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Eagles in glass palaces shouldn't throw stones...


RaySunshine
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... or there's a saying something like that! Well, I thought I would bring to you my FM21 career as it takes an interesting (I hope!) turn. The year is 2023 and I have packed up my troubles in my old kit bag and moved back to Blighty! Here is a quick summary of where I've been so far:

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I remember the good old days of FM where couldn't start off as an international superstar and so would find yourself as a random 'Joe' off the street trying to manage the biggest clubs and players in the world. So I always start in this tradition! My career has been varied and rapid so far and it will be fun to share with you what turns it takes next! Here is the postion I find myself in at the start:

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In my next post, I'll have a look at my starting squad for game one and what the first few games have in store for me.

 

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Ondrej Masnty The Man U youngster joined Palace in 21-22 and is now number 1 choice for The Eagles.

Kluiverth Aguilar The Peruvian youngster is on loan from Man City. He’s only played one league game for The Eagles  so far but he starts for me.

Nathan Ferguson The CB joined from West Brom in 2020 and has become a Palace stalwart ever since.

Alfie Mawson The resolute CB joined in 2021 and has played 15 games in both seasons since. Can he now step up and grab a starting spot.

Jeffery Schlupp A name that is now synonymous with Palace. The utility-man starts at LB for me.

Jacob Sorensen The midfield man is in his second season here from Norwich and I’m looking to him to take control of the midfield.

Lewis O’Brien Another CM in his second season at the club. I’m looking for him to provide the progressive passes from DLP.

Paolo Ghiglione The Italian is in his fourth season in English football and has been on scintillating at Selhurst Park this year.

Connor Ronan This is a player who’s been here, there and everywhere throughout his career. I’m not sure he’s the strongest in the role but it’s his to start off with…

Ebere Eze  The £17 million man has been goals and assists a-plenty since his move from QPR. I hope that he continues as he takes up the role as IF for me.

Sebastian Haller I wanted physical presence upfront and the Ivorian gives it in abundance. Let’s hope that I can improve on his one goal in ten and rating of 6.50 so far this season…

 

There’s only one game left this month which sees us play 21st place Ipswich at Portman Road. Let’s hope we start with a bang!

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Thanks for the reply @Ewan0404! He's alright - according to the assistant, he's a good player for most Championship teams. That gives him a 3-star rating for my side but certianly a position I'm probably looking to improve!

December 2023

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There was only one game this month and it certianly wasn't a bad way to start! It looked my first game in charge was going to be a frustrating 1-1 draw despite us dominating the game but Toney had other ideas! He led the last-mintue goal-scoring charge and we finish with a scoreline that reflects our domination of the game! We're now two points off the play-offs!

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A game against David Moyes’ Preston is followed by a derby game against Brighton in the cup. Then we play top, middle and bottom in the other three games – it will certainly give us a good sense of where we’re at as a team.

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January 2024

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Well - what a month it's been! The results have been pretty spectacular and it's hopefully a good start to the story. The first game of the month saw us come against Preston and, inspired by the in form Toney, we smashed them 4-0. The next game was a real shock - we took on Prem League Brighton in a derby match and were 4-0 up by half time, certinaly not a result that I expected! Round the point of this game, Wolves came in with a bid for Ghiglione and he was soon on his way. Shoretire took the role against Sunderland and the 24th place team gave us our toughest match so far - Eze firing in the game's only goal. Our defenders came up with the goods against Watford with Osborn and Mawson bagging the goals but the biggest news was a pretty serious injury to Eze. Shoretire came in to replace Eze and showed some fine form with his hat-trick against Barnsley and Fran Perez, the replacement for Ghiglione, popped up with an assist with 5 mins of his debut. Finally, we played my first club - Spurs where we proved to be totally out of our depth as they ran away with the game.

 

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So the results leave us just in the play-off places and seven points off the automatics - maybe it's just possible? I certainly want to push that way as hard as I can now that we know there's no more cup action to occupy us either.

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We've been pretty busy on the in's and out's. Most of the outs are squad players that weren't going to get game time and so were moved on. Kranevitter failed to keep his work permit so I loaned him out to avoid him being around the place doing nothing. O'Leary and Palmer were brought in to uplevel what I saw as weaker areas of the squad. Palmer, in particular, could be a real diamond. I shall let you know!

 

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Shoretire clearly impressed this month bagging both player and young player awards!

 

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The next month sees us play Boro and Stoke who are both top half and then a motley collectin of lower-half teams. I really hope that this could be a serious points-earning month and that it could help us secure our play-off place and move us up closer to those automatics...

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February 2024

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Well, if January was almost perfect, then February was quite the opposite! The month began with a shock defeat to Stoke. Despite outdoing them on xG, they took three of their chances and we abjectly failed to take any of ours! The game against Swansea saw us go behind within ten minutes but Perez took his chance to help us earn a point. The Wycombe match was a disaster - we went down early and, when we pegged them back, I thought we'd get at least a point but a 25 yard screamer from Wisdom gave the minnows all three points! Against Cardiff, we simply failed to turn up. They bossed the game and carved us apart with comfort. At this point, I was beginning to wonder what had happened to players I'd had in January. Up next were Boro and a topsy-turvy game looked like it was going to finish all-square until Perez broke in the last minute of injury time; his shot was saved but Mir then tapped the ball into the back of an empty net. Finally, we took on Portsmouth and performed in the way we had last month.

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A less-than-perfect month sees us drop out of the play-off places. We're only a point short of Brentford but everything is very tight and we can't afford too many more months like this or we will fail to miss our targets altogether. There are ten games to go and we really need to perform in order to attain what the board expect of us!

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No month is easy but March sees us play table-topping Newcastle, play-off positioned Fulham and top-half Bristol and Hull. Only Luton are in the bottom-half in this month's game. It's not going to be easy but we simply have to better than we have been this month.

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March 2024

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I think my verdict on this month is not bad but not brilliant either! The month began with a 0-0 draw against Hull. This really was  a wasted opportunity as Hull didn't get a single shot in the whole game but we couldn't make good at our end. With Eze missing through injury, no-one stepped up and so two points dropped. The game against Bristol City saw Eze's return but we still couldn't come up with the goods and drawing a second blank in a row was not doing our chances any favours. We took on table-topping Newcastle (Eze) in game three and, amazingly, we had them on toast! We absolutely dominated the game - we did only the score the one but Toney's put-home off a Eze rebound was enough to give us three points. Next up came 22nd place Luton (Jensen 67, Shoretire 69, Ferguson 81, Ronan 90+3). It looked like this was going to be a frustrating points drop again until Jensen fired in a thunderbolt in the 67th minute. We scored again two minutes later and then carried on until the final whistle went! The month's last game saw us play Fulham (Eze 54) who were one place above us. Again we bossed the game; we conceded first through a wonder goal and, once Eze had scored, I thought we'd go on to win it but it wasn't to be!

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The month ends and it sees us clinging on to the last of the play-off places. Now this is the minium expectation of the board so the next month (and one game) will either see me hit the target or fall short - and then who knows what happens?! Now, let's take a lot at who stands in our way...

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Our final run-in sees us playing a real mix all over the table. Sheffield W are 17th, Forest are now table topping. Then we have mid-table Brentford, Play-off place Derby and close contenders Reading. Anything could happen in the next half-hour!

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April/ May 2024

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Well this was a month that we knew we had to deliver in. There was a lot to do and very little room for error. Game one saw us play Wednesday (Schlupp 23, Perez 32, 71 Lawrence 81). We came out the blocks with thunderbolt strike by Schlupp and that set us on our way. The Forest (O'Brien 6) game was infuriating. We started off really well with O'Brien smashing us into the lead and an early xG looking all good. However, Sorensen had other ideas: he got himself sent off in the sixteenth minute. It was all one way traffic but we kept it to 2-1 before missing two stunning chances to draw late on! Brentford (Toney 11) saw us get a hard-fought win with Jensen (standing in for the suspended Sorensen) sending in a beauty of a cross for Toney to head home. Derby (Toney 12, 56) saw us get a two-goal lead and I thought that a place in the play-offs was ours but we dropped out of them all together by the time that Derby struck the late leveller. Finally, with one eye on the Boro game throughout, we took on Reading (Eze 12). Barnsley seemed to have the match of Boro throughout and Eze's neatly struck penalty was enough to take us into the play-offs!

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But there was bad news however:

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And here is the draw! Two season defining games to go!

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Play-offs 2024

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Game 1 sees us take face the home tie. We go behind twice and it looks like we're going to set ourselves an uphill battle but substitute Rafa Mir appears in the last few moments to get us level. Let's see what we can do on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke. I have heard that that's the place to be ... right?

