Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

There was a while on Football Manager when Bristol City, by hook or by crook, seemed to find a way into the Premier League.

 

In the FM08-FM13 sequence, the side from Ashton Gate seemed to often end up succeeding in game where their real life equivalents failed in the 2008 Championship play-off final and find their way into the top 20 teams in England, and in the process ending Bristol's distinction as one of England's largest cities yet to enjoy Premier League representation.

 

As it is, the journey hasn't quite got them there. Two seasons in League One didn't help, with their nearest push since seeing an impressive run to the Carabao Cup semis in 2017/18, including beating Manchester United on the way there.

 

So, as someone who has managed a lot of Championship clubs to promotion in his FM CV over the years, can I do another Neil Warnock-style run to the top flight and in the process deliver Bristol City top flight success as I did with Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich in other recent career modes chronicled here.

 

For the record, I don't have FM23 atm, and did consider downloading a squad update, but will be doing this on FM22's vanilla database just for funsies.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Our first season has these ambitions before us…

This certainly feels more modest - the ambition is to challenge for the play-offs a few seasons down the line. I certainly like the idea of trying to challenge for play-off places straight out of the gate, and certainly think we could do given the Championship's helter skelter nature, but we'll just have to figure it out.

 

To try and meet these aims, I have a £1million transfer budget, space of a grand a week on the wage bill, and this group of players:

I think there is some talent at our disposal towards our goals. We've certainly got a lot of central midfielders in use, and a few decent strikers - with a few in the reserves that might be justified in promotion.

 

I'm not 100% convinced by our right-backs, and think we could also use an extra attacking midfielder, especially given the injury to Antoine Semenyo. But for our purposes, I think there's a decent squad here, and enough to at least give this top half goal a good challenge. Even if we're not predicted to meet it.

 

A few formations are under due consideration. The classic FM22 OP Gegenpress 4-2-3-1 is one I would like to try out, but a wing play 4-3-3 has also featured and would line up like this:

So, I guess we'll see what we can do with this group.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

The pre-season is done and dusted, and ahead of opening the season with a visit of Blackpool, this is how we performed in our friendly runs…

After the classic “new squad so first XI v reserves”, we played a trio of games in Spain, including a somewhat surprising trip to Sevilla and winning at the Sanchez Pijuan, which… promise if we win the FA Cup or Carabao Cup, maybe?

 

Originally there was an 11 day gap but I felt an extra game was needed, which ended up being a comfortable win over non-league Hereford, before a win over FC Twente.

 

No new signings have been made, with the only noteworthy move being the allowing of highly regarded young striker Saikou Janneh to join League 2 Northampton.

 

Going into the season and using our 4-3-3 as a base idea, the pre-season guess is…

… a 14th place finish.

 

This tbf would be an improvement, given that in the real 2021-22 season (which we are copying over here), Bristol City came 17th, 7 points behind a Stoke City team that took that coveted 14th place spot, a further two points behind Coventry City in the top half (our goal is 12th or higher as per the board) and a full 20 points off Luton Town, who finished 6th in the last of the play-off positions.

 

The nature of the Championship tbf is that I have gotten squads into decent positions. After all, my last FM22 career mode saw me get Ipswich promoted from Championship on the first try after previously winning promotion from League One.

 

But now to business, and our first assignment as Bristol City boss is to take on Blackpool at Ashton Gate.

 

So, how did day one go?

Success.

 

It was an even game in truth, decided by a fine goal from Cameron Pring, who came off the bench with the idea Jay DaSilva would join the attack but instead a thunderbolt from Pring won it.

 

Lavery for Blackpool could be a future player for us to keep an eye on in fairness - gave us plenty of bother. But that's another question for another day.

 

The relentlessness of playing football at this level means that we'll have to move on quickly. After all a Carabao Cup tie at Stevenage, then league games against Middlesbrough, Reading, Swansea and Cardiff are still to come in such a dense opening to taking on the challenge of trying to get Bristol City into the Premier League.

 

So let's move on, with a trip to Stevenage in the Carabao Cup. Would we avoid getting the custard pie that is a Cup upset?

Just about. Stevenage actually gave us quite the good game whereas I think our wide range of changes in both personnel with 7 changes (including the youngsters Scott and Conway) and going from 4-3-3 Wing Play to Gegenpress 4-2-3-1 (which had been my FM22 standard) and we very much got bailed out at the end, with an 88th minute penalty and then a late goal by substitute DaSilva deciding it.

