Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced: S9 Ep 2 – Going to Another Level

Following the #socialmediaboycott over the bank holiday weekend, something which we are fully in support of here at DP-FM (seriously don’t be ignorant – listen, learn, educate both yourself & others and be pro-active in making the abuse online stop… it has to), we are back with our second episode of season 9 as we go through the months of September, October & November 2028.

Last time out I updated you on another hectic transfer window, regular readers will know every transfer window is a hectic one in this save! We discussed the aims for the season ahead and despite the media and bookies thinking a mid table finish should be our aim, we have set our sights a little higher than that and want to achieve a Europa League place for next season. We had an unbeaten first month of the season to kick off our quest for European football in the best way possible, but the months ahead would no doubt provide us with much sterner tests.

Takeover rumours were circulating around the club in last episode as well and something tells me there may be some truth in it after all… as always I hope you enjoy the read and had a great bank holiday weekend. Let’s get into it!

September 2028

I started off September 2028 in the board room, not in trouble or anything but instead as a result of making multiple requests that were rejected, but deciding not to take no for an answer and using my powers of persuasion to move the club forward.

Actually our first request was granted immediately no questions asked. I wanted to improve the youth facilities at the club and the board were in agreement so sanctioned a £4m investment for construction to go ahead at the end of the season. Ignore the completion date, pretty sure the game just glitched, either that or the builders are mighty impressive in completing the work 3 months before it started…

I followed that up with another request in a similar vein. I wanted to upgrade our youth recruitment networking budget to move from Excellent to Exceptional status however the board were not in agreement, I have no idea why they kicked up a fuss with this considering the agreed investment into the facilities above.

However I went in for a meeting and thankfully they came round to my way of thinking. With both the above and eventual agreement below I feel our academy is starting to reach the levels to be able to compete with the big boys in this league. There is still work to be done of course but little by little we are moving this club forward.

I didn’t want the senior players to feel like they were being neglected so I went in with another request (my last before the board cut me off for a few weeks), this time to improve the training facilities for our first team squad. Fortunately there were no arguments with this and a £2.5m investment was made to start construction alongside the youth facilities work in the summer. Again ignore the completion date, pretty sure it means in February 2030.

Overall though this is a fantastic sign from the board that they are willing to take the club forward. With the stadium expansion, the upgrades to this sort of infrastructure and the number of high potential youngsters we have brought in I can really see Crystal Palace going to the next level on this game regardless of whether I’m at the helm or not.

Right with the club updates done it’s back to the football. 3 league games this month as well as a Carabao Cup tie against Salford. The league games would be tough as we had 2 away trips followed by a home game against Chelsea who are just insane on this game… wish me luck!

The perfect month!! A rare site in any football manager save. We started it all off with a poor game against Watford, this one had nil-nil written all over it but thankfully the one piece of pure quality came from my side, and more specifically from Ebere Eze, as it often does. However it’s not often he scores a header, let a lone one that lobs the keeper from the edge of the area before hitting the bar and going in… absolute worldie of a header! Defence & Keeper were in top form to keep us in front and thankfully that was enough for all 3 points (1-0).

We were better against Norwich, but it was still not a great performance as the team were struggling to reach top gear. However you can’t complain when you’re winning! We went 0-1 down courtesy of an own goal by Marco Kana and that scoreline remained into half-time. I told the boys I expected much more from them in the second half and they delivered, with this journeys record signings Darko Kelava carrying on his fine start to life here as he bagged the equaliser. Both sides had chances but thankfully Ivan Rakic (RW/ST) came off the bench to complete the turnaround and net the all important winner in the 77th minute (2-1).

I thought following the fine start to the season we were having with the 1st XI, who had won 5 out of 6 at this point and were still unbeaten in the league I should carry on utilising the second XI in the Carabao Cup, particularly with our first big test of the season against Chelsea on the horizon. However it very nearly bit me in the backside as we had to wait until virtually the last kick of the game as forgotten man Terem Moffi came off the bench to score the winner and put us through to the 4th round.

With Bristol Rovers and Salford now out of the way I was hoping we could get another favourable draw in the next round so I could keep using my second string XI to keep the first picks fresh for our league campaign. Unfortunately the name out of the hat was one of the biggest tickets in the competition:

Manchester United are a side who I have yet to beat on this save, and with good reason as their squad is just full of the cherry-picked very best players on the game. Plus as they are the reigning champions of the Premier League I do not hold much expectation up against them, but it is the cup and anything can happen!

