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Over Land and Sea

Discussion in 'Fanfics & Writing' started by Wessexbrony, 19 January 2019.

  1. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    And now for something completely different.

    This is perhaps my first fanfic, unless you count the Calamity James story I wrote in a Year 4 creative writing exam. However, I do have experience with online creative writing, having written two Football Manager stories.

    A few things to establish for the background to this story:
    First contact between our world and Equestria was made in 1926.
    Equestria has an embassy in a number of countries. For instance, the one in Britain is near Hyde Park.
    Each embassy has a portal to the corresponding embassy in Canterlot.
    A series of portals were established in the 1990s as part of an agreement with the Football Association. Football matches are also screened on Equestrian TV, and the BBC has a service in Equestria.
    This story is partially based on the video game UEFA Champions League 2006-07. As such, the story takes place in that era, and the state of football and the rail network reflects that.
    This was originally thought of with "Today, Tomorrow and Forever" in mind, but I have made it a standalone fic. However, there will be the odd reference.
    I have taken a lot of artistic license with regards to some aspects of the story.
    Finally, I think that this might be the first MLP fanfic about an entire football season.

    Dinky Hooves has been removed from her mother by foal protection services, and finds herself living in a strange land. When Twilight Sparkle attempts to intervene, the director sets a condition that seems impossible.

    A season of away days and European nights awaits Dinky and her new guardian, and the stakes have been raised through the roof. Can Chelsea Football Club pull off a feat only achieved once before by an English club and reunite mother and daughter?

    In the prologue: The scene is set.

    Sent from my TA-1020 using Tapatalk
     
  2. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Prologue
    "We all follow the Chelsea, over land and sea..."

    Summer, 2006

    "The train on Platform 1 is the 20:57 Caledonian Sleeper service to Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William. This train is now boarding.”

    "Come on Dinky, that's us," I said, getting up from my seat in the first class lounge and picking up my rucksack, the purple-grey unicorn filly trotting behind me. The two of us made our way across the concourse of London Euston station and down to the platform where the long train was waiting, its sixteen carriages filling the extended platform.

    "Where's our cabin?" Dinky asked, as we walked along the platform.

    "All the way at the front, I'm afraid," I answered, "We're in the Fort William portion. You see, the eight coaches we've just walked past are for Inverness, the next six are for Aberdeen, and the front two go to Fort William, with the train dividing at Edinburgh.”

    We checked in with the sleeping car attendant and settled into our cabin, before making our way to the lounge car as the train began its long journey north.

    It had been over a month and a half since the Equestrian filly had been given to me by the unsmiling Foal Protection Services official. It wasn't my first encounter with an Equestrian, however; a statue of their ruler, Princess Celestia, who had been a close friend of Winston Churchill, stood in Hyde Park, my Year 10 class at school had visited the embassy, and a cyan pegasus with a rainbow mane held a season ticket in the Matthew Harding Lower at Stamford Bridge, the home of my beloved Chelsea Football Club. However, I still couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how their social services had come to the conclusion that I was a suitable foster parent for her, especially when I had never even applied to be a foster parent. It certainly didn't cast them in a good light.

    Eventually, she had grown used to living in my apartment, which overlooked Chelsea Harbour and the Thames. As the school year and World Cup were over (with Zinedine Zidane making the final memorable for all the wrong reasons) I was taking her on holiday to clear her mind. Scotland had been chosen long in advance and, as an added bonus, Chelsea would be finishing their preseason games there, against Motherwell and Galatasaray, and I had decided to take her to both games to show her what it was like before the season started; I had, after all, shelled out the money to buy her a season ticket to go with my own, even managing to stay in the Matthew Harding Lower whilst I was at it.

    The biggest shock to Dinky had been the shift in culture, but fortunately, the Equestrian Embassy in London had been able to provide what the embassy official had termed “the essentials”. Equestrian schools taught their pupils that humans ate meat in the first lessons of Primary (a major international incident had erupted between Equestria and France about a week after first contact in 1926 over certain aspects of French cuisine) but nothing had prepared her for when I'd told her about haggis. She enjoyed the Macaroni Cheese enough, though.

    “Anyway, we're in the Fort William portion because of these,” I said, producing two tickets for the Jacobite steam train. “We aren't going to Scotland just to watch football. We might as well see the scenery it has to offer as well, and it has some spectacular scenery.”


    "How are you coping, Ms Hooves?"
    Derpy looked up from her cup of tea at the smiling, sympathetic face of Lyra Heartstrings. She'd made a vow to herself that she would become a better mother and be reunited with Dinky, but she still didn't know what she'd done wrong.
    "Okay, I suppose," she replied, "I mean, it's painful, but Dinky wouldn't want me to be consumed by depression."
    "Glad to hear it." said Lyra. Then, she looked around, as if searching for eavesdroppers, and continued, "To tell you the truth, almost all of Equestria is behind you. Many of my colleagues can’t stand Belladonna, and the only reason that there haven’t been mass resignations is that she’d fill the posts with yes-ponies. I hear Twilight is going to her tomorrow with a plea on your behalf; she considers it watertight. I'll keep you posted."
    Derpy looked at the latest postcard that Dinky had sent her; a picture of a steam train crossing a tall viaduct. Everything in the picture looked spectacular, the scenery, the viaduct, and the locomotive, a Peppercorn K1 built in Glasgow in 1949. She flipped it over, and reread the account of the journey over West Highland Line and the trip by steam train to Mallaig.


    "Substitution being made by Chelsea; coming off is number six, Ricardo Carvalho, replacing him is number nine, Khalid Boulahrouz."
    The words of the Hampden Park stadium announcer cut through the night air as the Chelsea defender limped off. With 25 minutes remaining, the score stood at one goal apiece and four yellow cards for Galatasaray to Chelsea's three. Unlike the 3-0 win over Motherwell, this was becoming a very bad tempered game. And then Ricardo Carvalho had gone down badly after a bad challenge. Afterwards, the match petered out into a 1-1 draw, neither side willing to risk further injuries, but the outlook seemed bleak as we left the stadium; many fans around us were talking about ligament damage and lengthy layoffs.


    "And in conclusion, the decision to separate Ms Derpy Hooves from her daughter is unethical and unlawful. I therefore believe that the director of Foal Protection Services, Belladonna Nightshade, has little choice but to retract the aforementioned decision."
    A storm of cheers and applause broke out from the ponies behind Twilight Sparkle as she reshuffled her notes. Belladonna sneered; she knew that while she could refuse, Twilight would probably go to one of the princesses, who would likely reverse her decision. And she couldn't count Blueblood out either; her decision to relocate Dinky to London had caused him a lot of headaches in his first few months as ambassador to the United Kingdom. She looked around, trying to think up an excuse...and noticed a newspaper cast to one side. It was open at the sport section, and the headline read, “CARVALHO OUT FOR MONTHS; Chelsea defender in injury agony after sustaining ligament damage"
    In a flash, it came to her.
    "Very well." She said, almost smirking in triumph, "I will reverse the decision, on one condition. Chelsea Football Club must win the treble; the treble that Manchester United won in 1999."


    When Rarity answered the knock at her front door, she was surprised to find Prince Blueblood on her doorstep. Although she and the prince had got off on the wrong hoof in the most spectacular way, relations between the two had become more amicable since.
    “Good morning, your highness,” she said. “And to what do I owe the pleasure?”
    “I'm here to discuss the favour that I still owe you for the gala, which my aunt Celestia was only too quick to remind me of yesterday.” Blueblood replied. “Given that being a foreign dignitary has its advantages, I could get you a spa treatment at The Ritz or a ticket to London Fashion Week…”
    “Or tickets to the Merseyside Derby!” interjected Rarity's sister Sweetie Belle, a keen Everton supporter.
    “Actually,” Rarity said, “There's something more important. You've seen the news, I take it?” She levitated the morning's copy of the Ponyville Times, on which was the headline “TREBLE OR NOTHING”, to the front door.
    “Yes. Nasty business, that,” Blueblood remarked. “Had to be handled very carefully, and nearly caused an international incident on my watch. Always had that Belladonna pegged as a nasty piece of work…”
    “Yes, yes,” Rarity said, trying to avoid sounding impatient, “But the thing is, my sister is in the same class at school as the filly in question, and I want to know if you can reverse this despicable injustice.”
    “That's... easier said than done,” Blueblood replied. “Whilst I am pretty sure that Belladonna broke just about every rule imaginable, I do not have the authority to overturn her ruling. At any rate, the liaison officer I appointed at the embassy has told me that Miss Hooves’ new guardian has bought her a Chelsea season ticket, so she'd still have to return to London for every Premiership match at Stamford Bridge this season. I will do what I can, but just in case, I will get in touch with the organisers of London Fashion Week and…” he glanced at Sweetie Belle.
    “Everton” Sweetie Belle prompted.
    “Everton Football Club to fulfill my other offers. Good day to you both.”
    When he got back to Canterlot, however, he made a detour before going back to the British Embassy, where a portal would take him to the corresponding embassy in London. He stopped at a coffee shop, entered an adjacent door, and walked up a flight of stairs to the first floor, where he entered an office. Behind a desk sat a blue unicorn stallion with an untidy black mane, which had a tuft at the back, and who was wearing a red bowtie and a black pair of glasses.
    “One Truth,” Blueblood said. “I need you to get as much incriminating evidence against Belladonna Nightshade as you can.”


    Tuesday 14th August


    “OK, I'll tell her.” I said, and put the telephone down.
    “That was the embassy on the phone,” I said, as I sat back down on the sofa in front of the television, which was showing Premiership Years in the run-up to the start of the season.
    “I don't want to get your hopes up too much, but there's a chance that you might be going back home. Have you ever heard of the Treble?”
    “League title, domestic cup and Champion's League,” Dinky replied. “One of my classmates supports Man Utd.”
    “Well, if Chelsea win it this season-”
    “But how likely is that?”
    “Well, we've dominated the league in the past two seasons. We have a very good chance of winning the FA Cup, and on our day we can beat anyone in Europe; we knocked out Barcelona and Bayern Munich two seasons ago, and the Italian contingent is weakened this year because virtually all the clubs have been kicked out for match-fixing. The season starts on Saturday, so there isn't long to wait.”

    Next: The season begins with the visit of West Ham United.

    A/N: So here's the prologue. This took a long time to write as many ideas got discarded as quickly as they were thought up. The hardest part was thinking up a reason for ponies to be able to attend football matches and travel to our world in the first place.

    Whilst it skims over a lot of aspects, it is written primarily to set the scene. Blueblood was initially intended to be the main villain, but that's been done to death.

    A free virtual muffin to the first person to figure out which steam locomotive the description of the postcard refers to, as well as who "One Truth" is a reference to.

    Also, the match fixing scandal in Italy actually happened; see here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Italian_football_scandal

    Sent from my TA-1020 using Tapatalk
     
    #2 Wessexbrony, 19 January 2019
    Last edited: 21 January 2019
  3. Recurrent Trotting

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    :D ponies on earth with football and trains - why not?

    was a quirky read - I liked the earth detailed footbally stuff alongisde the pony interludes. I wonder if you could have an exchange programme and visit equestria but have the same level of detail about an equestrian sport :D
     
  4. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    There'll be mentions of trains quite a few times; the apartment in this fic is virtually next door to Imperial Wharf station (although this fic takes place before NR began to build it) as well as travel to away matches, normally by National Rail but also the odd club charter. Look out for TOCs that no longer exist.

    The engine in the postcard Dinky sends was originally going to be 45231 Sherwood Forester (which was on Jacobite duty when I travelled to Fort William in 2014 and was drafted in for Tangmere when I took the Dorset Coast Express in 2013), but I found out that it didn't work the Jacobite in 2006 (presumably due to overhaul).

    Fun fact: I actually posted the preface and prologue on the coach to a Winchester City away match.

    Sent from my TA-1020 using Tapatalk
     
  5. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 1
    Great Expectations

    The only place to be every other Saturday, is strolling down the Fulham Road…” - Blue Day, Suggs & Co, 1997

    The morning sun shone over London, illuminating the apartment block which overlooked the River Thames. As I slept, enjoying the potential for a lie-in that Saturday mornings offer, I heard the patter of tiny hooves entering my bedroom, before Dinky jumped onto my bed for a cuddle. Whilst I had initially been apprehensive about this (largely due to her horn), she'd done this regularly back in Ponyville and so I decided to allow some continuity.

    About ten minutes later, I glanced at the alarm clock, which also showed the date and the temperature, and rose from my bed. Today was the day. Saturday 19th August, the first day of the season.

    Luckily, Chelsea were at home for their first game, against London rivals West Ham, so there was no need to hurry (although on the other end of the scale, the travelling Bolton fans were probably already up and on their way, being away to Portsmouth). I made my way to the kitchen and switched on the kettle, before turning the TV on to Sky Sports.



    “Good morning. The season starts today and the main question on everybody's lips has to be ‘Can anyone stop Chelsea?’ Well, Mourinho has set out his goals for the season, and...” Richard Keys said, as he and Andy Gray presented the morning show.

    I began to microwave some pancakes as Dinky walked in, yawning loudly, whilst Richard Keys and Andy Gray talked about the match between Wigan and Reading, and which promoted side had the best chance of staying up. The two of us ate our breakfast as the program then showed brief snippets of interviews with the managers, including José Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.


    Rainbow Dash leaped out of bed. Today was the day. Today, Chelsea began their defence of the league title that they'd won two seasons running and would, of course, retain, because they were awesome.
    For various ponies, the expectations were different. Diamond Tiara (Man Utd) and Silver Spoon (Arsenal) were hoping to see their sides win the league. Both of them felt sorry for Dinky, but you couldn't let such a situation influence the league season. Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie (Newcastle), Sweetie Belle (Everton) and Apple Bloom (Bolton) were hoping to see their sides finish in the European spots. Scootaloo and her parents (Man City) and her Aunt Holiday (Aston Villa) were hoping to see their sides blow more hot than cold, while Holiday's wife Lofty (Watford) knew that a long and difficult season awaited, with her side being among the favourites for relegation.


    Two o’clock arrived and the two of us, filly and human, left our flat and made our way down to the street. A large poster next to the railway line proclaimed “A NEW STATION AT IMPERIAL WHARF: CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN 2007. A JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN NETWORK RAIL, SOUTHERN RAIL AND LOROL”

    “As if they’ll complete that on time,” I replied. “They were due to start construction this year, but the one up the line at Shepherd’s Bush is still being built.” A Silverlink Metro service rattled past, on its way to Willesden Junction, as a voice behind us shouted “Hey, Dinks!”

    Dinky and I turned around to see the rainbow-maned cyan pegasus who had sat about 7 rows in front of me in prior seasons. She’d obviously emerged from the nearby portal, which had been located at Chelsea Harbour since the agreement between Equestria and the Football Association to establish portals for ponies to attend matches. Despite an official request from the Equestria Gunners, the portal for Arsenal hadn’t been moved when Arsenal had left Highbury at the end of the previous season.