 

It's cruel in a way on Stevenage, who were decent opponents, but them's the breaks in football. Had they scored a second goal, it would've likely been something we wouldn't have recovered from, but we gamed it well in the end.

 

Also, I've noticed Bristol City fans have set up a website complaining about their lack of penalties, which at this point is counting 466 days since their last penalty (which came at Coventry in October 2021). That's two in two games for me so far. Maybe they should try that.

 

Onwards then.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

With a pair of late winners to win 2-1 in our opening two games as Bristol City manager, we now made progress to try and turn such a promising opening into something more tangible.

 

First up for this, a trip to Middlesbrough in our first league away game against a side who lost their opener at Fulham.

 

On paper, this is a Boro side that many expect to be top six contenders and likely will have the budget for that, and our goal is to try to take something from there.

 

So, would we do so?

Well there you go - we went to Middlesbrough and got something. 3 wins out of 3, all by 2-1 margins courtesy of late drama.

 

This wasn't quite as late as Pring's winner against Blackpool on the opening day or the double strike that helped us see off Stevenage in the Carabao Cup.

 

I'd say in general this was a fairly even game but we had the better chances and would force the issue when the double sub Palmer and Wells combined to win us the game. So yay us.

 

But of course this is the Championship so any chance we have to bask in this is short-lived before we have to go again, this time with a trip to Reading and their fight to move on from a six point deduction.

 

So, would we grab another win from this M4-based contest?

Our first draw then. On expected goals we should've won, but that came thanks to substitute Kasey Palmer having a penalty saved.

 

We in truth took a while to get going, with O'Dowda's strike in the final minutes of the first half getting us back on terms after a slow start.

 

Palmer's penalty was the cue for a fairly manic ending, with both sides creating and wasting chances to win it, but we crossed the line all square. So, heyho.

 

A quick turnaround again, mind, as just a few days later, we welcomed Swansea City to Ashton Gate.

 

So, would we grab ourselves 3 points?

Back-to-back draws it is then. A fairly low quality game for the demographic that watches EFL games on Friday nights on TV, with Piroe's early goal cancelled out by a good opportunistic strike from Palmer, precious few second half chances for a winner and that was that.

 

Still however the churn goes on, as a few days later, we welcomed Watford to Ashton Gate in our first contest against a Premier League side, and a team managed by Claudio Ranieri who it's perhaps easy to forget had a cameo in 2021-22 as one of Watford's 500 managers.

 

As it is, it's still a decent opportunity to prove we can mix it with the bigger fish and take something off a Premier League side. So, how would we fare?

Well Bristol City v Watford won't live in the memory books but we showed the resolve alright. A 1-0 giant-killing going our way.

 

This was a dreadful game, although our defence did well to keep Watford's attack limited - they didn't trouble our back-up keeper Max O'Leary at all, even after we lost Pring to an injury in the opening ten minutes.

 

It looked like penalties were about to loom, as is the way in the revised Carabao Cup, but right at the end, Rob Atkinson's pass cued up sub Nahki Wells, who turned a marker a few yards outside the box and lashed one home. Boom.

 

The reward is quite the tie of choice as well, given we'll be taking Bristol City to play Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the next round of the Carabao Cup.

 

We'll worry about that in due course though, as we have multiple Championship games to go for, starting with a trip to local rivals Cardiff City, and another clash with Welsh representatives in the EFL.

 

How would we fare on our first Severnside Derby of the new campaign then?

Boom, smashsed it, did the business indeed.

 

The first half was a fairly even game all round, where a good strike by Joe Williams had put us in front. After the break, however, we simply pushed on and left Cardiff out of answers.

 

Long range hits by Weimann and Williams helped put gloss on things, but the goal by Wells on his return to the starting line-up was the thing that stopped Cardiff in their tracks.

 

A miserable afternoon for the Bluebirds, but a fantastic one for us, as we maintain our unbeaten start and, to quote another reference to the bird nickname, a flying start to the new season.

 

That also brings us to the end of August 2021, and a decent first month as Bristol City manager. Just time for a quick look at the Championship table…

Long way to go but as we were predicted 14th, to be 3rd at this point is good going.

 

Challenge now of course is to make sure we can be similarly good over the course of the other 41 games we still have to play.

 

We'll be sticking with things as is for now. Despite interest in Alex Scott, Han-Noah Massengo, Max O'Leary and a few of our other players, the only bid came in for a first team player was one for Jay DaSilva from Rangers, which failed to meet my valuation. We did inquire for a loan on deadline day for Spurs winger Jack Clarke, but he turned us down to go to Cardiff instead. That's Cardiff as in the one we just spanked 4-0. Pfft. Whatever.