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And our journey ends one stop early. We fight throughout the game and, all the time that it's 0-0 I'm hoping for the best but, alas the best doesn't come. Stoke take over in the second half and secure themselves a place at Wembley. We go back to the drawing board. Next up will be a review of the season so far.

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Season Review

So, after a tough way to finish the season, what's the overall verdict? It was disapointing not to get further in the play-off's but, considering the club was 11th when I arrived, it feels like I must have got something right to get them up to 6th and into the play-off's at all!

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Here's the team of the season - I'm surprised that Ghiglione got in with an average rating of 6.3 but he wasn't around with me long so I can't really comment. I'm glad to see that my signings - O'Leary, Palmer and Fran Perez got into the team of the season alongside Mawson who I re-instated into the team.

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The Fan's player of the season is given to O'Brien and Aguilar (on loan from Man City) gets young player of the year. Both players played well. I think my award might go to Fran Perez but then, as I signed him, I might be a biased!

 

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It was good to see O'Brien make the Championship team of the season. I just hope that, this time next season, we've played so well that we'll dominate the team on our way up and out. Fingers crossed eh?!

 

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This is what I've been given to work with for the season. We're not spending much on wages at the moment so it does really give us the chance to pep up the squad if I can find the right players to do that. I think that, with the good form we've shown in this half-season, we should look to build on that and really aim high...Vision.JPG.137fa5c7909ffae1a710cdecec0cb32b.JPG

Having no club vision when I arrived, the heirachy suddenly decided that the club needed one! I don't mind the idea of working with the youth system and bringing young players through. Although I have found it frustrating in the past that it doesn't take account of young players once they've signed their professional contract - don't know on that one.

The other step is a bit of a blow though. We weren't playing counter-attacking football last season and I want to make my name with a more possession-based style. I argued with the board to get it taken out the vision but they wouldn't budge. I'm digging my heels in though. I want my reputation to be control possession. Perhaps one day in the future, move towards tikki-takka even. Has anyone else had this and decided to stick to their principles? Would be interested to hear from people who faced the same battle!

Next up will be transfers and pre-season...

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Pre-Season

So here we are, getting ready for the season to come! I'll have a look at transfers first and then look through the expectations for the season ahead.

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In terms of the 'Ins', I've looked to make postions where we relied on loanees last season into more permament slots this season. This has seen Lundqvist come in to take on the AMC role and Omeruo (once of Chelsea - who knew?!) coming in to take RB. I've also signed a young prospect for both postions in Livramento and Intxaurraga. The next siging was that of Harvey White from Spurs. I was looking for that signing that would really make my team sparkle and he's the closest I've found - I'm still not sure it's enough to make magic but we'll see how it goes! When we look and the 'Outs', it's very largely loans and general clearing out. There's a few decent prospects out to get game time and I'm interested to see how Aderamola and Devine in particular get on.

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I feel like that this season is going to be a high-stakes one. Even though the club expectation is to get into the play-offs, you can see that my promises mean several players are expecting much, much more (not all this season, granted). It's been tough to keep my best players here and these promises, combined with my determination to take on the board and stick with my control possession principles makes me think this season is going to be win or bust! Finally, let's have a look at what month 1 brings up for us...

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As ever with the Championship, it's a packed month. We play eight games in total and there are some serious biggies in there too. Our opening game sees us play recently-relegated Blackburn and they're expected to be in the play-off conversation along with Fulham, and Watford. Charlton should be three points as they're expected to prop up the pile and then there is the small matter of title-favourites Villa to round off the month!

 

 

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August 2024

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Well it's been a busy month and probably not the perfect one either! The opening game saw us take on recently-relegated Blackburn. We dominated the game in general but couldn't put our chances away. They hit us on the break and beauty of a cross was smashed home by Silva. Next up was Reading (O'Brien 3, Fran Perez 11,16, 23) where we were 1-0 down, 2-1 up, 2-2 and then went on to win. Fran Perez wowed the crowds with his hattrick and walked away as MOTM. The Charlton (Eze 2, Mawson 45+1) manager had been talking us down as relegation candidates but a comfortable win showed them who's who. In the league cup, a slightly-rotated side beat Portsmouth (Toney 20, Pierrick 34) and Pierrick's goal in particular was a fine strike from deep on the right-hand side. We then lost a frustrating game to Fulham (Smith og 41) which we bossed but failed to take our chances in. This was followed up by an equally frustrating game against Cardiff (Toney 1, Eze 25) who nicked a late draw despite us again dominating the game. Watford (Mawson 6, Eze 44, Fran Perez 46) have been surprise strugglers - losing every game so far - and our comfortable win pile on the misery. We then took on Bournemouth in the League Cup and the Prem League side handed us a drubbing on a plate - certainly got to look at style-of-play against the big boys. Finally, we played Aston Villa (Mawson 45, Fran Perez 61). We were second-best for much of the game but led 2-1 for a good deal of the second-half. Harvey White played a beauty of a ball over the top that Fran Perez finished with a stunning volley. Villa kept pushing us though and nicked a point in the 85th minute.

 

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The month has been a real mixture so far and we end up 9th. On the plus side, we are only one point outside the play-off places and only four points off the automatic places. Boro are comfortably top-of-the-table though being a good seven points ahead of us.

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September is a much quieter month than August has been! Huddersfield are just above us in the table and the newly-promoted side will certianly provide us with a stern test I think. Sheffield Wednesday are in the relegation places with four points from their seven games so I'd hope for a win there and, as mentioned above, Boro are comfortably top of the table so it's going to be a case of putting the up the barricades there. I'll let you know how we get on!

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September 2024

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Well, I think the best that I can say about that month is that it was short - other than that, it didn't have much going for it! In game one, we took on Huddersfield (Toney 25, Eze 54) and put on a cracker of a show. The first goal was the result of a beautiful cross from Fran Perez and then Eze tucked home a penalty to seal a win. Our performance was commanding and all looked good until ... we took on Wednesday (Mawson 44). They opened the scoring and then we took part in a real end-to-end scrap with the bottom-half side. When Mawson scored from a corner, I thought we'd go on to sort things out in the second half but they had other ideas - scoring a 30-yard daisy-cutter to give them the three points. We took on table-topping Boro in our final game of the month and were played off the park. I tried to counter-attacking in the first half but we created nothing and were carved apart. In the second half, we went back to our control possession but still didn't create a thing. Not good news! I should say that for these last two games we were missing Fran Perez and this seems to have had a huge impact on our creativity. Also, our AMC - Roman-Pascal Lundqvist seems to be absolutely hopeless! He has no assists and no goals so far. I think the bench is calling him espeically with a hot youngster called Toure coming through the ranks...

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The table looks even worse than it did last month but we're still only one point off the play-offs. I'm really not sure this squad is up to it though. You just don't know what version of the team will turn up from game to game and I simply think that form like that won't get us into serious play-off contention.

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October sees us come up against Stoke who did us in the play-off's last season so it would be really nice to give a far better account of ourselves in that game. Hull are mid-table while Pompey are 18th and Luton 19th. We really need to make this month pay! See you on the other side ...

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October 2024

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Hmmmm - things are less than ideal here. I might be reaching out to anyone who fancies chipping back with a bit of advice please! Stoke (Fran Perez 68) were our first game and we seemed to go toe-to-toe with them through most of the game but they took their chances and we didn't giving them a 2-1 win. Against Hull (Mir 90+1), the xG was pretty equal for the first half but Hull got 2-0 up. From then on, we opened up a lead in the xG and did manage to nab a goal towards to the end but we still lost. Against Portsmouth (Toney 84), we had a huge lead in xG but were failing to score throughout the match. Towards the end though, our keeper O'Leary sent a huge ball over the top which Toney took down and smashed home to give us the points. In our final game of the month, we took on Luton (Fran Perez 26). The injuries seemed to be mounting up and the xG was pretty equal but I thought we were going to get away with the three points until a soft concession late in the second half. Grrrrrrrr.

 

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This month, I thought it was worth posting our analysis wheel. According to our analysis team, we're out performing the Championship in general and I can certainly see that in a few areas such as passing. However, the huge dent in xG per game is becoming a worry as is the fact that we concede worse than average despite our xG being better than average! Anyone got any ideas?! I'm open as they say!

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Each month so far, I've been able to say that we're one point outside the play-off's. Well that's no longer true - the gap has opened up to three points. Whilst that's by no means fatal at this point of the season, I'm worried by the club's poor form and that some things just aren't working - Lundqvist for example, simply isn't the amc we need.