    “Rainbow Dash! I forgot that you went to these matches!” Dinky replied, bounding over to the pegasus whose name I quickly registered. “How’s mom?” she continued.

    “She’s doing...well enough, all things considered,” Rainbow Dash replied, before turning to me. “So, how do you think we’ll do against this lot?” she asked.

    “West Ham? Well, that fact that they got rid of Pardew after getting to the Cup Final last season speaks volumes. Wouldn’t surprise me if they go down this season.” I responded.



    The three of us walked (or in Rainbow Dash’s case, flew) along Lots road, turning left onto the King’s Road before reaching the Fulham Road. As we got closer to the ground, more and more supporters appeared, including several ponies who had obviously arrived earlier. The three of us each bought a copy of the cfcuk fanzine (“Only a pound! Hurry up!”) and a matchday programme. When we got into the ground, a surprise awaited us.
    “Row D, seats 107 and 108…” I muttered, checking our season tickets.
    “Wait. Did you say ‘Row D, Seats 107 and 108?” Rainbow Dash interjected. “My seat’s Row D, Seat 106! We’ll be together this season!”
    “Well...I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for Dinky to be close to someone from her home,” I responded.
    The three of us chatted as we read the programmes and fanzines while the players warmed up, although Dinky was taken aback by the fact that the fanzine wrote everything related to Tottenham as if it were a swear word and added a trademark symbol after the phrase “famous Anfield atmosphere”.
    The teams were then read out, with the announcer reading out the names of the home side much more enthusiastically than the visitors. Two new names were read out; veteran striker Armando Fontana, who had signed from Real Madrid for £14 million after the Spanish club had gazumped Chelsea for Shevchenko, and Robert Kovac, signed on a season-long loan from Juventus following the disgraced Italian club’s relegation as a stop-gap due to Carvalho’s long-term injury. John Terry and Frank Lampard’s names received the loudest cheers, although the latter received a large volume of boos from the visiting support.

    The match kicked off and Chelsea looked to assert themselves almost immediately, with Fontana having a couple of half-chances early on. West Ham were on the back foot, although Dean Ashton fired wide in the eighth minute. Chelsea then went on the attack, and in the thirteenth minute Drogba sent a volley wide from Arjen Robben’s cross. Drogba went close again in the 21st minute, hitting the side netting.
    The match went quiet for a bit afterwards, before Chelsea won a corner in the final ten minutes of the half. The captain, John Terry, went up for it and got up to head at goal, with his header going wide.
    It seemed as if a goal was inevitable, but not the way everyone was expecting. A rare West Ham attack saw a defensive mix-up in the Chelsea box, with Yossi Benayoun sending a low shot beyond the outstretched hand of Cudicini to give West Ham a shock lead three minutes from half time.
    Chelsea looked to hit back almost instantly, and in the last minute of the half, Drogba saw a shot tipped over the bar by Robert Green. This time, Chelsea looked to play the corner short, and Wright-Phillips found Kovac. Kovac passed the ball into the area for Drogba, who trapped the ball with his right foot before using his left to hit a powerful shot into the net which gave Green no chance.
    The second half started with Chelsea firmly in the ascendancy, and it came as no surprise when in the 51st minute, some good attacking play saw Drogba hit a low shot beyond Green into the bottom corner of the net, similar to the goal Benayoun had scored in the first half.
    West Ham looked to respond, and in the 55th minute Dean Ashton hit a shot at Cudicini. But then came the killer blow. A quick counter by Chelsea four minutes later saw Frank Lampard beat two West Ham defenders before unleashing a blockbuster into the net from 20 yards out.
    After that, the fight practically went out of the visitors, and it took a late save from Robert Green to prevent Saloman Kalou from increasing the score. As it was, the final whistle ensured that Chelsea started the season as expected.

    Chelsea 3-1 West Ham United (Drogba 45+2, 51, Lampard 59; Benayoun 42)


    The three of us made our way back to Chelsea harbour, whilst news from elsewhere filtered through. Manchester United had thrown down the gauntlet with a 3-0 win at Middlesbrough, while Reading had beaten Wigan by the same scoreline. Portsmouth, meanwhile, had beaten Bolton 1-0.

    Next time: A trip to newly-promoted Reading. On paper, an easy 3 points...

    A/N: Dinky’s actions at the beginning of the chapter are based on me doing the exact same when I was a child. My family’s first dog did it as well.

    The first piece of music is the Premier League Anthem from the mid-2000s, while the second plays when the teams take to the field at Stamford Bridge.

    As stated previously, Imperial Wharf station had yet to be built in 2006. Silverlink Metro operated the services on London Overground lines.

    For the match section, I intended to capture the general atmosphere and anticipation that tends to build as kick-off approaches. The cfcuk fanzine really does censor all things Tottenham.
     
    #5 Wessexbrony, 23 January 2019
    Last edited: 24 January 2019
  6. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 2

    Put them in their Place

    23rd August

    “Ready for your first away match?” I asked, as the two of us made our way to the apartment’s lift.

    “How are we getting there?” Dinky asked. “I know the way to Stamford Bridge, but where is Reading?”

    “Not far away, which is probably for the best with this being a weeknight and all,” I replied. “We’re walking to Fulham Broadway Station, taking the tube to Paddington, then a train to Reading. I just hope that the evening rush hour doesn’t affect our plans too much.”

    The two of us emerged from the Underground into the busy concourse of Paddington station. Dinky looked around in amazement at the number of trains, while I scanned the departure boards.

    “Let’s see, Reading, Reading…” I thought. I didn’t want to wait too long, but there was no need to rush.

    “Platform 4 for the 17:15 First Great Western service to Carmarthen. Calling at Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon…”

    “Bingo. Let’s go, Dinky. We’ll have little trouble getting a seat on that one.”

    The two of us boarded the train and settled in. Several other supporters subsequently joined us, intending to get there early and enjoy a drink before the match.

    “You know, not every away match will be this convenient,” I said, as the train pulled out of the station, “But for the trickier ones, such as Blackburn or Aston Villa, and the long distance ones such as Newcastle, the club will provide a charter train.”

    In no time at all, the train had reached Reading station and the two of us disembarked. As the Madejski Stadium was a significant distance from the station, a shuttle bus operated on match days and so we made use of it.



    Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Scootaloo’s aunts were out celebrating their anniversary, so she was foalsitting this evening rather than watching the game at the Traveller’s Rest Inn. Still, she’d be able to watch the game on their television with Scootaloo.

    The two of them had finished supper later than anticipated, but the match had only been going for twenty minutes. Should be 1-0 up at least, Rainbow Dash thought, as she turned on the TV, switched over to the sports channel, and did a double-take.

    “Essien now, coming over the halfway line. Chelsea still trying to get back on level terms.”

    Scootaloo blinked as she heard Kick Off’s voice from the living room, and hurried there to investigate. Surely there must be some mistake. As if Chelsea would be losing…

    “Just to remind you of the surprise scoreline,” Kick Off continued, “It’s Reading one, Chelsea nil. Leroy Lita’s ninth-minute goal remains the difference, as…”

    “You’re losing to flipping Reading?” Scootaloo asked incredulously.


    Chelsea were indeed losing to Reading, who were looking to capitalise on their opening day win, and Lita went close again as the Royals looked to double their advantage. The three-pronged attack of Kalou-Drogba-Fontana was not reaping the dividends that Mourinho had hoped, with the three of them only managing two shots on target between them as the clock ticked round to the 29th minute.

    However, as Chelsea came forward again, Frank Lampard was bundled to the ground by Reading’s Graeme Murty, who received a yellow card for his troubles. Lampard opted to play the free kick short to Drogba, whose daisy-cutting shot was kept out by Hahnemann’s outstretched leg.

    From the corner, Lampard played the ball short to Wayne Bridge, who sent a cross into the area. Saloman Kalou held off two Reading players to prod the ball home and level the scores.

    As the away section celebrated, I heard several people say, “We’ll bury them now,” or words to that effect. While I didn’t doubt that Chelsea would push on and come away with the points, it wouldn’t be as easy as many were claiming.

    Indeed, Reading were giving as good as they got, and just before half time, a shot by Kitson was pushed away by Cudicini. From the corner, Ibrahima Sonko rose highest to head the ball past Cudicini to restore Reading’s lead.


    Rainbow Dash huffed as she went into the kitchen to get herself a cider and a soda for Scootaloo. This was the sort of game that Chelsea should be winning easily. How the hay would they win the title if they lost to a side which were in the Championship last season? And to top it all off, Liverpool and Manchester United were both winning.


    The second half started with Chelsea showing a lot more urgency, but it was clear that Reading, having reclaimed the lead, fully intended to keep it. Indeed, even as the Blues dominated the second half, Reading held firm, with the only real chance of the second half being a Saloman Kalou effort in the 61st minute which rolled agonisingly wide of the post.

    However, Chelsea continued to push forward. With twenty minutes left, Lampard received the ball from Makelele and went on a surging run, beating Ibrahima Sonko and Graeme Murty before hitting a powerful shot beyond Hahnemann’s outstretched hand to level the scores up once more. As the away end celebrated once again, the fans fully expected that now, Chelsea would push on and win.

    But that was as far as it went. Reading manned the proverbial barricades and held on for a point, with Drogba missing a superb chance late on.

    Reading 2-2 Chelsea (Lita 9, Sonko 45+2; Kalou 31, Lampard 70)

    It wasn’t that fixture that the following morning’s Premier League round-up focused on the most, however, but the 0-0 draw between Manchester City and Portsmouth, for one reason: Ben Thatcher. Early in the second half, the Manchester City left-back intentionally took Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes out with the full force of his elbow, amazingly only receiving a yellow card for the X-rated challenge which knocked Mendes out cold. Of course, Thatcher would receive lengthy suspensions from both his own club and the Football Association, who added a suspended fifteen match ban on top of the eight they banned him for.


    A/N: There is usually one side in a Premier League season which surpasses all expectations, the most obvious case being Leicester City in 2015-16. In 2006-07, it was Reading, who were playing their first ever season in the top flight and kept up a sustained challenge for a place in Europe.

    Kick Off is based on the excitable BBC Radio Five Live commentator Jonathan Pearce, who can be heard here commentating for Capital Gold in 1995 on one of the Premier League’s most infamous moments:

    An “X-rated challenge”, in football jargon, means a malicious tackle, usually with intent to cause injury, and Ben Thatcher’s foul on Pedro Mendes was exactly that. Look it up on Youtube if you’re interested (not for the faint hearted). Whilst the bit about Ben Thatcher might seem out of place, most football supporters will keep an eye on what happens elsewhere in the league.
     
  7. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 3

    A Stuttering Start

    26th August

    “No!”

    Rainbow Dash’s exclamation summed things up quite nicely in my view. Dinky facehoofed, I cast my eyes up to the August sky, and numerous supporters around us voiced their opinions in far juicier language as Jason Roberts wheeled away in celebration.

    It was a far cry from the mood before the match, that was for certain.

    It had seemed easy enough on paper, too. A home fixture against a Blackburn Rovers side who had lost both their opening matches; surely an easy three points. Indeed, Chelsea had dominated the match from the outset, and it came as no surprise when Fontana opened his Chelsea account with an exquisite chip over Brad Friedel midway through the first half. Despite 45 minutes of Chelsea dominance, the scoreline still only read 1-0 when the half time whistle blew.

    Barely a minute after half time, however, a long ball from defence was met by Blackburn striker Benni McCarthy, who controlled it before wrong-footing Petr Cech to level the scores. Since then, Chelsea had virtually laid siege to the Blackburn goal, but had failed to convert their numerous chances. The score remained 1-1 as the clock ticked on, and an air of nervousness began to permeate Stamford Bridge. And then, with eleven minutes to go, it happened.

    As a Chelsea attack broke down, Robbie Savage took possession and went on a run, before passing to McCarthy. McCarthy bore down on goal, but as Cech came out to meet him, he passed the ball to Roberts to catch Cech in no-man’s land. Blackburn now held a shock 2-1 lead as the last ten minutes approached.


    “Well, once again, Chelsea are having problems with teams they should be comfortably beating,” Kick Off proclaimed. “They should have had this game put to bed by now, and instead it looks like they’re going to end up with nothing.”

    “Indeed, Kick Off,” replied his co-commentator Full Time. “In my view, they’re going to be lucky to get a point if they don’t do something. They really should be playing a lot better.”


    Down in the dugout, Mourinho motioned to three players to come on. Kovac, Fontana and Kalou made way, with Drogba, Robben and Wight-Phillips replacing them.


    “An all-or-nothing substitution now for Chelsea,” Kick Off said. “Ten minutes for them to get out of the hole that they’ve dug themselves into.”

    Chelsea pushed forward as the clock ticked on. With the crowd urging them on, Drogba had a shot blocked by Lucas Neill. The corner was cleared as far as Bridge, who sent the ball skimming over the bar, leaving the home supporters groaning in dismay.

    As the match entered the last five minutes, Chelsea continued to press. Michael Ballack, making his Chelsea debut, played the ball across to Drogba in the centre. The Blackburn defence anticipated a shot, but Drogba opted to play Robben into the area, and the talented winger received the ball before sending it past Friedel into the far corner to bring Chelsea level with just two minutes to go.


    As Chelsea celebrated, so did two mares watching the game in the Traveller’s Rest Inn in Ponyville. Derpy breathed a sigh of relief, while Twilight tried to decide whether, in Mourinho’s situation, she’d settle for a point or go for the win.


    The answer to her question came as the match entered stoppage time. As Chelsea looked to attack once more, Robben broke away down the left side. As Rainbow Dash, Dinky and much of the Matthew Harding End urged him to cut inside, the Dutchman opted for a different course of action. He pulled the ball back for Claude Makelele, who let fly first time from 25 yards and sent the ball into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Friedel to send the home crowd into raptures.


    They weren’t the only ones, either. In Ponyville, Derpy reacted by managing to stretch the word “Goal” out over ten seconds, while Kick Off described the goal as “a thing of absolute beauty”. Full Time was equally excited, telling Makelele “Take a bow son, what a hit!”

    Amazingly, in the space of three minutes, Chelsea had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

    Chelsea 3-2 Blackburn Rovers (Fontana 23, Robben 88, Makelele 90+1; McCarthy 46, Roberts 79)

    “I’d treasure that memory if I were you,” I said as we left the stadium, Dinky practically bouncing along beside me. “It isn’t often that you see Claude Makelele score.”

    As we made our way back home, the main news was that Aston Villa’s 4-2 win over Reading had moved them top of the league on goal difference above Manchester United. Liverpool had drawn 0-0 with Newcastle at St James’ Park, meaning that Villa and United were now the only two teams on maximum points.



    That, however, just made the next game all the more incomprehensible. Charlton Athletic had taken just one point from their opening three matches, including a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool, so it surely stood to reason that the match at The Valley would be fairly straightforward.

    But then again, we'd thought the same about Blackburn and Reading.