 

We'll worry about finding the best new signings later. As it is, September is now upon us and continuing our quest to get Bristol City into the Premier League. So let's carry on.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

August and our introduction to this Bristol City project was broadly a success, but the challenge now if we are to get to the PL is to carry on in such a vein.

 

With that in mind, we have September, although with a delayed start as after the ludicrous hullabaloo that was 7 games in August.

 

Assignment number one was a home match against Preston North End.

Our first defeat. Still never a fun sensation.

 

In truth it all went downhill when Weimann had a goal disallowed in the first half for offside, as we'd been the better side before that then weren't afterwards. Not even a late red card for Ryan Ledson could energise us. On another day, we would've got something out of this one, but just not to be this time around.

 

Nevermind. Can't win them all I suppose.

 

Another home game has duly come along to try and bounce back, as we welcome Luton Town and their superstar manager Nathan Jones. Wonder whatever happened to him.

 

So, would we brush ourselves down from the disappointment of the Preston game?

Not quite.

 

This was quite a helter skelter of a game in comparison. It may well have been 1-1 but could've ended up in one of many other combinations, with both ourselves and Luton giving it a proper go. Both Daniel Bentley and their keeper Simon Sluga made some excellent saves, and both sets of attackers might well go home thinking they could've decided it.

 

As it was, just one goal each and I'll be disappointed we missed a great chance shortly before Allan Campbell equalised.

 

Still, we got ourselves proof of concept that we can put teams under pressure and attack. That's something to work on for the weekend, as we travel to face QPR in West London.

 

So, would we get the points here?

Well… That wasn't very good.

 

Having created and missed multiple chances against Luton in the previous game, here, we simply did not turn up at all. QPR's only goal came when Ilias Chair scored the rebound after an initial shot hit the crossbar.

 

Not that things get any easier given the next thing in the diary is a Carabao Cup Third Round trip against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

You know, we actually fared better than one might have expected. Sure, we didn't pull off a monumental upset and some of our defenders were given the run around, but we weren't too bad.

 

Manchester City did make us think the worse when Mahrez and Ferran Torres scored goals early on and gave our defence a run-around. But we held out in there, Chris Martin got us a goal to celebrate and was a tight offside call from another. Maybe I could've been ambitious to try and force penalties, but against a side with this quality, a win might've been too much to ask for. At least for now.

 

As it is, the main focus is seeking a first league win in 4 outings. Not that a Fulham side featuring a Premier League quality starting 11 would be the easiest of places to remedy that.

 

It would be easy to see this as one to endure rather than necessarily target for points. But here goes nothing…

A draw might well extend our winless run but there was promise there. We weren't over-awed by the challenge, we got back on terms quickly after Mitrovic had put Fulham in front, and we held out when they looked likelier to find a winner. So I can be content with that.

 

With the Championship still as exhausting as ever, we have another midweek game following on from this, as we travel back to London, this time to play a Millwall side who are above us after a flying start to their own campaign.

 

To try and catch out the opposition, we switched things up from the 4-3-3 wing play to 4-2-3-1 Gegenpress in the hope that this might open up a pathway to points. Would this hunch be correct?

I can be very pleased with that. We took a bit of time to go on but were comfortable enough when Wells put us in front and put Millwall to the sword. Several players have certainly made a claim to be regulars here, given my habit so far for routine chopping and changing squads.

 

That brings an end to the month of September and the second month of our Bristol City project, so just time for a quick scan of the Championship table…

One win from our five games in the month means that we have lost touch with the fast-starting Bournemouth and West Brom, but we are still above the base expectation of 12th or higher. I'll be happy with that for now - no need to let great be the enemy of good after all.

 

We just need a few more wins in our favour, and with another relentless month of Championship football to come in October, we shall see what we can do.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

October has arrived, and with it the chance to try and push on with a mix of games coming up, with early strugglers and strivers both coming across our path.

 

First up was a trip to Peterborough, who would be bottom if not for Derby and their 21 point deduction.

That was a lot closer than it should've been. Certainly I'll take the win but our defence wasn't exactly helping.

 

The pathway had seemed easy enough when Semenyo put us in front, only for Clarke-Harris to instantly equalise. Yet a red for Peterborough's Norburn was swiftly followed by two goals for us and many other chances, meaning we could've easily rivalled the 4-0 win we registered at Cardiff for our biggest win so far.

