Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced: S8 Ep 4 – Massive Cup Final!

After a little break from this journey to take on my duties in The Far East Express, the joint save between a bunch of FM content creators – definitely worth checking out, we’re back with the Season Finale of our 8th year as a manager.

If you want a reminder of where we are coming into this episode then you can catch up on episode 3 here. Alternatively I will offer a summary… having managed to avoid relegation on the final day of last season after joining the club in February 2027, we got off to a much better start in my first full season, maintained that form relatively well and going into the last few months of the season we are sat in 8th place and still in the FA Cup at the 5th Round.

However unfortunately a ridiculous injury list of 13 players is threatening to curtail our season. Some youngsters have come in to support the squad from the U23’s and have actually performed superbly well, however they are not at the level needed for us to keep being competitive in the league and FA Cup so we need to get our senior members back and fit as soon as possible.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be back and I’m looking forward to ending this successful season and hopefully wrapping up a top half finish in the process. Welcome back ladies and gents, I hope you enjoy!

March 2028

March brought with it the always eagerly anticipated youth intake. I knew from the preview in December that we should have a decent goalkeeper coming through as he got a couple of mentions in the early assessment. There were also 2 attacking players who were mentioned a couple of times so hopefully there should be a few players to keep an eye on.

Overall not a bad intake at all. As expected there are 3 players who I think could go on to become first team players in the next 3-5 years, Solomon Odametey, Daniel Roberts & Dimitrios Bouzas, however the group behind those standouts are not bad youngsters at all and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them go on to have good careers either here or elsewhere in professional football.

Now back to the football, only a handful of fixtures in March. We start the month with a very difficult FA Cup 5th Round tie against Man City, before two interesting matches in the league at home against Everton before an away trip to Aston Villa. Let’s see how we got on:

Well… we have an FA Cup run on our hands! An incredible performance in the 5th Round meant we dispatched of Man City comfortably 3-0, with 2 late goals adding some gloss to the scoreline. The performances this month were of real quality, we got the only goal of the game early on against Everton but honestly it could have been 3 or 4 as we played them off the park.

Believe it or not we were even more relentless in an attacking sense in the game against Aston Villa, however they scored an early goal before we equalised halfway through the first half, and then it was a training exercise of attack vs defence for the remainder of the game, unfortunately we just couldn’t break them down to take the 3 points we deserved.

We then had the Quarter Final of the FA Cup to contend with away against Brighton, yet again the performance was of the highest level as we created chance after chance, we just needed a bit more quality at times to put the tie to bed. As it was it went all the way to penalties and after Ebere Eze missed our first spot kick I feared the worst, but thankfully an epic shootout followed with both sides scoring every kick except for Brighton’s 3rd & 8th which were saved. A trip to Wembley for the semi-final sparked wild celebrations amongst the players and fans!

The final 4 teams were Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester City & Liverpool. As you can imagine I wanted to avoid Chelsea & Liverpool who are both just absolute machines on my game.

Good. At least we can avoid the inevitable thrashing for now! Having said that Leicester beat us at home in the league 1-2 and we play them again at their ground only 6 days before the semi-final so it will be interesting to see how we perform against them ahead of the big match at Wembley.

Anyway let’s forget about the cup for a minute as we look at the league table at the end of March 2028:

Still sat in 8th place which is great, but it could go either way as the teams behind us are closing in on us yet equally the teams above are within touching distance. At this rate we could finish in Europe or drop out of the top 10 with so few games remaining, however if we were to finish where we are right now in 8th I would be happy considering it is a 9 place improvement from last season. Still plenty of football to be played though.

April 2028

A very busy month in April consisted of 6 league games as well as the FA Cup Semi Final. Can you imagine if we can secure a Europa League spot either through the league or even better by winning the FA Cup? Our first major trophy as a manager is only 180 minutes away. Come on then, let’s see how we got on:

We started the month with a visit from our old employers, who were going to be confirmed as the first team relegated any day now. Not nice to see them go down but it did make me feel a little justified in my decision to leave them towards the end of last season. The boys clearly showed no thoughts of sentiment as they ruthlessly dispatched of them with a hat-trick from Dark Stamatovic.

Up next was a trip to our fellow FA Cup Semi Finalists Leicester… it did not go well. They completed the double over us this season with a very good performance, well they were very good but we were also extremely poor and were lucky to get out of there at only 0-1.

I hoped to bounce back with a morale boosting win at home against Norwich but with only 3 days before the Semi Final I decided to rest the majority of the starting XI for that match, where squad depth due to injuries would allow. It didn’t look like it had any effect as we raced into a 3-0 lead in the first half, but in the 45+4 and then the 45+5 we conceded 2 goals, so what looked to be a very comfortable game suddenly became a very difficult one in the space of 60 seconds just before half time. Norwich came out motivated and managed to get the equaliser in the 68th minute. I think if we had played 5 more minutes we would have lost, but thankfully we managed to come away with a point in hand.

Up next was the hugely anticipated trip to Wembley, I was extremely concerned about the prospect of playing Leicester again, not only because they had done the double over us in the league, but because of the way they dispatched of us only 6 days prior. However we all know football is a funny old game and so it proved to be! We were 2-0 up after 16 minutes, and held on to that going into half-time. Unfortunately Leicester got one back in the 49th minute and my nerves were going. Thankfully we managed to hold on and Marcus Edwards put the tie to bed with a crucial goal in the 88th minute, which as you can imagine sparked scenes of absolute jubilation in the Wembley stadium. Crystal Palace are in the FA Cup Final!!