    In the end, it was Charlton who were celebrating by the end of the evening. Chelsea had put in a thoroughly insipid performance and had received their just desserts in the 60th minute when Darren Bent had met a cross from Dennis Rommedahl and headed the ball past Cech.

    Charlton Athletic 1-0 Chelsea (Bent 60)

    As we made our way back home, ominous news filtered through from Old Trafford. Manchester United had beaten Aston Villa 2-0 to sit top of the league on maximum points from their opening four matches. Arsenal had got their first win of the season as well, beating West Ham by the same scoreline.

    Premier League table at the end of August:

    1 Man Utd 12pts
    2 Liverpool 10pts
    3 Aston Villa 9pts
    4 Portsmouth 8pts
    5 Newcastle Utd 8pts
    6 Chelsea 7pts
    7 Reading 7pts

    18 Watford 2pts
    19 Sheffield United 1pt
    20 Blackburn Rovers 1pt

    A/N: So the month of August ends, and things haven’t gone quite as expected for Chelsea so far.

    Derpy’s reaction to the winning goal in the first game is based on the famous Argentine football commentator Andres Cantor, who managed to make “¡Gol!” the longest word in the Spanish language. Full Time is based on former footballer and Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray, who was well known for exclaiming “Take a bow son!” whenever a player scored a spectacular goal.

    “It isn’t often that you see Claude Makelele score,” Claude Makelele was a defensive midfielder, and rarely ventured forward, staying back to break up opposition attacks; in his four seasons with Chelsea, he scored two goals, one of which was a penalty in a game which had no bearing on Chelsea’s final league position. His other goal, which in real life was against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, saw him finish the 2006-07 season with a 100% shot conversion rate: one shot, one goal.

    “The Red, Red Robin” is played when the players take to the field at Charlton Athletic; it was selected by legendary BBC commentator John Motson for this reason as one of his Desert Island Discs in 2018.
     
  8. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 4

    Lack of Momentum

    It was a dejected mood that lay around Stamford Bridge as the final whistle went. And for good reason, another poor display had consigned Chelsea to a second successive loss and Mourinho to his first home defeat in the league as Chelsea manager.

    Things had started badly and proceeded to get worse. Mikel Arteta had slipped through the Chelsea back four and put Everton ahead after just eight minutes, and it was only Petr Cech who prevented the visitors from increasing their lead before half time.

    Chelsea did create chances in the second half, and Tim Howard had to be alert to keep out shots from Drogba and Lampard. But then, in the last ten minutes, came the killer blow.

    As Chelsea won a corner, the referee blew for an Everton free kick. Fontana had used his elbow whilst jumping with Everton defender Joseph Yobo, and was shown a red card. Then, with six minutes to go, Andy Johnson scored to put the game to bed.


    The telephone rang as the game between Liverpool and Manchester United got underway.

    “Hello.”

    “This where muffin lives?” At least, that’s what I thought the voice on the other end said, as the words were spoken extremely quickly.

    “Er...please could you repeat the question a bit more slowly?”

    “Sorry. Is this where my muffin lives?” It took me a couple of seconds for ‘my muffin’ to register.

    “Yes, it is. And you must be Ms Derpy Hooves? I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you,” I said.

    “May I speak to her?”

    I felt a pang of guilt at this. It was now three months since Foal Protection Services (who held a clear lead in the title race for “most irresponsible government organisation”) had left Dinky with me, and it had never occurred to me that it might have been a good idea to try and exchange contact details other than just addresses through the embassy.

    “It's for you, Dinky,” I called. Dinky jumped down from the sofa and walked over.

    I sighed as the two of them had an emotional conversation, and thought of the coming school year. As Dinky was too young to qualify as an exchange student (Year 10 or higher), a pony from the embassy had arrived two weeks ago to discuss the options; attend classes set up at the embassy for the children of embassy staff, or, thanks to Princess Celestia having a few words with the Football Association, use the nearby portal to continue attending her primary school in Ponyville. She'd selected Ponyville virtually instantly.

    Of course, it wasn't that simple, as we'd then discovered that Dinky would have to be chaperoned between the other side of the portal and the school. I suspected that the chaperone would probably have all the empathy of a ticket machine facing a hurrying commuter and the emotional capacity of the vidiprinter.

    “So what did she want to speak to you about?” I asked as Dinky returned to the sofa.

    “One of her friends volunteered to escort me to and from school each day,” she replied, “But it has to be straight there, straight back. But it was either her or one of Belladonna’s goons. That, and she really wanted to talk to me again. She also wanted me to pass on her thanks for taking care of me.”

    I thought back to the poem that had been sent to Dinky shortly after her arrival.

    “Well, as bad as things might seem right now, and I can’t believe that I’m quoting Liverpool fans here, ‘at the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky’. So who knows? We might not have started the season as expected, but there’s still a long way to go and...oh, that’s just great!”

    While the two of us had been talking, Manchester United had gone on the attack and won a corner. Wayne Rooney had met with Ronaldo’s cross and volleyed goalwards, but Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina had parried the shot. John O’Shea, however, had followed up and scored on the rebound, giving United the lead. United went on to win 2-0.

    Thursday 7th September.

    “And so that concludes the draw of Group F of the UEFA Champions League. It will be Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Benfica and Celtic. Next out is...Levski Sofia, and they will be drawn into...Group A, to join Barcelona, Ajax and Werder Bremen.”

    “Could have been worse,” I said, as I went to make a cup of tea. “We could have had Barcelona or AC Milan. We’re good enough to navigate that group without much difficulty.”

    Saturday 9th September.



    It was a concerned Rainbow Dash who arrived at the Traveller’s Rest Inn to watch the game. Portsmouth had made a good start to the season and sat 6th in the table, while Chelsea’s two defeats had seen them slip, briefly, into the bottom half. Big Match Live was just beginning as she paid for her cider and sat down next to Derpy at a nearby table.

    “Welcome to Fratton Park in our live game this evening.” Big Match said. “The Blues might not have made the best start to their season, but history is on their side tonight. They have not lost to Portsmouth since 1960, and…”


    “...and the referee has awarded Portsmouth a penalty!” exclaimed Kick Off.

    It might well be grim up north, I thought, but things weren’t much better in the south either. This was Chelsea’s final game before the start of their Champions League campaign, and three points were imperative.

    However, once again, things had gone wrong early. In the 12th minute, a good ball from Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes (who had recovered from his encounter with Ben Thatcher) found fellow midfielder Niko Kranjcar, who beat Kovac before firing a shot past Cech.

    Chelsea had huffed and puffed in abysmal weather, to the point that the floodlights had been on since the beginning, but had nothing to show for it. As if that wasn’t enough, the constant sound of a handbell from the stand at the other end of the ground seemed to echo throughout my brain. Not everyone in the home crowd was enjoying it either, as a yellow earth pony with a purple mane and a Tudor rose on her flank kept giving its owner very dirty looks.

    And now, to top it all off, Portsmouth had a penalty with twenty minutes remaining. Nwankwo Kanu, their striker who had once scored a 15-minute hat trick for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, placed the ball on the spot and waited for the whistle. Dinky shut her eyes and turned around, whilst in Ponyville, Derpy covered her eyes with her wings.

    Neither of them saw Petr Cech dive low to his right to keep the ball out.

    Chelsea, invigorated by having gotten out of jail, then went on the attack. A long ball from Boulahrouz found Shaun Wright-Phillips, and the winger unleashed a fierce shot which was tipped over by veteran Portsmouth keeper David James.

    Chelsea continued to press for an equaliser, and with five minutes left Arjen Robben was sent away down the left. Robben crossed the ball into the area, where Didier Drogba volleyed the ball into the roof of the net to rescue a point.

    Portsmouth 1-1 Chelsea (Kranjcar 12, Kanu m/pen 71; Drogba 85)

    Despite rescuing a point, the table still made for grim reading; Chelsea were 9th in the table, whilst Man Utd were still on maximum points and held a five-point lead at this early stage of the season.


    A/N: Well, here’s the “and sea” part of Over Land and Sea. :p Portsmouth’s ground is actually located on Portsea Island, making it the only Football League ground not on the British Mainland.

    I wasn’t sure what to do with Derpy’s speech impediment, as the prologue showed her speaking coherently; I eventually decided to give her a habit of talking too quickly and occasionally skipping over certain words. (And Belladonna promptly used it as the perfect excuse…)

    The poem mentioned is the one from “Today, Tomorrow and Forever”, which this was originally intended as a sequel to; I actually encountered the poem elsewhere, however, in a fan comic by long gone from Deviantart but still visible on Derpibooru. (https://derpibooru.org/109625?q=artist:veggie55) “At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky” is a reference to You’ll Never Walk Alone, the anthem of Liverpool FC.

    Big Match is based on football pundit Des Lynam, although he never presented the titular program.

    The song played in this chapter is, fittingly enough, the music that plays at Portsmouth’s ground when the teams take to the pitch. The handbell is rung by John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood (his real name), whilst the yellow earth pony is based on Maria Rose, the mascot of South Coast Bronies, who I made a Portsmouth fan due to the fact that she is depicted wearing a sailor hat and neckerchief; Portsmouth is a naval city while Southampton is a trading port.

    Next time, it’s the start of group stage of the Champions League with an all-British tie against Celtic.
     
  9. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 5

    The European Journey Begins

    “THE CHAMPIONS!” - UEFA Champions League anthem

    Wednesday 13th September

    “I think you’re going to enjoy this,” I told Dinky as we prepared to head for the match. “There is nothing quite like a European Night at Stamford Bridge. I’d say the best one I attended was two seasons back against Barcelona; we won 4-2 and the place was rocking from start to finish.”

    “How likely is it that we’ll play Barcelona?” Dinky asked.

    “It depends; once we reach the knockout stage, it’s all down to the luck of the draw,” I replied. “But if you want to win this competition, you have to be able to beat the best teams in Europe.”


    “Good Evening, and welcome to Big Match Live: Champions League,” Big Match said. “We’re at Stamford Bridge tonight, where Chelsea host Celtic, while on Sport 2 you can see coverage of any one of the seven other matches tonight. But first, a recap of last night’s matches, starting with the goals from the Nou Camp where Barcelona beat Levski Sofia 5-0.”

    “Twilight! Fancy seeing you here!”

    Twilight Sparkle looked across to see Lyra Heartstrings sit down next to her at the bar, wearing a green and white scarf.

    “I could say the same about you,” Twilight replied. “Here for-”

    “Yes, I’m here to watch us get stuffed,” Lyra said. “Let’s face it. Chelsea, Bayern and Benfica? We’ve got no chance. Might as well enjoy the ride and hope that maybe we get the UEFA Cup spot.”



    “The UEFA Champions League is back, and tonight we’re in London for what many are calling the Battle of Britain,” Kick Off announced. “Chelsea versus Celtic, the Blues looking to get their campaign off to a good start despite poor form in the league. But Celtic too are underperforming domestically, and Jacques Santini will be welcoming the chance to spring a surprise or two in Europe. Chelsea will also be hoping to finally get their name on the trophy, with Jose Mourinho looking to win it for a second time…”

    “Drink it in,” I said to an amazed Dinky as the teams lined up for the Champions League anthem.

    The match then started, with Chelsea looking to assert themselves early on. Nobody, however, could have predicted how the match would begin...or at least, not the manner in which it began.

    Four minutes into the game, Chelsea attacked down the right. Michael Essien drifted out wide and took the ball down the wing before preparing to send a cross into the area. However, he didn’t strike the ball cleanly, and it looped over the outstretched arm of Celtic keeper Artur Boruc, struck the inside of the post, and settled in the net.

    Stamford Bridge went absolutely wild as Michael Essien ran over to the corner flag, doing a forward roll before kneeling on one knee with his arms outstretched in front of the West Stand.

    “Absolutely incredible!” Kick Off exclaimed. “I am absolutely lost for words at that! Four minutes into the first match, and we already have a contender for goal of the tournament! Echoes of Ronaldinho against England in 2002! They’ll be debating whether or not he meant that for years!”

    Celtic then went on the attack, and it took a smart save from Cech to keep out a shot from Zurawski.

    But it was all Chelsea. Drogba and Ballack both fired wide, before Drogba sent a shot just over the bar. It seemed a second Chelsea goal was a case of when, not if, and sure enough, in the 26th minute…

    “Ballack now on the left,” Kick Off said. “He looks to find Essien, who’s cut inside now. Essien goes for goal...off the bar! But it’s Essien, first to the rebound, heads goalwards...saved by Boruc! But the Celtic keeper hasn’t held it, and this time Essien does finish! Dear oh dear, Boruc should have done a lot better with that one, but it’s two-nil to Chelsea now, and you can’t say it’s undeserved!”

    Chelsea continued to dominate the match, with Celtic not getting a sniff. In the 30th minute, Drogba was brought down by Steven Pressley, who received a yellow card. Lampard, however, didn’t strike the free kick cleanly, and sent the ball over. Then, as the first half came to a close, a scissor kick volley from Drogba struck the crossbar, before Lampard hit the post.

    “So how many d’you reckon we’ll finish with?” Rainbow Dash asked at half time.

    “I’m going to say four,” I replied. “Get another two early in the second half, and then take it easy.”

    “Five!” Dinky replied confidently, before taking another bite out of her half time muffin.

    However, compared to the onslaught that had been the first half, the second half was almost a damp squib, the first incident of note coming in the 53rd minute when Michael Ballack hit the side netting.

    In the 68th minute, Chelsea launched an attack down the right. Drogba drifted out wide and sent a cross into the area, where Ballack volleyed the ball home to score his first Chelsea goal. Then, with six minutes to go, a long free kick by Ashley Cole found Drogba, who got past the Celtic defence before slotting the ball past Boruc.

    Celtic did have one last attempt at a consolation goal. In the final minute, a free kick found Vennegoor of Hesselink, who headed the ball straight at Cech.

    Chelsea 4-0 Celtic (Essien 4, 26, Ballack 68, Drogba 84)

    “Well, it’s early days,” I said, as we left the ground, “But it’s always important to start strong. Especially since we have away ties against Benfica and Bayern coming up.”

    “And confirmation, of course, that the other game in the group between Bayern and Benfica has finished three-one in favour of the German side,” Big Match said. “So, this is how the group table looks after one game…”

    UEFA Champions League Group F: Matchday 1
    1 Chelsea +4 3pts
    2 Bayern +2 3pts
    3 Benfica -2 0pts
    4 Celtic -2 0pts

    The following morning’s breakfast was eaten whilst Good Morning Sports Fans showed the goals from Arsenal’s 2-1 away win against Hamburg SV, as well as another news item. News broke during the meal that the FA had rejected the appeal against Fontana’s red card against Everton and given him a 2 match ban, which would begin after the next league match.

    A/N: And so, the European part of The Treble gets underway. And in case you didn’t notice, Lyra is a Celtic fan.

    In real life, I’ve only been to four Champions League matches at Stamford Bridge - three of them group games - but the anthem sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.

