A New Era For The Latics


Chapter 12
Just Call Us Arsenal Number 2
27th July 2024

Before we get into this Summer's transfer business, there was a big change in my backroom team as my Assistant Manager, Graham Barrow, retired from football. The man I have brought in to replace him is the guy that played assistant to Graham Potter's success from Ostersunds, to Swansea, Brighton and Chelsea. He is a proven assistant and is a bit of a coup for us as my new right hand man.

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Graham Potter himself still hasn't picked up a new job since his Chelsea sacking and it will be interesting if he comes knocking at Billy Reid's door when he eventually finds a new club.

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In terms of players in, I immediately turn to our new link with Arsenal and take advantage of that relationship. Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Charlie Patino both join the club on season long loan deals and both will play key roles for us this season without a doubt! Always though Patino is one of the brightest prospects coming through English football so I am excited to manage him this year.

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We then lose a big player and I have to say I'm pretty annoyed with Jason Kerr about this. He was earning £6.25k per week with us and when I went into contract talks with him, he was demanding £20k+ per week to stay. I was prepared to offer him £14-15k per week and he kept rejecting to the point he decided he was going to explore his options at the end of his contract. He has now agreed to go to Kilmarnock on even less money than he was originally on with us!! WTF?!

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To make myself feel better, I bring in another £20 million prospect on loan from Arsenal for the season. Amario Cozier-Duberry is going to be a handful for commentators this season and hopefully the 19 year old forward will prove to be just as much of a handful for opposition defenders too.

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He'll be a direct replacement for Callum McManaman who has now retired from playing. McManaman played 17 league games for us last year, but only managed to contribute 3 goals and an assist, so he certainly wasn't a key player for us. But a player that has had 3 spells at the club and played for us in the Premier League certainly deserves a mention.

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Keeping in touch with the Arsenal link, this time we turn to one of their recently released players to join us on a permanent deal. Forward, Tyreece John-Jules, hasn't fulfilled his early promise yet and needs to settle somewhere after some loan spells and kick start his career properly. I've given the 23 year old that chance to do that here...let's see if he can take it!

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Then there is a further bolster to central midfield and I'm really pleased to bring in Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu from Luton on a free. He was a massive part of their promotion campaign to get out of the Championship for Luton and is a big signing for us.

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That leaves us a bit heavy in the central midfield department so I decided to offload our weakest player in that position. Scott Smith only played a squad rotation role last year, so was always likely to get even less game time this year in the Championship. He joins Boavista for a fee of £325k.

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I'm allowed to take 4 players from one team on loan for the season, so again we return to Arsenal for squad cover. Reuell Walters is definitely not good enough to play as a first team regular for us, but the versatility the 19 year old offers in the fact he can play both full back roles and at the centre of defence will make him a valuable member of the team this year.

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Talking of centre back, I've managed to add Irish defender Jimmy Dunne to the side on a free transfer after he left QPR at the end of last season. I was able to pick him up on cheap wages and he'll likely play plenty of matches for us this year, bringing with him 3 years of Championship first team experience with him.

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Another player I managed to add to the team on cheap wages was striker, Jay Rodriguez. He's going to be the oldest player in the team this year at 34 years old, but brings Premier League goalscoring experience with him and can hopefully contribute something up top for us.

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Whilst we're working our way through pre season, the board offer me a new 3 year deal to stay at the club!

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Pre season was decent this year with 6 wins from 6 games, with decent victories over the likes of Rangers and Antwerp thrown in the mix with some lower league opposition.

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Chapter 13
Starting Life In The Championship
25th August 2024

As we are about to kick off the new season, we take a little look at the preview and there are no surprises to see the bookies tipping us for relegation. However, they don't think we're the worst side in the league and Huddersfield are the club fancied to prop up the table at the end of the year. Wolves are odds on to win the division after their relegation from the top tier last year and no less than 7 of their players make the media dream 11!! The rest of that team is made up of Leeds players and clearly those two sides are expected to dominate this year.

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Our first game in the Championship will be away at Stoke. They're hoping for a top half finish and an outside shot at the playoffs this season and the Bet365 Stadium has never been an easy place to go, so it will likely be a testing start for us.

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At this moment in time, our squad looks like this, but with a month of the window still remaining, we do have time to do some more business and we will need to as the squad does look a bit thin on the ground.

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Although we will need to either find loans where no wages are required or sell some players to raise funds as the transfer budget is empty and the wage budget is maxed out. All the funds I have raised so far through minor sales has all been transferred into the wage budget to get it where it's at now.

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For now though, we will make do with what we have and that was good enough to get us an opening day win at Stoke! Get in! Perfect start to the season! It was Callum Lang that won the ball high up the pitch on the left side, cut inside and crossed low across the box for Stephen Humphrys to smash home a powerful effort for the winning goal.

