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5.5 to Holte Part One: Pre-Season

Part 1 of a series in which James uses Football Manager to try and do better than Paul Lambert. Expect passion, thunder, blood and of course tears.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

In this series, I'm going to poke fun at the highs and lows of being a football manager and a Villa fan. Starting back in July 2014, I'll manage Villa and stick at it until at least the end of my first season. Here's hoping I don't get sacked...

"Where should we finish this season, James?"

Randy Lerner sits opposite me. Tom Fox also, but he's messing around with his bluetooth headset. I smile, hands clasped together and lean forward.

"Europa League, no question. I can see us about sixth... maybe seventh?"

Score, the job is mine! They can't argue with that confidence. I bet Martin O'Neill and Paul Lambert looked like hostages in this room when they where interviewed. Not me. Not James Rushton. Randy Lerner answers:

"Cool, just don't get us relegated. See you around James!"

He pats me on the back and walks out. Tom Fox waddles behind him, thumbing his blackberry.

As soon as I get home, my inbox is flooded with transfer offers. One of them makes me jump from my seat.

"How much do you want for Andi Weimann? 7.5 Million?" - PSV Manager.

I spit my coffee across the room. Images of Weimann fumbling the ball, falling over, missing chances and fluffing shots come streaming back to my mind. 7.5 million for Weimann? I'll push them for ten! I type back thinking of all the attacking midfielders I can buy with 10 million. I could even get the albino saviour, Will Hughes! Get in.

"10 Million? Sod off, don't speak to me again." - PSV Manager.

My heart breaks. I delete the message I was about to send to Derby begging them for Will Hughes. A tear runs down my face as I contemplate just how out of my depth I am. I imagine Paul Lambert at home eating haggis and laughing at me as grease runs down his wobbling chin. After listening to Morrissey and watching Will Hughes highlights on youtube for the best part of three hours, I get another message. It's too good to be true.

"One Darren Bent plz. xoxox." - Burnley Manager.

I don't even look at the fee offered, I text Darren straight away, wishing him the best and telling him how much his service was appreciated at Villa. I don't even have to put the phone down.

"F**k off" - Darren Bent

Realising that the transfer fee offered for Bent won't get me Will Hughes, I phone up my faithful assistant Roy. Randy had said this Roy chap was a good bloke. I hadn't met him before, but of course, I had to take Randy on his word. Tom told me to get Roy to sort out the scouting and all that rubbish. I did that and without a reply, the scout team had flooded me with reports. This was my first time actually speaking with him, on the phone anyway. Ring Ring, Ring Ring.

"Hullo? Hullo?"

Oh. My. God. A thick Irish accent reverberates through the phone. My mind scans, Roy and Irish have triggered something deep within my mind, it's going off like an air raid siren in there.

"D'ya think this is funny Fergeh? I'll get you yet. I'l bleedin' get you."

Fergeh. Roy. Anger. Irish. There's a connection. My mind scans back into the early 00's and I shut down in horror, my mouth agape as I hang up on the angry Irishman. It's Roy Keane. I've angered Roy Keane. My eyes focus onto the small dog in front of me. A yorkshire terrier called Eddie.

Roy Keane is probably going to eat my dog.

I don't sleep that night and arrive at the airport the next day to travel with the team on their tour of the U.S. I've emailed Roy to ask him to take charge of these friendly matches, I can't let him recognise my voice. He's already signed Joel Campbell from Arsenal on-loan for the season, now I'll have to play him. I can't argue with Roy Keane.

The pre-season finishes without a hitch, well except for Ron Vlaar breaking something inside his body again. I head into the season without Vlaar or Benteke, who is still injured from the last season. Great. I'll have to play Weimann up front.

Funnily enough, the first time I met the team was in the team-talk before our first game to Swansea. I ignite the air with passionate words of encouragement, which is met by the wind blowing and crickets chirping. I applaud the team as they walk out. Roy Keane doesn't look impressed. I gulp. Could things get any worse?


Yes, yes they could.

Next time on 5.5 to Holte: James attempts to kick off in the dressing room, Villa chase a young Iraqi wunderkind and Fabian Delph doesn't sign a contract.