    The goal Kick Off refers to is the one which knocked England out of the 2002 World Cup, when Ronaldinho, taking a free kick from out wide, lobbed the ball over David Seaman from 35 yards out. Ronaldinho was sent off ten minutes later, but England were unable to capitalise and lost 2-1.

    I decided to throw in the mention of a half time muffin, but you really are better off taking something in to have at half time rather than enduring the queues that form at the kiosks up to ten minutes beforehand (Thanks to everyone deciding to get there early, before the queues form…)

    Next time: Following an international break (during which England lose to Croatia), Chelsea host Wigan Athletic looking to get back on track.
     
  10. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 6

    Strength in Depth

    Saturday 23rd September

    “So who’ve we got today?” Dinky asked, as she lay curled up next to me on my bed like she’d done virtually every weekend since her arrival in London - and had used to do with Derpy prior to being relocated.

    “Let me see,” I half-yawned, turning my head to where a fixture list was blu-tacked to the wall. “23rd, 23rd...Wigan at home. 3 o’clock kick off, so we can enjoy a nice, lazy Saturday morning.”

    “Are they good?” Dinky asked.

    “Last season? Yes. This season...not so much,” I replied. “They’re fourteenth in the league and have only won one match so far. If we play like we did against Celtic then we should win comfortably.”

    The tranquillity was interrupted by a gurgling noise.

    “Well, suppose we’d better get up,” I yawned, rising from my bed. “How does fried egg on a muffin sound for breakfast?”

    A bit later, the two of us had our breakfast whilst Sky Sports previewed the day’s Premiership matches.

    “So, does Fontana miss this game?” Dinky asked.

    “No, he’s available for this one,” I replied, “But then he’s suspended for the games against Tottenham and Man Utd. The question is whether Mourinho plays one up front or puts Doyle on the bench.”

    Danny Doyle was a 16-year-old youth player who was impressing in the reserves, and had played in the friendly against Motherwell back in July. There were rumours that Sunderland and Aston Villa were both interested in signing him on loan.

    “What do you think he’ll do?” Dinky asked.

    “If the last two seasons are anything to go by, one up front with wingers either side.” I answered. "That's how we played for much of the last two seasons, and we won the title both times."


    “Let me tell you, I’m glad the international break’s over,” I said, as the two of us headed down King’s Road along with Rainbow Dash.

    “Tell me about it!” Rainbow Dash replied, “I mean, it only gets good when the actual tournament starts. Meanwhile, we have to wait longer to get back to the proper stuff!”


    Although 3 o’clock matches weren’t shown live in Equestria, the BBC showed their Final Score show on BBC Equestria every Saturday afternoon. As such, Derpy and Twilight were in the Traveller’s Rest as Simon Brotherton announced the latest news from Stamford Bridge.


    “Well, this is interesting,” I said, as the big screen showed the lineup. “Terry and Lampard both being rested for Benfica on Tuesday.”

    Of course, the amount of talent in Chelsea’s starting eleven should still have been enough to see off Wigan, and indeed the Blues started brightly, creating a couple of chances early on. It was in the eleventh minute that the game really got going, as Arjen Robben took the ball down the left before crossing into the area, where Drogba volleyed it past Chris Kirkland at the near post to give Chelsea the lead.

    Chelsea continued to dominate, and Fontana, eager to get goals under his belt before his suspension, went close in the 29th minute, missing a shot wide of the post. Drogba, looking to double Chelsea’s lead, sent a shot harmlessly over in the 32nd minute after going for the spectacular, before Fontana was flagged offside after going for the rebound from a Chris Kirkland save. And then, in the first minute of stoppage time, the next goal came.

    “And we can bring you news of a second goal at Stamford Bridge! Which way has it gone?” Ray Stubbs asked, hoping to create some suspense for the viewers of Final Score.

    “It’s another goal for Chelsea,” Simon Brotherton replied, “Ashley Cole got forward and passed to Fontana, who looked to cut inside into the box before trying his luck, Chris Kirkland was able to save it, but then Drogba got to the rebound and slid the ball over the line. Chelsea two, Wigan nil, just on the stroke of half time!”

    “Well, this is more like it,” I said, as I passed Dinky a chocolate bar during the interval. “You should have seen us the last two seasons; there was barely a team that could match us.”

    Chelsea continued to attack in the second half, looking a lot more like the side which had dominated the Premiership in the past two seasons. In the 49th minute, a shot from Michael Essien went wide when it had looked easier to score.

    The fans, however, didn’t have to wait long for the third goal. Fontana received the ball from Essien and went on a superb run, beating two Wigan defenders to break free into the area before firing the ball past a third defender and Chris Kirkland to make it three.

    Despite the fact that the game was now surely safe, Chelsea were in no mood for mercy, and it was only the offside flag which prevented Drogba from breaking clear in the 58th minute.

    Barely ten minutes later, a long ball out of defence was received by Ballack, who flicked it into the path of Fontana. The Spaniard took one touch before sending a curving shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.

    After that, Chelsea took their foot off the pedal, but Kirkland still had to be alert to keep out a shot from Drogba with eight minutes to go.

    Chelsea 4-0 Wigan Athletic (Drogba 11, 45+1, Fontana 52, 66)

    The win had seen Chelsea climb to sixth in the table, but the big news coming from elsewhere in the league was that Manchester United had finally dropped points, being held by Bolton. Liverpool remained second with a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough. However, it was in the evening kick off that the big news of the weekend broke. Arsenal came to the Madejski Stadium off the back of three consecutive wins but were undone by a superb performance from Reading, who won 2-0 to move up to fourth in the league.


    As the pundits voiced their opinions on Mourinho’s selection on that evening’s Match of the Day, I thought ahead. Benfica, Tottenham and Manchester United were up next for Chelsea, three tough opponents. Even Tottenham would be a lot harder than in recent years, having come within a whisker of Champions League qualification the previous season. Still, today’s result had made not just me, but Dinky and Rainbow Dash too, think that Chelsea were now back on track.
     
    #10 Wessexbrony, 2 February 2019
    Last edited: 2 February 2019
  11. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 7

    A Tough Task in Lisbon

    Tuesday 26th September

    Under normal circumstances, I would have been in Lisbon at this point. The match was beginning in an hour and a half, and it was likely to be a difficult game against a Benfica side who had finished third in the Portuguese League and reached the quarter finals of the Champions League the previous season.

    The reason I was still in London, however, was sitting on the sofa watching the episode of The Simpsons where Principal Skinner tries to serve Krusty Burger to Superintendent Chalmers and pass them off as “steamed hams”. Still, from what she’d told me, she’d had no say in moving to London, and I felt that taking her to Portugal or Germany for a group game was far too much of a stretch. Glasgow, however, would be much easier, thanks to the Caledonian Sleeper.

    At any rate, the two most recent games had given cause for hope. They might only have been Celtic and Wigan, but you could only beat what was put in front of you. The bad news for tonight, however, was that Makelele was missing through illness. As I tried to guess who Mourinho would pick in his place, I looked through the fridge, wondering what to serve and how to time it so it would be ready at half time.

    Half past seven arrived and the two of us watched as the ITV pundits discussed the match, and the midfield of Essien-Lampard-Ballack in front of John Obi Mikel.

    “It’s going to be a tough one,” I said, “But if we can get an early goal, we can control the match from there on, just like in the last two.”

    Unfortunately, it became clear that it wouldn’t be that simple. Benfica matched Chelsea from the outset, and without Makelele to break up the opposition attacks, the visitors were under more pressure than usual. However, Chelsea still looked to attack, and Lampard and Drogba had shots saved by Quim in the Benfica goal.

    Then, in the 27th minute, a Benfica attack saw Petit play a long ball to Nuno Gomes, who hit a shot past Cech to give Benfica the lead.

    Both sides came close, and the game entered a scrappy phase. Drogba was booked for dissent in the 33rd minute, with Petit entering the book for a foul on Michael Essien in the 40th minute.

    Things didn’t get better in the second half, either. The two of us had barely finished the ravioli I’d boiled during the half time break when another Benfica attack saw Rui Costa play in Katsouranis, who had no problem lofting the ball over Cech to double Benfica’s lead.

    Benfica then looked to close the game out, and Chelsea’s attacks frequently came up against a solid back four, with Fontana seeing a shot saved by Quim in the 64th minute and a Drogba strike being palmed away behind the post. However, it seemed like Benfica would comfortably see the match out, until Chelsea were thrown a lifeline with fifteen minutes left.

    A good pass from Ballack saw Drogba break free of the Benfica defence, and, as he was about to get into the area, the Ivorian was brought down by Benfica defender Léo. It was a clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity, and the red card came out in short order. Benfica were now down to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining.

    Frank Lampard stepped up to take the free kick, but the shot struck the defensive wall and was deflected behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

    Chelsea continued to ask questions of the ten men of Benfica, and with just under ten minutes remaining, Fontana broke into the box only to see Quim tip his shot around the post. With four minutes left, Ballack got into the area before going down under a challenge from Anderson. The German appealed for a penalty, but the referee waved play on. That was how the game closed out, with Benfica picking up a priceless win.

    SL Benfica 2-0 Chelsea (Nuno Gomes 27, Katsouranis 50, Léo s/o 75)

    “I wouldn’t read too much into that,” I said, as the pundits discussed what the result meant. “If we pick up a good result or two against Bayern and beat them here, we’ll still go through.”

    UEFA Champions League Group F: Matchday 2
    1 Bayern +3 6pts
    2 Benfica 0 3pts
    3 Chelsea +2 3pts
    4 Celtic -5 0pts

    It wasn’t a good round of fixtures for British sides at all. Celtic lost 1-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the other group match, whilst Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw at home to FC Porto. Manchester United and Liverpool both drew 1-1 the following day, against Inter Milan and Galatasaray respectively.

    I put Dinky to bed, then headed for the study. I would normally, at this point, have played Links 2003 or Rome Total War for a bit, but tonight I had something to do. According to the paperwork that the embassy had given me back in June, Dinky’s birthday was early in October, just after the game at Old Trafford. As such, I felt that it was importance to coordinate any gift-giving so as to avoid the possibility of her being given the same gift by two different parties.

    Having penned a letter which would hopefully avoid twisting the proverbial knife, I picked out an envelope, addressing it to Ms D. Hooves, The Old Post Office, Whitetail Street, Ponyville, Equestria, PV2 2TF, before sticking a first class stamp on it and putting it in a drawer to send the following day.

    A/N: In 2006, in Britain, ITV shared Champions League rights with Sky Sports, with ITV broadcasting on Tuesday nights and Sky on Wednesday nights.

    Dinky’s caretaker guardian is not going to take her out of the country just to watch a group game. Should Chelsea get to the latter stages of the tournament, however…

    Yes, it’s that Simpsons episode.

    Despite having an inferior goal difference, Benfica are above Chelsea because head-to-head results are the primary tiebreaker.

    Links 2003 is a golf game, which still stands the test of time to this day thanks to the numerous free addons available and the ability to recreate an entire PGA Tour season. I still occasionally play it, although Rome Total War would become a victim of Windows 10.

    In this case, asking Derpy about possible birthday presents for Dinky is an extremely delicate subject. I based the address layout and postal codes on the ones in Britain.

    In this universe, the Equestrian embassy in London and the British embassy in Canterlot handles all post between the two countries.
     
  12. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 8

    European After Effects

    A two-nil lead is the worst lead” - Czech football commentator Josef Csaplar

    Sunday 1st October

    Rumours of fatigue in the squad was not news you wanted to hear ahead of any match, but especially not with a home game against Tottenham in seven hours. I wondered how much truth there was to the report on the radio as I took the croissants out of the oven and carried them into the sitting room, where Dinky was watching the Sunday morning repeat of Match of the Day, which had just covered Middlesbrough’s 2-0 win at Charlton.

    Still, Tottenham had made a pretty poor start to the season themselves, sitting eleventh in the table after seven matches, and they had faced Slavia Prague in a UEFA Cup match the previous Thursday (which was why the game was being played on a Sunday in the first place). If anything, they’d have more problems with fatigue.

    In addition, Tottenham hadn’t beaten Chelsea in the league since 1990, as I explained to Dinky that afternoon as we met Rainbow Dash outside the still-uncommenced Imperial Wharf station and set off for the stadium. Makelele, however, was still missing, so Mikel would slot between Lampard and Essien with Robben and Wright-Phillips either side of Drogba. As the three of us took our seats, and the teams emerged to The Liquidator, there was a sense of optimism throughout Stamford Bridge.

    It took just four minutes for that sense to be wiped out. The first real attack fell to Tottenham, and Aaron Lennon played in England team-mate Jermain Defoe, who slipped the ball past Petr Cech to give Tottenham the lead. Then, in the 23rd minute, a defensive error allowed Jermaine Jenas to run at Cech and fire the ball under his outstretched arm to put Tottenham two goals up midway through the first half.

    “Well, Chelsea couldn’t have made a worse start to this one,” Kick Off said, as the Tottenham players celebrated. “Even with Fontana suspended and confidence low, they should be playing much better, but they barely look interested.”

    “Indeed, Kick Off,” Full Time added, “At the moment, it looks like Tottenham are on the way to their first league win over Chelsea since 1990.”

    At this point, it looked as though the match was only headed one way. But something seemed to stir inside the Chelsea players at that point. In the 29th minute, Wright-Phillips broke away down the right to send in a cross, which Drogba volleyed wide.

    The home side continued to push forward, and with Tottenham struggling to find themselves on the back foot, Chelsea were able to impose themselves and spring into action. In the 33rd minute, right-back Paulo Ferreira sent a cross into the area. Drogba failed to strike the ball cleanly, but his volley struck the turf and bounced over Paul Robinson and into the Tottenham net.

    “England’s first-choice goalkeeper, everyone,” I said, as the replays of the goal were shown on the big screens.

    Suddenly, Tottenham were scrambling to contain Chelsea, as the Blues poured forward in numbers. Arjen Robben was the next to try his luck, hitting the ball straight at Robinson who was able to save the shot. Two more attacks broke down as Mikel and Drogba were penalised for fouls on Jenas and Ledley King respectively as the half drew to a close.

    In stoppage time, a pass from Lampard found Drogba, who broke free of the Tottenham defence. Drogba’s shot was kept out by the outstretched leg of Robinson, but the ball was deflected into the path of Wright-Phillips, who had no trouble steering the ball into the empty net.

    A moment later, Arjen Robben took the ball down the left and cut inside before firing the ball over the bar.

    The second half began as the first half had ended. Suddenly, it was Tottenham who looked fatigued, and were in complete disarray. In the 50th minute, Chelsea came forward once more, and Drogba’s shot was blocked. However, the ball deflected into the path of Michael Essien, who sent it into the net at the near post.

    “Would you look at that!” Kick Off exclaimed, “Tottenham are crumbling here! At this rate the big question won’t be which way this match goes, but how many Chelsea score!”