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Last year we were a pretty good cup team and it took sides from the leagues above to knock us out of both the FA and Carabao Cups. So I had no doubt we would overcome Newport County in the first round of this year's Carabao competition, but I didn't necessarily expect us to absolutely batter them in the manner that we did!

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Back in the league in only our second game of the season, we suffer our first defeat at the hands of Ipswich Town. However, it's a game we never should have lost looking at the statistics and can come away from this feeling a little bit sorry for ourselves.

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Our next two games were going to be of huge importance to our survival bid and would give an indication of our realistic chances as well. Both Plymouth and Huddersfield are also expected to be in the bottom 6 this year, so losing to both of them would be a potential tragedy. Especially as we will have to follow those two up with a really tough game against the title favourites.

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But we didn't lose either and take a solid 4 points from the two games. Charlie Patino is starting to settle at the club and his performance against Huddersfield was nothing short of delightful as he was involved in all three of our goals as he lifted the man of the match.

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Then we did something I completely wasn't expecting. An amazing display of football from my lads left Wolves shellshocked as we beat them 3-0 and were ****** good value for it as well! What a result! Young winger, Amario Cozier-Duberry turned in a 10/10 performance!

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It's been a really solid start to life in the Championship for us and to rack up 10 points from our opening 5 matches is very impressive indeed. Meanwhile, just look at Wolves who have only managed 3 points and are in the relegation zone in these early stages!

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Chapter 14
Not A Bad Start
22nd September 2024

Last season we met Derby County in the second round of the Carabao Cup, where we knocked them out on pens. This year, we would face off against the Rams in the competition's second round again.

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And for the second season in a row, we knock them out. Just as the game looked like it was heading for penalties again, centre back Jimmy Dunne popped up with a stunning curling effort that any striker would have been proud of to avoid the shootout and see us into the next round.

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Unfortunately, we couldn't keep up winning ways in the league as we suffer a defeat away at Hull. We were really poor here and didn't really deserve anything from the game, so I can't really have any complaints.

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The goal scored by Jay Rodriguez against Hull makes him the club's oldest ever goalscorer.

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I had big plans for transfer deadline day this year. I knew I wanted to improve my squad in certain areas, but I also knew I had absolutely no cash to do it with. So the idea initially was to move on a player that I could generate good money for....that player that has been sacrificed is Steven Sessegnon who moves to Spain to join Alaves for a fee of £5.5 million! Although he is one of my better players, we can do a lot with that sort of money! The good thing is that he won't actually go until the end of December so we keep him here for a few months, but already have the money in the transfer budget to spend :)

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The incoming funds have been adjusted to put some extra funds in the wage budget and we now have some money to play with in the remaining hours of the window to bring a couple of permanent deals in hopefully.

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But the first addition was a new loan signing in the form of Bournemouth's Ronnie Edwards, who comes in to bolser our options at centre back. Edwards is a player I tried to sign at that start of the window, but The Cherries wanted 100% of his wages at nearly £20k per week which we couldn't commit to. However, on deadline day they have lowered their expectations and we managed to snap up Ronnie on just 20% of his salary for the season.

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Harry Toffolo is in through the door next as he signs from Nottingham Forest for a fee of just £80k. Bargain! He will provide good competition for the left back position with Tom Pearce, who was my only out and out left back to this point.

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Next in was the replacement for Sessegnon as I fork out £825k to bring in Jason Shackleton from Leeds. On paper, he is better than Sessegnon but there will be a handover period over the next few months where I'll be able to compare the two players anyway.

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So this is how the squad looks at the end of the window and I feel much happier now. The good thing is that I do have £1.6 million still sitting in the budget for January as well.

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After a 2 week International break, we returned to action against league leaders, Norwich. It's the luckiest point we will win all season!

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The fixture list certainly hasn't been kind to us as right after playing the team at the top, we have to play the side in 2nd.

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As if it wasn't going to be hard enough, we hand them the initiative in the first half, firstly with a sending off in the opening 10 mins and then by gifting them a penalty inside 25. From that point, it was always going to be a near impossible task to get anything from the game.

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At least we bounced back with a big win over our local rivals! Great result!

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That win over Blackpool propels us back into the top half of the table and I'm extremely pleased with the start we've made this year. At the top, Norwich have made an incredible start, whilst it's been torrid for Blackburn who are the only side in the division without a win from their opening 9 matches.

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Chapter 15
Premier League Opposition In The Carabao Cup
30th October 2024

The Carabao Cup will pit us against Premier League opposition in the third round as we host Leicester City. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that we can come through this tie though, as we have history knocking out Premier League teams in this competition as we beat Newcastle 2-1 last year!