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So, game one sees us play play-off placed West Brom. Swansea are struggling as are Rotherham and 24th-place Barnsley. Birmingham, on the on the other hand, are second. Wish me luck!

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Thanks for the reply @mjw004. I keep ploughing on - especially with not so much to do in lockdown!

November 2024

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Well I'm pleased to say that November has been a much better month - probably my best of the season so far! Coming up against third-place West Brom (Eze 13, Mir 86, Lundqvist 89, 90+4) was certainly not the easiest way for the month to open. When we were 2-0 down inside 5 mins, I thought we were in real trouble and fully expected to lose the game. The team had other ideas though and the previously-ineffective Lundqvist popped up with two stunners at the end to give us all three points!. Game two saw us play Swansea (Mir 13, Fran Perez 27, 86, Toney 35). We took them apart to secure a fantastic win but it did come at a pretty serious cost...

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Eze has been a mainstay of the team so far and, now that he won't be playing for some time, I hope that Mir will be able to take on that role and score some goals cutting in off the left. Next up, we took on 22nd-place Rotherham (Mir 22, Fran Perez 90+3). I thought this was going to be really frustrating draw but Fran Perez had other ideas. I've begun to notice that we're at risk of becoming a one-man team. When Fran Perez plays well, the team plays well but if he has a quiet game, we struggle. Next up were Birmingham who controlled the game and took us apart. I've tried some different tactics when I'm coming up against clearly superior teams but I haven't found an approach that works yet; it's definitely something to work on. Finally, we finished the month playing Barnsley (Fran Perez 6). Lundqvist sent a beauty of a ball over top for Fran Perez to smash home which he duly did. Barnsley gave us a real game though and we were lucky to escape with all three points.

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As far as the table goes, I don't need to say that we're one point off the play-offs for a change as we're one point inside them instead! It's really tight below us though as there's only three points between us and twelth so there's little room for error there. The end of the month also brought us some good news ...

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And some bad...

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I did have several million (ten maybe) left in the pot so a drop to 150K is pretty serious along with almost halving the wage bill. I think this, combined with the army of players expecting to go up this season, makes this season feel like it really is win or bust! I'm certianly keeping an eye on the Prem League to see if a job comes up but at the moment a job isn't even insecure so nothing doing ... yet.

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December is carved neatly into two parts. The first three games are all bottom-half teams so we need to get points in those. Then the next three games sees us play three top half sides. How we get on with injuries and fatigue over the Christmas period is always a pretty important factor to wage in so it will be interesting to see how it all goes!

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December 2024

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December - could be better, could be worse. It's all getting closer and closer and closer and I don't think our results this month have done much to separate that out. I'll run you through what happened and give you an idea of what January's going to look like too! So we kicked things off with QPR (Mir 12, Fran Perez 43). The first goal was a superb counter-attacking move and the second a well-worked throw-in and they gave us the three points. Next up were bottom of the table Bristol. Despite them being pretty close to bottom of the table, we absolutely failed to turn up and losing to a corner always, always hurts! We took out our frustration on David Moyes' Preston (Mir 22, Mawson 70, Intxaurraga 74). The first goal was a fine strike from a beauty of a cross over from Fran Perez and the last was a fine free-kick from the youngster brought in from Osasuna. Against Brentford (White 3, Fran Perez 87), Harvey White scored his first goal for the club with a superb 20-yard strike and it looked like we were going to lose until Fran Perez popped up with a saving grace right towards the end! In the Boxing Day game, we absolutely bossed Blackburn (White 15) but we just couldn't make enough chances pay despite White's second effort in as many games. Finally, we took on Charlton (Mir 41, Fran Perez 84) and it looked like it was going to be a draw until superstar Fran Perez popped with the goods again late in the game!

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The month wasn't quite good enough to keep us in the play-off places. I'm worried that dropped points like the Bristol and Blackburn games could really come to haunt us at the end of the season (if I'm still here by then - I did try a quick switch to Villareal but they turned me down). We are however, level with Brentford and, with a few astute signings in January, I hope that we can drop the right side of the line come May.

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In January, all four league opponents are in the bottom half so that looks postive in terms of a good month to make pay and get firmly into play-off contention. That then leaves us with the FA Cup game against Chelsea as the top-billing game for the month. We've got a few injures and are going to have some tired players coming out of the Christmas schedule but I'd hope to do my best. Any advice for underdog games?!

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January 2025

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The year started with us playing fourteenth-placed Reading and sincerely hope that it's not a sign for how the rest of 2025 is going to pan out in game. We were truly shocking - well I say that but the xG was almost equal across the game. You wouldn't know that from looking at the scoreline though! In the cup, we faced Chelsea and were, unsurprisingly, beaten. I have to say though, that only conceeding two didn't seem too bad. I took a direct counter-attacking approach and, while it did keep them at bay mostly, it also meant we created almost nothing ourselves - still got this big-team nut to crack. We recovered by facing Fulham (Hugill 1, 90+5). This was definitely the Joe Hugill show. With Haller having left the club, I brought Hugill in bolster the front line a bit. He scored with 20 seconds of his debut to get us going and then fired in a late dramatic winner to give us the three points. Against Watford (Mir 29, 45+2, Hugill 86), we had a proper ding-dong: 1-0 down, 2-1 up, 2-2 and Hugill finished it all with a 25-yard thunderbolt to give us the three points - Houston we've found a player? Finally, we faced Cardiff (Fran Perez 3, Gibbs-White 22, Mir 28, Osborn 69) and blew them apart - being 3-0 up inside half an hour and Osborn finishing the scoring with a real beauty. The downside was that, before the game, we lost Hugill for 3 - 6 weeks. Not good news!

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So, we're in the play-offs and with points to spare! It's only three and Brentford have better goal difference but it's nice to look below us and see a little daylight there for a change. I really hope that, we're beginning to click and some of those players I've brought in can really begin to give us the spark we need to kick on for the rest of the season. As it stands, Birmingham in second are eight points away so it's unlikely but not impossible. So let's talk transfers ...

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I'm going to start with the outs. Haller and Sorensen weren't getting game time and both asked to leave. Clubs came in and met the asking prices so they both left on their merry way. Mastny was a pretty similar story as I simply didn't see him playing much and I'd be surprised if he did Huddersfield much good - I'll let you know! The others are all loan-outs for youngsters who wanted minutes as part of new contracts. This led to the two ins this month. Gibbs-White was brought in to be that magic that might just get us up into the play-off's. Lundqvist has improved on his shaky start here but I still felt we needed more and I hope Gibbs-White is the man to do it. Then, with Haller leaving, we were feeling a bit thin up front and so I brought in Hugill from Man U. I've found in the past that my style, even though it's a passing one, only works with a big guy up front and I hope that Hugill gives us a bit more depth in that if he's not injured all the time!

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No month in the Championship is ever easy so the saying goes and the next one seems to be out to prove that very point! We face third-place Villa, fifth-place Huddersfield and top-of-the-tree Boro. I can't imagine that Stoke or Hull are going to be push-overs either. Come on lads! Show me you have the desire to win this month!

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February 2025

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Injuries were beginning to take their toll this month and by the time we played Villa, only one member of my starting back-line was fit. It did mean I had the chance to had a debut to a promising young CB called Leighton Marsh who was in the U18s so we'll observe his career with interest alongside Toure - the other youngster I'm bringing through. The kindergarten backline continue to do well against Wednesday (Mir 8) and Mir makes the most of a superb cross from the ever-dependable Fran Perez. Against Huddersfield, we boss the game throughout but we fail to make anything stick and come away with just the one point. Playing Stoke (Fran Perez 9, 89), I really wanted to show what we were made of against the side that dumped us out the play-offs last time around. We had a few heart-in-mouth moments towards the end with them having a shot cleared off the line and a goal disallowed for pushing in the box but Fran Perez saw us through! Against Boro (Mir 46), we really showed what we were about in the first half but they hit us on the counter from a corner towards the end to share the points. Finally, we faced Hull. We absolutely battered them - especially when they went down to ten men in the 71st mintue but we couldn't find the net.

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So, the table still sees us in the play-offs but only two points off 7th at the moment. It feels a bit frustrating as, before the Boro game, we'd built up a five-point gap but then almost instantly used it all so it still finishes tight and leaving us feeling like it's squeaky-bum time through the rest of the season!

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So, it's another pick-and-mix here! Portsmouth and West Brom are in the play-off places so they will be tough games. The other three sides are all bottom-half but we know that that means very little in Championship. Anyone can beat anyone here and I feel like I know it more than most!

