Ok this is a BIG one! You may be able to guess from the title but oh my lord do we have an episode for you. You may remember from last time that we were flying over the winter months of December and January, with almost back-to-back perfect months in the league where we won 10 out of 11 games which left us 10 points clear at the top with only 15 games to go.
Today we will only be going through the month of February 2027 (you will see why we’re only doing 1 month shortly) and you may remember that February last season was when our play-off push really started to drift away as we suffered far too many draws which we ultimately paid the price for in the end. Hopefully this time around we can keep up our form and secure an automatic promotion place. If we let it slip from here we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
February promised to be another busy month with 6 league games to get through, including games against fellow promotion hopefuls Blackburn & Aston Villa, as well as a trip to our former employers Lincoln City. This is where it all went wrong last time, surely it cannot happen again…
As you can imagine the first game of the month being a draw brought all kinds of flashbacks from last season. In all fairness it was a scrappy game against Cardiff and a draw was probably the right result, but I was disappointed to concede in the 85th minute to throw away the 3 points (1-1).
Fortunately our January loan signing from Arsenal, Omari Hutchinson, was the match winner in both of our next games to get us back on track! Back-to-back 1-0 wins, first at home against mid-table Barnsley and then a crucial away win against Blackburn, a team who were on an incredible run in the league and were now looking more likely to gain promotion than not.
Now the mathematicians among you may have noticed that was only 3 games and I said there were 6 in February, and you would be right, but there is a good reason I have only shown you the first 3 games, because after the Blackburn game this happened…
There was all sorts of manager merry-go-round going on in the premier league. We recently had the moves of Alex Neil from Birmingham to Sheffield United and Chris Wilder went the other way. Well this time Danny Cowley, a legend of our former club Lincoln City, was sacked by Leicester City with the club only 2 points above the relegation zone with 12 games to go.
We were linked with the role but again I didn’t have any major desire to leave Stoke so I didn’t apply, but as usual if they offered an interview I would have gone along. They didn’t in the end, but they did approach Crystal Palace manager Eddie Howe, who has been with the club for just over 5 years! I thought it was an odd choice as Crystal Palace themselves were sitting in the relegation zone and massively underperforming, but maybe he was brought in for his philosophy rather than his performance.
Either way it provided us with an opportunity that again we didn’t apply for, but were offered an interview, went along, and got approached!
Now I honestly could not decide what to do. On the one hand, Crystal Palace were sitting in the relegation places in the premier league with a tough run in of fixtures. However it was close enough at the bottom that if we could put a run together we could easily get out of the relegation places and look for a strong finish. However looking at the Crystal Palace squad I wasn’t sure it was good enough to put a run together and if I left I could potentially be straight back down in the Championship next season.
On the other hand with Stoke we were flying at the top of the league in the Championship. 14 points clear with only 12 games to go so another league title to add to our trophy collection was a real possibility as well as promotion to the Premier League.
Honestly, Scott will back me up that I am not exaggerating when I say it took me days to decide this. So much so that I genuinely just stopped playing the game and decided to spend my time enhancing the game by downloading the badge, face & kit packs. I also downloaded the NewGan face installer for all the newgens in the game! It took a while but so worth it.
If you also want to download them they are completely free and have guidance documents on the sites. I have put links for you to find them below:
Badge Packs – https://www.tcmlogos.com/tcm21-logos-fm21/
Face Packs – https://df11faces.com/
Kit Packs – https://www.tcmlogos.com/fc12-kitpack/
NewGan Install Guide – https://youtu.be/pmdIkhfmY6w (This guy Zealand is one of the best FM content creators out there so check him out!)
In the end though I decided that this was it. The Premier League. The actual big time. The thing I could only dream of when we started this journey 7 seasons ago. I had to take it didn’t I? Plus it was something I hadn’t done yet on this save, take a team teetering on the edge of relegation and see if we could keep them up. It would be beyond tough, but we had to go for it… let me know if you think I made the right decision down in the comments below!
So it’s official.
10th October 2020 – Appointed Manager of Llanelli Town in the JD Cymru South.
16th February 2027 – Appointed Manager of Crystal Palace in the PREMIER LEAGUE!!
As you can see the club is massively underperforming against its predicted finish of 13th place by the media. There was still time to recover due to how close the league was, but looking at our remaining games it was going to be tough.
12 cup finals in reality! Only 3 of the games were against teams who were around us. The ties against West Ham, Brighton and Sheffield United were going to be pivotal, they were the only ones that you could really make an argument for us winning, but in a relegation dogfight anything can happen!
