The last 16 of the Virtual EFL Football Manager Cup certainly delivered up its fair share of drama this past week.
The round featured a classic Championship versus League Two tie between Nottingham Forest and Mansfield Town. Following the game virtual manager Joe Lolley said:
“Well if that’s not repeated on sky sports classics for the next 20 years there is no justice.”
Indeed, Lolley’s Nottingham Forest side had to overcome the spirited effort from Jamie King’s Mansfield Town. The League Two side went ahead twice but their discipline certainly proved problematic as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
In extra time Forest had as many as three goals ruled out before ultimately coming through on penalties against FM content creator King’s troops.
A remarkable hat-trick from Birmingham City’s centre back Harlee Dean meanwhile saw the Lee Camp’s blues progress to the last eight at the expense of Luton Town in another thrilling 3-2 Championship clash.
Following his side’s victory, virtual manager Camp said:
“We took the game to them, took the lead like we did last week and controlled the game. They had a couple of moments but it’s cup football and you expect the opposition to come out and ask you questions but overall I thought we managed the game very well.”
Elsewhere, Brentford and Preston North End emerged victorious from their respective local derby matches against Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers.
Sam Jaques’s Brentford side ultimately emerged with a 3-1 victory over their fellow Londoners, while Tom Barkhuizen rounded off Preston’s 2-0 victory over their Lancashire rivals.
The match of the round was undoubtedly Brenford’s compelling encounter with Shrewsbury Town. The Bees had to come from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw in normal time. Following an additional 30 minutes, the sides still could not find a winner so the contest was settled by who could keep their nerve from the penalty spot. Ultimately it was the Championship side who prevailed 3-1 thanks to goalkeeper David Reyna who produced the crucial save from Shrewsbury’s midfielder Shaun Whalley.
@daviidraya1 the hero with two saves in the shootout as we progress to Round Three!!!
Joe Lolley’s Nottingham Forest meanwhile managed to put five past Southend at the City Ground thanks to two goals from Ben Watson and Portuguese left back Yuri Ribeiro. Lee Camp’s Birmingham City side also managed to score five in an impressive 5- 0 over Forest Green Rovers.
RT BCFC: 🎩 We are in the hat for Round Three of the EFL FootballManager Cup!
Elsewhere, Luton Town progressed to round three with a 3-1 success against Ipswich, mirroring the exact result between the sides when they met in the Carabao Cup back in August. While there were 1-0 wins for Fulham and Mansfield Town against Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth respectively.
This tournament has so far managed to raise £1,879 for the mental health charity, Mind UK and you can continue to donate via the JustGive Page until it’s conclusion on the 17th May.
Missing the thrill of seeing live football? Well EFL, Mind UK and Football Manager have collaborated to come up with perhaps the next best thing.
Following the postponement of live action on the football pitch, alongside the English Football League and the Mental Health Charity, Mind UK, Football Manager has decided to launch the EFL Football Manager Cup, an online tournament that kicks-off this week.
So far fans have been able to see Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley lead his team to a 2-1 win against Leeds United fan, Rob Callery’s side. While virtual boss James Moulding’s Preston North End enjoyed a remarkable 10-1 victory over Crawley Town!
Elsewhere there have so far been wins for Middlesbrough, Mansfield Town and Leyton Orient.
The tournament is due to take place over the next month and involves 54 clubs from across the English Football League, with each being represented by a virtual manager who is part of that club either as a player, backroom staff or a supporter.
Football players featuring in the competition include goalkeeper Lee Camp, who is in charge of his current club Birmingham City, Ollie Kensdale is the man calling the shots for Colchester United and Blackburn’s Adam Armstrong is making the key decisions for his club.
The tournament is a straight knockout competition with the final due to take place in mid-May. After each round is completed there will be highlights uploaded onto the FM YouTube channel for you to catch up on.
Crucially throughout the tournament you can also show your support for Mind UK by donating on this JustGiving page, which is open throughout the tournament.