 

As it was, Clarke-Harris got another and made it nervy. We weren't exactly threatened from that point on, but still… bruh. Lots to ponder for the long bus ride home.

 

And indeed quite a bit to ponder for the international hiatus, given that we now have 2 weeks to think about what we've done then face the not-at-all insubstantial test that is hosting early leaders Bournemouth. This indeed gives us another quandary, given Alex Scott got injured after making a first-team worthy impression in recent starts.

 

That game would come about quickly enough, so, how would we fare against Scott Parker and his knatty knitwear collection?

Not well. Bournemouth basically kept our attack on mute throughout, and when former Bristol City defender Lloyd Kelly made it 2-0, it basically was the game there and then.

 

Oh, and the reshuffled defence didn't cover itself in glory either. So that's another headache to ponder.

 

Maybe our next outing will go smoother, which will see early strugglers Nottingham Forest - now under the charge of ex-Derby boss Phillip Cocu, interestingly enough - making the visit.

 

With the game against Bournemouth proving a disappointment, would this be any better?

Not quite. Again the crowd at Ashton Gate go home without seeing us score, but a different kind of dissatisfaction.

 

This was a dominant display, with our reshuffled defence keeping Forest quiet but neither starting nor substitute attackers making the most of what we created. How annoying.

 

Our next assignment, coming in double-quick time, is a trip to another early high-flier, as we make the trip up the M5 to the West Midlands for the first of three trips to that area in quick succession (we face Birmingham and Coventry away in our first 2 games of November).

 

West Brom is a difficult assignment, mind, with the Baggies making a bright start in their goal for an instant return to the Premier League.

 

Still, the Championship bills itself as a division where anyone can beat anyone. So would we pull of a surprise?

Ah. Perhaps not.

 

While we had the odd decent moment, West Brom deserved it and had already gone close a few times by the time Matt Clarke forced in a winner, and our limited vibes meant we weren't in a position to take advantage when, after making all 3 subs, WBA lost a player to injury and had to see things out with ten men.

 

Moving along, Barnsley would be next in our diaries, and while in real life their 2021-22 season was a disaster that saw them plummet out of the Championship, here they're mimicking the surprise form shown in 2020-21 that saw them bag a play-off position.

 

So, would we get one over the Tykes?

Such is the emotional rollercoaster of football that I'll take a result I wouldn't have earlier in the day.

 

We'd been poor in the first half, failing to respond to a preventable goal and it seemed to pivot hard when Semenyo had a goal disallowed just after the break, failed to take one of multiple consequent chances, and duly saw Carlton Morris make it 2-0.

 

That, however, woke us up, with Callum O'Dowda and substitute Han-Noah Massengo striking in quick succession. We could even have completed an improbable comeback, but clearly that was beyond us this time.

 

October is now up in any case, and here's where we are now…

It still fits the target that is a top half finish, but we are certainly sliding and given that, in typical Championship fashion, the division is yet to separate out, we're not yet confident enough to declare one way or another if we're just going for top half or trying to prize a top six finish.

 

I guess getting points in the next few weeks will help. So tune in next time to see if we fulfil that ambition.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

We arrived in November on the back of four games without a win and having slipped out of the play-off places as a consequence. While it's not a deal-breaker given our ambition topped out pre-season at just getting a top half finish, I'd like to give it a shot in any case. At the very least, just getting a win would be a start.

 

To try and get somewhere in that push, we now have the joys of back-to-back trips up the M5 from Bristol to the West Midlands, first to Birmingham and then to Coventry.

 

So, St. Andrews. Would we be on the right side of the scoreline?

Well that just leaves more questions than answers.

 

This looked like being another disappointment as we failed to make being the better team in the first half work for us, and conceded to Chuks Aneke after the restart.

 

The it all got crazy. Chris Martin, who I was about to take off on his first start in a while, scored a quickfire double to put us in the lead, however an error from Nathan Baker (who had been at fault for Aneke's goal) lead to the former Aston Villa defender scoring an own goal to make it 2-2.

 

I might have been OK with that but threw on Wells to partner Martin, and he duly scored in the first half of stoppage time, which should have been the be all and end all in a game where we were the better team.

 

As it was, however, not quite. Space opened up for Dominic Thompson (a hero of my Ipswich save on FM22) and the left-back lashed past Bentley to grab Lee Bowyer's side a point. Bah humbug.

 

Still, after a few games where I've not been sure about us going forward, the comeback against Barnsley and now this seems to be showing signs we're getting to grips with the switch from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 and being more press-heavy.

 

Coventry away next. How would we fare this time?