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And for the second season in a row, we do in fact claim a Premier League scalp. It took the help of a penalty shootout this year and I was pleased to get over the line after letting a 2-0 lead slip.

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We'll do very well to go any further in the competition though after drawing last year's winners of the competition in the next round.

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Next up in the Championship, we have a game against the side that has proven to be a thorn in my side so far. Three times we played Portsmouth last year and three times we lost!

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The first half saw us batter Portsmouth's goal without scoring and no better opportunity would come than Jay Rodriguez's penalty which he hit straight down the middle of the goal down the throat of the keeper. The second half continued in the same vein and it was looking more and more likely that it wasn't going to be our day. That was until the 88th minute when Stephen Humphrys finally put the ball in the back of the net with his headed effort at the back post from Harry Toffolo's cross.

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However, the win comes at the cost of three injuries!! All ankle injuries that will keep players out for up to 4 weeks each!!

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My injury ravaged side still managed to bag a comfortable win over Watford in our next game, even though we tried our hardest to throw it away in the final minutes of the match!

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But it's another injury picked up along the way to that win and now both my natural right wingers are out.

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Luckily, our top goalscoer is not currently injured and it was Tyreece John-Jules brace that got us over the line with another victory over Swansea. Our strong run of form continues.

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I rested John-Jules for the Cardiff game as I can't run the risk of overplaying him and losing our main front man as well as all the other injuries we currently have. With him out the side, it was up to someone else to step up and Jay Rodriguez played up top and did just that, getting us on the scoresheet inside 3 minutes. He did go on to miss a pen, but Callum Lang's 90th minute strike ensured victory and put paid to any Cardiff hopes of snatching a draw.

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Yet another win followed against Bristol City and we are in excellent form of late...surprisingly good form and I totally didn't expect to be having this kind of season back in the Championship.

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I mean if you'd have told me that we'd be 3rd in the table after 14 games, I'd have never believed it! But that's where we find ourselves for now. I won't get carried away as there is still a long way to go, but I think it's fair to say that worries of potential relegation are already firmly behind us this year.

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Now we will turn our attentions back to the Carabao Cup and a tie against Arsenal...our senior affiliate. What isn't ideal about drawing your senior affiliate in the cup is that when you have multiple players on loan from them, it immediately rules out 4 key players for the game!

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And without some of our best players, we were unable to dig out a result, although we did still put in a very credible performance against the Premier League champions.

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We can even come away feeling a little sorry for ourselves and it's gutting we weren't able to put one of our chances in the back of the net, considering our shots came from much more threatening positions than The Gunners chances.

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Chapter 16
Approaching The Half Way Stage Of The Season

10th December 2024

Our next league game was going to be away at 4th placed Middlesbrough...a side now managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Michael Carrick was sacked nearly a year ago.

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We came so close to beating them and recording a really big win, but a 96th minute Alfie Devine equalizer means we have to share the points with the Boro.

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Our injury woes this season continue as we lose Charlie Wyke for 3 months. This one is not so frustrating because he's a key first team player but more so because I was looking to move him on in the January window and now probably won't be able to if he is injured.

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Blackburn Rovers are another of our local rivals and this would be the first time in my career I've come up against them. Now, normally, it would be a fixture that would be very tough, but with Rovers sitting bottom of the table with just 8 points, we have to be going into this expecting a win!

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And we did win, but we made ****** hard work of it and in the end relied on a 93rd minute winner from John-Jules!

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Although Luton were relegated from the Premier League last year, they are not necessarily a favourite to go straight back up as their original promotion was a shock one anyway. However, they are giving it a good go this year and sit just behind us in 4th as we are about to kick off against them and this will be a tough match.

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It proved to be the case and we are beaten at home. A tightly contested affair, but the Luton goalkeeper had a fantastic game and he proved to be the difference.

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Straight after losing, the best thing you can hope for is playing a side that is 23rd in the table, so the fixture against Coventry was a very welcome one. But things didn't exactly go to plan and we were largely outplayed throughout the game and can probably count ourselves lucky to grab a point here.

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We were pretty average against Millwall too, but Jay Rodriguez scored a looping header in the 95th minute to take the 3 points.

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Next up is a Fulham side now managed by none other than Wayne Rooney. He only moved to Fulham from Birmingham 2 games ago and has so far recorded two draws against Ipswich and Wolves.

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And he makes it 3 draws in a row as Taylor Harwood-Bellis scores a header in the 94th minute to earn them a completely undeserved point. We dominated this from start to finish and it's gutting not to win the game, considering that was literally Fulham's only shot on target in the whole match!