Our final game of the month was the televised Saturday early kick-off against Chelsea at home. Although at the moment we are sharing Stamford Bridge whilst ours undergoes the expansion construction so it would have felt more like home for them than it would for us. You wouldn’t of known it though as we produced one of the best performances of my reign to beat this absolute robot of a team 2-0! Sergio Quezada (RB), the summer signing from Stoke (where I had bought him in the first place) scored an absolute thunderbolt not long after the half-time break to put us into the lead, before he got credited with an assist for Ebere Eze’s ridiculous goal only 5 minutes later, it was hit from all of the 30 yards to put us in dreamland!

Our goalkeeper, Martin Perez, had to be in fine form yet again to keep us in the lead as he produced 4 incredible saves, including one from the penalty spot, on his way to a man of the match performance that set us on our way to 3 points (2-0).

Perez has been in fine form this season but this month in particular belonged to Sergio Quezada. With 3 goal contributions in 3 games from right back, with 2 clean sheets as well, he was deservedly awarded young player of the month.

As a lot of you readers will know, me and Sergio go way back as I was the first manager to bring him to the english game and as a result I became a favourite of his, and him a favourite of mine. He dedicated his award to me and although I know he will go on to play for some of the biggest teams in world football, he is still humble and one of the first names on the team sheet for Crystal Palace right now.

The praise for us didn’t stop just there however as we came runner up to Jurgen Klopp (now at Man City) in the Manager of the Month awards. Considering we beat a massive side like Chelsea and they won games they would be expected to win I was pretty disappointed we didn’t come out on top considering we were level on points, but who cares, the teams results are the most important thing.

Speaking of team results, that win against Chelsea made it 7 unbeaten in the league so far with 6 wins and 1 draw, which is a fantastic start! So how did that leave us in the league at the end of the month?

Ooohooo! Level on points at the top with the reigning champions! Would have bit your hand off for that come the end of September at the start of the season. However I would calm ourselves regarding a title or even champions league qualification challenge for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’re only 7 games in so there’s plenty of football to be played, and secondly, we have only faced one real proper challenge in Chelsea so far. The other games have been against either newly promoted sides or teams that finished in the bottom half of the table last time round.

So I’m happy with the start, I mean beyond happy, but I’m still cautious as we are going to face a run of matches against much better teams in the coming months.

October 2028

Speaking of much better teams, October brought 4 league games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City & Wolves, and our Carabao Cup 4th round tie against Manchester Untied. So it’s very possible we go from a perfect month of results in September to a nightmare month of losing every game in October. Again… wish me luck!

Not the ‘perfect nightmare’ month but not far off of it. We started the month with a trip to Anfield where we were completely outplayed and almost out of the tie after 14 minutes as we were 0-2 down. Linkyel scored an incredible freekick to get us back in it on the scoreline at least, but in reality we never got close to them, they are just a different class to us but one which we’re trying to close. Linkyel did at least get the recognition he deserved for his strike as it won goal of the month!

Up next was an extremely frustrating game against Arsenal. We welcomed them to our temporary home of Stamford Bridge where they have an awful record (trust me, as an Arsenal fan this gives me no pleasure writing this) so I was hoping this might unsettle them for us to pull off a result. We played exceptionally well, matching them in every area and twice took the lead. That was the most frustrating thing, 6 minutes after we went 1-0 up we gave away a sloppy goal to make it 1-1, then again 4 minutes after we went 2-1 up we let them back in at 2-2. We just couldn’t keep the concentration for long enough periods to regain control of the tie and it finished as a draw (2-2), not a bad result but it felt like a winnable game on the day.

The game against Man City was an odd one, we actually played well, but they were on another planet with the attacking football and came away deserved winners (0-2). Unfortunately there was far more concerning news waiting for me in my inbox…

Our star man Ebere Eze pulled up chasing the ball during the game against Man City, I thought he might be out for 3 weeks with a hamstring injury but unfortunately it was much worse than that as he actually injured his hip. No expense is spared with my players and he was sent straight to see a specialist, but unfortunately we will not see him play again in 2028.

However there was no time to get down in the dumps about losing Eze as we faced a huge 4th round Carabao Cup tie at Old Trafford. I decided to half rotate my squad, as it was only 3 days after the City game I played those who were fit to play, any who were showing signs of fatigue were taken out of the squad to avoid another Ebere Eze incident.