    The home supporters, as well, seemed to know which way the game was going, breaking out in a chorus (to the tune of “That’s amore”) of “When the Spurs start to cry ‘cause they don’t qualify, blame lasagne…”

    Tottenham seemed to collapse completely, and as there were still forty minutes to go, it was clear to many that a rout was the only possible result. Indeed, a pass from Drogba found Robben, who sent the ball high and wide.

    Midway through the second half, another Chelsea attack saw Lampard set up Drogba, who sent the ball just wide. A minute later, Mikel was penalised for a foul on Tottenham’s Dimitar Berbatov.

    Chelsea continued to press, and with just over fifteen minutes to go, Drogba got into the area and fired a shot wide. Mikel then had a go four minutes later, sending his shot wide, before Robben had one last effort with five minutes to go which also went wide. Incredibly, the scoreline ended up flattering Tottenham; they had been 2-0 ahead midway through the first half, yet could easily have conceded seven or eight.

    Chelsea 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Drogba 33, Wright-Phillips 45+1, Essien 50; Defoe 4, Jenas 22)

    “Well, a massive, and quite embarrassing, capitulation by Tottenham there,” Big Match summarised, “And it doesn’t look good for their European credentials, either. But you can’t ignore how Chelsea came back into this; do you think they’ve turned a corner?”

    “It’s difficult to say,” replied Full Time. “Yes, they came back into it, but they shouldn’t have started that poorly in the first place. To me, their big test will be at Old Trafford next Sunday.”

    “The amount of chances we had, we should have humiliated them,” Rainbow Dash complained, as the three of us made our way out of the stadium.

    “Maybe, but we beat them, and given what the score was after 25 minutes, that’s good enough for me,” I replied.

    Of course, Man Utd had gone to Wigan and won 3-0, continuing to stay unbeaten and 5 points clear at the top of the league. And it just so happened that Chelsea’s next match was at Old Trafford.

    Premier League Table at the end of September/beginning of October:

    1 Man Utd 22pts
    2 Bolton 17pts
    3 Liverpool 16pts
    4 Portsmouth 16pts
    5 Chelsea 14pts
    6 Reading 14pts
    7 Arsenal 13pts
    8 Aston Villa 12pts
    9 Newcastle 11pts

    18 West Ham 5pts
    19 Watford 4pts
    20 Charlton 3pts

    A/N: At the time this is set in, Tottenham had an abysmal league record against Chelsea, though they would break the jinx at White Hart Lane in October 2006.

    Match of the Day is repeated on Sunday mornings for early risers. Also, there’s nothing quite like a croissant/pain au chocolat/pain au raisin on a Sunday morning.

    The UEFA Cup is now known as the Europa League.

    In the October Euro 2008 qualifiers, England lost 2-0 to Croatia thanks to a massive blunder by Paul Robinson, who, when Gary Neville passed the ball back to him, looked to send the ball long, but failed to connect with the ball when his foot struck a divot, resulting in the ball rolling into the England net to put Croatia 2-0 ahead.

    The lasagne chant refers to the final game of the 2005-06 season, in which Tottenham needed a win at West Ham to qualify for the Champions League. However, the day before the match, ten first-team players came down ill after eating lasagne, and Tottenham lost. Arsenal, meanwhile, beat Wigan to take fourth spot ahead of Tottenham and qualified instead. (One headline read “PASTA ONE...SPURS ILL”) It was later revealed to have been a virus, rather than food poisoning as initially believed.
     
  13. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 9
    A Test of Credentials

    Sunday 8th October

    “Good Morning, Dinky. Ready for the big one?” I asked, as I entered her room carrying a cup of tea.

    “The big one?” Dinky asked, rubbing her eyes.

    “Manchester United away, at Old Trafford,” I replied. “Win this, and it’ll send a clear message to everyone that we’re still very capable of fighting for the title.”

    “And if we don’t?” Dinky asked.

    “Then there are still 29 games to go, and you don’t win or lose the title in October.” I replied. “At any rate, the club charter leaves Euston at 10:30, so that’s why we’re getting up earlier.”

    “Doesn’t Old Trafford have its own station? I remember Diamond Tiara mentioning it…”

    “Yes, but our train will go to Manchester Piccadilly. Old Trafford’s station isn’t big enough.”

    Our train sped north as the two of us discussed the game, with other fans weighing their opinions in. The prevailing opinions seemed to be that it was going to be tough, a good start was essential, and it would be absolutely fantastic to be the first team to beat Utd this season, especially in their own backyard.

    “Good Afternoon, and welcome to Big Match Live. And it certainly is a big match today; the heat is on here at Old Trafford, where Man Utd host Chelsea…”

    “It’s certainly grim up north today,” I muttered to myself, as the two of us disembarked at Manchester Piccadilly and noticed the rain. Unfortunately, umbrellas were forbidden inside football grounds.

    “It’s been a fantastic start to the Premier League season for Manchester United. Top of the table and still unbeaten, but today they face a Chelsea side who seem to be improving after that slow start…”

    I set Dinky down after carrying her up the steps up to the away section, before we went to find our seats.

    “...and here’s the starting lineup for Chelsea. Robert Kovac and Ashley Cole return to the starting eleven following the game against Tottenham. Claude Makelele starts in midfield with Lampard and Essien, while Drogba starts up front on his own with Robben and Wright-Phillips on the wings.”

    “You know, I reckon we’re going to do it today,” Rainbow Dash said, as she sat down with Derpy and Twilight in the Traveller’s Rest, whilst the two teams emerged onto the pitch to the Fanfare from Rocky. “A Mourinho masterclass, just you watch.”

    Chelsea indeed started the game well, with Robben getting into the area early on only to shoot high and wide. Man Utd, however, were top for a reason, and Ronaldo won a free kick from a foul by Drogba. He sent the ball into the area, only for it to be caught by Cech. Patrice Evra then had a go, seeing his shot go wide, as the Man Utd supporters continued to sing “We’re gonna win the league, we’re gonna win the league…”

    Chelsea immediately went on the counterattack, and a pass from Michael Essien found Wright-Phillips, who played in Drogba, Drogba seeing his shot tipped over by Man Utd’s veteran keeper Edwin Van Der Sar. Shortly afterwards, Robert Kovac passed to Robben, who set up Drogba. Drogba once again had a go, but again Van Der Sar tipped the shot over.

    Carrick then fouled Lampard, the midfielder going for goal from the free kick, but hitting it straight at Van Der Sar.

    Shortly after the half hour, Paul Scholes looked to find Wayne Rooney. Rooney played Ronaldo in, and the winger’s shot beat Cech only to cannon back off the post.

    With just under ten minutes to go until half time, Makelele intercepted a pass and passed to Drogba. Drogba played the ball into the area to Robben, and the Dutch winger sent it beyond Van Der Sar into the net to give Chelsea the lead.

    In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Drogba broke free of the United defence and cut the ball back to Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips played in Essien, who let fly from 20 yards. Van Der Sar parried the shot, but Ferdinand didn’t clear the ball in time and lost it to Drogba, whose shot hit the side netting.

    “I’ve never understood why they do this,” I said, as I passed Dinky a muffin while the teams left the pitch at half time with Glory, Glory, Man United playing over the tannoy. “We don’t play Blue is the Colour or Blue Day at half time.”

    Chelsea continued to press in the second half. Wright-Phillips passed to Robben, who recovered the ball from Nemanja Vidic to pass to Drogba, who sent his shot wide.

    Shortly afterwards, a United cross was cleared by the United defence. Evra beat Drogba in the air and volleyed a pass to Michael Carrick, who played the ball on to Ronaldo. Ronaldo again looked for Rooney, whose effort was high and wide.

    Just after the hour mark, Chelsea attacked once again. John Terry tackled Paul Scholes and passed to Robben, who took off down the left before sending in a cross. Drogba connected, sending his volley fizzing past the post.

    It was United’s turn next, Giggs receiving the ball from Ronaldo before shooting wide, and then seeing a shot saved by Cech two minutes later.

    With just under 20 minutes left, Vidic was penalised for a foul on Drogba, resulting in a free kick just outside the box. Lampard stepped up and fired the free kick over the wall and into the net.

    “How’s that for an early birthday present?” I asked Dinky, as the away section celebrated what should surely be the winning goal.

    And indeed, it was. Chelsea closed the match out from there on, becoming the first team that season to take three points from Man Utd.

    Manchester United 0-2 Chelsea (Robben 37, Lampard 71)

    “Just as I sai-” Rainbow Dash said in the Traveller’s Rest, only to be tackle hugged by Derpy before being able to finish the sentence.

    “Well, we said before the game that Chelsea would need to produce their best performance of the season, and they did exactly that,” Big Match said. The camera then cut to the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, who was being interviewed by Kick Off.

    “Do you have any comment on what was a superb performance by your side?” Kick Off asked.

    “Yes, I do indeed,” Mourinho replied, “The title race starts now.”

    “And so, confirmation of the table as it stands...” Big Match continued.

    1 Man Utd 22pts
    2 Liverpool 19pts
    3 Bolton 18pts
    4 Chelsea 17pts
    5 Arsenal 16pts
    6 Portsmouth 16pts

    Thanks to Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Portsmouth, Chelsea had climbed into the top 4 and sat just five points behind Man Utd. Suffice to say, it was a jubilant mood on the train back to London.

    Monday 9th October

    Sadly, the mood the following day, Dinky’s 8th birthday, was far more poignant. I’d expected the situation to be difficult, but it wasn’t until she was looking at the photo album Derpy had sent her that I was told about the entirety of the situation.

    “It’s four months since it happened,” she said sadly. “I came home from school and found Mommy throwing me a birthday party. Of course, I was suspicious because it was four months before my birthday, but it wasn’t until I-I saw that-that letter and-and-and-” She sniffed at this point, and I pulled her into a hug as she teared up and began to cry.


    In Ponyville, a grey pegasus walked through her house. Her eyes glistened as she took a look at the makeshift shrine, comprising of letters which had arrived from London and, in a couple of cases, Scotland.

    "Happy Birthday, Muffin," she murmured softly, as she pinned the latest match report from Football Daily - headlined by Mourinho's post-match statement - to a noticeboard.


    “Would you still be up for pizza?” I eventually asked. “The embassy gave me a list of suitable takeaways as part of the exchange package.”

    Dinky nodded.

    “In that case, I’ll get the leaflet. We can order it, request the delivery time, and then continue our epic quest to make Aldershot Town champions of Europe.”

    Chelsea’s quest to be Champions of Europe, meanwhile, would hit another snag later that week when it was revealed that Ricardo Carvalho would require a second operation on his ankle owing to the injury sustained in the brutal “friendly” at Hampden Park at the beginning of August. Mourinho was not happy, and began sniping at Galatasaray in virtually every press conference. And coupled with England’s abject performance in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the mood was not good as Chelsea travelled up to Middlesbrough, where the woolly hat and scarf from the megastore that I’d given Dinky for her birthday made their Chelsea debuts.

    Of course, the fact that Chelsea had lost 3-0 at Middlesbrough the previous season didn’t help matters either. And when Emmanuel Pogatetz opened the scoring for Boro in the eleventh minute, you could have been forgiven for thinking a repeat was on the cards. And although Frank Lampard equalised three minutes before half time, Mark Viduka put the hosts back in front in the 73rd minute and secured all three points which, coupled with Arsenal’s 2-0 win at White Hart Lane, saw Chelsea drop to 5th in the table.

    A/N: Old Trafford does have its own railway platform, but it was used exclusively by home supporters.

    I did some research into the stadium, and the away section is in the upper tiers. Umbrellas really are banned from grounds in the Football League, due to the fact that they can be used as weapons.

    The Fanfare from Rocky plays as the teams take to the pitch at Old Trafford. Glory, Glory, Man United is, predictably, the anthem of Manchester United, and plays when the teams leave the pitch at half time. Blue is the Colour is the anthem of Chelsea Football Club, and is only played at the end of a match at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea win.

    As previously stated, this was originally planned as a sequel to “Today, Tomorrow and Forever”.

    In Football Manager, it is common to take a team from a lower league to be a dominant force. Jay from The Inbetweeners apparently took Woking from the Conference to the Champions League in six seasons, although in this case it is clearly a team effort.

    It’s Teesside in the middle of October. It’s going to be cold.
     
    #13 Wessexbrony, 4 February 2019
    Last edited: 10 March 2019
  14. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 10

    A Case for the Defence

    Attack wins you games. Defence wins you titles.” - Sir Alex Ferguson

    The defeat at Middlesbrough did not bode well for Chelsea’s next game, a Champions League group game against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Bayern led the group, having won both their opening group matches, and were a force to be reckoned with despite inconsistent form in the Bundesliga.

    In addition, a defeat would hand the initiative to Benfica with three matches remaining. The Portuguese side were facing Celtic in their next two games, and would be looking to take maximum points. Chelsea would face Benfica at Stamford Bridge in their final group game, which could potentially have a lot riding on it.

    Still, a few more performances like the one at Old Trafford would put Chelsea in a much better standing, and there was always the chance that Celtic would do us a favour.

    The pre-match build up began on ITV and it became clear that Mourinho had gone on the defensive, playing Michael Essien virtually as a centre-back in a back 5. The side were obviously looking to sit back against Lukas Podolski, Roque Santa Cruz and Claudio Pizarro and catch the hosts on the break.



    It was Bayern who started the brighter, as it only until the 4th minute for them to set up an attack. However, a long ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger evaded everyone and went out for a goal kick.

    Mourinho’s defensive football seemed to be working, as the sheer number of players going back managed to frustrate Bayern and limit them to the long ball game. And in the 16th minute, things seemed to get even better. A ball from Ferreira found Drogba out wide, and the Ivorian took off down the flank, using his sheer strength to brush off a challenge from Phillip Lahm before sending a cross into the area, where Arjen Robben arrived to head the ball past legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

    “Well, this is where it gets interesting!” Kick Off exclaimed, as Derpy and Rainbow Dash hoof-bumped in the Travellers Rest. “As it stands, Chelsea would go top of the group, and there is no score at Parkhead in the other game in Group F.”

    “Didn’t he used to be really good?” Dinky asked, as the ITV cameras replayed the goal.

    “He still is,” I replied, “But the first choice spot in Germany’s World Cup squad went to Jens Lehmann. Kahn only played in the third-place playoff.”

    Chelsea then proceeded to enjoy a dominant spell, as they broke again down the right. However, Shaun Wright-Phillips’ cross came to nothing. A Chelsea free kick also came to nothing, as Lampard tried to repeat his goal at Old Trafford from further out.

    Bayern, however, came back into the match, and in the 29th minute Marc van Bommel sent a cross into the area, which evaded everyone. However, in the 36th minute, Roque Santa Cruz was fed in by Schweinsteiger and although the initial shot was saved by Cech, Lukas Podolski pounced on the rebound and steered the ball into the empty net. Half time ended with the score at 1-1, with still no score at Parkhead, which as it stood would mean no change in position.