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We couldn't beat Rooney's old club either as we turn in our worst display for a while! We were really, really poor in Birmingham.

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We're on our worst run of the season, having only won once in our last five games.

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But despite that, we do remain 4th as we approach the half way stage of the season. Norwich and Leeds are making bold bids for the two automatic promotion spots already and will take some pegging back by any of the chasing pack. The chasing pack that we somehow find ourselves in. Not sure if we will remain here for long, especially if we don't pick up our current form, but we can only be happy with how things continue to go for us at the moment.

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Even with the injuries and being a newly promoted squad you are flying mate, love the posts each time! (y) 😁

Chapter 17
First £1 million+ Signing
12th January 2025

West Brom are another side that are aspiring to get themselves back into the Premier League and sit 11th as we invite them to the DW Stadium.

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We desperately needed a win after our recent run of form and I told the lads before kick off that I expected to see better. They listened and delivered as we pick up a solid victory. Charlie Hughes got us up and running when he nipped in at the near post to head home from a corner, before Amario Cozier-Duberry curled a beautiful shot into the far corner with his left foot just 7 minutes later to put the game out of West Brom's reach.

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Tommy Elphick has taken on his first job in football management as he becomes the new boss at Sheffield Wednesday. The ex Bournemouth and Aston Villa player's first game in charge will be against us.

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It's a defeat to start his career at our hands, thanks to a Thelo Aasgaard brace. Two stunning strikes both from outside the box.

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We only played Wayne Rooney's Fulham a few games ago and now we face them again on Boxing Day. Since our last meeting, Rooney has his first couple of wins under his belt and is still unbeaten as Fulham manager.

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And as we did before, we share the points. Twice we went in front and twice we were pegged back, which is frustrating, but Fulham are a good side and to not lose to them over 2 games is decent enough for us as a newly promoted side.

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We immediately got back to winning ways against our local rivals, Blackpool. A game of two halves really as we were terrible in the first period and went into half time behind. However, a good kick up the backside saw the lads turn the game on it's head in the second 45 minutes! Charlie Patino was the star of the show as he scored a screamer from 25 yards and then got the assist for our second.

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As we reach the end of the year, Steven Sessegnon has made his long awaited move to Alaves.

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And the transfer fee received finally goes into the bank account, making it look pretty healthy all of a sudden.

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The money from the deal had been made available in the window back in the Summer though and most of it had been spent already. That included a deal that was done in September, but we have been waiting to go through with the opening of the transfer window. That deal is for 21 year old Albanian striker, Cristian Shpendi, who joins us from Cesena for a fee of £1 million. I've invested in the youngster in the hope he is going to improve into a really good football player for the club! He is the first player I sign for a fee over £1 million.

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Shpendi was given a few minutes towards the end of our New Year's Day fixture with Portsmouth. By the time he come on, we'd already got the job done and kick off 2025 with a win over the side that has previously been our nemesis.

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I then gave Shpendi his first start for the club in the FA Cup 3rd round fixture away at Accrington. He has the ball in the back of the net inside 11 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Following on from that, there was no goal for our new man, but we did go on to win the game as comfortably as most had expected.

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Back in the league, our new striker scored his first two goals for the club as we cruised to an easy win over Swansea, but the goal of the game came from Stephen Humphrys who's free kick from 30 yards smashed into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar.

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At the start of the season, our target was 50 points to potentially stay up! What I didn't expect was to hit that target and still have 19 games to go, but that's the position we find ourselves in! Norwich are still unbeaten and starting to pull away at the top, but we find ourselves very much in the race of the playoffs at this stage.

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Chapter 18
Are We Genuine Playoff/Promotion Contenders?!
11th February 2025

I have now spent the remainder of the leftover money from the Sessegnon sale and it's been spent on defensive reinforcements with a player I believe to be a bargain. Mads Andersen was bought by Luton at the start of their Premier League campaign last year for £3.3 million from Barnsley and he played 22 games for them in the top tier. However, this year he hasn't featured for them at all for some reason and I was able to pick him up for a hugely reduced price of £700k (£450k paid up front)! Absolute bargain for a top centre back for the Championship!

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Watford came into our league game 3rd in the form table, so to take anything from the Hornets on their home ground has to be seen as a good result...and we do walk away with a valuable point.

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Cardiff were on a 4 match winning streak before we beat them here, so the quality of the result can't be underestimated from our perspective. A great performance all round and a big 3 points against an in form side.

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That would lead us to the 4th round of the FA Cup and it was a home draw against Coventry for us. We've only played them once under my management and that ended in a 2-2 draw earlier in the season - a game we were leading right up until the 90th minute when Callum O'Hare got an equalizer for them.