The first round is due to finish on Thursday with games being played throughout the next few days, so you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful game.
Round one match dates – Monday April 20th to Thursday April 23rd
Round two – Week commencing April 27th
Round of 16 – Week commencing May 4th
Quarter-finals – Monday May 11th to Thursday May 14th
As football came to a standstill, with the last football fixtures played over a month ago, clubs submerged into circumstances which would cut revenue and throw thousands upon thousands of jobs into jeopardy. Uncertainty of cash flow has seen various individuals sacrifice a wage percentage to ensure non-playing staff receive income. In one example, Reading manager Mark Bowen and chief executive Nigel Howe took a ”substantial percentage” wage cut in order to pay staff at the Berkshire club.
In the uncertain times of today, football clubs and their players have not been short of ideas in helping out and keeping busy. Social media has been flooded with entertainment courtesy of the biggest stars in football, whether that be Cristiano Ronaldo using his children as weights in his home gym or Nottingham Forest winger, Joe Lolley throwing a pan over his house. We have certainly seen a variety!
With recognition that a football club is a colossal source of employment relative to a small town or community, it has become crystal clear just how important the football industry has become to towns and cities across the country. Fears of small clubs being disabled in recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic puts whole communities in a dismal situation. Despite this pressing thought, the football clubs we know and love are giving back through support in the community.
In regards to the 2019/2020 football season as a whole key decisions certainly need to be made. After all, with so much money at stake and livelihoods of many at risk, should there in fact be any relegation’s this season? Dropping down a league is a deeply emotional as well as a troubling financial affair and in the current situation may we see the Premier League and the Football Leagues decide to stop the drop? Perhaps the most likely of the options is to finish the season – when safe for players, immediate staff and reporters to do so- behind close doors. This option is certainly the safest and potentially most sensible option, but both players and fans alike will argue this does not allow for a true representation of the season considering how atmospheres in stadiums can affect the game.
As for promotions and league titles this has to be concluded, not only because the whole team, fans included, have been building towards that target, but have also pledged large amounts of their budget on the basis of gaining promotion. Suddenly having that taken away could have dire financial consequences. When it is safe to do this is still unknown,however some reports say that the start of June is a possibility.
Another thing to consider is how will contracts and the transfer window work? Players and staff contracts usually run until the end of June/July in order to cover the season. Will contracts have to be extended to see out the current season or will a general rule be brought in? How will the Transfer Window work with Social Distancing rules? Could deals be done via video calls, potentially yes, but will everyone be satisfied by this ?
On a large scale, we’ve seen in the space of two weeks players unite with #PlayersTogether. A charity set up amongst the Premier League club captains in order to fund and provide PPE, vital equipment for NHS staff and key workers on the front line of the pandemic.
At a local level, many clubs have delivered for those wonderful individuals of the NHS. In Watford, Vicarage Road has been opened to allow a place of rest and recovery for Doctors and Nurses and Watford General Hospital.
While up north, Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook has transferred managerial skills to supermarket delivery skills, signing up as a key worker to deliver shopping to those in self-isolation.
Manchester United and England striker, Marcus Rashford has also continued his work within the community by partnering with FareShare, a charity which is reaching out to school children who would usually benefit from free school meals. Rashford’s involvement has helped the charity raise over £20 million which is directly bettering lives through distribution of meals to over 400,000 school children.
Arguably social media has been poignant in lifting spirits of everyone bound to their homes, giving us an insight to the lives of footballers and also allowing engagement between clubs and community. Various footballers from all teams have been video calling with young fans and we even had an insight to the Liverpool side having their morning meeting via today’s technology.
Furthermore, the Match Of The Days boys are ever present on social media and also completing one of many football podcasts. In the time slot of the regular highlights programme the show continues to add some routine to football fans across the country.
In a time of little positivity, it is these small gestures that are welcomed to bring light to the situation.
To hear more about football during isolation please listen to our podcast below.
The Isolation Pod: When will football return and Newcastle to be taken over?