    As the second half began, Bayern set out with renewed vigour. A little over five minutes in, Podolski received the ball out wide and sent a ball at goal from a nearly-impossible angle, which Cech had to tip wide to be absolutely sure. A minute later, the corner was cleared to Schweinsteiger, who sent his shot over the bar.

    “We can bring you a goal from the other game in Group F,” Kick Off said, as Makelele intercepted a Bayern pass, “and it is Celtic one, Benfica nil. Kenny Miller with the goal, which has huge implications for Chelsea too.”

    Seemingly boosted by the news, Chelsea looked to attack as Arjen Robben broke down the left before sending a cross into the area for Drogba, whose shot was saved by Kahn. And two minutes later…

    “...as Lahm looks for Schweinsteiger, and it is now Celtic two, Benfica nil at Parkhead, and it’s Kenny Miller again…”

    With fifteen minutes to go, Chelsea broke clear once more, with Lampard seeing a shot saved by Kahn. The match ended up petering out into a draw, and while a win would have been nice, a point away to Bayern Munich was not to be sniffed at.

    Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea (Podolski 36; Robben 16)

    “So, a big point for Chelsea there,” said Big Match, “And the other result has finished Celtic three, Benfica nil. So this is how the group table looks at the halfway point.”

    UEFA Champions League Group F: Matchday 3
    1 Bayern +3 7pts
    2 Chelsea +2 4pts
    3 Celtic -2 3pts
    4 Benfica -2 3pts

    It was a good round for the British sides. Arsenal won 3-0 away to CSKA Moscow, while Man Utd won 1-0 against Sporting and Liverpool won 1-0 in Bordeaux. The return fixtures would be in two weeks’ time, but there were league matches to navigate first.

    A/N: Yes, it’s the Oliver Kahn in the Bayern goal. At his peak, Kahn was the best goalkeeper in the world and the first-choice goalkeeper for the German national side for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and the 2000 and 2004 European Championships, but lost out to the then Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann (who had been sent off in the 2006 Champions League final) for the 2006 World Cup. Kahn played for Bayern for another two seasons before retiring in 2008. Incidentally, he was named “Jens Mustermann” in the Football Manager games, as Sports Interactive were unable to obtain a licence for the German National team.

    Of course, in England, he's also known for letting in five against England in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.
     
    #14 Wessexbrony, 5 February 2019
    Last edited: 5 February 2019
  15. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 11

    Back to the Daily Grind

    Saturday 28th October

    Chelsea (6th) vs Bolton (4th)

    “So do you want the good news or the bad news about today's fixture first?” I asked, as Dinky, as per every weekend, lay curled up next to me.

    “Er...the good news, please,” Dinky answered.

    “The good news, we're at home, against Bolton.”

    “And the bad news?”

    “It's the early kick off, 12:30. Mind you, it could be away and a 12:30 kick off.”


    “...Sam Allardyce has defended his side's physical approach, claiming that it has reaped rewards in recent weeks despite a higher-than-average number of yellow cards. Meanwhile, Mourinho has said that the defeat at Middlesbrough was an anomaly, and...”

    “How would you set us up today?” Dinky asked, as I switched the kettle on.

    “Look to keep Anelka out of the game and hit them on the counter,” I replied, “If you remember their 3-2 win over Charlton last weekend, Anelka was involved in all three of their goals and they looked vulnerable every time Charlton went on the attack. Isolate him, and we take out their main threat.”

    The day had dawned crisp but clear and, come 11:40, the two of us had met up with Rainbow Dash and were on our way to the ground.

    “Attack early, and we'll win,” I said, as we entered the turnstiles. “Attack early and keep Anelka at bay.”


    “...it's high-flying Bolton for Chelsea to deal with today as the Blues go back to the daily grind of the League,” Kick Off explained as, at Stamford Bridge, the two sides walked out to The Liquidator and, in the Travellers Rest, Derpy and Twilight took their usual places. “Mourinho starts Essien, Lampard and Ballack all in midfield, whilst Joe Cole makes his first start of the season following the injury he sustained at the World Cup.”

    “Good to see him back,” I said. “He was brilliant last season.”

    The game kicked off and it became clear that Mourinho had the same ideas as I did as Chelsea looked to attack early. As early as the sixth minute, Drogba looked to latch on to a long ball, but failed to control it and Jaaskelainen let it run out for a goal kick. In the twentieth minute, Drogba was able to control the ball, but he fired wide.

    In the 25th minute, however, things changed. As Bolton looked to play the ball out of defence, Bolton defender Tal Ben-Haim was caught out by Drogba, who took the ball into the area before firing it under the outstretched arm of Jaaskelainen to give Chelsea the lead. Two minutes later, Drogba chipped the ball to Robben, whose cross was fired over by Joe Cole.

    Chelsea continued to attack, and in the 32nd minute an interception by Ballack set Arjen Robben away down the left. Robben crossed the ball into the area, where a stooping header from Drogba sent the ball past Jaaskelainen to double Chelsea’s lead.

    The home side then looked to deprive Bolton of possession, and played a short passing game to the delight of the home fans. A good passing build up found Joe Cole, who fired the ball wide.

    Four minutes before half time, Joe Cole was sent away down the right and crossed into the area for Drogba, who took the ball down before firing past Jaaskelainen to complete a first half hat trick.

    “Game over,” Rainbow Dash said confidently as the teams left the field at half time.

    Mourinho seemed to think the same, and opted to take Drogba off at half time, replacing him with Salomon Kalou. Chelsea’s dominance continued, however, and early in the second half Robben fired a shot high and wide.

    If the result had still been in doubt before half time, it wasn't just before the hour mark. Wayne Bridge tackled Anelka and passed to Lampard, who passed the ball on to Michael Essien. Essien passed to Salomon Kalou, who fed in Joe Cole. Joe Cole's shot beat Jaaskelainen at the near post to further increase Chelsea's lead.

    Chelsea, by now practically assured of victory, took their foot off the pedal, and the game entered a quiet phase for the following twenty minutes. However, with a little over ten minutes left, Bolton broke down the left flank and Kevin Davies hit a long, high ball to Kevin Nolan, who beat the offside trap to head the ball past the outstretched arm of Cech to grab a consolation goal.

    Chelsea looked to have the final say on the game, however, and with four minutes left Joe Cole crossed the ball in for Kalou, whose shot was tipped behind by Jaaskelainen. The resulting corner was met by the head of Robert Kovac, and a goalmouth scramble saw Kalou hit the side netting.

    Chelsea 4-1 Bolton Wanderers (Drogba 25, 32, 41, J. Cole 58; Nolan 79)

    "You know, we really need to get a good run together now," I said, as we headed back. "Watford away, Arsenal at home, Sheffield United and Everton away and Aston Villa at home; I'd expect sixteen points from that at the very least."

    It was a good result for Chelsea, but the Blues were still off the pace. Manchester United had reacted to their loss to win their next two, and sat five points clear at the top and eight points clear of Chelsea.

    November arrived, and the nights were drawing in as the two of us set out the following Saturday. Watford sat second from bottom in the table, and an easy three points were expected after the match against Bolton.

    “Of course, that's what's expected,” I said, as the two of us boarded the Southern service to Watford Junction at West Brompton, “But given how much expectation has differed from reality this season...”


    “You ready to watch the match with us, Rainbow Dash?”

    Rainbow Dash looked around to see Twilight and Derpy pass by on their way to watch the game, which was the Saturday evening kick off.

    “Not today, I'm afraid,” Rainbow Dash replied, “I promised Scoots I'd watch it with her at her aunts' place.”

    Despite what most had predicted, with just over half an hour remaining, it was turning out to be a very drab game. Watford had looked to defend from the off and the score was still goalless as the hour mark approached.

    “Well, once again, Chelsea have not been at their best here,” Kick Off said, as the ball went out for a throw-in. “I'm not sure what it is that hasn't clicked, but it seems to have Mourinho stumped as much as the rest of us.”

    “Indeed, Kick Off,” Full Time agreed. “And I mean, Watford are second bottom. They shouldn't be posing a threat at all.”

    Lofty sat on the sofa with a large grin on her face. “We're going to do it, you know,” she said.

    “I'm going to say Lampard to score next,” Scootaloo retorted.

    “Scootaloo!” Holiday replied. “You know full well it's going to be Robben.”

    “Drogba,” Rainbow Dash put in.

    “Oh, you of little faith,” Lofty said. “I have full confidence that-”

    “...and he's found Fontana,” Kick Off commented, “and Fontana plays a square ball to Drogba. Drogba goes for goal from the edge of the box, and it's there! The deadlock broken at last, Foster had no chance saving that, and it's Watford nil, Chelsea one!”

    “Told you so,” Rainbow Dash replied smugly.


    “Took them long enough,” I snorted, as Drogba celebrated.

    Chelsea's dominance seemed to have paid off at last, as they began to breach the Watford back four. Ten minutes after the goal, Drogba passed to Fontana, who found Robben. Robben played in Drogba, whose shot was tipped over by Foster.

    With two minutes left, however, the final blow came. Joe Cole took off down the right, and passed to Drogba. Drogba cut inside and, from the edge of the area, sent a diagonal shot into the opposite corner to seal the points.

    Watford 0-2 Chelsea (Drogba 63, 88)

    “Well, it came eventually,” I said, as the two of us joined several supporters on the train back, “But either we have to grind results out sometimes, or it's a worry that we can't take an earlier lead, especially with Bayern and Arsenal coming up.”

    Premier League Table

    1 Man Utd 31pts
    2 Liverpool 26pts
    3 Arsenal 25pts
    4 Chelsea 23pts
    5 Bolton 22pts
    6 Tottenham 19pts
    7 Portsmouth 18pts

    18 Sheffield United 9pts
    19 Watford 8pts
    20 Charlton 5pts
     
    #15 Wessexbrony, 6 February 2019
    Last edited: 6 February 2019
  16. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 12

    Jitters at Home

    Wednesday 8th November

    “It'll be good to be back at Stamford Bridge,” I said, as the two of us prepared to depart for Chelsea's return group game against Bayern Munich. “I attended the quarter-final against Bayern here two years ago, and-”

    “Chelsea won 4-2?” Dinky interjected.

    “Yes.” I replied, impressed by her guessing. “We would have won 4-1, but Ballack dived in the area to win a penalty and get them a second in stoppage time. We went through to the semis despite losing the second leg 3-2.”

    Of course, Ballack was now a Chelsea player, and he was missing for this match due to injury. And against Bayern, that wasn't ideal, especially with Benfica hosting Celtic and looking to leapfrog Chelsea in the standings.

    “We could do with some of your weather control,” I joked to Rainbow Dash, as the three of us headed through the rain to the Stadium, its lights seemingly guiding the crowds into it like 42,000 ships entering a massive port.

    Mourinho had opted to field Geremi alongside Essien and Makelele, with Lampard in the hole behind Drogba and Fontana, which matched Bayern's own 4-3-1-2 formation.

    The game started evenly, but it was the German side which struck first after 18 minutes. A corner was only half-cleared, and Pizarro got the ball on the edge of the area before feeding in Roy Makaay, who sent the ball past Cech.

    Chelsea responded, however, and two minutes later Ottl was penalised for a foul on Drogba. Lampard stepped up for the free kick, looking to repeat his goal against Manchester United, but this time he fired the ball over the bar. In the 29th minute, Drogba passed to Lampard, who played the ball to Fontana. Fontana let fly from the edge of the area, only to see his shot cannon back off the post and be cleared. Three minutes later, Drogba looked to get a goal himself, only to miss the target.

    Chelsea had looked to take control of the game, but two minutes from the break, Bayern looked to increase their lead. Some good play down the right flank saw Claudio Pizarro sent a cross in for Podolski, who headed the ball wide.

    Chelsea, relieved at having been let off the hook, looked to attack once more and, in stoppage time at the end of the half, Geremi tackled Pizarro and moved the ball to Lampard, who played a through ball to Fontana. Fontana got free of the defence and took the ball into the box before placing a shot into the bottom left corner of the net as Kahn came out to meet him.

    “Get in, great time to score!” I shouted, as the home supporters cheered.

    “Isn't it always a good time to score?” Dinky asked.

    “Scoring just before half time generally has a psychological effect,” I replied, “At least, that's what the pundits always say. Besides, four years ago, World Cup quarter-final, England are 1-0 up on Brazil, then Ronaldo scores just before the break. Brazil went on to win 2-1.”

    “Was that the one where-”

    “-Ronaldinho caught Seaman off his line from 35 yards out, yes.”

    The second half began with Bayern looking to sit deep and frustrate Chelsea, but in the 51st minute Chelsea broke away down the right. Khalid Boulahrouz took the ball down the flank and sent a cross into the area, only for Kahn to catch it.

    Six minutes later, the Blues went on the attack again. Essien passed to Lampard, who ran at the defence before slipping the ball to Fontana. Fontana aimed for the top corner from just inside the area, and although Kahn got his hands to the ball, he couldn't keep it out.

    On the hour mark, Chelsea tried to come forward once more, but Geremi was penalised for a foul on Schweinsteiger.

    Bayern then looked to attack themselves, with Schweinsteiger sending a cross into the Chelsea area in the 66th minute, which was cleared by John Terry.

    A minute later, however, a defensive mix-up between Boulharouz and Kovac allowed Podolski to steal into the area and pounce to bring Bayern level.

    After that, the match devolved into a midfield battle, with little to distinguish between the two sides in the final 20 minutes. In the final minute of normal time, Fontana got through on goal and looked to complete his hat-trick, but his shot was tipped behind by Oliver Kahn.

    Chelsea 2-2 Bayern Munich (Fontana 45+1, 57; Schweinsteiger 18, Podolski 67)

    “Well, Chelsea will regard this as two points dropped in the end,” Big Match said, “But they know what they have to do. Win their two remaining group matches, and they are assured of a place in the last 16.”

    UEFA Champions League Group F: Matchday 4

    1 Bayern +3 8pts
    2 Benfica 0 6pts
    3 Chelsea +2 5pts
    4 Celtic -5 3pts

    Benfica had retaken second spot in the group with a 3-0 win over Celtic, but Chelsea would qualify if they picked up maximum points from their remaining two games.


    In a pub in Canterlot the following day, two mares from the Foal Protection Services were eating their lunch and discussing the cause of what had nearly resulted in an international (for want of a better word) incident with Great Britain.

    “I still don't understand why Belladonna insisted on sending Dinky to London,” one of them said, as she put ketchup on her hayburger. “We could have set her up with that couple in Coltsborough and sorted out visitation in three months at most. It just seems unnecessarily cruel-”

    “There's your answer, Autumn,” Lyra responded. “I'd bet you that cruel is our glorious leader's middle name. Why else would she make that agreement about Chelsea winning the treble? All the same,” she continued, “I should have taken Dinky to her new guardian, given that I actually know him.”

    “Wait, what?” Autumn spluttered, nearly showering Lyra with bits of hayburger. “How...why…when...”