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And just before we play them, we get some incredibly frustrating news. My new striker, Cristian Shpendi will be out of action for the next 2-3 months with an injury sustained in training! The youngster has had an impressive start with us, scoring 3 goals in 5 games and this is a real kick in the teeth.

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With Shpendi out and Jay Rodriguez suspended, the responsibility to lead the line fell on Charlie Wyke and he stepped up as his goal was the one that put us 2-0 up and proved to be the winner against Coventry and we're into the next round of the FA Cup.

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Our match against Bristol City one was a pretty dull affair for the fans with no decent chances mustered up and both sides recording an xG below 0.6. However, our fans will certainly go home the happier after Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu stole the points for us with his late effort from just outside the box.

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Wolves would be our next opponents and although they have risen through the table this year, they are still only 8th and for a side that we heavily expected to win the division this year, it's a very disappointing season for them. And they would come into our game on a mixed run of form since the start of the year, winning just 4 of their last 10 in all competitions.

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And they don't win again as we beat them at Molineux in front of their own fans! What a result!

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And that's a 10 game unbeaten run we now find ourselves on, during which we have only conceded 6 goals as well! We are on fire right now!

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In the form we are in and moving into 2nd position in the table, I think it's fair to say we should now start being taken seriously as potential playoff/promotion candidates.

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We back up those credentials once again with yet another win against Hull in our next game as well! Jay Rodriguez seems to have hit a purple patch all of a sudden, scoring back to back braces.

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Chapter 19
**** You Norwich
24th March 2025

Our next game sees us welcome the league leaders to the DW Stadium and this is going to be a real tough fixture as Norwich have only lost once all season in the Championship.

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On the plus side, that was in their very last game, so we present them with a new challenge for the first time this season...can they bounce back immediately from defeat?

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I mean, if you need to bounce back from defeat, then having the four best players in the league in your side is always going to help.

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And they did prove too strong for us...but only just!

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So now it would be our turn to see if we could bounce back from defeat and the answer was no. However, taking a point from this game against the side in 5th, when we had to play an hour of the game with only 10 men, is a good result!

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The big games just keep on coming as we go away to Leeds next and in terms of the promotion race, this game is massive!

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What a huge win!! This could well be the biggest result of our season so far under the circumstances!

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Never could I have imagined we would be approaching the business end of the season with a 5 point lead in 2nd to 3rd place and becoming a favourite for automatic promotion. Don't get me wrong, there are still 11 games where anything can happen, but WOW!

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We need to forget the league right now though as we have an FA Cup tie to play and it's going to be against Norwich who lead the way in the Championship and who we have already failed to beat on two occasions this year already.

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And we fail again. We deserved nothing from this to be fair and were entirely outplayed by Norwich...like we were completely battered and never in the game! Last year it was Portsmouth that proved to be our nemesis and this year it is definitely The Canaries.

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So we only have the league to worry about now this season and we get back to that with a good win over local rivals, Blackburn. At 2-1 up, there was a really important moment when Harry Toffolo cleared a Blacburn effort off the line - big clearance and significant as we then go on to score again and win the game.

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Luton had the potential to throw a spanner in the works, but we overcome them at Kenilworth Road too and right now we really are proving that we deserve to be where we are in the league!

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One team I didn't expect to cause us any issues was 22nd placed Coventry City. Now we did get the win, but to say they were a walkover would be wrong - they went 1-0 up and missed a couple of big chances to double their lead too...if they'd have taken one then it might have been a different story!

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Jay Rodriguez was the game changer for us against Coventry and scored another brace. I took a bit of a punt on the 35 year old at the start of the season and wasn't entirely sure how much he would offer us, but he's returned 12 goals and 4 assists in the league so I think it's fair to say he's been a success.

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It only took Rodriguez 1 minute to get on the scoresheet against Ipswich and he should have had two on 11 mins but his penalty hit the post. Luckily, that miss didn't cost us and we went on to win the game at Portman Road - another impressive result to add to our collection this season!

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With just 7 games of the season remaining, we find ourselves in an automatic promotion spot and not only that, we are 11 points clear of Leeds in 3rd!! Basically, if we win 4 of our last 7 matches, we will be promoted!! That's unbelievable!!

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Chapter 20
Total Meltdown!
3rd May 2025

The biggest issue I have at Wigan is the fact our facilities are absolute dog ****!

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And that is resulting in awful youth intakes. For the second year in a row, we don't have a single player who looks like they will one day 'make it'.

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So back to the action and a potential promotion to tie up! We started our run in with a difficult game against 4th placed Stoke, but we'll take this point as a good one.