Hallelujah, we stuck the landing.

 

This should've been more comfortable, given we had the better chances, limited Coventry's attack to sporadic pressure that became non-existent after the break, and the rest. As it was, one was enough - a penalty scored by Martin, ironically coming in the only fixture Bristol City got a penalty in real life last season and what was, until their draw at Sunderland yesterday, their last spot-kick.

 

After this, we had the joys of an international break, then back to it in the form of welcoming Blackburn Rovers to Ashton Gate in the first of two back-to-back home games (something that seems to be a regular thing is home and away games in pairs, but anyway).

 

So anyway, would we be awake for when we returned after the international hiatus?

Quite the front-loaded one in truth. Blackburn's Buckley scored two goals that we didn't cover ourselves in glory preventing, before Weimann and another penalty for Martin to go with last time out at Cov saw us counter-comeback as we had against Barnsley in our last match.

 

The second half was less busy - we had a few chances to fully complete the turnaround, but not much.

 

So we move on, with early strugglers Stoke City coming our way in their first game under a new manager and off the back of putting 4 past Peterborough in their previous match. Would we be caught cold by a new manager bounce?

Well, we left the Stoke goalkeeper with football pie all over his face.

 

I thought Stoke would be the tough team to face as per the old stereotype and profile of some of their players, but we demolished them. 2-0 up inside ten minutes, four goals up at the break, a hat-trick for Martin and a welcome double for Kasey Palmer despite playing out of position on the left-wing.

 

Basically, this one, we crushed it, and a mighty impressive way to make it 5 unbeaten, in our odd habit of seemingly always being 5 unbeaten or 5 without a win.

 

That run would be getting a bit of a test in our next obligation, bringing with it a trip to play Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. So how would that go?

Nevermind, can't win them all and a 3-1 defeat at Bramall Lane was in truth something I might well have anticipated. We'd taken the lead through a well worked early move that saw Joe Williams cue up Martin to score, but that's as good as it got. A brace by Oli McBurnie either side of the break, and one from Joelinton (this the version from the original FM22 database before he pivoted from misfit striker to brilliant box-to-box midfielder).

 

Martin's goal also meant that, rather impressively, the 33-year-old scored in every match in November, earning him our first Player of the Month prize. Not bad for a player that many FM players might well have junked immediately.

 

So, that concludes November on a bum note, which is a shame given we made definite progress over the course of the month, albeit perhaps demonstrating we're not quite at the level yet of Sheffield United. If perhaps understandable, given this is a recently relegated side we're squabbling with.

 

November's table presently has this look to it…

So our inconsistent form in October has held us back a little bit, but given we're six points off and know where the goal is, we might not be out of that fight just yet.

 

December and January will of course have a lot of fixtures to vex us just yet, so there's time to see if we can eat up the gap and get back into that fight. We'll see how it goes.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

December has arrived and with 5 games, it's another busy month in the world of the Championship, albeit perhaps not as busy as some Decembers can be prone to be.

 

Nevertheless, we have an array of challenges coming along as we seek to try and force our way into the Championship top six fight.

 

First of all was the visit of Derby County, as Wayne Rooney's side have the slightly more taxing issue that is trying to overcome their 21 point deduction.

 

So, would we give ourselves three points against the team in last place?

Andreas Weimann really was in no mood for mercy against his former club. The Austrian who once played for Derby got himself two goals and the assist for our third, converted by substitute Nahki Wells.

 

Derby did get a goal back to give themselves a little hope but that had burned out long before substitute Jay Dasilva added a fourth in stoppage time.

 

If nothing else, we're doing a good job at making Ashton Gate that stereotypical difficult place to come where we give visiting teams a difficult game. Our away form isn't the worst but we could use some decent results to further our cause.

 

To that end, it's north-eastward from Bristol to Hull, to face the Tigers. Would we get one over them?

Not quite.

 

This was a bit of a case of travel sickness. Hull should've been in front long before we did the charitable thing of scoring for them, as Rob Atkinson was in the wrong place at the wrong time at a Hull City corner.

 

We generally didn't offer a lot in response but did somehow find ourselves level when substitutes Palmer and Martin combined for the latter to score. However, a flying solo goal from Smith, a feeble response from us, and we went home empty handed. Shame.

 

Perhaps we would find home comforts more to our liking, as we prepared to face Huddersfield Town. 

 

We would unfortunately do so without Matty James, who picked up a training injury that will keep him out for a few weeks, if not as bad as reserve full-back Danny Simpson, who is practically out for the season, although in truth he was barely playing anyway.

