Kenna season three: The Titus Bramble ruling born

LITTLE did they know it at the time, but Kenna managers attending the third auction on Wednesday 8 August 2007 were marking the end of a era.

The following day (Thursday 9 August 2007) was some years later pinpointed as the official start of the global economic decline.

For the Kenna, the night before in the Black Horse, Fitzrovia, marked the introduction of another phenomenon which similarly came to dominate headlines for years to come – the Titus Bramble ruling.

An awry auction decision by the Titans manager (now in charge of Young Boys) led to defender Daniel Agger being removed by league regulations and replaced with Bramble.

The chairman suffered a double Bramble blow. Discovering the inclusion of two illegal players after the auction led to much wrangling between managers over email in the following days. Eventually managers decided Robbie Savage and Lee ‘The Lazy Genius’ Dong-Gook should find their way into the Vasco De Beauvoir starting line up.

With just a few hours left to slosh around before the crunch, most money at the auction found its way to Wayne Rooney.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Dider Drogba, the driving force behind FC Gun Show’s title the previous season, also attracted high fees.

Most expensive summer signings

1 W Rooney £37.5m Onward Christian Soldiers
2 C Ronaldo £34m Fat Ladies
3= D Berbatov £33m FC Gun Show
3= S Gerrard £33m Dynamo Temple
5 D Drogba £30 Fat Ladies

Story of the season

Despite being shackled by the Titus Bramble ruling, Titans made the early running. Joint top after the first week, by the second week Bramble accounted for a fifth of the team’s score. They collected the August Manager of the Month award.

Spearheaded by Dimitar Berbatov, FC Gun Show initially defended their title well.

The first transfer window in November, also held in the Black Horse, was to prove pivotal to Fat Ladies.

Second to last and struggling for the first few weeks of the season, the Fat Ladies manager rung the changes. Yakubu and Emmanuel Eboue were among the new recruits, and in less than a month their handsome form saw Fat Ladies top of the table.

By the New Year, Berbatov had helped FC Gun Show top. By February Barking Hackney’s summer signing of Elano and November signing of free agent Emmanuel Adebayor saw him collect January’s Manager of the Month award. Barking posted a record score of 237, which would stand for another four seasons.

With David Bentley leading the charge at Recreativo Brockley, the chairman was moved to write in the wake of the February transfer window:

“Like a game of Hungry Hippos, the dispute for the title looks likely to be set from four corners, each manager furiously bashing away, balls flying everywhere.”

The spring saw the four sides battling it out, taking it in turns at the top. Occasionally the Kenna’s first female manager, in her second season this time in charge of Volzmanian Devils, dipped into the fray.

In mid table, the biggest splash was being made by Onward Christian Soldiers (the manager is now in charge of Pikey Scum).

The God Squad, as they came to be known for the religious overtones of signing Linvoy Primus in defence, picked up February’s Manager of the Month award. Outstanding performances from most-expensive signing Rooney, Benni McCarthy and Cesc Fabregas earned them a place in the Canesten Combi Cup final.

A stellar performance from Stewart Downing crowned the God Squad cup winners in May, the manager’s first and only piece of domestic silverware to date.

Making his Kenna debut, the manager of The Trinny Men would later become league treasurer. Nevertheless, it was not a performance to treasure for the future bean Kenna HQ bean counter, who went into hibernation for three seasons after finishing last.

In the title race, despite posting a worst-ever weekly score of minus six on 20 February, Fat Ladies bounced back to reclaim the top spot by the end of March with seven goals in one week (a hat-trick apiece from Ronaldo and Drogba, and one from The Yak).

FC Gun Show made a decent show of defending their title to the hilt, but with a May Manager of the Month performance Fat Ladies prevailed.

When it came to the crunch, for the second title race in a row Ronaldo and Drogba had proved decisive.

Final league table and form guide

2007-08 table
2007/08 Jeff Kenna League table – final standings

The Rub 2007-08

Highest scorers

1 C Ronaldo 284 £34m Fat Ladies
2 F Torres 204 £22m Thieving Magpies
3 D Berbatov 200 £33m FC Gun Show
4 S Gerrard 197 £33m Dynamo Temple
5 C Tevez 175 £27.5m The Trinny Men
6 R Keane 172 £10m Titus’ Titans
7 A Young 161 £8m Titus’ Titans
8 D James 158 £9m Recreativo Brockley
9 C Fabregas 157 £16.5m Onward Christian Soldiers
10 S Downing 151 £9m Onward Christian Soldiers
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Kenna season two: Enter Ronaldo

Rooney sent off 2006
The day English World Cup delusion died

FOR MANY Englishmen the Germany 2006 World Cup was a rude awakening.

In the build up to the tournament expectancy filled the air, and the airwaves. Everyone was telling us that this was England’s chance. The Golden Generation.