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Our promotion bid does take a hit though as top goalscorer Jay Rodriguez won't play again this season....he may even retire off the back of this injury!

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Huddersfield are bottom of the league, so this game should have been an easy win for us! However, it's a shock result as we are beaten by the side propping up the league and this could come back to haunt us if we don't end up securing promotion!

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We followed up the Huddersfield result with another absolute shocker against Plymouth - another side at the bottom end of the league! What the actual **** is going on - it looks like we are going to do our very best to throw away our Premier League promotion opportunity!

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Our back to back defeats have allowed Leeds and Stoke back in with a chance on the final run in.

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We will have no excuses if we don't finish the job though as we will play two sides in the bottom 3 during our last four matches.

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After back to back defeats, we really needed to grind something out against 7th placed Birmingham who had already beaten us this season. We did manage a point in a ding dong battle, which saw both sides lead at different points in the game.

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But we are straight back to losing ways against West Brom! I have no ******* idea what has happened to my side, but we can't buy a win at the moment!

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And that has allowed Leeds to come back and take the initiative for 2nd spot with just 2 games remaining! How the **** have we let such a big lead slip!

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It made our game with Millwall an absolute must win! But again we can't get the job done and that's now 6 games without a win!

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So going into the last game of the regular season, we now have to beat bottom side Sheffield Wednesday and hope that Leeds lose away at West Brom, who unfortunately have nothing to play for!

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We did our bit!

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But unfortunately, Leeds managed to get the 1 point they needed and it's them that take 2nd spot and we will now have to try to regroup for the playoffs!

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Chapter 21
The Playoffs

We will go into the playoffs in the worst form of my career, winning just one of our last seven games! The team that awaits us is Wayne Rooney's Fulham, who we have drawn 1-1 and 2-2 with during the normal season.

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Our confidence is at an all time low right now and that showed as we were battered and we're pretty much out of this tie before the second leg even kicks off! ******* dreadful performance!

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With a 5 goal deficit to overcome in the second leg, it was important that we scored the first couple of goals in the game...and we did at least do that taking a 2-0 lead into the break. It was still a tall order, but we had at least given ourselves the narrowest of chances!

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We weren't able to kick on in the second half though and although we finish the game with the win, the damage was already done in the first leg and it's another year of Championship football for us!

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The wage budget has received a slight boost going into next season which will hopefully allow me to improve the squad over the Summer, but if we want transfer funds we will first need to look into selling players.

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Don't get me wrong though, we are still miles off it in terms of salary spend in the Championship and this stat alone shows just how well we did to finish 3rd this year.

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In terms of the playoff final, it was Fulham who went on to win at Wembley and Boro stay in the Championship with us for another year at least.

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Premier League = Manchester City

Championship = Norwich City
League One = Derby County
League Two = Wrexham
National League = Chesterfield

FA Cup = Tottenham
Carabao Cup = Tottenham
EFL Trophy = Stockport County
Community Shield = Manchester City
FA Trophy = Yeovil Town

UEFA Champions League = Manchester United
UEFA Europa League = Red Bull Salzburg

UEFA Europa Conference League = Crystal Palace

The league campaign saw us massively overachieve as we make the playoffs, although I can't help but be disappointed with the meltdown at the end of the season which saw us forfeit our automatic promotion place to Leeds. But we have something to build on next season, although we need to leave our form well behind us at the start of the new campaign.

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The FA and Carabao Cups again saw us get through a few rounds and have mini cup runs although we didn't pull up any major trees in either competition.

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Overall Squad Stats

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The New Arrivals

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The Best 11

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Club Awards

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The Commercials

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The Finances

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After managing to make the playoffs this year, the supporters and board have now re-evaluated their expectations. Prior to this season, the plan for the next 5 years was simply to avoid relegation, but now a top half finish will be required to back up the past season's success.

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What a first season in the Championship, going to be tough though with that transfer budget to make another charge at promotion though
What a first season in the Championship, going to be tough though with that transfer budget to make another charge at promotion though

What an incredible meltdown at the end though :ROFLMAO: Probably one of my worst ever on any version of FM!

Chapter 22
Big Money Comes In Allowing Reshape Of Whole Squad
19th July 2025

This Summer, I had plans to get rid of some of the players I don't feel are good enough for the Championship and the first to go is central midfielder, Baba Adeeko. I managed to rake in £1.3 million for him too from Brest.

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I moved to spend a million quid of that money on Adeeko's direct replacement. Fabio Gerli is that man and he comes in from Modena. Looking at the attributes of the two players, it is a clear upgrade for our defensive midfielder position.