    “When I was in the middle of secondary school, I spent a term in London as an exchange student,” Lyra explained. “He was part of my host family.”

    “Did..you...you know...”

    “Of course not.” Lyra said, pulling a face in disgust.

    “If you'd let me finish, and get your mind out of the gutter, did you see all the sights of London?”

    “Most of them,” Lyra said. “As well as Tomorrow Never Dies.”

    “I preferred A View To A Kill, myself. Anyway, are you still seeing Ms Hooves?”

    “Yes, every Friday at 3pm. She tells me she's coping fine, but I'm not too sure myself; she's kept a shrine consisting of everything her daughter sends her from London-”

    “That doesn't seem amiss.”

    “-and a noticeboard comprising of the reports of every match Chelsea have won this season.”

    “Touché.”

    “How are you doing sorting out visitation?”

    “It's strange,” Autumn said. “I sent off the form to the visitation office weeks ago but they're still yet to receive it. I'd like to think it's just gotten lost in a black hole of paperwork, but...”

    “I see what you mean,” Lyra replied, “But we had problems with paperwork before, and we'll continue to have problems with paperwork. Try and chase it up, and if that doesn't work, send out another one.”

    A/N: I wonder how big a port would need to be to accommodate 42,000 ships…

    The quarter-final between England and Brazil will always be one of those “what if” moments. I actually watched it at school because the game was played in Japan and it kicked off at 7:30am British time.

    There's a pub about two minutes' walk down the road from where I work. Unfortunately, it's also about two minutes' walk from the local sixth form college.

    Coltsborough is a Briticised version of Coltsburg, from "Today, Tomorrow, and Forever". I found that the name sounded wonderfully “Oop North” and so I decided to throw it in. (Coltsborough MPD contains a variety of locomotives based on Stanier and BR Standard designs)
     
  17. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 13

    Points Needed

    Saturday 11th November

    Chelsea (4th) vs Arsenal (3rd)

    “We really used to struggle against them,” I said, in response to Dinky's question about today's opposition. “We couldn't beat them in the league and they beat us in the FA Cup four years in a row.”

    “That's not really encouraging.”

    “Indeed not. But,” I continued, “We beat them in the Champions League at Highbury during the season they went unbeaten and we beat them home and away last season.”

    Of course, it wouldn’t be that straightforward. Neither Terry or Lampard were fully fit following the game against Bayern Munich and Ballack was still injured. In addition, Arsenal were in a rich vein of form at present, having not lost since their 2-0 defeat at Reading.

    The two of us entered the kitchen and I switched the kettle on before switching on Sky Sports, which was previewing the weekend’s matches and currently discussing the one between Tottenham and Manchester United.

    Of course, it was going to be a tough game. Arsenal’s recent form, the absence of four influential players from fatigue (Terry, Lampard), injury (Ballack) and illness (Fontana) and the general calibre of players in the Arsenal squad could potentially spell real trouble for Chelsea, as well as a referee who was only too keen to reach for his pocket. Hopefully we’d see the strength of the squad shine through, especially since a win would see us go up to third in the table. And as the game started after the ground fell silent for a minute to remember those who’d fallen, it seemed to do so. Chelsea edged the opening fifteen minutes, creating two chances, one of which went wide and the other of which was saved by Lehmann.

    But then Thierry Henry once again proved why he was one of the most feared strikers in football, and why Barcelona and Real Madrid had been so keen to sign him in the summer. He collected the ball from Fabregas and got past Makelele and Kovac before sending the ball past Cech to give Arsenal the lead.

    Chelsea responded, with Essien rattling the post shortly afterwards. Robert Kovac was booked in the 37th minute for a foul on Emmanuel Adebayor, with the free kick blocked by the wall. Chelsea then went up the other end, and won a corner in the 41st minute, which was cleared.

    Three minutes later, however, Ashley Cole beat Fabregas to the ball and passed to Geremi. Geremi passed to Drogba, who played the ball to Joe Cole. Cole ran at William Gallas, his former team-mate who’d joined Arsenal in an exchange deal with Ashley Cole, before turning and sending the ball past the outstretched arm of Lehmann and into the bottom corner of the net off the inside of the post.

    “Absolutely brilliant!” Kick Off exclaimed. “Superb build-up from Chelsea there, and Joe Cole with a shot which no goalkeeper could have saved! And now, Arsene Wenger has to re-write his half time team talk from scratch!”

    The second half actually started quietly, with only a couple of half chances in the opening fifteen minutes. Just after the hour mark, Ashley Cole got down the left and sent a cross in to Joe Cole, who fired the ball over the bar.

    Three minutes later, Michael Essien, looking to launch another attack, passed the ball to Drogba. Drogba played a one-two pass with Robben, before getting to the edge of the area and going for goal. Lehmann actually got his hand to the shot, but it was too powerful and settled in the net.

    With just under 20 minutes left, Chelsea looked to attack once more. Makelele intercepted a potentially hazardous pass from Hleb to Henry and passed to Drogba, who played the ball onto Joe Cole. Joe Cole took the ball into the area and crossed it in for Robben, who sent a scissor kick over the bar. Mikel then came on to replace the booked Kovac, with Michael Essien slotting in at centre-back.

    With six minutes remaining, and with Chelsea looking to put the result beyond doubt, Joe Cole passed to Mikel, who sent the ball through Emmanuel Eboue’s legs to Drogba. Drogba ran through the Arsenal half before passing the ball along the edge of the box to Mikel, who played in Robben. Robben then sent the ball flashing wide of the post.

    For all Chelsea’s dominance, Arsenal went on the attack in the third minute of added time. Hleb crossed to Ljungberg, whose header was straight at Cech.

    Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (Joe Cole 44, Drogba 64; Henry 17)

    Mourinho was elated with the win, and he wasn’t the only one. Both Derpy and Dinky left the Traveller’s Rest and Stamford Bridge respectively with huge smiles on their faces, and the results later that weekend made things even better. Bolton kept Liverpool out in a 0-0 draw at the Reebok, while a late equaliser from Dimitar Berbatov saw Tottenham salvage a 2-2 draw against Man Utd at White Hart Lane.

    Premier League Table

    1 Man Utd 32pts
    2 Liverpool 27pts
    3 Chelsea 26pts
    4 Arsenal 25pts
    5 Bolton 23pts
    6 Tottenham 20pts

    18 Sheffield United 10pts
    19 Watford 9pts
    20 Charlton 8pts


    “For crying out loud, respond!” Autumn groaned to herself, as yet again she tried to chase up the form regarding Derpy's visitation rights which she'd filled out and sent to the visitation office weeks ago, only for it to seemingly get lost in the documents department... where, it seemed, important documents went to die. She'd watched The Twelve Tasks of Asterix at the weekend and was strongly reminded of The Place That Sends You Mad.

    She wondered if they were actively looking to stop Derpy from seeing Dinky again, but dismissed the idea; that would require competence, and that was not a word in their dictionary, which evidently didn't extend beyond “coffee break”.

    Her thoughts were interrupted, however, by Belladonna stalking past her office with a face like a thunderstorm, carrying a piece of paper.

    “I'm telling you, if looks could kill, anyone she'd glanced at would have been obliterated,” she told Lyra in the pub that evening.

    “Makes a change from that smirk she's usually got,” Lyra responded, “What do you reckon rattled her cage anyway?”

    “My guess? She found someone she can't push around.”

    Autumn was right; the piece of paper had been a letter which had come from London.

    “Dear Ms Nightshade,

    In response to the letter you sent me last week, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I am not going to change Dinky's name in any way, shape or form. I refuse to effectively erase part of her identity, and if you send me another letter like this one I will forward it to the British Embassy in Canterlot and you can find out firsthoof what they have to say about it. And if you use this as an excuse to cheat on the agreement, I will report you to the British Embassy.

    Yours sincerely,

    (Guardian’s name)”

    Derpy returned to her house after doing her daily rounds. She hung her cap on its hook and produced the last letter from her postbag - the one with the London postmark.

    “Dear Mommy,
    Belladonna wrote to Uncle last week asking him to change my name” - Derpy's heart sank - “but he wrote back telling her that if she asked him that again he'd write to the British Embassy and get them to sort her out.
    Don't worry if you don't get a letter from me until later in the week, as Uncle is taking me to my first European away match this week. He says that we will take the sleeper train from Glasgow to get back after the game.
    All my love,
    Muffin”

    A/N: Chelsea had a pretty poor league record against Arsenal between 1996 and 2005; in eighteen league matches against Arsenal they achieved 9 draws and 9 defeats, and lost to them in the FA Cup in four consecutive seasons - including the final in 2002.

    Both Barcelona and Real Madrid tried to sign Thierry Henry in the summer of 2006; he would eventually sign for Barcelona one year later.

    If you haven’t seen the scene of The Place that Sends You Mad, here it is (part of it anyway):

    When I (eventually) read Today, Tomorrow and Forever, I felt that Dinky’s name change at the end was mean-spirited and added for the sole purpose of making the story even more depressing.

    Of course, Rainbow Dash’s Chelsea tickets would carry a London postmark too, but they’d be marked with the club crest as well.

    “Uncle” is what Conan calls Kogoro in Detective Conan - although Dinky’s guardian is a much better role model.

    Whilst Dinky is technically right, the British Embassy isn’t going to send an MI6 agent after Belladonna - although she (Belladonna, that is) isn’t going to risk the British Embassy making a formal complaint against her for effectively harassing a British citizen on UK soil.

    As well as the Highland Caledonian Sleeper, which featured in the prologue, there is also the Lowland Sleeper, which runs between Euston in the south and Glasgow and Edinburgh in the north.
     
    #17 Wessexbrony, 10 February 2019
    Last edited: 10 February 2019
  18. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 14

    Tactical Flexibility

    “Welcome back to Scotland,” I said, as the two of us disembarked from the train which had brought us to Glasgow Central.

    “That was a tilting train?” Dinky asked. “I barely felt it tilt at all.”

    “That’s a good thing,” I responded. “They tried something like that in the 1980s and the tilting was so pronounced it gave numerous passengers motion sickness.”

    “Are we going to Hampden Park again?”

    “No, this one’s at Celtic Park. It’s about a mile away, but we can take it easy as the game isn’t for two hours.”


    “Round two of the Battle of Britain tonight here at Celtic Park,” Kick Off announced, as Twilight, Derpy and Rainbow Dash were joined by Lyra in the Traveller’s Rest. “With both sides needing a win to keep their hopes of progress alive. Chelsea know that two wins from their last two games will be enough to make it into the knockout stage, while Celtic would need to win both of theirs and hope results elsewhere go their way. Celtic showed Jacques Santini the door last week after they lost 3-0 to Benfica, and Gordon Strachan has subsequently been appointed...”


    “There’s something I was going to ask you last time we were here,” Dinky said, as the two of us made our way towards the stadium. “What was the ‘pink menace’ that everyone here was talking about?”

    “I think I read about it,” I replied. “From what I can recall, a pink earth pony with a pink mane visited here the summer before you arrived, took a bite out of a deep-fried Mars Bar” - Dinky wrinkled her nose at the thought of such a thing - “and suddenly turned into a whirlwind which ran riot through the middle of Glasgow.”


    “...Strachan has promised to bring a fresh approach to what has been a stale campaign so far, but Mourinho has said that he is fully confident in Chelsea’s chances of qualification.”


    25 minutes into the match, there was little to show for either side other than a yellow card for Boulahrouz and McGeady respectively. However, Chelsea came forward, with Joe Cole forcing a corner, which came to nothing.

    A few minutes later, Celtic launched the ball downfield, with Boulahrouz intercepting and playing a long pass along the floor to Drogba. Drogba passed to Fontana, who was tackled by Pressley.

    In the 32nd minute, Ashley Cole passed to Makelele, who played the ball on to Lampard. Lampard passed to Fontana, who took the ball into the area before crossing to Drogba. Drogba got his head to the ball, and had no problem beating a scrambling Boruc.

    Just before half time, a rare Celtic attack saw former Everton and Real Madrid midfielder Thomas Gravesen launch a cross into the area, which Cech had no trouble dealing with.

    Just when Dinky had thought she was used to life in Britain, there was something else to discover. In this case, it was the half time food; a pie with Macaroni Cheese in it. Amazingly, it actually worked.

    The second half was only four minutes old when Boulahrouz took the ball down the right and sent a cross into the area, only for Drogba to hit the post from point-blank range. The visitors would have better luck shortly afterwards, however, as Drogba passed to Fontana, who played Joe Cole in. Joe Cole took off down the left before sending in a cross, which Lampard converted at the far post.

    Having been booked early in the second half, it came as no surprise that Boulahrouz was the first player to be taken off, with Paulo Ferreira replacing him. Fontana then followed, being replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips as Mourinho reverted to five in midfield.

    Celtic then began to apply pressure, with a long ball by Wilson being headed clear by Kovac. With just over 15 minutes left, Zurawski sent in a cross which was deflected off Ashley Cole to Vennegoor, who beat Makelele before seeing his shot saved by Cech and cleared by Ferreira. Celtic won a corner five minutes later, and after a defensive mix-up, Cech saved from Gravesen at the expense of another corner, from which Pressley headed wide.

    With five minutes to go, Lampard played in Drogba, who played a one-touch pass to Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips sent in a cross to the far post, where Arjen Robben raced in to head home.

    Celtic did try and make one last foray forward with two minutes left. Shensuke Nakamura sent a long ball forward to Zurawski, who headed the ball straight at Cech.

    Celtic 0-3 Chelsea (Drogba 32, Lampard 54, Robben 85)

    “So, a big win for Chelsea, who go up to second in the group with one match left.” Big Match summarised. “This means that they only need a point from their last match against Benfica after the Portuguese side were beaten 2-1 by Bayern Munich, who are now guaranteed top spot due to their head-to-head record against Chelsea. Celtic, meanwhile, are now out of the Champions League.”

    UEFA Champions League Group F: Matchday 5

    1 Bayern +4 11pts
    2 Chelsea +5 8pts
    3 Benfica -1 6pts
    4 Celtic -6 3pts


    “Well, it was fun while it lasted,” Lyra said, as she got up from her seat in the Traveller’s Rest. “Maybe we’ll do better next season, that is if Strachan can get us going again. See you on Friday, Derpy.”


    “All we have to do in two weeks’ time is avoid defeat, and we go through,” I explained, as the taxi took the two of us back to Glasgow Central station for the Lowland Sleeper to Euston. “And then, on our day, we can beat anyone. The games against Man Utd and Arsenal are proof of that.”

    Man Utd and Arsenal, meanwhile, were both held, 1-1 against Spartak Moscow and 0-0 against Hamburg respectively, whilst Liverpool had beaten PSV Eindhoven 3-1. An international break was coming up for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, even though England wouldn’t be playing, before Chelsea faced away matches against Sheffield United and Everton.

