Welcome back ladies and gents. This is the big one, we have worked for 6.5 seasons to make it to the Premier League from absolutely nothing and now we have 3 months to make sure we stay there. If we succeed then I am convinced we have the opportunity to build something special here if we can have a bit of an overhaul in the summer, however if we fail and get relegated for the first time in our career I’m not convinced the board will stick with me to allow us the opportunity to rebuild.
It doesn’t need to be dressed up anymore than that. 10 games to save our premier league status. Trust me… you won’t believe how it ends!
Believe it or not, despite our precarious position in the league we were still going strong in the FA Cup and had a 4th round tie to contend with in March. If we made it through that there would be a quarter final to play as well! Only the 2 league games this month but as with every game remaining, both were absolutely crucial to our survival hopes.
Well… if only the FA Cup Crystal Palace would turn up in the bloody league! I wasn’t remotely bothered about the FA Cup and quite frankly just saw it as a distraction considering where we were in the league, so I rotated the entire starting XI for the game against Everton and everything was going as you would have expected, Everton dominating and cruising into the quarter-final.
That was until we were awarded a dubious penalty in the 86th minute which Carlos Vinicius actually missed before tucking away the rebound to make it 1-1. I thought to myself ‘fair enough, extra time will provide a few more minutes for the backup brigade’ – that was until Marcus Edwards stood over a free-kick only 2 minutes after the penalty and pinged it top bins. I went mad! I honestly couldn’t understand how this second string team had turned the game. But those 2 moments were all we needed and into the FA Cup Quarter Final we go!
As you can see we played the repeat fixture in the league only 3 days later and this time it was back to our strongest XI. The match was much more even this time around but we deserved the victory, that man Terem Moffi scored the only goal of the game. As I said last time, he is going to be crucial to any chance we have of staying in the league this year, I just know it.
Up next was an away trip to Newcastle who are managed by Sean Dyche and hunting a European place. Ahead of the match we were given a timely reminder of just how far we had come in this save as we reached 300 games in management.
It was always going to be tough but we played our own game and dominated possession, however in a typical Dyche team performance they defended well and ultimately hit us on the break in the 78th minute as we pushed forward for the winner. Absolute disaster to miss out on 1 point when you consider how close the teams at the bottom will be come the end of the season.
The final game of the month was against Liverpool in the FA Cup Quarter Final, again I really didn’t care what the outcome of this one was, I wanted to have full focus on the league. However the team didn’t have another league game for 2 weeks so I decided to play my first XI and see what happened… It’s fair to say I was not expecting a 4-1 win against the reigning league champions! It was an incredible performance by the boys and we’re into the Semi-Final. If only those 2 wins in the cup could have been league wins, but oh well a trip to Wembley will be a nice change of pace from this relegation dogfight.
How was the table looking at the end of March then?
Oh dear… West Ham won 3 games on the bounce in the league and were now nowhere to be seen having been 1 point behind me at the start of the month. Nightmare!! There was now a significant gap to the teams above, we do have a game in hand but the month of April is not kind to us in terms of the teams we play against as we go up against 4 of the top 8. This is not looking good…
It’s fair to say I am panicking at this point. The fantastic results in the FA Cup had clouded my judgement of how well things were going in the league, it was 1 win, 2 draws and 1 loss in the 4 league games I had been in charge. Don’t get me wrong if I had been here all season that ratio wouldn’t be bad going and we wouldn’t be in trouble now, but the fact of it is that I haven’t been here all season and time is running out. We would need to pull out some incredible results in April to have a chance of staying up.
I can’t swear on this blog but you can imagine there were more than a few expletives screamed in my office throughout this month. The results were as expected, no big performances to get us out of trouble, but certainly one collapse that might have made me the angriest I have ever been playing FM.
I’ll take you through, Tottenham played us off the park, a well deserved win for them but we were awful. We didn’t defend well and created absolutely nothing, got what we deserved. However the rage ensued away against Burnley, who were 8th as we went into this one, and I cannot fault the boys at all, they were brilliant. We more than deserved to win the game in my opinion but I was happy to take a draw, until this happened…
All I’ll say is that it is a miracle my desk is still standing as I went fully into 13-year old smashing xbox controllers mode. It’s a good thing I only blog and don’t stream otherwise that would have been a viral clip for the next ‘reacting to gamers rage’ video.
In all seriousness though I was gutted, we didn’t deserve it and it just felt like the game was setting us up to be relegated and make us regret our decision to leave Stoke. But that’s football, you win some you lose some, just have to dust yourself down and get on with it. Following that heartbreaking loss we welcomed Brighton to Selhurst Park, they were bottom of the league by some distance and this was either going to be a great opportunity to lift morale or if it went the other way, could be the result that completely finished the boys off mentally following that Burnley result.
I decided to try something different tactically for the game, I had by and large stuck to the same system all the way through my clubs and this was the first time I felt that this team were not gelling with it. We were leaking goals and not creating many chances so something had to change, what was the worst that would happen? We’re already on the edge of relegation so why not try something? Fortunately it came off and the media focused in on it.
I mean it was only Brighton and we may very well have won with the original tactic, but the performance was like night and day, we were excellent. So I decided I would stick to this new tactic until the end of the season and see what happened. Up next was the FA Cup Semi-Final against Wolves, who we then played in the league only a week later.
It might be the worst we have played under my management, which as you can imagine gave me cause for concern in relation to this new tactic, but I had made my decision now, it was this tactic for the rest of the season regardless of what happened. An extremely comfortable win for Wolves who progress on to the final against Newcastle, good luck to them! On a side note it was cool to know I had managed in a FA Cup game at Wembley. Anyway, we were knocked out and this now meant we had 5 games remaining in the league and I could give full focus to them.