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I'd be silly if I didn't look to take advantage of our affiliation with Arsenal again this season and the first season long loanee to come in from The Gunners this year is wonderkid, Ethan Nwaneri. This kid is one of the most highly thought of youngsters at Arsenal and I am delighted to have him here for the season and look forward to seeing what he can do.

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Of all the players I allowed to leave at the end of their contracts, the main one worth noting is Callum Lang who has played 159 league games for us over a 10 year period. He moves on to Kilmarnock as I just think we can get better players in now.

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Talking of free transfers at the end of their contract, we have a big one coming into the club too. Mason Holgate joins us on a free from Everton and becomes our highest paid player at the club. He brings some serious pace to our defence and is a very welcome addition to the back line.

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Then there was another departure of a player deemed not good enough. Jonny Smith moves to Rotherham for a fee of £225k.

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Next up, I added a bit of experience to the team as 33 year old Turkish winger, Serdar Gurler joins the club on a free transfer. He signs for relatively cheap wages and just on a 12 month deal and I'm hoping he can do a job for us this season down both wings when required.

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Right, this is a massive piece of business that I hadn't planned on, but will now likely shape the rest of our Summer. Millwall came in with a bid of £16.75 million (rising to £20.5 million with add ons) for Matthew Smith and my board accepted it over my head as they felt it was too good to turn down! I have to admit, I'd have probably accepted it as well as it is a game changing amount of money for us and £13.5 million has been added to the transfer kitty for me to spend!

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I immediately moved my budgets around to make another £100k per week available in the wages, which still leaves me £10 million to spend in the market!

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Our funds were then boosted further with the sale of Thelo Aasgaard to Hellas Verona for £1.8 million.

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My first signing is a new striker who will hopefully bring some Brazilian flair to the side. Andre Luis comes in for £1.2 million from Portuguese side, Moreirense, where he scored 11 goals in the top tier over there last season.

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Then there was another Arsenal loan signing, as Gianluca Prestianni comes in for the season. The 19 year old looks like a really good player for the Championship and will be an exciting addition to our attack.

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Millwall came calling for another of our players next and were willing to fork out another £4.3 million to sign Tyreece John-Jules from us. I was happy to let him go as he was unhappy at the club and proving to be a bad egg in the dressing room. Not quite sure where Millwall have got all this money from though following their relegation to League One last year.

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Another loanee through the door for us as James Beadle comes in from Brighton to act as backup keeper for the year. We needed a new goalie after Ben Amos retired this Summer.

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Then a big signing (albeit on a free transfer) as I make Ryan Yates the highest paid player at the club. The central midfielder is a very, very good player for the Championship and will play a key role for us moving forward.

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The quality players keep on coming as Scott Twine is next in. He signs from Burnley for £1.9 million and gives us a considerable upgrade on John-Jules who we managed to get double his fee for. Our business so far has been very shrewd and I am extremely happy at this point.

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And we're even stronger with the £2 million signing of Club Brugge midfielder, Cisse Sandra. He is good enough to feature prominently for the first team now, but at the age of 21 he will only get better as well!

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So here's the squad at this point and I feel we are in a very strong position!

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Chapter 23
Start Of Season 3
24th August 2025

Our new season will start with the hardest possible fixture. Crystal Palace were relegated from the Prem last year and having to go to Selhurst Park on the opening day is about as difficult as it gets.

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Pre season preparation went about as well as I could have hoped though and was rounded off by impressive wins against both Antwerp and Arsenal.

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The improved squad we have this season is recognised by all and the bookies are taking note as they have us down for a top 10 finish this year which is a vast improvement on the relegation battle they predicted us for last season.

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Just before the season kicks off, there is a new arrival as I sign Lewie Coyle from Hull City for £700k. The 29 year old right back comes in as cover in that position as it was one of the only weak areas on the pitch I was still concerned about.

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And there was a departure as well. Charlie Wyke has fallen down the pecking order up front now and I've been trying to sell him all Summer, without any joy. So I opted to get him out on loan instead and Gillingham will at least pay 80% of his £8k per week wages.

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I haven't spent anywhere near the same amount as I have brought in this Summer, so I asked the board to make some facilities improvements with some of the leftover cash.

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So after my busiest Summer yet, we finally get season 3 underway and we begin with a statement win over Palace on their own turf! Great result to kick things off!

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In the first round of this year's Carabao Cup, we'd drawn newly promoted Reading and a win was firmly expected from our home fans. And we did deliver for them, although the scoreline wasn't as dominating as our performance was and we should have scored more.

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Again back in the league, we were very much in control for 90 minutes against Plymouth, but again only scrape through with the narrowest of victories. It's great to kick off the season with 3 wins, but I fear we might be punished soon if we don't start putting away our chances.