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March 2025

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In this game, we took on Portsmouth (Ferguson 73). We went 1-0 down through a superb hit from their LB which O'Leary seemed to let go right through his hands. This was followed up by them getting a scrappy goal from a poorly defended corner. We did mount something of a fightback led by Ferguson smashing home a beautifully-delievered free-kick but it just wasn't enough.

This game was followed up by confidence meeting with the board. Three games without a win, two being defeats and dropping out the play-offs had clearly got them a bit unhappy.

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The game leaves Palace one play outside the play-offs and still very much in the chase with ten games to go. Now, you might be wondering why I'm posting after only one game of this month and that's because there's news to come ...

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March 2025 - Part 2

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And here is the news: I've given up South London in favour of North Portugal! My aims for this save are twofold; firstly, I want to do as well as I can and win stuff at the biggest clubs I can manage. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I want to get back to Spurs. My aim is to work my round wherever i have to go to build my reputation up to get me a second shot at the Spurs job when I can. Braga are 3.5 stars compared to Palace's 3 and the league ranks higher than the Championship. It's also seen my rep go up 60% and I'm now a 3-star manager (sort of like an average hotel then).

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I'm not being judged this season in terms of competitions but there is a expectancy that the football will be attacking. I'll see what I can do to encourage that then! There are also some pretty high aims for the youth side of things - to bring players through and to get the best youth system in Portugal. No small aim there then! That brings me on to my next point - with those as my aims, it's pretty nice when this is the first message you get!

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I'm being given Braga's golden generation to look after - no great responsibility there then eh?! In my next post, I'll have a look at my first starting line-up and the fixutres for the rest of March.

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Pettersson: This is the Swede's first season in Portugal since his summer move from Bologna and he appears to be doing well.

Souza: has been at the club since 2018 and the RB slot is certainly his to begin with!

Lascelles: The first familiar name for me - this is his third season for the club after having an unproductive spell with Norwich. I think he's the first player I've seen with 'gets crowd going' as a trait!

Ferreira: Braga born and bred - appearing in the game's first season. Ferrerira looks to be a fine talent at just 19 years old.

Kone: Kone has had a mixed spell at Braga so far. He's not played regularly here - last season he was on loan at Sporting - but he seems to be having a much more solid season this time around.

Tapia: The 29 year-old Peruvian is coming off the back of three pretty indifferent season with New England Revolution and looks to be making CM his own in his second season with Braga.

Fulgini: Another player in his third season at the club. The Ivorian has chipped in with four goals and six assists so far this season.

Lochereau-Pho: On-loan from Lyon, the youngster takes the AMR role in place of the missing Pires.

Gauld: Having come through at Sporting, the Scot is now in his fourth season here and I look forward to him providing some magic!

Boufal: has been at Angers, Wolves, Celta Vigo and Braga in as many seasons. Here appears in fine form here though and I look forward to him keeping it up!

Tetteh: This is the Ghanain's second season in Portugal. His career history doesn't really suggest he's a goal machine but he has the rest of this season to prove that he's a vital cog in the machine!

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Well I certianly don't get an easy drop in! Boavista in game one are 9th, then there's the small matter of Sociedad who smashed us in the home leg. Following on, we have surprise package Nacional who were due to be 15th but are 4th and some small club called Benfica? Still, nothing's dull eh?

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March 2025

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It seems that my move to sunny Braga could not have gone much better! Two days after my arrival, we took on Boavista (Lascelles 14, Boufal 29,61). Going behind twice in the game had me worried but Boufal took control. Either side of half time, he went on some great runs, showed neat footwork and finished superbly to give me a win in my first game in the job. Next up, in Europe was Real Sociedad (Pires 47, Boufal 90). This was my first game in Europe since managing Spurs so I was really looking forward to it but also worried as they had taken us apart 3-0 in the last game before I arrived. I needed to have no worries though as we bossed them in their own ground and came away with the win. Pires is one of several superb youngsters the club has and I look forward to seeing him develop. Next up was my first home game against Nacional (Ferreira 35, OG 62, Tetteh 84). Nacional have been the league's surprise package this season but I need not worry as we swept them apart. The only problem came with Tetteh - his 20-yard haf-volley made him decide that he was worth a contract more than double what the highest-paid player is being paid. Needless to say, he didn't get it and so I'm not sure he's going to hang around long in the summer. Finally, we took on Benfica. I thought this would be my first defeat in the job but we travelled to the capital, looked them in eye and were probably better than them for most of the match! I'm quietly excited about what this team could do you know.

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So a superb starting month sees the club rise to being 'the best of the rest' when it comes to the Portuguese Leage - it feels like a while since we talked about a team competing in that way! My hope is that we can carry on this good form and take spot come the season's end. Fourth or fifth would give us Conference football again and I don't see us making up the twelve-point gap to Sporting.

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I just had to share this with you. Whilst this save is not youth-only, I think that this crew could come to be pretty important pretty quickly. The budget for Braga is hardly massive and I don't see me prizing away many players from around the world so we'll see what I can do with this lot in my time here!

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April sees us face two tricky fixtures. We take on derby rivals Vitoria first followed Famalicao who are just outside the European places. The other two games are against teams towards the foot of the table so those are must-wins to help us bank 'best of the rest' come the end of the season.

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April 2025

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Well it's not been a bad month really! Before we started, I was worried that there were some tricky fixtures in there but we seem to have come out ok! Game one was the derby match against Vitoria (Fulgini 25). I can't say that we did well in this game. They scored in the 2nd mintue and bossed the game leaving me to fear the worst but Fulgini popped up with a superb header and left us with a point. Next up was relegation-threatened Portimonense (Pires 14). I thought this would be an easy three points but it was anything but. They bossed the entire game but, early on, Pires picked up the ball in his own half, took it on to the edge of their box and smashed it home for a serious goal-of-the-season contender. Famalicao (Ferreira 39, Tapia pen 83) were just below us in the table and I was worried that, if we showed the same form we did against Portimonense, we'd get beat. The team had other ideas though - taking full control of the game and leading us to a two-goal win. Finally, we took on Leixoes (Spadera 86). It looked like the game was going to end in a frustrating draw but substitue Spadera had other ideas - smashing home a late winner.

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So the month comes to an end and we keep our place as 'best of the rest'. The game between us and Sporting can't be closed now but just one point from our remaining two games would leave us in the European places. Nacional are right on our tails for 4th so it comes down to our last two games ...

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Our last two games see us take on mid-table Feirense first. I really hope we get a point or more here as our last game sees us play title-winning Porto. Having seen them win their last game 7-0, be nine points clear in the league and 22 points ahead of us, it's going to be a real challenge for me to finish the season unbeaten as Braga boss but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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May 2025

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Well it wasn't a bad way to round off the season was it? We knew that we needed one win to secure European football next season and got that against Feirense (Pires 36, 45). We dominated the game comfortably and a pair of fine finishes from young superstar Gabriel Pires gave use the win. Next up was table-topping Porto (Pires 47, Boufal 90+2). Pires opened the scoring with a fine finish and Porto equalised with a clever free kick. I was happy to get a point against the champions but Pires and Boufal had other ideas with Pires sending over the cross and Boufal smashing home the volley at the death to give us a famous win in the champion's back yard!

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Five wins on the bounce and my unbeaten start as Braga boss leaves us comfortably the best team outside the big three. I'm really pleased with the finish as it's the best that we could have realistically expected from my time. I do wonder what this club could go on to achieve all of next season. The challenge is going to be holding on to our stars, working out what deadwood to clear and how to bring the golden generation through.

 

Next up will be the season review when we get there!

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Season Review

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Well the line-up for the team-of-the season is exactly my first-choice XI. The player choice is no surprise but the formation is that of my predecesor rather than myself so it's interesting that that's whay they've gone for.

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Well the awards panel gives a bit of a clue as to what the story of the season has been as far as I can tell. The worry on top of this is that other clubs are beginning to hover round him...

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Finally, here are the budgests that I have available to me. There is some money to spend but I'm not looking to blow much. As ever, if the player with the right sparkle came along, I'd be interested. Other than that, I'd be after some experienced players with good mentalities for mentoring if I can get them on board. Let's see what I can do. Next up will be transfers and pre-season...

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Pre-Season

So, with last season done and dusted and the awards given out, it was time to get ready for the season to come! I'll talk you through the transfer window, pre-season and what the pundits think for the season ahead.