The changes only seemed to galvanise the team as we went 2-0 up before half time! I was in absolute dreamland as United had barely put a finger on us and all we needed to do was to see it out to make it into the Quarter Final. Unfortunately United rallied in the second half and got an early goal not long after the break to bring them back into the tie. We held on with some brilliant defending and even had chances of our own to finish the game once and for all but just couldn’t take them, then in the 94th minute, with practically the last kick of normal time Mason Greenwood levelled it at 2-2. I was devastated.

Fortunately the Carabao Cup games go straight to penalties, I think if it had gone to extra time we would have had no chance as the momentum was completely with United in the tie. However thankfully it went to penalties and despite some great penalties, Martin Perez saved Manchester United’s 6th penalty and we were through 6-5!

The games don’t get any easier as we face Tottenham in the quarter final, but if we can go to Old Trafford and progress against the league champions I have no reason to doubt us against anyone else!

Our final game of the month was at home against Wolves and it was without a doubt the worst performance of the season. I don’t know if it was fatigue from playing 3 times in one week, but honestly it was difficult to watch as we could barely put a few passes together. Wolves ran out deserved winners and I completely lost the plot with the team both at half-time and at the end of the game. I think because of the poor results this month in the league team morale and confidence is not where it needs to be, despite going through in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford. Hopefully the team can bounce back as soon as possible so our great start to the season doesn’t go to waste.

So after a less than ideal, albeit not disastrous, month how were we looking the table?

Not too bad actually. Obviously we’re now miles away from Man United but we were never meant to be close to them, and occupying 4th place as we head into November is definitely a nice site. However you can see that the gap between 3rd and 9th is only 4 points, so we could really end up anywhere at this point. Having said that I will certainly take being sat in 4th place on 20 points after 11 games, which is actually exactly what we had at this stage last season. Hopefully we can rebound quickly and actually cement a European place this time around.

November 2028

November looked to be a very promising month as we only had 4 league fixtures to focus on, with all of them being games I felt were winnable. So could we bounce back to form with another perfect month?

Not quite perfect, but at least we were unbeaten! I starred the month off by rotating my first XI completely out of the squad for the first game against Sheffield United due to the fixture congestion towards the end of last month. Fortunately my backup brigade didn’t let me down as we ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in the televised Friday Night Football.

We then played our part in an absolute classic in front of the cameras at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium. We went 1-0 up, 1-1, 2-1 up, 2-3 down before equalising to make it 3-3! Of course we all love to see games like this but with the amount of chances we created it should have been a 6-3 win to us at least… unfortunately we had to walk away with a share of the points and an opportunity misssed.

A very open and attacking game followed away at St James’ Park against Newcastle where Macus Edwards put us 1-0 up and continued to prove he was a capable player in an unfamiliar LW role in Ebere Eze’s absence. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold on and Calvin Stengs equalised in the 66th minute, another opportunity missed but in all honesty a draw was a fair result (1-1).

We wrapped up the month with a home tie against recently promoted Bournemouth who were having a torrid time back in the big time and had recently parted company with their manager in the hope of making a great escape. I decided to rest my first XI again with a very busy December in mind and again I was nearly made to rue that decision as it took until the 83rd minute for that man Terem Moffi to come off the bench and score a decisive goal to spare our blushes (1-0).

So an unbeaten month yes, but the games and results against Southampton & Newcastle were missed opportunities. Were we going to be made to regret them with our league position at the end of the month?

Hmmm not yet at least. Fortunately we are still holding on to 4th place, but the teams in the top 7 are starting to bunch together, with the exception of Man United who were way out in front. However it does look like there is a gap starting to appear from the top 7 and the rest, which is fantastic news for us as 7th place would give us a Europa League slot which is the aim for this season. However there is a long way to go and it could all change in the blink of an eye, particularly with the number of fixtures over the festive period!

It was a month for our youngsters to shine as I rotated for the games against Sheffield United & Bournemouth, and boy did they shine! With two of our 18 year olds finishing in the top 3 Young Players of the Month. CB Predrag Joksimovic finished 3rd in the Young and AM Ondrej Cech coming away as the winner. Both players will go on to have incredible careers I have no doubt about it.

We finish the episode in the same way we finished last episode, more talk of takeover rumours. Still being denied at every opportunity but that’s about 5 rumours in the past 6 months… something tells me some more news is going to be coming soon.

What’s Next?

Join me next time as we go into the busy months of December 2028 & January 2029. We have a busy month in December as we face League, Carabao Cup & FA Cup action! Before a crucial run of games in January could provide us with a real platform to cement our place in the Europa League places for next season.

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 and here for the first episode. 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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