    A/N: The Advanced Passenger Train was developed in the late 1970s and ran in the early 1980s. It was a tilting train and designed to revolutionise the West Coast Main Line, with a maximum speed of 155 miles an hour, but the tilting mechanism caused motion sickness and the entire fleet was withdrawn by 1986. The “Pendolino” was introduced in 2003, based on an Italian model, and was far more successful.

    The deep-fried Mars Bar was invented in Stonehaven in 1992 and became widely known in the mid-1990s. One can only imagine what the result would be if Pinkie Pie got her hooves on one. Macaroni pies are also widely available and popular in Scotland.
     
  19. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 15

    A New Star Is Born

    “You can’t win anything with kids” - Alan Hansen, 1995

    The away match at Sheffield United, who sat third from bottom of the league, should have been an easy three points. But with Drogba having picked up a knock and therefore not fit enough to start and Fontana not performing in training, it meant that Chelsea faced a potential dilemma in the striker department.



    The train trip up to Bramall Lane was filled with conjecture, speculation, and wild guessing. But three points were practically a must, as I told Dinky, “A win today and depending on what happens at the Emirates tomorrow, we either gain ground on United or put daylight between ourselves and Arsenal.”

    When the teams were announced, however, it came as a major surprise and raised quite a few eyebrows.

    “...news coming through that Chelsea have elected to start Danny Doyle up front,” Big Match announced. “He leads the line along with Salomon Kalou, with Didier Drogba on the bench today. Talk about a baptism of fire for the 16-year-old.”

    “Seriously?” Rainbow Dash groaned in the Traveller’s Rest. “We’re starting a kid up front in a Premier League match? This is what FA Cup games should be used for!”

    “If a player is good enough, they’re old enough.” Twilight replied.

    It took just three minutes of the game for one of their opinions to be justified. A searching pass from Makelele found Joe Cole, who played in Kalou. Rather than going for goal, Kalou elected to pass into the area, and Doyle raced in to fire the ball across Paddy Kenny and into the net.

    “Well, how about that!” Kick Off exclaimed. “Three minutes into his Chelsea debut, at the age of 16, and Danny Doyle gives his side the lead!”

    Of course, like so many times previously that season, Chelsea made it difficult for themselves, and the home side soon came back into the game. A quick break saw Chelsea caught cold, and Rob Hulse got to the ball first and slotted it past Cech.

    “Not this again,” I groaned as the home crowd celebrated. “I thought we’d put this behind us.”

    However, the visitors had control - for the moment, at least - and with half an hour gone, a break down the left by Joe Cole saw a cross drilled into the area, and Doyle controlled it before rolling the ball into the bottom right corner.

    “I can’t believe what I’m seeing here!” Kick Off exclaimed, more excitably than the first time, “It’s two for Chelsea now, and two for Danny Doyle! What a debut the young striker is having!”

    “What was it you were saying, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked sweetly.

    Unfortunately, Chelsea wouldn’t be in front for long. Keith Gillespie brought the hosts level again from twenty yards just before the interval and then, six minutes into the second half, Danny Webber headed home from a Sheffield United corner, causing Derpy and Rainbow Dash to groan loudly. The Blades then looked to shut Chelsea out, and mark Doyle out of the game; even the introduction of Drogba for Kalou seemed to have little effect. However, with two minutes of normal time to go, Chelsea won a corner. John Terry rose to head the ball, but his header was cleared off the line...straight to Doyle, who volleyed the ball into the net.

    “That is incredible!” Kick Off practically screamed, as the young striker found himself in the middle of a multi-armed hug and Derpy danced a jig with Rainbow Dash. “Danny Doyle writes his name into Chelsea folklore! He writes his name into Premier League history; at 16 years and 152 days old, he is the youngest ever player to score a Premier League hat-trick, and he has done it on his debut!”

    Sheffield United 3-3 Chelsea (Hulse 10, Gillespie 42, Webber 51; Doyle 3, 30, 89)

    Despite the disappointment of dropping two points, especially since Arsenal would win 2-1 against Man Utd the following day to leapfrog Chelsea into 3rd, the mood on the train was largely a positive one because of Danny Doyle’s explosive debut. In the post-match interview, in which he was handed a bottle of champagne, he simply said that he was “grateful for the opportunity”. Mourinho, on the other hand, said that Doyle could be “better than Wayne Rooney”.

    “We saw history made today.” I said, as the two of us arrived back at the apartment.

    One week later

    “Well, so much has been said and written about someone so young, and it’s not surprising.” Kick Off said, as the teams came out for the second half at Goodison Park.

    Chelsea were playing their return league match with Everton, and after his debut hat-trick, it came as no surprise that Danny Doyle had started up front with Drogba. That had reaped its reward, as the Blues held a 1-0 half time lead, with Doyle running onto a Lampard pass and slotting the ball past Tim Howard eight minutes before half time.

    The hosts looked to start the second half strongly, however, and four minutes in, Mikel Arteta was brought down in the area by Boulahrouz and stepped up to send Cech the wrong way.

    Rather than wilt, however, Chelsea kept their heads up, and in the 55th minute, Lampard nearly turned provider again, with Danny Doyle connecting with his pass before sending a shot just wide.

    The match wore on throughout the second half, with resolute defending from Everton constantly frustrating Chelsea. But in the 78th minute, as the away side came forward again, Drogba was brought down by Alan Stubbs, who received a yellow card for the challenge. The free kick was in a similar position to the one at Old Trafford and Frank Lampard made no mistake, sending the ball over the wall and into the net.

    Everton threw players forward as the clock ticked on, but then came the 87th minute. A long goal kick from Cech was controlled and then chipped to Drogba by Doyle. Drogba was approximately 35 yards out with his back to goal, but he chested the ball down, turned, and volleyed it into the net with Howard unable to do anything about it to score one of the most spectacular goals of the season. For once, in the Traveller’s Rest, Rainbow Dash was stunned into silence.

    Everton 1-3 Chelsea (Arteta pen 49; Doyle 37, Lampard 78, Drogba 87)

    “Well, once again, Doyle was instrumental,” Kick Off said, as the teams left the pitch. “After his outstanding hat trick last weekend, he continues to get better and better.”

    “Indeed,” Full Time replied. “Four goals in his first two games for the club, Mourinho must be thinking about making him a regular starter.”

    Premier League Table

    1 Man Utd 35pts
    2 Arsenal 31pts
    3 Chelsea 30pts
    4 Liverpool 30pts
    5 Bolton 25pts
    6 Tottenham 24pts

    18 Blackburn 13pts
    19 Watford 9pts
    20 Charlton 9pts


    One of the benefits of being a senior employee, Autumn thought to herself, was that you could shut your office door and nobody would bother you. As such, she was enjoying a nice quiet Monday morning, with only the radio for company, as she filled out paperwork.

    “...Mourinho said after yesterday’s game that the pieces are falling into place for Chelsea,” Breaking News announced, as he covered the sports news. “And Danny Doyle is quickly becoming a fan idol at the club, despite only having played two matches.”

    “No surprises there,” Autumn muttered, as she started filling out a form.

    “And finally, an Equestria-wide poll has seen the 2005 Champions League final, between Milan and Liverpool, voted the most exciting ever. The match polled in at 52%, with the 1999 final being the closest challenger on 28%...”

    Autumn had given up on chasing up Derpy’s visitation rights form, and had decided to fill out a new one from scratch. This time, when she put it in a hardback envelope and wrote the recipient on it, she stamped “URGENT” on it in large letters, before taking it to the internal post trolley and going to make a cup of tea.

    She didn’t notice that Belladonna had been spying on her from the moment she’d emerged from her office.

    A/N: Alan Hansen infamously said on Match of the Day that Man Utd “would win nothing with kids” on the opening day of the 1995/96 season. Man Utd would go on to win the League and FA Cup.

    Twilight’s quote is derived from one by Manchester United legend Sir Matt Busby.

    I did some research into Premier League records. Danny Doyle really would be the youngest player to score a Premier League hat trick in this scenario.

    For comparison, Wayne Rooney made his Everton debut at 17.

    Didier Drogba really did score such a goal away to Everton that season, which has been adapted to fit the story. Here it is:

    The 2005 Champions League final saw Liverpool overturn a 3-0 half time deficit against AC Milan before winning on penalties. The 1999 final saw Man Utd score two stoppage time goals to beat Bayern Munich 2-1.

    Items in the internal post trolley go via the documents department. Unfortunately, it hasn’t occurred to Autumn to deliver the form herself.
     
  20. Wessexbrony

    Wessexbrony UKoE resident Victor Meldrew

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    Chapter 16

    When Push comes to Shove

    The badge on the shirt is more important than the name on the back.” - Erik Dornhelm (played by Marcel Iures), Goal! The Dream Begins, 2005

    It was no surprise that everyone was talking about Danny Doyle after he’d made his mark on the Premier League. The 16-year-old became hot property in Fantasy Football, and the club megastore sold out of replica shirts - for both humans and ponies - with his name and number (35) on them days after the Everton game. There was even talk of him being named the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year at the end of the season, even though there was still over half of the season left to run. Yet not everyone was singing his praises.

    “I tell you, our esteemed leader looks like she’s swallowed quite a few lemons recently,” Autumn said in the Two Princesses pub in Canterlot on Friday afternoon, as Lyra joined her after seeing Derpy.

    “And I think I know why,” Lyra smirked, as the TV replayed Danny Doyle’s goal against Everton. “If you make a gamble like she did, you have to accept the risks. Did you ever find out about the form you sent out?”

    “Nothing,” Autumn responded. “I gave up and sent out a new one. Hopefully those layabouts in the documents department actually know what ‘urgent’ means - if they know how to spell it, anyway. I’ll give it a month - maximum - and then go down there and retrieve it myself if I have to.”

    Saturday 2nd December

    “Two weeks ago, he was virtually unknown,” Kick Off said, as Sport 1 began its coverage of the game between Chelsea and Aston Villa, “But Danny Doyle has really made his mark on the Premier League. Even Bruce Buck has said that he’s excited about the young striker…”

    “What is it we’re supposed to have heard about Fontana?” I asked Rainbow Dash, as the three of us took our seats at the ground.

    “Apparently he’s not happy about all the attention being lavished on our new wonderkid,” Rainbow Dash replied, just as Danny Doyle’s name was read out by the stadium announcer and met with raucous cheers.

    “Then he’s an idiot,” Dinky put in. “He’s supposed to be playing for the team, not for himself.”

    “All the same, five clubs in the last seven years is pretty telling,” Rainbow Dash replied, as The Liquidator began to play and the teams walked out. “And let’s not forget that Real were willing to part with him for less than half of what they spent on Shevchenko.”

    “Well, this game is almost a sideshow to rumours and speculation surrounding two players, both of whom lead the line today,” Kick Off announced. “There are rumours of envy from the veteran striker, and Mourinho will surely want to dispel these rumours by playing them together up front.”

    Chelsea started well, and once again Doyle tormented the Villa defence, his finishing letting him down when Lampard played him in after 8 minutes. However, the visitors looked to attack as well, with Gabriel Agbonlahor shooting over the bar after being let in by poor Chelsea defending.

    In the 24th minute, a throw-in by Arjen Robben found Wright-Phillips, who passed to Fontana. Fontana, eager to get his name on the scoresheet, let fly from the edge of the box. His shot was saved by Brad Guzan, but the Villa keeper was unable to hold it, and Doyle pounced to slide the ball into the net to score his fifth goal in three matches.

    Chelsea continued to dominate, and in the 32nd minute Robben played a through ball to Fontana. Fontana took the ball wide into the area before shooting just wide from an extremely tight angle with Doyle open wide, despite the urgings from the home crowd for him to pass it.Three minutes later, Essien played a short pass to Doyle, whose pass played Fontana in. Fontana went for goal from just inside the box, but his shot was tipped wide by Guzan.

    With six minutes to go until half time, Fontana got through again, but was brought down just outside the area by a despairing lunge by Olof Mellberg. Mellberg had been the last man, and was therefore sent off. Lampard stepped up and, as he’d done at Everton, sent the ball over the wall and into the net.

    With two minutes of the half remaining, a long ball by Villa right-back Hughes went wide with nobody to get on the end of it. Just before the break, Doyle played a long ball to Fontana, who sent his shot wide after getting into the area.

    “I’m not too happy about Fontana,” I said at half time. “He seems to be going for glory rather than playing for the team.”

    “We’re 2-0 up, aren’t we?” Dinky asked.

    “He’s right, though,” Rainbow Dash answered. “Look at the one he missed from that angle just after the half hour. If he keeps doing this, the team’s eventually going to suffer.”

    Chelsea looked to dictate the tempo in the second half, but still came forward. A cross from Ashley Cole was headed clear, but Wright-Phillips intercepted it and passed to Lampard. Lampard looked to play Fontana in, but Fontana’s shot was tipped behind. Four minutes later, Essien was fouled by Stilian Petrov, who received a yellow card.

    Shortly after the hour mark, Wright-Phillips played Fontana in. Fontana went on a long run through the Villa back line, before sending a low shot beyond Guzan into the bottom left corner of the net.

    “That should be enough now,” I said, as the match restarted. “Hopefully his goal will temper him and he’ll remember he’s part of a team.”

    However, Villa still had some fight left in them. With a little over 15 minutes remaining, Petrov passed to Gabriel Agbonlahor, who, from the edge of the box, caught Petr Cech off his line with a spectacular lob to pull a goal back for the visitors.

    The game died down after that, but in stoppage time, Fontana broke free of the Villa defence and sent in a low shot, which Guzan parried before securing at the second attempt.

    Chelsea 3-1 Aston Villa (Doyle 24, Lampard 39, Fontana 63; Agbonlahor 73, Mellberg s/o 39)

    “So, three games - his first three games in a Chelsea shirt - and five goals for Danny Doyle,” Big Match summarised after the match. “Is it too soon to say we’ve discovered the next big thing?”

    “Well, he’s just been inspirational,” Kick Off agreed. “He’s proved to be the catalyst for Chelsea since he first appeared.”

    “So, with Arsenal slipping up earlier today, this is how the league table looks…” Big Match continued.

    Premier League table

    1 Man Utd 38pts
    2 Chelsea 33pts
    3 Liverpool 33pts
    4 Arsenal 31pts
    5 Tottenham 27pts
    6 Bolton 25pts

    18 West Ham 14pts
    19 Charlton 12pts
    20 Watford 10pts

    “Can’t say that’s not a good weekend,” I said, as we made our way back. “Now, we need to keep up the pressure. Sooner or later, United will wobble, and if we’re within range, we can pounce.”

    A/N: "Goal!" is a good film, as was the second one. I'd recommend it, whether you're a football fan or not. The third film, however, was extremely weak.

    “Fantasy Football” is a game played online in which you select a squad of fifteen players from the Premier League roster and you try to win points. Many workplaces have their own leagues, although I can’t see Belladonna taking part. Replica shirts have been sold by clubs since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Gabriel Agbonlahor attracted the wrath of One Direction fans for a tackle on Louis Tomlinson during a testimonial for Stilian Petrov in 2013.
     

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