But before all of that, you know the drill by now. Let’s take a look at the backroom team:
Yikes! Not good at all, very few staff still on board and the ones remaining were not exactly of the calibre I was looking for. I don’t need to tell you what priority number one was…
We got it sorted pretty quickly, those who were not up to scratch quickly left the building and we got approval from the board to add more heads for us to fill. As you can see I went out and recruited a fantastic backroom team who are now within in the top 4 in the league across all areas, just what would be needed for long term success.
One of the frustrating things about taking over at a new club on Football Manager is that you can’t review the financial situation beforehand. It gives you a status (okay, secure, rich, etc) but I feel it would be beneficial to be able to actually delve into the numbers before you take charge. Having said that, how often do you hear managers say ‘I didn’t realise the full scale of the problem until I actually got the job’, so it does add that element of realism I guess.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the financial situation at Crystal Palace:
On first viewing it doesn’t look great. However a premier league club being £28m in the red is not anything to worry about, we don’t have any other debt from bank loans or anything so the prize and TV money should be enough to have us back to a ‘secure’ financial status pretty quickly. Unless of course the team suffers relegation and fails to keep the premier league status and the money that goes with it, then it becomes a problem. So we know what we need to do!
Premier League Football
The moment has arrived! Our journey that started from completely nothing was about to take us into the best ranked competition in the world. For those of you wondering the JD Cymru South was ranked as the 165th league in the world when I started there, and we are about to take charge of our first game in the best league in the world only 6.5 seasons later… I’m not crying, it’s just dusty in here.
Our first 2 games to finish the month of February were crucial games. An away trip to Southampton was our first game in Premier League football, televised as well, and although they sit in 10th place they are on 33 points so we could pull them back into the mix with a good result. Following that was our first home game in charge, and what a game it promised to be against West Ham, who were 1 point and 1 place below us with a game in hand. It was a must win game no doubt about it.
I set my team up with the 4-3-2-1 Vertical Tika-Taka formation I had used throughout my career (with the slight variation depending on personnel) all the way from the lower leagues of Welsh Football right the way through to leading the Championship. It had always done me well considering I’ve always managed a team of underdogs who’ve gone on and outperformed expectation almost every time.
So on the face of it that formation would continue to be a perfect fit with this group of players as not only were they underdogs given their current situation, but with the players we had it looked like it would suit the positions within the tactic perfectly. Our standout players were Marco Kana & Nohah Kenneh who could play CB, CDM or CM, Ebere Eze was still here but being heavily linked with Barcelona, but until the end of the season at least he would be crucial for us. Our final standout player is Terem Moffi, a striker who in real life is enjoying his first season in France with FC Lorient.
We had some other okay players but these were ones that I felt we could build the team around in the summer if we can stay up. Right then Premier League football, in the words of Delia Smith… LET’S BE HAVIN YOU!
Not a bad start. The team managed to hold on for a very good point away at Southampton, however it was disappointing not to take all 3 as we took the lead with only 25 minutes remaining and held on until the 83rd minute before they got an equaliser (1-1).
Up next was the must win game against West Ham, for me a win here would have really kickstarted our push for survival, it was effectively a 6 pointer. However it wasn’t to be, we were awful in the first half and were lucky to be all squared at 1-1 as we went into the break. The rollocking I gave them had the desired effect as we were much improved and arguably should have got the winner, but a draw is probably a fair result after that first half performance (1-1).
Overall not a bad start, disappointed as it could have very easily been 6 points on another occasion, but any points on the board is good at this stage. I did also tell you that Terem Moffi would be important for us and he proved me right by grabbing the equaliser in both games. However in both games the performances were not great, so I may need to look at trying out a different formation and tactic depending on how results go.
How did the league table look at the end of the month? Had we done enough to take us out of the relegation places?
Yes! For now anyway, I was slightly concerned that there looked to be a little gap opening up between the bottom 4 and the rest, so we needed to put some results on the board quickly to ensure that doesn’t happen. However having said that, if the table end like this then I will be delighted. We must stay in the division at all costs… wish me luck!
In the next episode we will get back to more of the focus being on the football. Apologies for the lack of that in this episode but hopefully you can understand why! It’s going to be incredibly tough to try and stay in the division but it’s a challenge I am looking forward to and trust me, you WILL NOT believe the ending to the season so make sure you stay tuned for the next episode.
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/2021/02/26/bolton-back-to-europa-s5e1-fast-starts/
Thank you for reading and supporting us. As always please keep safe during these difficult times and we’ll see you again soon!