It was a fantastic achievement for a club like ours to get this far, but I knew regardless of who won the other Semi-Final that we would be up against it in the final. Chelsea are probably better than Liverpool but only marginally, however margins could make all the difference so I’m hoping we get the reds in the final…

Less than ideal. I mean even if we had Liverpool we would firmly be the underdogs but at least against them I felt like on the odd occasion we could come out on top, whereas Chelsea are just a different animal on my save. Nevertheless, we will go out and enjoy the occasion, it’s not often you get to experience the FA Cup Final under the arch at Wembley as a manager, particularly when you’d never even had a job until 8 seasons ago! So I don’t have a choice but to enjoy it.

Unfortunately the run in for the remainder of the season was the same to the one we had in December as we play all of the big boys, and that time around we lost every game without scoring a goal. As you can see from the above we already lost to Chelsea & Tottenham without scoring a goal, so with Man Utd & Liverpool to round off the season I think it’s fair to say we won’t be building any momentum heading into the cup final.

May 2028

Just the two league games before our FA Cup Final. I had zero expectation from any of the remaining matches so I was just hoping the other teams couldn’t take advantage and we managed to hold on to a respectable league position come the end of the season.

Man Utd only needed to win their last two games to confirm the title so I wasn’t expecting any change out of them, and my word they were awesome! Probably the best any team has ever played against me, we just couldn’t cope with them. However the performance against Liverpool at Anfield was much better, we still lost, but it was a much better effort from the boys. Like I said before, I feel that out of the big teams on my save, Liverpool & Man City are the ones I can occasionally give a game to, so I am disappointed not to be playing Liverpool in the final.

Anyway, with the league done and dusted, let’s see where we ended up:

Top half finish confirmed! A very respectable 8th place considering we were supposed to be fighting to avoid relegation again. I have some real talents here and if we can hold on to them and invest wisely, we could really be building a team that can challenge for the European places.

Right then, only one more match left to play. 90 minutes at Wembley. Yes we are the underdogs but in a one off football match anything can happen! Plus this could be the time we win our first Major Trophy as a football manager and secure a place in the Europa League next season in the process. Very simple team meeting to take charge of, I congratulated the boys on making it this far and told them that they should just go out and enjoy the occasion…

Enjoy it they did as they put on the best performance against Chelsea I have seen under my management. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Chelsea’s superior quality shone through, but with the chances we created I felt we were good value to take the game to extra time, it just wasn’t to be and we can only congratulate Chelsea and their mightily impressive squad.

A disappointing end to the season as we missed out on European qualification both through the league and the FA Cup, along with the FA Cup itself. However when you take a step back you realise we weren’t supposed to be anywhere near this position in the first place and quite frankly as a squad we’re not ready for Europe. So it’s time to get into the summer transfer window, recruit wisely, and hopefully establish Crystal Palace as a top 10 regular with European potential. Looking forward to next season already!

End of Season Updates & Interesting Facts

A couple of interesting facts & updates for you all at the end of the season. Starting with the transfer spend in the Premier League:

We are miles out in front as the most profitable team from transfers as we received £188m over the 2 transfer windows but only spent £105m, leaving us with £83m profit. No prizes for guessing which team were most out of pocket (hit the arrow to reveal).

I always like seeing information like this as it backs up my feeling that I always try to run the clubs I’m in charge of responsibly and sustainably. Another graph which shows this is the wages to turnover ratio of all the clubs in the league below:

As you can see we are the lowest spenders in relation to our revenue with only 25% going on players wages. Now this is probably slightly skewed this season as we have had the £83m profit from transfers shown previously, however as it is done as a percentage it still shows how responsible we are being whilst still achieving significant growth in competition performances and team quality.

This money was being invested wisely by the board with some encouragement from myself, which was shown as the upgrading of the youth facilities that I requested was completed at the end of the season.

However as the bank balance was sitting at a very healthy figure I decided to ask the board to build a new stadium in an attempt to increase our capacity which currently maxes out at 25,000, thus limiting our revenue stream from gate receipts. They initially declined to build a new stadium, but once they understood this was about increasing revenue they compromised and decided to expand.

A £32m investment is well worth it in the long run as the bigger stadium will increase our revenue and allow us to invest in the squad, facilities and just the club overall to allow us to become a more stable and successful club in the future.

The board also announced that we will ground share with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next season while the development work is undertaken. Exciting times!

End of Season Review

Please feel free to have a flick through if you would like to see the summary of this successful season. Marcus Edwards won Fans Player of The Season, which was fully deserved after he became an integral part of the team having started the season as second choice.

Signing of The Season & Young Player of The Season went to our Goalkeeper Milan Stojkovic, who was exceptional at times it has to be said. Another one of our signings from the Red Star dismantlement, Dark Stamatovic, finished as top scorer in a hugely impressive first season at right wing. Probably more unsurprisingly was the fact that Ebere Eze, who I can’t believe is still here, finished with the most assists.

See the full review below:

What’s Next?

Up next will be the start of Season 9 in this incredible challenge! Can we build on the great performance of the team this season and go on to secure European football next time around? Or does the impressive performances this season mean all the big clubs come to take my team apart? Or do they come calling for me? … guess you’ll have to find out in 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! Click here for the first ever episode or here for the latest one.

To check out The Far East Express series click here for the preview, here for the first episode and here for Season 3 (managed by me). I promise you it will be nothing like any other Football Manager Challenge you have seen before!

Thank you for reading and supporting us. As always please keep safe during these difficult times and we’ll see you again soon!

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