Here we go then. Championship football has arrived! Will we thrive and survive or become the league’s whipping boys? I’m praying that we just survive and avoid the drop this season. If I could keep Lincoln in the division and obtain my Continental Pro Licence I was confident we could attract a very reputable club in the near future.
As always, I try not to get ahead of myself. First things first we need to try to get points on the board and the first month of the new season (August 2025) would certainly provide us with the opportunity to do that with no less than 7 games in the league, as well as 2 Carabao Cup matches. I can tell you right now there is a big surprise in store for you – in more ways than one!
Right I know this is the one you’ve been waiting for so without further ado, let’s get into the season!!
Like I said it promised to be a busy month with 7 games in the league and 2 cup games in store for us. Would our commitment to being frugal in the transfer market even at this level continue to be successful or had we pushed it one level too far? Would the formation change prove a masterstroke or did it make us look like complete amateurs? There’s only one way to find out… actually play some football matches!
I promise you this is not photoshop, although I would understand you thinking that! Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would win 5 of our opening 7 league games at this level… WHAT A START!!
An incredible first game at this level had us 2-0 down at half time at home to Cardiff. You can imagine what was running through my mind at that time! I thought that maybe I should go easy on the players during the team talk as it may be quite a regular occurrence this season that we find ourselves trailing at the break. However I decided that if we were going to have any chance of staying up I needed to let the players know the performance produced in the first half was not acceptable so I didn’t hold back and told them that I expected to see a much better showing from them in the second half… well it certainly worked!
We turned the game around to lead 3-2, before being pegged back to 3-3, then an 84th minute goal from Josh Eppiah gave us an opening day victory (4-3). We followed that up with a more than deserved draw away at Huddersfield (1-1). Late winning goals were a feature of the opening months games as you will see, this time an 88th minute goal by that man Josh Eppiah gave us the 3 points against Preston (1-0).
I rotated the full 11 for the cup game against Morecambe and it looked to be a poor decision as we were ambling towards a bore 1-1 draw, that was until another late goal, this time by Layton Stewart, in the 87th minute secured the victory (2-1) and set up a 2nd round tie against Middlesbrough. Our return to league action brought with it an emphatic 4-1 win away at Birmingham, we were actually 3-0 up at half time and it was certainly our best performance of the season so far.
Up next was another away game, this time at Nottingham Forest – would you believe that yet ANOTHER late goal secured us the victory, this time an 89th minute screamer from Miguel Azeez (1-0). The 1-0 win’s kept coming and the game against Brentford was no different, however no late goal was needed this time around as a first half strike from Kian Pennent proved to be enough to take all the points (1-0).
A break from the league and into Carabao Cup 2nd round action against premier league side Middlesbrough, however it was not an enjoyable break as you can see. The game was 1-1 at half time and honestly I don’t quite understand how we ended up losing 5-1. They had 8 shots on target to our 6, I think it was just a case of the quality difference shining through in the end but I can’t say I was disappointed with how the boys performed.
Finally we rounded off the month with a 1-0 loss to promotion favourites Brighton. We more than held our own and they needed an own goal from one of my centre backs to come out on top. But honestly how could I be disappointed with our first month at this level? 7 games, 5 wins, 1 draw & 1 loss… I honestly couldn’t believe it.
The table below was after the first game in September (which we won – spoiler alert!).
HOW ARE WE DOING THIS?!?!
Eagle eyed viewers may have spotted that Leeds, after spending £102m in the summer and having the 3rd highest wage budget in the league, were unfortunately lingering down by the relegation places after the first month of the season. This was enough for the board to decide to sack Brendan Rodgers.
For some reason I decided to click on my managers profile and I could see the little ‘Wnt’ circle by my name. When I hovered over it said Leeds were interested in me – I decided not to apply for the position, if they wanted to speak to me then I would talk but I’m not usually the one to apply for another job without a real reason too, and with the start to the season we have had I was in no rush to jump ship!
September was a crazy month. Trust me! There were a chain of events that I have never seen in football before and doubt that we ever will see in real life. You’ll understand what I’m talking about in approximately 2 minutes…
As I ‘leaked’ with the table screenshot earlier, we started the month off with a great victory away to Barnsley, coming back from 2-1 down with 2 goals in 2 minutes to turn the game on it’s head and give us the win (3-2).
Straight after that game it was announced the Leeds had decided to hire Stoke’s manager Scott Parker. I wasn’t really bothered, they never offered me an interview and I never applied so I was delighted to keep going with Lincoln. However only a day after their new appointment I had a journalist ask me if I would be interested in the role at Stoke?