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In the transfer window, my aim was to keep things as quiet as possible. I was really pleased with what my young side achieved last season and didn't want to upset it. Most of the outs were either youngsters going out on loan or getting rid of deadwood. One of the most notable 'outs' for me was Horvath who, as substitute keeper, was the second-highest earning player in the squad! We could certianly do without too much of that! I did have a scare at one point when the board accepted a bid for young superstar Pires but I protested strongly and, thankfully, they changed their mind! As far as the 'ins' go, Hugill had done really well for me on loan at Palace and I hope as a youngster he can  provide back-up to Tetteh. Clarke-Salter was brought in to boost the back line and will take the LB slot after Kone left. Finally, Bourigeaud was brought in to boost the resolute mentality of the squad. I'd hoped to sign the Spurs youngster Jack Clarke on a free but he opted for Huddersfield instead.

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In the pre-season games, I wasn't too surprised by the defeats to either Valencia or Inter. In the rest of pre-season, we won all the games but the goal-count was a worry. In the last game, for example, we had an xG of nearly 3 and a hatful of chances but only scored one. Let's just say I've got something in the pipeline that might help!

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The expectations are to pretty much match what we did last season. The club were out of the cups last time round by the time I joined so it will be good to have a go in them and see what we can achieve. With the golden generation lined up to come through, I hope that it won't be too hard to meet the club culture requirements. League-wise, I'm required to match what we did last season really as fourth-place and best-of-the-rest will tick the box. As you can see in the prediction below, that's what we're expected to get anyway alongside close rivls Famalicao.

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In a quick nod to @DerbyJack's great Football Managing Mercenary series, I thought I'd check out the pay grades of the world's top three. Let's just say that my  £9.25k is a fair way short!

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At last, we look forward to the season's start! We begin with the two Conference League games against Czech side Boleslav which we are just about favourites to win. We then take on expected bottom-half Tondela, close rivals Famalicao and just-promoted Pacos. Let's see how we go!

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August 2025

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So, here we are - month one of the season. We kicked off with two qualifiers against Boleslav (Pires, 4, 64). We moved through the first game comfortably and gave ourselves and comfortable second game against Boleslav (Boufal 5). The only fear in these games was the board's attempt to sell Pires regardless of my wishes but, thankfully, he turned down the overtures and remains here! The domestic season kicked off against Tondela (Tetteh 9). We dominated the game and Tetteh got us up and running. Our next European game saw us play AIK (Tetteh 27, Tapia pen 71, Hugill 90+3). I thought we'd wasted this game having given away our lead twice but Hugill scored his first goal for the club with a lovely chip to give us the win! Next up in the league we played recently promoted Pacos de Ferreira (Boufal 34). They were better than us all game, worryingly, and we just about stumbled away with a point to keep my unbeaten record intact. This game was also our first without Fulgini who took up an offer from Torino to head back to Italy. In the return leg against AIK (Pires 9, 45+2, Ferreira 90+2). This was a comfortable stroll and took us into the group stages of the competition. Finally we took on the team set to be our rivals for a conference place - Famalicao (Boufal 31, Tetteh 63, 90+1). Once again, we gave away the lead twice and managed to pinch the points in the end. This tendancy to concede will lead me on nicely to my rounding transfers for the month...

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With both my FBs from last season having moved on, I had tried to put Clarke-Salter out left and brought up Jao Silva - a youth product - into RB. When I saw the opportunity to sign Bailly, I couldn't resist. He's a resolute character and although he doesn't offer too much going forward, he's pretty solid at the back and I hope that he'll be a good example to my youngsters coming through. Next up was Morton. Clarke-Salter, currently playing LB, is more of a CB and I hoped that Morton would offer us more going forward. I'm not sure he does though. Finally, although not shown above, I've also brought in Rafa Mir who did so well for me at Palace to support up front and LW.

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In terms of the table, we've done amazingly well and find ourselves up in the third. However, having only played three games of the season so far, all we can say is that is that it's a good start. Let's see what else we can do eh? And who we've got to do it against ...

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So the month starts off with an international break. After that, my unbeaten run of 17 games will be put to test with a game away at Sporting. It will be interesting to see how we get on there! We then have a European game against Ukranian side Zorya. Boavista give us our first Allianz Cup game and finally the month ends with our second league game verus Rio Ave!

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September 2025

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Game one saw us take on Sporting (Tetteh 23). I was worried that, my miracle-like unbeaten run would come to an end here and I feared the worst when they took the lead. Bailly played his first game and was arguably culpable for the first goal - playing their man onside. We then travelled all the way across Europe to play Zorya (Gauld 39, Mir 90+1). I was totally shocked when we went one behind but Gauld smashed home a stunning leveller. Finally, Mir popped up with a goal at the end to get us the win. Next up, we played Boavista (Mir 29). Bailly was involved in a scrappy first goal for them but then Mir smashed home a beauty of a cross from Bourigeaud to get us level in the League Cup group stage. The former Man U defender is going to have to do a bit of work to nail a starting sport I feel. Finally, in the league, we took on Rio Ave (Ferreira 90+1). We absolutely bossed this game but I thought we would waste it all until the young CB towered over all to smash home a late corner. My unbeaten Braga run continues!

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So there have only been two league games this month but a win and a draw sees us keep third place. It's all far to early in the season to be really talking about Europa League places but any time we spend above Sporting feels pretty good to me!

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So the month of October has an interesting shape to it! We start off with four cup games in a row in different competitions. We take Poznan in Europe before playing Farense in the League Cup. In the main Portuguese Cup, part-timers Merelinense are our opponents and, finally, we take on Hibs in Europe.  This will be my first trip back to Scotland since leaving Dunfirmline. Then the month has two league games! Portimonense are 9th and Farense are 15th so it would be good to get wins there - to be fair, when is it not good to get wins?!

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October 2025

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So we had a cup-focussed month in October and it would help to determine how we would do in my search for my first piece of silverware. In Europe, we started off agaisnt Lech Poznan (Boufal 4, Ferreira 40, Tetteh 63, Mir 85) and thankfully ran out with a comfortable thrashing of the group's whipping boys. Next up in the League Cup, we had Farense (Lascelles 39, Mir 87). We were well below par in this game and I thought I was going to lose my unbeaten record with Braga until Mir saved the day with the game coming to a close. In the cup, we faced part-timers Merelinense (Mir 34, 78, Pires 47, 53) where a heavily rotated side handed us a routine pass to the next round. I was a bit nervous taking on Hibernian (Mir 9, Boufal 29, Tapia pen 53) as they had been handing out thrashings all round in our conference group. Not against us though where the pick of our three goals was Boufal's finish at the end of a lovely little passing move. In the league, we took on Portimonense for an absloute snore-fest where barely a thing happened. Finally, the month rounded out with us taking on Farense (Boufal 3, Mir 58, Tetteh 81). Thankfully we were much better than our cup game and took them apart with ease - Tetteh finishing the scoring with a superb run and finish off a ball over the top from youngster Kozlovskyi.

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As far as the league goes, we've only played two games but the draw and the win are enough to keep us above Sporting and we have a game in hand against our rivals Famalicao. A win in that game would see us come up to just a point below Benfica which would be a a pretty amazing place to be but we shall see how we go. Overall, I'm still amazed that I'm yet to lose a competetive game with Braga. I do wonder for long this run will last but it's nice while we're on it!

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So we start off next month agaisnt Hibs where a win will really help us secure our place in the next round of the Conferencce League so that will be a good one to get. After that, we take on Nacional who are currently 7th. Then the cup sees us play our close league rivals Famalicao before we take on Zorya in what should be a formality. Finally, the mighty Benfica await us at the end of the month!

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November 2025

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November was once again packed with cup games and only had us take part in the league twice. Up first were Hibernian (Arantes 81). They gave us a tough time back in Scotland but a long-range daisycutter sent in by youngster Arantes gave him his first goal and us the win. The first of month's league games saw us play Nacional (Tetteh 27,88 Mir 73). This was a real topsy-turvey affair and it looked like it would be my first defeat before Tetteh struck late. It was nice to get this in afterwards:

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But not so nice to get this:

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We didn't follow that performance up in the next game where we went out of the cup to rivals Famalicao. It's more than a bit frustrating as I was hoping for a real go at the cup. But, we had to dust ourselves down and take on Zorya (Hugill 6, 9, 44, 50 Arantes 60). Even though the side were heavily rotated, they took control and Hugill made it his show. I think I need to get him out on loan soon. We followed that game with one against Benfica (Mir 47, Hindermann 87). They absolutely battered us but Mir's superb solo effort and the youngster Hindermann's first goal for the club gave us a famous win.

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League-wise, it looks like things have taken a nose dive but, with the games in hand that we have on teams above our position doesn't mean much at the moment. Until we even up, we won't really see what's happening with league really.