 

Nevertheless, we still had a job to do. Would we succeed in performing it?

Back-to-back 4-1 home wins. Not a usual score but I'll take it.

 

Similar in some respects to the Derby game as well as the score, given we went 3-0 up, conceded one, but added another late on anyway. Whereas Weimann was the star against Derby, this time it was the man starting wide left in this one as Palmer grabbed a pair before Martin and sub Semenyo. Could easily have had more but I'll take what we got.

 

It does leave us still in a good top half spot as we prepare for 3 games in a week after Christmas, starting off with a trip to Luton.

Well, it was 1-1 at Ashton Gate in September and it's 1-1 at Kenilworth Road as well. How neat a package is that.

 

The game ebbed and flowed. Luton were better in the first half but failed to beat David Bentley and paid when a fine goal was scored by Martin. We responded by missing several chances and duly allowing Harry Cornick to punish us with an equaliser.

 

Could've won it, but we didn't. Drat.

 

No time to get too bogged down in wondering why, as we had QPR next up in our final assignment of 2021.

 

One of our flatter performances had come in defeat in West London to this lot, so would we get ourselves revenge?

Revenge, earnt.

 

In truth, this was a pretty dreadful game, with neither side being that fluent or in truth deserving, but perhaps the best moment fell our way - Tomas Kalas in an unorthodox right-back role with a decent cross, youngster Alex Scott gaining space, goal, yay.

 

Not that things are all smooth - an injury sustained by Nathan Baker that was then aggravated in training will keep out our best centre-back for a month. But three wins out of three at Ashton Gate in December is an excellent return.

 

So as we continue to power through our first season as Bristol City manager, we have this table to show at the end of December.

3 points off the play-offs and one of the division's top scorers. Not bad work at all.

 

Converting some of those draws into wins is a must if we want to crack the play-offs on the first try.

 

There's also the challenge of January to navigate. Several of our first-team players are ones of interest to other clubs, and we'll have to navigate this accordingly if some big money bids come in. 

 

Tune in next time to see how that goes.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

January has arrived, and this all got a bit wilder than I expected. But before things got particularly busy, there was some football, with our first test being a home tie against fellow play-off chasers Millwall.

 

Would we start 2022 the right way?

… Yeah not quite.

 

Andy King made the most of his continued presence in the team with an opener but we failed to build on it, which allowed Sheyi Ojo to strike an equaliser, and our day was less helped when Antoine Semenyo was flagged offside when scoring what seemed like a winner.

 

But nevermind. We're still in the mix, and we duly turned attention to the FA Cup, where like in the Carabao Cup, we were drawn at home to a side expected in pre-season to a bottom half Premier League finish.

 

Namely, Sean Dyche and Burnley, who would be making the trip from Lancashire to our corner of the world. So as we did against Watford, could we manage an upset?

Ah fuck. So close.

 

We matched the Clarets for the bulk of the contest, didn't give up when Johann Berg Gudmundsson got a tap-in, and landed an equaliser when Andreas Weimann got us level.

 

Nahki Wells, preferred for this one, then finished our turnaround just after Burnley lost Chris Wood to injury, and that made me confident that we just might pull this off. But alas it wasn't to be, as right at the end of the 90, we lost track of Ashley Barnes, and he didn't miss when one-on-one with Max O'Leary.

 

It was at this point, however, when our month took a turn.

 

We'd already received news that Andy King had no interest in signing a new contract with us and would instead be sacking us off to join Polish side Legia Warsaw at the end of the season, while we were also in the process of agreeing a loan move for out-of-favour central midfielder Tyreeq Bakinson to join League One side Rotherham United on loan, although that process would take a little longer to conclude while an acceptable wage percentage was agreed.

 

But then came the big one, as goalkeeper David Bentley was the subject of a bid from West Bromwich Albion, with our first choice custodian and club captain having his head turned. A £3million deal was duly agreed, and he was off to The Hawthorns, with the news confirmed on the morning of our next game at Fulham.

 

Hardly ideal preparation for the challenge of facing the West Londoners with their big budget and big names…

… and so it proved.

 

We did alright in the first half but from the moment Rob Atkinson gave away a penalty after the break, it all went wrong, capped off by ex-Bristol City man Bobby Decordova-Reid grabbing a late third.

 

While we licked our wounds and begun the search for a new goalkeeper to challenge Max O'Leary, we also had the FA Cup replay and the visit to Turf Moor to take on Dyche et all. So how would that go?

