress and calm my head. You is because I like you - you’re mostly courteous, and I think some of the things you write is the least bad out there. And that’s not fair - I answer your questions!

Mostly in yes’es and no’s, and the ‘no comments’ if you don’t mind me saying…

Ah, yes! But that is mostly because most of the questions are, well, not good. At our first league match I was asked about what tactics we’d be likely to employ, and about whether the squad needed strengthening. To the first I stated that is not something I’ll share in a bloody press conference, sorry about the language, and to the second that no, I am happy with my squad right now. It’s not my fault your colleagues keep asking the first one before each match, and the second one after each unperfect match we play.

Okay, fair enough. What are our agenda here, any limits/boundaries? How many questions do I get, kind of?

Tell you what. You set the pace the last two rounds, and it works out at about 5 minutes and ten seconds per kilometer… We’ll go like this - run for three rounds, walk and talk for one. As long as you keep the pace higher than 5 sharp per kilometer, we keep going.

Err… okay.

Now, run!

Out of the Champions League, mr Karstensen. Although most fans would be hard pressed to call us favourites for that title, being out altogether before christmas is something else altogether? What are your thoughts, and how will you calm the fans calling you out as the culprit?

I’m disappointed. To be fair, our first two matches were strange. We’d usually win those by two-three goals easy if you look at play and chances. But it’s not just bad luck either, as we’ve been straight out bad in front of both goals in too many matches this season. One point from two matches against Barca was okay, even though their late equalizer was a kick in the teeth - inspiring though, to see how much better we can get. That team is something to strive for! Also, we were straight out poor in the match for progression against Shakhtar, did not execute our gameplan by a long shot. All in all, we’re disappointed. A CL title was never on the cards this season, but now we’ll have to contend with the thursday - sunday rotation come spring as well… You are familiar with the clinical significance of two versus three days of rest between matches?

Err, yes?

Well then, run!

Fourth in the league, Bjørn - and 17 points behind Chelsea - again, fans are far from happy. Fans, who, by the way, never accepted your downplaying ambitions before the season in the first place. Young players need time, you said after the QPR defeat - but it’s you that’s put those youngsters out there, ahead of Lallana, Lambert and more experienced guys? Do you feel your position is threatened at the moment?

It’s not where we want to be, for sure. But look at Chelsea’s team and ours. Compare age, experience, wage and whatnot - we are not where they are. Hazard is the best player in the league - and makes about double of what our captain does. We cannot, at the moment, compete. And this is important to understand. The board did not accept my vision and take a chance on me to collect fourth places, or even second places. They believed, as I still do, that my way forward will give the club it’s best chances of success. But to do it, we have to take a step back. There’s a whole culture to rebuild. Even if we could go out and buy world-beaters, ‘proven talent’ as you lot are wont to call them - and we can’t - we’d be putting those golden boys on top of a wobbly tower. Any success we’d have would have been for the short term. Now, given that our financial situation is far from the buying galacticos state, it kind of makes the way forward easier to find - we have less options.

Liverpool is playing in the Premier League, Champions League and have one of the largest fan-bases in the world. Surely, mr Karstensen, you are far from poor?

Run, James, run!

But look. We’ve been performing worse than I’d hope at this stage. The fitness level going into the season was poor, and we’ve taken longer to adapt to a higher tempo game than I’d like. We’re unstable, have squandered chances and let in cheap goals. But we are improving, I think, and usually dominating games more now. Eventually, results will improve too.

But eventually, is that enough? I’m not sure the fans are onboard with the so-called improvement?

We have the best fans in the world. I should know, I’ve been one since I was five. And they have the right to be demanding, anything other than that would be sad, to be honest. But also, if we drop pretence, the club have not operated at the expected level since the eighties. Glimmers of light here and there, but sustained drives for success, no. The truth is, we’re behind our top competitors here and abroad in most areas, on and off the pitch. Suarez almost took us to the title last season, but he’s no longer here. In one respect, challenging for first after finishing second is logical, however, as I’ve said and as the board have come to believe, in this instance we need to take a step back. But this is what I offer - continuous improvement. So what I ask is that we are not judged for being honest about where we are, but that we are, continuously and by the highest standards, judged by our development.

How exactly do you -

Hard work over time, James. Now run!

Brendan Rodgers is till not back on the managing scene, mr. Karstensen, any thoughts on that? Is there some kind of back-up deal in case this - you - don’t work out.

James, you’ve been behind our 5 minute schedule for the last 20 minutes. I think it’s time we called it a night.

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