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So, two relegation fighters open the month before we finish our European group against Pozan. We've already topped the group so there's space for some rotation there. Following that, we enter the lion's den and take on Porto - presently 9 points clear of second place. Finally, we play Cova but I think we'd need to smash them to get out of our group. Can we do it? Let's see...

 

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December 2025

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Well the month kicked off against relegation-threatened Chaves (Mir 67). Despite being relegation candidates, they gave us a heck of a game and it was only a good finish from close range from the ever-dependable Mir that got us the three points. We certainly didn't follow that up with our performance against Leixoes though! Here, we bossed almost all the whole game but didn't score. They did though - putting away a penalty and then following it up with a thunderbolt from just inside the box. We took out our frustration on Lech Poznan (Kovlovskyi 1, Hugill 4 8 42, Teixeira 82). Hugill again took centre stage and put the Polish side away. We return to league and take on Porto. We keep them out for most of the game but, with full time looming, they send a ball over the top, we don't pick up the runner and they have the game 1-0.

 

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So our results leave us in 5th place but we still have two games even on the club in second and we're only five points behind so you never know!

Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will see that I've been rounding up the month with another game yet to go. Now that's because there's news coming ...

 

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December 2025 Part 2

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And the news is that I'm on the move ... again. This time, I've moved to the Italian capital and taken on the challenge of managing Lazio. And a challenge it will be! The Italian giants are 17th in table and things aren't looking good. However, the move has got me up to 3-and-a-bit stars and a rep of 65% so I hope it's another step towards building up enough rep for the Spurs job should the chance come round again.

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Well the table doesn't make for pretty reading and it's easy to see why. The goals conceded is pretty respectable but the goals scored are dreadul - that I think will take some serious sorting in the next transfer window. I might be looking down my list for players I could trust to do the business and quickly.

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I'm pretty happy with what the club are after. I do think the four-contracts for first team players is an interesting one but if that's what they want, that's what they want and we'll go for it! Overall, I'm pleased to have stepped up my reputation a notch and we'll see what happens across the rest of the season. Next up will be my line-up for the first game and the fixtures that see out the rest of the month...

 

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So here we go - there's a game on the day of arrival. And it's not going to easy as Sassuolo have got themselves in second. However, we have to prove that this grand club has what it takes to stay in this division and we're going to need to start earning points straight away. I'll give you the run-through our starting XI next.

Benitez: The Argentine has travelled to Lazio from Nice via Torino and been the clubs starting keeper for three seasons now.

Emerson: Barcelona, Milan, Lazio. This guy has the skills to create and we know we need it. I hope that my formation helps him to produce the goods!

Maresic: The Austrian was brought in from Reims in 2022 and now helps to control the backline.

Rugani: After two seasons with Spurs, the superb CB has enjoyed three seasons with Lazio.

Gozzi: The former Juve man takes up LB for us in this game but I might need a more attacking option here I think to up that goal count.

Hojbejerg: This is the midfield enforcer's second season in the Italian capital and he looks to build on the good work done in his first.

Rocca: This is Roca's first season in Italy following his £20mil move from Bayern.

Cappiello: The 20-year-old is the club's top-scorer so far - but then he only has 3!

Luis Alberto: The Lazio stalwart had 10 assists and 7 goals last season. I need him to start getting back towards those numbers again.

Colley: Season three here for the Ghanian. He got eight goals last season and I could do with a few of those this time around.

Da Graca: This is the Italian's first season here and I need him to show that he owns the place. He might have some competition coming in in January as we have to get goals.

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So we only have two games left this month. Sassuolo are a surprise package in 2nd place and Parma are relegation strugglers just like us. We need some points and I need to know how far my £40mil needs to go in sorting out the front line...

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December 2025 Part 3!

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Two different games with two very different results were played here! Number one was Sassuolo (De Graca 1, Colley 48). For most of this game, we made it look fairly easy work and we scored nearly a third of the team's goals in one game. It felt good to get three points in our first game to get us up and running. In game two we played Parma (Cappiello 62) and this felt like a perfect demonstration of why the job was availabe. We domintated the game throughout against our fellow strugglers and somehow came away with nothing. Not looking good!

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So here we are, loitering around the trouble zone with the mighty Lazio - who'd believe it?! Surely things can only get better from here. Well, at least that's what I thought until I took a quick look at what was coming up in January...

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So we look... 14th, not so bad. But then 7th, 4th, 1st and 2nd is not what you want to say when you're fighting relegation. I hope the next job and the rep boost is worth the anguish I think I'm abou to go through!

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January 2026

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Well January has certianly been a busy month and there's plenty to say after all that we've been through! Up first, we faced Napoli (Alberto pen 29). Having lost last time out, I wanted a response. We didn't get it. We were non-entities in this game. We didn't deserve the goal we got and good have conceded a heck of a lot more. It was truly miserable. Next up, we faced Sampdoria (Colley 6 Da Graca 9). An early brace got us on our way and the game saw the first appearance of the incoming Mousa Barrow on loan from Lyon. In a rest from league games, we took on Bologna (Colley 42) in the cup. It was a close, tight game but I was pleased with the win building on the Sampdoria result and keeping us on our way. Back in the league we took on derby rivals Roma (Skov 84). We took control of the game against our top-half rivals but I thought we weren't going to get the reward until Skov chipped the keeper late on. A return to the cup saw us take on Milan and, well, the less said about that one, the better! We then took on their stadium-sharers Inter and we gave the team at the top of the league a really good go but didn't get the win. The game did see the debut of loanee Timo Werner who I hope will help us score the goals we'll need to stay up. Torino (Rugani 63 Dahoud 88) rounded off the month. I really thought we'd won this when Dahoud smashed home late on but Torino had other ideas - saying that I'd have taken a point against the second place team if I were offered it before the game.

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January was a tough month and it seems to have taken its toll on the league with us hovering just above the relegation places. That being said, I think we did well against a whole host of top-half teams with the wins against Roma and Sampdoria and the point against Torino all being credit-worthy. We've remained in 6th place according to goals conceded and I've doubled the number of goals the team has scored since I took over so I feel like I must be doing something right.

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Our ins are all loans and all looking to increase chance creation and goal scoring. With me only taking over just before the window opened, scouting time was limited so I felt like it would have been hasty to make any permament appointments. Werner has scored for fun all over the place, Barrow likewise and Lopes is brought in to get the assists. Will it work - we'll have to wait and find out!

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So, after a rock-hard month, the league decides to throw us a much easier one this time around. We're in no other competitions now so our only focus is staying up. Spezia are newly-promoted and Empoli and Udinese are both in the relegation places so I'm really targeting those games. Finally, tenth place SPAL round off the month but I don't feel like we should be fearing them. Let's see what the month brings...

 

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February 2026

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Well I said that this was a month we really needed to target - and we did. To come out of undefeated and with an almost-perfect clean sheet record I think is a pretty fantastic record for a team that looked like it could be going down when I started! Game one saw us take on promoted Spezia (Orellana 12, Rugani 28, Alberto pen 35). Orellana's goal was the pick of the bunch with a 25-yard thunderbolt that crashed in off the post. CB Rugani's goal was header from a set piece and a pen rounded off the rest. Next up were struggling Empoli (Barrow 72). They really gave us a game and created the better chances throughout the match. I thought we might lose this one but Alberto threaded a beauty of a pass through the defence and Barrow tucked it home for his first goal. With set up play like this, he's going to be a big miss when he heads to Sevilla in the summer. We followed this by taking on Udinese (Da Graca 40, 44) who were also in the relegation zone. A quick-fire brace from Da Graca put them away - the first was a horrific mistake from their keeper and the second was bullet header put away from a stunning Werner cross. Finally, SPAL (Barrow 2, Werner 12, 31, Da Graca 49) stood in our way. It was good to see Wener getting on the score sheet and making good use of his positioning to pop home two opportunities and open his account.

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So what's this? A table that doesn't have the relegation places showing! We've amassed ten points this month and that has got us ten points away from trouble and only three points away from tenth-place. It would be a fantastic success to get a top half finish from where we started. But who stands in our way...

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Another short month is to come with just the four league games. Bologna are 18th so I'd really like to win that one. Then Atalanta are 2nd - it feels like almost every other team I play are 2nd! Finally, Verona are a mid-table 9th and Milan are 5th so it's a good spread right across the leage. Let's hope we keep heading onwards and upwards.

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Thanks for the reply @abulezz; it's always good to hear from people following the save! The pre-season prediction was to finish 7th but, given the state of play when I arrived, I think it would have taken a pretty miraculous performance to get back there again.

