Welcome back DP-FMer’s… does that work? Probably not. We move.
Last time you joined me in my first attempt at managing a professional club. All things considered we had a great start! Backroom staff recruitment, pre-season performances, incoming & outgoing transfers and first month in the league season all went much better than expected and we found ourselves in 5th place in the league at the end of August 2024.
But it was only one month and the real test of whether we had the managerial prowess to handle the step up was all to come, particularly once the schedule starts to become overloaded with 3 games a week almost every week between November & February… if we make it that far!
This episode will take you through the months of September, October & November 2024 – games start coming thick and fast in the latter month so let’s hope the squad is ready to fight for every game. Let’s get into it!
September looked like a promising month with 4 league games against sides who are predicted to finish lower-mid table, if we were going to have a successful season and reach my personal objective of a top 10 finish we would need to beating sides like these.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a great month in all honesty. We started with an entertaining game against Salford in the Papa John’s Trophy where we were 2-0 up at half time before Salford fought back to level the game (2-2). In the Papa John’s Trophy we go straight to penalties if the scores are tied after 90 mins and luckily on this occasion we came out on top.
A really dull game at home against Mansfield followed, it was a game of very few chances and my team produced a very poor performance. We still probably did enough to edge it but somehow Mansfield came out on top (1-2). The worst thing about the day was not the loss however, as one of our standout performers so far this season Tayo Edun (CM) suffered a broken leg that required specialist treatment and would rule him out for 7 months! This period of time was likely to lead to a dramatic reduction in ability and he could potentially never be the same player again, additionally it also left us short of quality in this position. Fortunately my scout was straight on the case and recommended a central midfielder who was 3.5 star rated and a free agent who could join immediately, so I moved fast and managed to secure the signing of Max Power in time for the next game.
The 0-0 draw against Plymouth was the complete opposite in terms of performance, it was wave after wave of attacking football from the boys, playing some really good football and creating chance after chance, but we just couldn’t get the bloody ball across the line! The away trip to MK Dons was a close fought game with very few chances. They took the lead in the 18th minute and we equalised with a goal in the 18th minute… that’s right, the only 2 goals in the game came within the same 60 seconds! If it was up to me I would have apologised to the fans who watched the other 92 minutes as this was a very drab match.
However the trip to Doncaster brought a return of the quick exciting attacking football I like to see! It was lovely to watch but as we approached the final 10 minutes of the game the score was still 0-0 and it felt like it was going to be a repeat of the frustrating game against Plymouth earlier in the month, that was until 3 goals in 8 minutes gave the score the gloss the performance deserved (3-0). At the end of an ultimately disappointing month the table looked like this…
Fortunately due to the great start to the season we had in August the results this month didn’t push us too far down the table. However with only 7 points separating us in 6th from the bottom of the table and the top of the table there would likely be plenty of change throughout the season.
5 league games in October. 3 at home. Real opportunity for us to put a string of results together and stay more towards the top half of the league.
A very pleasing start to the month saw us dominate a game at home against 3rd place Oxford. 3-0 up at half time it was just about managing the game in the second half and making sure we didn’t give them a sniff of a comeback, which we did very well by scoring a goal straight after the break and then controlling possession (4-0).
Up next was another Papa John’s Trophy group game, this time against Norwich Under 23s and another penalty shootout win! Mixed feelings on this one as we conceded a 91st minute equaliser which brought us to penalties in the first place so it was disappointing to only get 2 points when the 3 were so close, however realistically on the balance of play we should have lost by at least 2 goals so I would rather have 2 points than none!
A really odd game against Charlton followed where we somehow lost 3-0 despite having the much better chances and control of the game. Fair play to Charlton, they sat back and took their chances when they came around on the break, but I couldn’t be annoyed with the team as we performed pretty well. Fortunately we bounced straight back with a 4-1 win against Swindon. I felt the teams level of performance was starting to become more consistent this month, even if there were the odd poor result (Charlton), the performances were never bad and we still played good football and created chances.
November had 7 games packed in as the schedule started to look busier and busier. I was concerned whether we had the squad depth to be able to cope from now until the fixture congestion eased in February, but I guess only time will tell.
Well we certainly coped with it during November! Unbeaten for the month and winning 6 out of 7 games. The first game against Hull was televised and the boys did enough to secure a 2-0 win. Following that result the table looked like this:
Incredibly with just under a third of the season gone we were sitting in the automatic promotion places! Honestly I don’t understand how, some of the squads in this league are incredible compared to ours. Take Sheffield Wednesday for example, they have some regens that could easily be playing for premier league sides yet they find themselves second bottom!
However we seem to have stumbled across something special with this group of lads, we’re supposed to be languishing around 16th but the new signings have bonded really well and are producing some great performances and results. As I said before we’ll keep our feet on the ground and just take each game as it comes as there’s still so much of the season to play out, but it’s looking like our personal objective of finishing in the top 10 should be achievable.
Anyway back to the football, the rest of the matches in November saw us win 4-1 away at Accrington Stanley (who are they?) in the league before an entertaining 5-3 win in the FA Cup First Round against Carlisle. We were back at Accrington’s Wham Stadium for a Papa John’s Trophy Group game, an eventful opening 5 minutes meant we went 1-0 up and then had a man sent off! A tactical shuffle followed and we managed to defend well and score another goal halfway through the second half to give us the 2-0 win.
Max Power scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot in the 2-0 win at home against Portsmouth before a frustrating draw (1-1) away at Salford ruined the prospect of a perfect month! That one tiny yellow dot amongst the sea of green still annoys me. Fortunately I wasn’t down for long as we cruised through the FA Cup Second Round by beating Forest Green Rovers of League Two 3-0.
At the end of the month we were still 2nd in the league 7 points behind Tony Pulis’ Ipswich Town after 18 games. A great first 4 months in professional management!
Next time I will be taking you through the busy winter months of December 2024 & January 2025 where there are no less than 17 games in all competitions! This would be a real test for our squad and once you’re out the other end of this period you really start to get an idea of what might be possible this season. We also have the January transfer window to contend with so make sure you come along for the ride!
During this busy period teams can go from relegation candidates to title challengers and equally from promotion hopefuls to mid-table mediocrity in the blink of an eye. Managers can go from being linked with big championship clubs to out of the job in a matter of weeks… but when the games are coming thick and fast that is my favourite time to capitalise and build some momentum.
Join us and see how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Friday 5th February 2021.
Don’t forget you can subscribe below to have updates sent directly to your email so you know as soon as an episode is released! As always if you have any thoughts, tips or feedback leave them in the comments below or get in touch with us through our contact page or social media (Twitter @DP_FM_) – we’d love to hear from you! If you’re enjoying then make sure you like this post and share with others from the FM Community.
While you’re here on DP-FM if you want to follow more challenges go over to Scott’s (the co-author of this site) challenge where he is on a journey to rebuild Bolton Wanderers and take them on a Europa League run!
To read from the start click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/bolton-back-to-europa-s1e1/
Or to follow from the current season click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/01/26/bolton-back-to-europa-s3e1-calmness-is-key/
Thank you for reading and supporting us, as always please keep safe and we’ll see you again soon!