I rarely give anything away to the media in these situations so I said I wasn’t prepared to comment. I had the same thought as I did with the Leeds job, if they want to speak to me then they can approach me, but I wouldn’t be applying. I also then had the realisation that our next opponents were Stoke at home!
So I thought nothing more of it, just continued to bask in our 2nd place in the league glory. Then the day before we were due to play them they offered me an interview! I went along to speak to them, to be fair as you can see from the table above they were doing pretty well and were sitting in 9th place, so if they made an offer I would have to consider it.
Fortunately I didn’t need to think any more about it until after the match against them, or so I thought… 8:52am on the day of the game against them I am offered the job! Can you imagine that? I start the day as Lincoln manager and by the time kick off comes around I’m going up against them as manager of Stoke?!?!
If they had left it any later I could have just walked across the hall to the other dressing room before the match! I asked them to delay the offer for another week so I could just focus on the game.
Anyway back to the football. The game itself was quite a good game and my current team Lincoln made it 7 wins out of 9 so far in the championship with a close fought 2-1 win.
But as requested Stoke returned with another approach a week later. The potential of the club and the financial resource available was enticing, particularly the £45m transfer budget! Never did I think I would be playing around with that sort of money when I was asking players to play for free back in Llanelli Town days…
I really struggled to make a decision on this one to be honest. I was texting Scott (co-author of this blog) frantically trying to weigh up the pros and cons. Should I see if I could make it to the Premier League with Lincoln? Should I move abroad for my next job? Finally the most important one – what would you do? Scott said if it was him he would take it and that was my mind made up. Off to Stoke we go!
The club just wanted a top half finish but with the transfer budget we had and our good position in the league, plus the quality of the squad we had at our disposal, I felt that the play-offs should definitely be our aim for this season. However despite our good league position, secure financial position and good squad, the backroom team was all over the place!
I assume that they all left with Scott Parker but my first task was no doubt sorting this mess out! I think I did a fairly decent job – even bringing some of my old backroom staff from Lincoln.
DP-FM Tip – If you want to see how your backroom staff compares to the rest of the league go into the staff overview page and look at the bars along the bottom. If they’re yellow that means your staff are the best in the division at that particular aspect. If it’s green and you hover over the bar it will tell you what position in the league you rank for that coaching element. DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR STAFF! It can literally be the difference between you winning the league and being relegated.
Speaking of staff attributes, I thought this would be a good time to show you how my manager ratings have progressed during this journey. Below you will see 2 screenshots, the first is from when we created our manager and the second is from the day we took over at Stoke!
Right our new journey begins! Our first game is also the final game of September 2025 (yes we’re still only in September – there was a lot to get through!). We actually accepted the offer from Stoke the second time around at 14:15 – which meant we were in charge of our first match only 45 minutes later at home against Swansea. Tell me another time in football history where a manager has taken charge of a team only 45 minutes before kick off!
Anyway the game itself reflected the chaotic nature of the situation as I saw my new side go 2-0 up at half time, only to throw it all away and allow Swansea to get back into it and level the game at 2-2 in the 77th minute. However my good fortune with late goals followed me from my time with Lincoln and Kwame Poku scored his second of the game to get me off to a winning start (3-2). Forget ‘Fergie Time’ – we’ve got ‘Perrin Time’… thanks, came up with that myself.
That meant at the end of the month and after our first game with our new team the table looked like this:
Lincoln lost their first game without me and I was confident we could close the gap on the play-offs if the team could get on board with my tactics. Like I said before the media prediction for the season is 9th and the board only want a top half finish but my personal target is definitely to try to sneak into the play-offs… imagine we actually did it and got promoted to the Premier League? From an unemployed no one to going up against the likes of Manchester United & Liverpool in the same league in only 6 seasons… Stop – we’re a long way off of even dreaming about that.
Next time we try to get to grips with our new squad and get them on board with a new way of playing. We’ll be going through the months of October, November & December 2025 which includes fixture congestion like I have never seen before – honestly scandalous.
Can we get the boys on our side and have them firing us towards the play-offs? Or are things behind the scenes a lot worse than they first appeared which leads me to the realisation I have made an awful mistake? Find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Wednesday 17th 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/2021/02/07/bolton-back-to-europa-s4e1-early-inconsistences/
Thank you for reading and supporting us. As always please keep safe during these difficult times and we’ll see you again soon!