“Look at our players. Just look! They’re all playing for top clubs reaching the latter stages of the Champions League.”

“They’ve knighted Geoff Hurst! This must be an omen, because he beat the Germans in an era we can’t remember and from which we’ve never watched a full game, just the same clips over and over again.”

“All the World Cup winners since 1966 form a mathematical sequence that is completed only if England win in Germany. I’m not saying it’s in the bag, but by thunder it’s our best chance for years!”

Such were the sentiments fanning the flames of hope.

As with any tournament it all ended with tears for the English, and that was the moment most Kenna managers should have realised that no matter how many ‘years of hurt’ they’d undergone mediocrity should just be accepted.

Looking back now, the 90s – two semi-final finishes and a roller coaster of a game against Argentina in Massif Central – were the pinnacle of England’s international endeavour since lifting the Jules Rimet, but as managers assembled in the One Tun near Goodge Street tube station for the 2006-07 season’s auction in early August, the memory of that Madeirense eyelid movement on a field in the Ruhr still cut deep.

Most expensive summer signings

1 T Henry £36.5m Tourette’s Allstars
2 A Shevchenko £35.5m Tourette’s Allstars
3 W Rooney £34m Fat Ladies
4 S Gerrard £29m Thieving Magpies
5 J Terry £28.5m Fat Ladies

The auction became a morality play. Footballers were merited on their performance in Germany rather than their week-in, week-out trade at club level.

Widely vilified for failing to find the net in the World Cup, Frank Lampard went for a paltry £18m to Thieving Magpies despite being one of the domestic game’s top performers the season previous.

On his Kenna debut the FC Gun Show manager, noted for his pragmatism, loose morals and Hackett socks, cleaned up.

As he bought diving Drogba for £5m, Berbatov for £18m and the anti-christ himself Cristiano Ronaldo for £22m, the rest of the league guffawed at the folly.

Story of the season – (see the Rub for the season)

Manager of the Month 2006-07
Green: Manager of the Month, Red: Turkey of the Month

The Portuguese went on to enjoy a three-season reign of majestic dominance in the Kenna, and helped FC Gun Show become the second ever manager to win the league.

His three star players aside, only one other of the FC Gun Show manager’s original eleven chalked up over 100 points – Stewart Downing.

Thieving Magpies came second, although at the time their inability to do better was touted as further evidence that Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard can’t ‘dovetail’ in midfield.

Defending champions Vasco De Beauvoir could only muster third place, but were consoled by winning the inaugural Canesten Combi Cup competition, beating 120 Checkout in the final by 34 points to 19.

The Kenna’s first ever female manager bumped right into the glass ceiling. Building a team around Ricardo Vaz Te was held at fault, rather than gender issues.

Every manager learnt two important lessons that August night in Fitzrovia: no one wins the Kenna buying players they like and the One Tun is not a good auction venue.

They also discovered that the Kidderminster Harriers squad possessed more Premier League winners medals (one) than the Liverpool squad. And so the Stuart Watkiss League was renamed to become the Jeff Kenna.

Final league table

Kenna League - final standings 2006-07
Kenna League – final standings 2006-07

Highest scorers

1 C Ronaldo 247 £22m FC Gun Show
2 W Rooney 236 £34m Fat Ladies
3 F Lampard 215 £18m Thieving Magpies
4 D Berbatov 211 £18m FC Gun Show
5 D Drogba 199 £5m FC Gun Show
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Year Zero

Griffin statue
The Kenna was founded as the Fleet Street Fantasy Football League

LONDON: Wednesday 3 August 2005. Uncertain times.

  • The Piccadilly line reopened after the London Bombings 26 days previous had rocked the capital like never before (or at least until the pubs opened).
  • Despite bowling the Australians out by tea on the first day at Lord’s, the England cricket team had gone 1-0 down in the series. On the eve of the second test at Edgbaston the question on everyone’s lips was whether they could win the Ashes back after 17 years.
  • Edgar Davids joined Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer from Inter Milan.

In the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, a group of eight distinguished gentlemen congregated at a pub near the site of the original Temple Bar, on the westernmost border of the City of London. Onlookers would have regarded these souls as unremarkable, but over the next four hours they went on to found what will be known in years to come as one of the capital’s most enduring institutions.

Under the auspices of the ‘Fleet Street Fantasy Football League’, this group of pioneers shed the tyranny of mass media fantasy competitions, of whose corporate wiles they’d all grown weary and disaffected, and created a pure format of the game, auctioning off top-level footballers over pints of Belgian Lager and branded ashtrays.

Little did they know, that 39 competitive weeks, two league name changes and one transfer window later, the Barry Norgrove Football League has all but come to the end of its first season; an emotional rollercoster of blood, sweat and avant-garde banter that will be remembered more fondly by history than the day Stanley rumbled Dr Livingstone interfering with the natives.