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I called it! In our very next game, we batter Coventry's goal for the whole game but can only score once and are punished by them for it late on!

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At least we bounced straight back with victory over our old League One nemesis Portsmouth! We had to do it the hard way and come from behind to win!

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We had to come from behind again against Cardiff as well, but this time a two goal deficit so we only managed to draw level and take a point. A disappointing result based on the fact I expected to win this one, but a good point considering the circumstances of how the game went.

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The biggest and worst news to come out of the Cardiff game is the loss of new striker, Andre Luis for half the season to injury!

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So 5 games into the season and we sit 5th. It's been a solid enough start to the year although I feel we can play much better than we have so far.

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Chapter 24
Getting Back On Track
24th October 2025

The Carabao Cup 2nd round had thrown up League Two opposition for us and we overcame Bradford City with relative ease. Scott Twine provided a sensational display of attacking football and his 3rd goal that secured his hat trick was a peach of a half volley from outside the box.

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Back in the league we were absolute dog **** against Stoke though! We must do better!

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On transfer deadline day, I felt we needed to add another striker to the squad after the injury to Andre Luis. We turned to Leicester's Tom Cannon as the striker to come in and hopefully do the business in Luis's absence.

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A pretty even game against Wolves in terms of possession and stats, but it is back to back defeats as we are just edged out of it by the league leaders!

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And it's another injury which is going to keep a player out for months!!

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We really needed a win against Hull after losing our last two games, but we don't get it. However, the lads do show some good fight in them, coming back from 2-0 down to ****** a point.

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And it's yet another draw away at Blackburn in a game that presented few chances for either side. We left it late to grab the point here, so it has to be seen as a point gained rather than 2 points lost.

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We are ******* terrible right now and that bad form continues into the Carabao Cup where we are knocked out by a Plymouth side I'd expect us to beat!

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Then out of absolutely nowhere, we turn in our best display of the season and get a really impressive result against 5th placed Luton. I have no idea where this came from based on recent matches, but we'll take it and hope we can build on it!

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There is a slight chance this could be the kick start of our season as we follow up the Luton result with another excellent win over Sheffield United who are another of the league's favourites to go up this season! Fabio Gerli's strike was a thunderbolt hit first time from 25 yards!

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When you've just had your biggest two wins of the season, there is no better time to ask the board for a facilities upgrade.

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We've had the International break where Cristian Shpendi scored his first two goals for the Albanian national team. He brought that form home with him too as we hammered QPR with our front man grabbing himself his first hat trick for the club!

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Shpendi was bang at it against Bristol City in our next game as well as his brace helped us on our way to a 4-0 win! Have we finally found our feet this season!

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Four straight wins has elevated us to 4th in the league and just 2 points off top spot! Things are much tighter this season though with just 6 points seperating 1st-10th. Burnley and Crystal Palace are the surprise packages of the season thus far, but for all the wrong reasons!

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Chapter 25
Solid, Solid Defence
15th December 2025

Cristian Shpendi just can't stop scoring at the moment and it was his goal that earned us the 3 points against Swansea. However, having 20 shots at their goal, we really should have won by a bigger margin!

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Shpendi's 6 goals in his last 4 games have earned him his first ever Player of the Month award.

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And it's a Manager of the Month award for me too :)

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The Manager of the Month curse struck me though as we lose to rivals Blackpool in our very next game! A really bad performance as well where we deserved nothing!

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There is no better way to bounce back than to beat 2nd placed Middlesbrough though! Big performance after a defeat and a massive result!

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And we're truly back on track as we beat Burnley as well. Mason Holgate got up to head home from a corner to give us the lead on the quarter hour mark, before Ryan Yates hit a nice low effort into the bottom corner to put the game out of reach in the 2nd half.

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We got ourselves a decent point with a bore draw at Vicarage Road as well.

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We made it four clean sheets in a row as we beat West Brom 1-0! Ethan Nwaneri with the goal as he nipped in at the near post to side foot an effort past the keeper from Serdar Gurler's cross.

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Further upgrades to the youth development can only be good for the future of the club as well.

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Defensively we are solid right now, which is lucky as it took a penalty for us to score against bottom of the table, Derby. However, because the defence is soooo good at the moment, that one goal was enough.

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Throughout my entire career to date, I've been plagued by injuries in excess of 2 months and the latest player to add to this list is Ethan Nwaneri.

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As we have done so many times before, we will muster on with the fit lads and they turned in an excellent performance against 5th placed Ipswich. This is a massive 3 points against a side that was in blinding form coming into this game.

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And a win over Reading extends our unbeaten run to 7 games, during which time we have kept 6 clean sheets! SOLID!

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It's a run of form that takes us to the top of the league for the first time this season!

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