March 2026

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The month didn't promise to be as easy as the one gone but I was still pretty hopeful that we could pick up some important points here in making a late push for a top-half finish. Bologna were the first up and we came away with a disappointing point; considering they're fighting relegation, I really thought we should have got a win. Next up were second place Atalanta (Da Graca 30, 55). Werner again made a superb assist and two Da Graca goals made the win look comfortable. I thought we'd follow this up with a win against Hellas Verona (Barrow 14, Alberton pen 25, Da Graca 64). We seemed to be doing well leading 2-0, let them back in, scored a beauty through Da Graca and then had them score an absolute thunderbolt to level things up. It certainly wasn't dull! Finally, we took on Milan. We went eye-to-eye with them throughout the match and had two goals disallowed to boot!

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So the month sees us move up slightly and it certainly sees us in the race for a top-half finish with SPAL only being one point ahead of us and having a pretty challenging goal-difference to boot. On the other hand, our next month's fixtures don't look to make things easy for us.

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Is that a team anyone's heard of up first? Oh yeah - and they're only 5th so I'm guessing they're pretty angry! Fio follow up in 8th place before we take on Cagliari and league whipping-boys Venezia. Finally, third-place Sassuolo round out the month. It's not going to be easy but let's hope it's going to be fun!

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The final present from the month was our youth intake. It looks like there's a solid number of players with first-team potential and one almost-guaranteed star in Reda. Marsella gets the staff vote so it will be interesting to watch his development too.

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April 2026

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I knew this month wasn't going to be easy and it certainly proved to be the case! Games one and two saw us take on Juventus and Fiorentina. In both games, we were we close in xG but came away with no goals scored and no points to show for oursevles. Game three saw us take on Cagliari (Da Graca 6, 87, Rugani 90+4). We took the lead in 6th minute and led until the 81st minute. We regained the lead again in the 87th but were level again the 88th! Finally, Rugani rose highest to smash home a free kick and give us the points. We followed that up with a game against Venezia (Barrow 10, 66, Orellana, 15, Tsimikas 50, Alberto 53) . They were certainly the league's whipping-boys but, considering the team had only scored seven goals when I arrived, scoring five in one game seems pretty good! Finally, we took on Sassuolo. Like the games that opened the month, we were close throughout and came away empty-handed. These performances against the top sides are certainly going to give me food for thought.

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Well it's no surprise to see that that tricky month has seen us slip down the league a little. However, I don't view it as being all bad news. We're now safe from relegation and only three points behind a top-half finish so there is still that to play for. Finally, we're in a world cup year so who knows if a national call-up will beckon? I'd certainly be interested in the England job if it were there.

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So between us and that top-half finish are Parma just above us and Napoli just below us. Then it's Sampdoria who hold that tenth place before finishing off against Roma who are in third. It would be hard for it to be a bigger finish to a season!

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May 2026

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With April finishing with a frustrating result, it was certianly a relief to get our result against Parma (Da Graca, 7,52, 89, Alberto 48). We took an early lead and they equalised soon after but we went on to dominate the game and Da Grace played the staring role with his hattrick. Next up, we took on close rivals Napoli (Da Graca 63, Maresic 90+4). We led until the 88th minute without trouble and, for a moment I thought we'd thrown it all away. However Maresic had other ideas and smashed home a late winner from a deep cross. When we came to play Sampdoria (Da Graca 19, 90+5, Barrow 38), we were missing both first-choice CBs and boy didn't it show! The team were in chaos and no-one was picking up their key centre-forward. I thought we were going to come away with nothing until a ball knocked around the box ended up being put home by superstar Da Graca. The last game of the season saw us take on fierce rivals Roma (Alberto 39, Da Graca 44, 46). We dominated the first-half but I thought we were going to get nothing from it until Alberto smashed home from some penalty-box pinball. Da Graca scored a brace either side of half-time and I thought that we'd really go on to a big score. It wasn't quite but it was still amazing to get the win in the bag to finish the season.

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So the season finishes and we're ninth. I'm over the moon! It certainly hasn't been as easy ride - especially considering where the club were when I joined but to get a top-half finish and 51 goals scored from a postion of 17th and 7 goals scored in late December seems pretty incredible. To look at the table and even have the European places in view seems incredible. As I said last year with Braga, I wonder what we can do with a full season available to us. Next up will be the season review.

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Season Review

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Well it's certainly nice to see that the betst XI matches exactly my first-choice pick by the end of the season. The worry in it though is that none of the trio behind Da Graca are scheduled to be here next season so that's going to take some serious looking at.

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Considering the dire goal-scoring straits that the club was in when I joined, I have to say that seeing Da Graca's final numbers is really pleasing. It also confirms to me that he's ready to be the club's first-choice striker next season; something I wasn't sure of when I arrived. It's also great to see Alberto stats but also seriously worrying that he's leaving!

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In terms of sorting out my three attacking players, this budget is going to be important. My plans for what I want to do in these positions are complicated slightly by two other factors. The first is the one Non-EU only rule in Italian football so I have consider carefully whether I use that on Barrow or not - especially as he'd cost most of my budget. And the other is the sudden spike in the board's expectations...

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As you can see, the board have suddenly lept up expectations from survive in Serie A to qualify for the Europa League. I do love the fact that five-year plans never last more than one year. There's an element of truth in that I'm sure. Either way, I need to get these attacking postions sorted and well before the season kicks off to give us a realistic chance of getting a European spot next season.

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Pre-Season 2026

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So here we are with the ins and the outs. Ins-wise, I knew that I had to focus on the fact that the pivot behind my striker were all leaving. There would be no Luis Alberto, Werner or Barrow here. I did look at keeping Barrow and/or Werner but both would have been hugely expensive and meant that I couldn't afford the other. I aimed to replace them with youth - Pires who had done superbly well for me at Braga and Perci brought in from Twente. I see Peric as my AMC so it's a postion re-train but I think he has all the right stats to make it work. Cappiello who is already in the team will take on AMR. Hansen-Aaroen is brought in to help cover AMC if Perci struggles before learning the role. Sels is brought in to be bench GK and is a young Belgian with decent potential.

As far as the outs go, most are loans for youngsters. Other than that, Alberto had signed a contract with Sevilla so he was off and I shifted out Vilhena as an older player not getting game time so it seemed like the perfect time to sell before his value goes completely. I feel the same for Dahood but no-one will take his wages even with me offering to pay £28k of it. Finally, PSV managed to pinch one of our most promising youngseters in Marsella. I have now learnt that I should have given him a professional contract!

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In football-managing mercenary terms, there is no change in the top three wage earners. I, however, had increased my earning from 9K up to £25.5k a week. It's a near tripling but the big earners are still in a league of their own!

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We had a good pre-season, albeit mostly against easier opposition. My key note was how well the team played with a tiki-taka style. Even against Real Madrid, switching to it at half-time saw our xG go up and us get our goal. I intend to slot it into the league with care until I'm confident that it really is the best system for us. Talking of which, the league expects us to be sixth which would probably be just enough to meet our requirements but we could well need to over-achieve. Nothing much to worry about there eh?!

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Month one only has two competitive games in it - seeing us take on Serie B Cremonese in the cup so I'm going to try Tiki-Takka there and see how it goes before we play last season's surprise package Sassuolo where we hope to get our season off to a positive start.

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August 2026

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Well there weren't many competitive games this month but it gave me chance to give the tiki-taka a run out with mixed results shall we say! In the cup, we played Cremonese (Pires 14, Colley 62, Da Graca 76). Here the new style worked a treat. We dominated possession, dominated the game scored three goals and I thought it was all to the good. The same tatic did not produce the same result against Sassuolo though. The game became an absolute bore-fest and one in which we nearly blew it all by giving away a penalty which Harry Winks kindly blasted wide. I'm not sure that we're quite ready to use this tactic on teams on our level yet. I'll try it against some relegation candidates or something like that next.

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The one game played leaves us in mid-table but it's far too early to make anything of it yet. There has been some more work on the transfer front with us bringing in nineteen year-old winger Stancu from Steaua for £6m. The challenge will be to get game time to all these wingers I've now got to keep them all developing!

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Well the next month doesn't look too easy! Parma were lower mid-table so I'd really want to win that one. The other three teams were 3rd, 2nd and 6th so they won't be giving points away. I hope though, that we have enough to have these sorts of teams worried. We're going to need to if we want to achieve our objectives!

