Another club and another episode! Just to recap the journey so far, we started unemployed without any qualifications or experience and lowered all our attributes just to make it harder. So far we have managed Llanelli Town to promotion from the JD Cymru South and Bala Town in the JD Cymru Premier in Wales, before taking Lincoln City from League One to the Championship, where following a great start to the season we were approached by Stoke and accepted their offer!
We’re still early in the season so there’s plenty of time to be in with an outside chance of making the play-offs, and we got off to a great start with a win in our first game in charge. However with the quality of the other teams in the league it would be tough to achieve play-offs this season but that’s the goal I set myself when I joined so we’re going to give it our best shot!
In this episode we will be going through the months of October, November and December 2025 ahead of a hectic January transfer window in the next episode. So without any further delay, let’s get into it and I hope you enjoy!
October brought 4 games in the league as well as a 4th round Carabao Cup tie against Hull. The league matches saw us go up against the two best squads in the division (Leeds & Aston Villa) away from home so I was concerned about how the team would cope… Let’s see!
A mediocre month in all honesty. We threw away a 2-0 half time lead at Elland Road to allow Leeds back into it and take a share of the points (2-2). The game at Villa Park was actually very close fought but Villa’s superior quality shone through in the end as they took their chances better than we did (0-2).
The team were short of confidence after the second half showing against Leeds and subsequent loss to Aston Villa, and it really showed against relegation candidates Blackpool as despite them being down to 10 men from the 53rd minute we struggled to keep hold of the ball or create much. Fortunately Kennedy (yes the one that used to play for Chelsea) scored the decisive goal in the 77th minute to give us a 1-0 win.
The game against Wigan was just as close in the scoreline but a completely different story in the performance. We dominated from start to finish but we left our shooting boots somewhere a long way from the Bet365 stadium! 20 shots and only 4 on target is just ridiculous, particularly when an expected goals ratio of 2.51 shows that they were good chances we were missing. Fortunately substitute Nicolas Schiappacasse scored a late winner to finish the game 2-1 and give us all 3 points.
I rotated my entire team for the Carabao Cup game against League One Hull. We were always in control of the game but just couldn’t find a way through, and with the lottery that is penalties anything can happen! Fortunately we made it through to the next round and set up a quarter-final against Watford… is an unlikely piece of silverware on the cards for us this season?
Following the late recovery in the month of October I was hoping we could keep our league form going in November. However it was going to be tough as we faced automatic promotion fighting Reading & West Ham, but with 5 games to play I was confident we could get enough wins under our belt to keep us in play-off contention.
Reading really let us know the level we need to be at if we want to go for promotion as they played us off the park, fortunately we managed to escape with a respectable 1-2 loss. However the next result hurt… it was farcical we lost that match against Millwall! Just look at the stats and tell me how we lost that game?!?
Anyway we’ll move swiftly on, just as the team did as they produced an incredible win over West Ham! It was an entertaining end-to-end game that we more than deserved to come out on top in. This was a really important win for us, it would have been very easy to lose 3 games on the bounce here but we responded brilliantly and got back to winnings ways (2-1).
8 goals scored in the 2 games remaining in the month showed how strong the performances were at the moment. The Bristol City game could have ended 4-4 to be honest but a 3-1 win will do nicely, before 4 goals from that man Kenedy gave us a 5-1 win over Blackburn.
Overall I was disappointed that we have lost 3 of our last 9 but the 5 wins should have been enough to keep us in touching distance of the play-offs. At the end of the month the table looked like this:
7 points from the play-offs… can we call that touching distance? I mean we’re closer to mid-table than we are the play-offs so probably not, but with how quickly things can change in this league you can never predict what is going to happen!
It had been a frustrating start with Stoke to be honest, it was all very Jekyll and Hyde! Some performances were exactly what I asked for; free-flowing football, chance after chance, commitment to play for the badge. Yet other times we just weren’t at the races at all.
I just think the team needs to understand what I want and to get used to the tactics. When you look at it objectively we have only lost to Aston Villa & Reading who are both serious contenders for automatic promotion, and the Millwall loss was just ridiculous! So overall I think we’re in a good position going into the month of December 2025.
Busy month this one as we wrap up the year with 7 league games and the Carabao Cup Quarter Final against Watford to contend with.
A strong start to the month saw us win 3 games in a row. 2 goals in the last 20 minutes from Kwame Poku gave us a 2-0 win at home against Ipswich. The game was over by half-time as we were 3-0 up against Cardiff at that point, with the game finishing 3-1. I rotated the whole lineup against Huddersfield with the upcoming Carabao Cup Quarter Final against Premier League side Watford in mind, despite all the changes the boys pulled through with a great performance and a 2-1 win.
The Carabao Cup tie was a great match! We didn’t deserve to go through as Watford were the better team but we certainly held our own. We were 2-0 down until the 87th minute when we pulled one back, I couldn’t believe that we then followed that up with a 93rd minute equaliser that looked destined to take us to extra time… only for Watford to score again in the 94th minute to take the game and progress to the semi-finals. It was a shame but I was proud of our run!
We then came from a goal down to Preston to win 2-1 which was certainly deserved. There were 3 games remaining in the month and those of you who look closely would have noticed that we 3 matches in 4 days... no really.
I MEAN COME ON! HOW IS THAT FAIR?!?
Not only had we been completely done over by a glitch in the game, but all of these matches were against teams who we were either trying to catch up with (Birmingham) or trying to get away from (Nottingham Forest & Brentford). It really was an impossible task!
The loss against Birmingham was frustrating as they scored a penalty in the first minute in a game of few chances and that was enough for the victory for them (0-1). That result I could take but the game against Nottingham Forest really annoyed me, as you can imagine I was already fuming to be forced to play a complete 2nd XI with only 24 hours until we kicked off against Brentford as well. Despite this we produced a great performance and if we had some of the quality from the first XI we would definitely had been in with a chance of the victory.
As it turned out the decision to rest the first XI was justified as we raced into a 3-0 lead over Brentford before the game finished 3-1. Overall I was pretty happy to have won 5 out of our 7 league games in December, but I was still annoyed that the game forced us to play 3 games in 4 days which ruined our chances of a perfect 7 wins from 7.
At the end of the month and the year the table looked like this…
Well that’s changed quickly! Now only 2 points from the play-offs and 9 points from the top of the table. If we can keep up our good run of form overall in the new year I’m confident we could make a late charge for the play-offs, but as this episode has shown, this league can change in the blink of an eye!
Next time we will be entering the new year of 2026 and taking you through the months of January & February. The January transfer window is a hectic one let me tell you that right now and there are some INCREDIBLE FA Cup Results… I honestly still can’t believe one of them actually happened.
So make sure you check back in to find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Saturday 20th February 2021.
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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/
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