There’s not much point analysing the next game too much, Man Utd are obviously a far superior team to us and played us off the park, another poor performance from the boys but it was still an awesome feeling to have managed a game at Old Trafford (even as an Arsenal fan), a stadium which holds so much history. We finished off the month with a trip to Wolves where we had the opportunity to avenge the FA Semi-Final result.
We didn’t do that but we did put in a much better performance and managed to get another point on the board which again, is crucial at this stage of the season. Just want to give a quick shoutout to Terem Moffi, the team has scored 7 goals in the league since my arrival and he’s got 6 of them! One man mission at the moment… speaking of our mission, you may be wondering how we are placed in the league with only 3 games to go?
Yeah even the most optimistic of Crystal Palace fans will probably accept that it isn’t looking good. Due to the goal difference, Bournemouth only needed 1 point from the final 3 games to guarantee survival, Sheffield Utd only 2 points and Southampton 3 points.
Realistically we needed a miracle… and to add to it all this was our final 3 games.
Keep in mind we probably need 3 wins to have any chance of survival and we are yet to win 3 games on the bounce all season. But what else can I do other than just get stuck in? I held a team meeting and told the boys that until it was mathematically impossible we had to keep fighting, focus on our own game and get the wins. The other stuff is out of our control, what we can do is control our level of performance. So come on then, one game at a time…
Fair enough. I mean it’s Chelsea, what are we meant to do? Not much point spending too much time on it, we just needed to know was that enough to confirm it?
Blimey. Things really haven’t gone our way elsewhere have they? Let’s keep in mind that West Ham were behind me on points at the end of the last episode, before winning 8 out of their last 9! They are now 10th… in other news Sheffield Utd & Southampton got the victories they needed and they were now safe, meaning the only team we even had a chance of catching was Bournemouth, who only needed 1 point from the final 2 games. But what did I say? All you can do is keep playing until that little ‘R’ appears next to our name, until that point we have a chance. Up next… Watford:
OHHH YESSS!! TEREM MOFFI YOU BEAUTY! WHAT A RESULT!
The boys refused to be beaten, twice coming from behind to level the scores at 2-2 and with the game going towards a draw, which would have confirmed our relegation to the Championship, Terem Moffi picks up the ball on the halfway line, goes past 3 Watford players before unleashing a 25 yard screamer with his wand of a left foot with the last kick of the game! You honestly couldn’t write the things that happen in this save.
But was it enough to keep us alive? Remember we still had Birmingham and Bournemouth above us heading into this game and the latter only needed a point to condemn both ourselves and Birmingham to relegation…
Oh not again. PLEASE NOT BIRMINGHAM HEARTACHE ON THE FINAL DAY AGAIN. PLEASE!!
More importantly though, we were still alive. Somehow in this ridiculous journey where we make the impossible a reality we had given ourselves the chance to do it again. The task was simple, beat Sheffield Utd and hope Bournemouth & Birmingham lose. Simple right?
This was the final set of fixtures for the season:
I mean on paper we actually had a real chance here. We were at home against Sheffield Utd who were only 4 points above us in 14th, meanwhile Bournemouth had to go to Old Trafford and get something, whilst Birmingham faced the in-form team in the league, West Ham.
Perhaps we should start with Bournemouth’s final day result to see if we even had a chance:
No surprises in this one as Man Utd took them apart. This meant that both us and Birmingham had a chance of staying up if we could get the wins. Worryingly, if both of us won it would come down to goal difference with only one goal separating the teams going into the final game. Come on then, let’s see how they did…
Never did I think when I took the job that the team I was trying to keep below me would be the ones to present me with the chance to remain in the division. I honestly can’t believe that despite being 5 points from safety with only 2 games remaining we now actually have fate in our own hands. Win, that’s all we needed to do, WIN.
Would I give this massive build up just to let you down right at the end? …
HOW? HOW DO WE KEEP ON DOING THIS?!?
This is genuinely the best journey I have ever had on FM and the twists and turns just keep getting more and more bizarre. I honestly cannot believe we have done it! Particularly in the fashion we did… I need a lie down.
Bournemouth took just 4 points from their final 7 games and none in the last 3 games to allow us the opportunity to come back from the death and send them down to the Championship. WE ARE STILL A PREMIER LEAGUE MANAGER!!
Just to confirm the results from the final 3 games of the season:
By this point I have ran out of words to express how much I love Terem Moffi, but incredibly despite almost single-handedly keeping us in the league, he came 2nd in the player of the month awards.
We then had a pretty unexpected award of our own come through the inbox as we were named Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Year! I mean I did manage 34 of the games and left the team 14 points clear at the top so I think it’s just about deserved.
For those of you wondering Stoke won the division comfortably with their current manager in real life, Michael O’Neill, returning to the club following my departure to carry on the good work. Aston Villa joined them in automatic promotion and Brentford won the play-offs. Meaning despite all of the cash they have thrown about in the 2 seasons we were in the division Leeds miss out on promotion yet again!
I might need a break after all this drama! No I’m only joking of course, who needs a break from Football Manager? Does such need exist? However there is a question for you all, it is not long until my turn in the The Far East Express series we are doing with other FM content creators.
So the choice is yours, would you like me to release Episode 1 of Season 8 showing my start to next seasons premier league season before taking a break from that save to do my turn in The Far East Express? Or would you rather me wait until I get my turn of that out of the way so you’re not waiting so long for an episode about this journey in between. I’m happy either way so let me know your thoughts below or on our Twitter.
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! Click here for the first ever episode or here for the latest one.
Thank you for reading and supporting us. As always please keep safe during these difficult times and we’ll see you again soon!