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September 2026

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I was worried about what we could do coming into this month but I'm leaving it hoping that perhaps we could put together something really special this season! Game one saw us take on Parma (Da Graca 14, Cappiello 72) and going back to our control possession tactic helped us to a comfortable win. We then took on Atalanta (Pires 36) and a tidy finish from Pires gave us the win. Then came the first of two epics to finish the month. Peric opened the scoring against Milan (Peric 7, Da Graca 89, 90+3, 90+5) with a twenty-five yard thunderbolt crashing off the bar. They then turned it round and I feared the worst until Da Graca popped up with a perfect hat-trick starting in the 89th minute to give us an incredible win. Against table-topping Torino (Da Graca 11, 20, Pires 34) I feared the worst when we went one down within five minutes. But we had enough about us to turn it round and hold on even when they got a penalty later on!

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Coming into September, I didn't even dream of leaving it level on points with table-topping Inter and in a Champion's League place! Now I know it's early days for sure but I'm excited for what we could do from this position. Is this team good enough to achieve something really special? Let's have a go and find out!

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The next month looks to be considerably kinder than the one that has just passed. Bresica are struggling against relegation and Sampdoria and Bologna are both mid-table. The month's major challenge looks to be our trip to Fio who are just behind us in fourth place. At the moment, I feel like we can beat anyone. Will I still feel that way in a month's time?!

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October 2026

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The month looked to be kind from the outside, but from the outside it seemed to be anything but! Bresica (Rugani 90+5) gave us an indication of the way the month might go. Despite dominating the game, it looked like we were going waste everything we were given until our ever-dependable defender smashed home a late free kick to give us the win. I thought we should beat Sampdoria (Pires 9, 77). Coming back from conceding in the first minute, I thought we'd got the win but two late goals from them took the game away from us and left us wondering what had happened. Against Fiorentina (Pires pen 21, Da Graca 58), we got our backside handed to us on a plate. They run us all over the pitch and took us apart for fun. There's no reality check like an FM reality check! Finally, we took on Bologna (Cappiello 55, Rugani 60). I was worried that we were going to waste this chance for a win but took the lead through a superb cross from Pires that Cappiello volleyed into the top corner. Rugani then smashed home a free kick to make the result secure. The worry was new signing Peric having his leg broken and being out for the next five months!

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Well the month wasn't as straight-forward as I thought it would be and the table certainly tells that story. Despite it all though, we're still in the top four and, if anyone had offered me this for three months in, I'd have bitten their hand off before the season started. It's still not a bad position to be in!

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It's another month of four league games. We kick off against relegation-threatened Perugia and SPAL are struggling down in 16th too. Then the month flips: we face bitter rivals Roma, presently 11th and table-topping Inter. I'm really not expecting to get anything out that game so we'd better make the other three count!

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November 2026

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I expected to have a mixed month with the four games that we had but it's safe to say that the results we got out of it certainly weren't what I was expecting! First up we played relegation-threatened Perugia. They went ahead in the 23rd minute through a bit of a hit-it-and-hope effort and, initally, I wasn't too concerned. I was by the end though - we created an absolute hatful of chances and wasted them all leading to a shock defeat. Next up were SPAL (Spreeuwenberg 80, 90+1). This was a much closer game and looked like we were coming away with just a point until super-sub Spreeuwenberg nodded home a close effort. He then made the game secure by curling home a top-corner beauty from the opposite side of the box! Derby rivals Roma (Da Graca 4) were up next. We got an early goal in a break from their corner before they equalised through and eye-of-the-needle pass just before half time. Finally, we took on title-challenging Inter (Rugani 62, Cappiello 64, Hojbjerg 67). For most of the game, neither side created much and I thought we'd get away with a creditable draw. The picture then changed in a five-minute burst with Rugani heading in a corner, Cappiello smashing home a long-range stunner and Hojbjerg smashing home a super free-kick to give us a pretty special win.

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The net result of the month has been to see us drop down out of the Champs League places into the Europa places. Given how tough the month could have been, I think it's certainly not a serious problem yet. We just need to make sure that we make the most of hopefully kinder months yet to come!

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So we go back to the cup to kick-start the month and take on Serie B side Chievo. They're followed by relegation-candidates Lecce. The next three clubs are also all in the bottom half as we play 14th place Spezia, 12th place Verona and 11th place Udinese. It could be a really good month. Let's make it happen!

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December 2026

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Another perfect month. I don't what I've stumbled upon this season but I certainly want to stumble upon a lot more of it if it's going to keep things going on the up and positive like this! We started off in the cup and took on Chievo (Pires Pen 2, Pen 36, Maresic 10). I gave the tikki-taka another run out and we got the result but all our goals were set-plays so there's something of a reservation there. In the league, we took on Lecce (Da Graca 75, Maresic 87). For most of this game, it looked like it was going to be a re-run of the Perguia game and see us come away with a frustrating defeat but thankfully a couple of goals changed things late on. Against Spezia (Cappiello 3), Cappiello scored a fierce effort low past the near post to set us on our way early. We dominated the game but couldn't find another goal to make it more comfortable. Hellas Verona (Da Graca 53, 86) were a lower mid-table side. Hanson-Aaroen, on loan from Man U, chipped a beauty of a cross in for the first and a Pires breakaway got us the second. Finally, we played Udinese (Cappiello 15, Da Graca 45+1, Maresic 56). The highlight of the match was our second goal which was set up by a beauty of a through-ball from Pires.

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So the month comes a finish and we're in third place - I certainly need oxygen tanks to be surviving at this altitude! We have a game in hand on Fio and are only two points behind them so there's an actual chance we could go above them... until we look at the next month's fixtures but we'll come on to that in a moment. Overall, we're in a good place and it would take a fairly tragic second half of the season to fail in our objectives from here.

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It's hard to read too much into that report at this stage - on the one hand we should be really optimistic, on the other hand there are lot of positions with not much coming through! I'm intreigued by this player from Innerleithen. He might become a cult favourite of mine based on nothing more than his location!

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Despite all the talk of our good position, the elephant in the room is the fact that we're yet to play two of the league's biggest clubs but that is soon to change. Napoli, tenth, and Juve, fifth, kick off 2027 in style. After that, we have the small matter of Milan in the cup before three tough but winnable games to see the month out. Happy New Year!

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January 2027 Part 1

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Well there were some big games in this month and they certainly didn't turn out to be easy! I'm going to put the first two games against Napoli (Da Graca 1) and Juventus (14) under one heading. In both games, we took an early lead and seemed to go eye-to-eye with them throughout the game but then let it drift away from us as the game went on. Next up was the cup game against Milan (Pires 23, Da Graca 55, 87) where we took control again, smashed Milan and carried on in the cup. Back in the league, we faced Sassuolo (Da Graca 15). There was an early exchange of goals but then that was it despite our domination of the game. This was followed by a game against Parma (Orellana 5, Da Graca 40, Pires 87). Once we'd gone two-nil up I thought the game was done and dusted but then we threw it away and relied on a late winner from Pires to see us over the line. Back in the cup, we took on Sassuolo (Spreeuwenberg 90+6) who absolutely smashed us. It was painful and made even more so when Cappiello picked up a six-week injury to boot.

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So the month's action so far leaves us in fifth place, still in contention for all the European competitions or nothing at all. The league so tight and we could end up anywhere it feels to me. Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you will see that I haven't completed the month's fixtures yet and that's because we're on the move again...

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January 2027 Part 2

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So here we are! It's back to Blighty part 2 and a job with Arsenal! Now, as a person seeking the Spurs job at any opportunity, this might seem a funny one to go for and there were certainly some questions about it in the presser. However, it has boosted my reputation again (now 70% and 3.5 stars) and it's got me back into the prem league which I didn't manage on the last game and I missed it. I'm also keen to see if I can beat my hall-of-fame record from last year (note - need to look it up) and with Arsenal in the FA Cup and the Europa League knockout stages, I think there's a real possibility of my first silverware of the save.

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So here's the situation - top-half is a must and really not that far away from it. I'd certainly hope that we could pick up more points than the likes of Leeds and Sheffield between now and the end of the seaon. Also, the goals in and out don't look too bad either and, if our league place matched them, we'd be pretty much on par. However, the team have only won a single game since Boxing Day and that was a cup game against Championship Charlton so clearly something is pretty wrong!

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Are the expecations exciting or mad? It feels a bit too early to say yet. With the club wanting to get into position to compete for league from next season, it sounds pretty exciting but also a long way away from where we are in lowly twelfth. The squad look good (if bloated) and I'll come on to that with more detail in my next post. At the end of the day, I'm here to do a job. That job is win stuff so let's see the team that are going to do it!

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