In retrospect, conceding that late goal to Burnley was when we lost this tie.

 

We gave it a really good go - we had the same xG as our Premier League opponents - but the crucial moment came when Ashley Barnes put them in front and seconds later Callum O'Dowda had a goal VAR'd out of existence. It just trundled on from there and passage to the FA Cup 4th Round has been denied to us. Boo.

 

We duly begun scouring for some new names for another goalkeeper, but this was proving trickier than expected. For goalkeepers, we asked MK Dons for their undisputed first choice Andy Fisher after our scouts recommended him highly, but they wanted more than we got for Bentley. We then asked Newcastle for their 4th choice keeper Freddie Woodman, but couldn't agree terms after a bid was accepted. We also had a bid accepted for Everton's Anthony Gordon as a loanee, but he told us to get lost.

 

This was hardly the ideal backdrop for the Severnside Derby Mark Two, as we welcomed Cardiff to Ashton Gate. A long-term injury to Nathan Baker, now vice-captain with former vice Nahki Wells bumped up to full captain, also didn't help.

 

Could we at least put that to one side and take a win to please our fans?

This just wasn't our day. Generally we were the better side, but the goal that likely would've lead to a second win over Cardiff this season eluded us, and losing Callum O'Dowda late on to injury after bringing on a winger who wants out also didn't help.

 

Our injury luck wasn't about to get any better either. While James had come back, Baker was still out, as was left-back Cameron Pring, but then a training injury saw Weimann do in his hip, effectively ruling the Austrian out for most of the rest of the season, which given he's a key player is a huge blow. With Kasey Palmer away on international duty, it left us with a few selection issues.

 

We did if nothing else find ourselves the new keeper I wanted to challenge O'Leary, who I'm happy to keep as first choice as he was already sneaking a few games here & there. We agreed a deal to sign Celtic's well-regarded Northern Irish keeper Conor Hazard, joining for an initial £700k fee rising to £1.2mil subject to add-ons, in what is our first successfully completed transfer as Bristol City manager.

 

This injury trouble however wasn't ideal, as we prepared for a trip to play Preston at Deepdale, with players out of position and youth teamers or reserves on the bench.

Win's a win, and our first in the entire month of January. So thank the Lord.

 

This was a close one in the first half, with veteran defender Paul Huntington cancelling out Antoine Semenyo's opening goal.

 

But after the break, Alex Scott in a right flank role (can play there in real life I'm told but isn't trained there yet here) got us in front just after the hour and Preston's momentum stalled even before Ledson got sent off for a vicious lunge on Scott. Ironically, Ledson had been sent off when Preston beat us in Bristol in our first defeat of the season.

 

Semenyo duly made sure we were victorious late on, and that concluded January's action. The table, should you be a-wonderin, now looks like this…

As you can see, we're still in the play-off race despite a fairly inconsistent month ahead of a busy January. 3 points off Blackburn in 6th is potentially a bridgeable gap.

 

Before then was the end of the January window, which I thought would peter out like a lot of my transfer deadline days are want to. But not this one.

 

We had been in talks to make some signings in the final days that took a while to conclude, and while a second bid for Gordon fizzled out due to his preference to join Reading instead, we did get two in through the door early on.

 

First was young defender Liam Morrison, signed as a player to develop in our under-23 set-up and develop, with a 60 grand fee enough to prize the Scotland from Bayern Munich.

 

I then looked around for players Bristol City have signed in real life, and while Anis Mehmeti turned us down due to literally just signing a new deal with Wycombe and Mark Sykes out of match practice after barely playing with their League 1 rivals Oxford, I did find one option. Winger/striker Harry Cornick was transfer listed at Luton despite being a first choice due to being out of contract and not signing a new deal, and given the 27-year-old put in great performances against us in both fixtures, we met their £110,000 asking price and signed him, if only after he turned down an 11th hour move to Scotland.

 

I thought that would be that. But then it wasn't.

 

For most of the window, we'd rejected bids from Nice for Pring, who I like and wanted to get a new deal signed. But then Brentford made an inquiry to sign his main left-back rival Jay Dasilva on loan.

 

I told the Premier League club I'd only accept a permanent thinking it would fizzle out, until they agreed to my £6million asking price. Not long after, he was moving on to the side currently bottom of the table above.

 

This lead to a scramble to bring in a new left-back, and we eventually managed to bring one in. Namely, Ryan Manning, with Swansea agreeing to a £1.5million deal to bring him down the M4, and after some tough negotiation, the Irishman agreed to join us.