Four of those early tacticians are still managing teams in the Kenna this season. Over the years others have come and gone, left and stayed, but the central tenets of those events eight years ago still remain at the heart of the league: one of the managers can win and they don’t have to spend every Friday lunchtime making transfers and picking a bloody captain.

In the first of series of rose-tinted reviews, the Kenna will look back at it’s roots and those previous seasons. Most expensive summer signings, manager of the month charts, top points scorers and, of course, the final table will be featured.

Most expensive summer signings

Player Team Value Points scored
1 T Henry Stockwell Stockwell £29.5m 274
2 W Rooney Thieving Magpies £28m 245
3 F Lampard Thieving Magpies £27m 203
4 S Gerrard Barking Hoxton £26m 230
5 H Crespo Park Ji Sung’s Allstars £20.5m 107
6 J Defoe Dynamo Stockwell £20 54
7 C Ronaldo Bashers FC £18.5m 101
8 J Terry Vasco De Beauvoir £18m 182
9= R van Nistelrooy Bashers FC £17.5m 176
9= R Ferdinand Fat Ladies £17.5m 83

As experimental as the first prototype of a homemade chastity belt, the initial auction rules were not the honed article of today. The customary £100m budget was established, but managers were able to pick two players from each Premier League outfit.

With only eight managers and a wealth of talent, even the most sought after players didn’t reach £30m. At 18, Wayne Rooney was already a prized asset. Stevie Gerrard and Frank Lampard would also go on to dominate shopping lists.

A certain Czech West Ham defender quickly become synonymous with being the type of player no one wanted to buy, but back in those chivalrous days the Titus Bramble ruling wasn’t even a twinkle in Tomas Repka’s eye.

A full list of teams bought that night can be viewed here.

Story of the season

MOTM awards 2005-06
Green = Manager of the Month, Red = Turkey of the Month

Thanks to a stingy back five of Paul Robinson, Steve Finnan, Kolo Toure, John Terry and Wes Brown, Vasco De Beauvoir dominated the league from September and were hard to catch from there, picking up five MOTM awards and becoming champions.

Stevie G and The Yak spurred on a spring assault for Barking Hoxton, who made second place their own for a large part of the season and finished there.

The Dynamo Stockwell manager did not enjoy the best of debuts. With a midfield built around Stelios Giannakopoulos, Dynamo’s pre-season prediction of a mid-table finish was woefully over ambitious. They came last.

Final league table

Norgrove table 05-06
Barry Norgrove table – final standings

The top five individual performers have largely remained popular signings throughout the league’s history. As he would continue to do over the next few years, The Yak crept onto the high scoring charts.

The surprises were Vasco’s Steve Finnan and £500k Darius Vassell. They would both go on to discover, much to the detriment of future managers, this was the pinnacle of their careers.

Highest scorers

Player Team Value Points scored
1 T Henry Stockwell Stockwell £29.5m 274
2 W Rooney Thieving Magpies £28m 245
3 S Gerrard Barking Hoxton £26m 230
4 F Lampard Thieving Magpies £27m 203
5 J Terry Vasco De Beauvoir £18m 182
6 The Yak Barking Hoxton £7m 180
7 R van Nistlerooy Bashers FC £17.5m 176
8 J Riise Fat Ladies £10.5m 164
9 S Finnan Vasco De Beauvoir £8.5m 155
10 D Vassell Vasco De Beauvoir £0.5m 150

 How the league administration summed up the season:

“So there you have it. Vasco are champions of the inaugural Barry Norgrove Football League. They’ve led since Week 3, and apart from a period when Mr Robben was at his most theatrical, haven’t looked like slipping. “I think I’ll have a tumbler of pink gin tonight to celebrate,” exclaimed the ever-inebriated Vasco manager. “The boys have done good, and now I can spend the next couple of months immersed in blackjack and hookers.
“Barking Hoxton put up a spirited final stand, with the redoubtable Stevie G saving the final yet again. The much-jostled for third spot finally falls to those winged kleptomaniacs, so it’s Europe for them and Dio-calm for the Allstars. Despite a late spurt from the Fat Ladies (what an image) they remain in fifth spot. Stockwell Stockwell (Henry top scored the entire league) and Bashers (who posted the lowest weekly score of the season of -6) will recharge to fight again next season.
“And finally Dynamo Stockwell. What can one say? Hapless? They aimed for mid-table and failed to fulfill their mediocre ambitions. Only time will tell if they’ve historically posted the worst score ever in the Norgrove, but with more transfer windows promised for next season one would conjecture that only the Black Cats could do worse. One would also think that the manager has taken a long hard look in the mirror, contemplating leaving the gas on for a split second, and is now preparing himself for the muckiest of pints at the awards evening.”
The Dyanmo manager never did drink that mucky pint.
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