 

That wasn't the end of it either. With O'Dowda injured and unwanted, and Weimann out long-term, I decided to revive an interest in finding an extra attacker, and when browsing around, I found Fulham had transfer listed Neeskens Kebano. A quick £1.1million deal was done, and the 29-year-old Dutchman with bags o' second tier experience was signed.

 

So that's 5 new signings, 4 of which done on transfer deadline day, and a profit overall thanks to the £9million banked for selling Bentley and Dasilva. All a bit wild, and different to my personal FM preferences to get business done early.

 

So, now the twin challenges of fusing together a new squad and challenging for the play-offs. How hard can it be?

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Following the manic scramble of January, we had something of a quiet opening to February, with our trip to Blackpool deferred by 2 and a half weeks.

 

The first taste of our amended squad would see us take on Reading at Ashton Gate, with the Royals trundling west down the M4 to be a first test and see how we implement our new arrivals.

 

How would they go for starters?

So far so good.

 

Granted, only Ryan Manning played of our deadline day recruits, with Neeskens Kebano and Harry Cornick benched and Liam Morrison intended as a defender to develop than one to necessarily chuck straight in.

 

Things went simple enough, mind. Chris Martin benefitted from a penalty to score, then Antoine Semenyo struck pretty much straight away after the break, and Reading were kept at bay. They did blow a decent chance or two, as noted by the high xG, but otherwise, good work by us.

 

Next up, we made the run west to Swansea

A winning return for Manning, who also got the assist for what turned out to be the only goal. Chris Martin, the beneficiary of such work to set up his header.

 

Swansea did press us better after the break, but their momentum stalled when Jake Bidwell - ironically playing the left wing-back that would've had Manning had we not swiped him - was sent off for two yellows.

 

This was nevertheless our third straight win in the Championship, and a sense our push for the play-offs really is now game on.

 

The delayed trip to Blackpool followed, and from that game we would…

… be victorious. A 1-0 win and a 4th win in a row. Ace.

 

This was quite an even game in truth, with neither side breaking the 1xG mark and a decent array of chances created by both sides without being taken.

 

As it was, substitute Kebano had the decisive moment, coming off the bench and scoring a fine strike to grab what turned out to be the winner.

 

A frantic February still had 3 more games for us to dive into, packing a lot of football into the calendar's slimmest month.

 

Middlesbrough made the trip to Bristol for our next contest, with the month having up to now been populated with the reverse outings of games we played back in August as we were still getting to grips with life in Bristol. So, how would this one turn out?

Another game, another win.

 

Martin scored from the penalty spot, proving again to be highly effective and showing his preference to club captain Nahki Wells up front. But having offered nothing for most of the game, Middlesbrough nearly made us pay for not grabbing another by missing some excellent chances in the second period.

 

That ultimately woke us up, with substitute Cornick deciding it by placing one home in injury time.

 

We had a few days to reflect on that, with a home clash against Coventry City next up. Would this yield another victory?

Six wins in a row. Bloody hell this top six push really is on.

 

Wells got the nod over Martin and made the most of it with an early opener, and Cornick would finally make pressure tell with one of those “couldn't miss” goals in the second half.

 

Viktor Gyokeres did give Coventry some credibility with a goal from what turned out to be their literal only shot, but we managed to keep them at arms length and would eventually see Matty James come off the bench to nab us a third goal in the final minutes of regular time.

 

This run of six in a row is an excellent one, possibly one of my best in recent FM game-playing at Championship level. A seventh would be suitably amazing as well, and was achievable if we were to win at Nottingham Forest in our final February encounter.

Well… can't win them all I guess.

 

Our attack wasn't bad but we were on the back foot when Junior Stanislas swept in a brilliant free-kick, and after we missed some great chances, we ran out of ideas, opening the door for Phillip Zinckernagel to grab a second. Drat.

 

Still, we did have the kudos of earning the February Manager of the Month prize. That's still something to be happy with.

 

The table at the end of February, for your consideration, has this resemblance…

Despite our defeat at Forest, we remain in the top six, having jumped into that territory for the first time when we defeated Coventry in the game before.

 

An automatic promotion push is probably beyond us, but it's game on for the play-offs. A gap emerging means it should likely be us or Millwall to try and chase down 6th, but we should still give ourselves hope that this fight is one we can come out on top in.

 

Also worth noting that with 59 points, we have now exceeded the 55 Bristol City picked up in the real life 2021-22 season. So there's that.

 

Now to see if we can stick the landing.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

We're heading into the business end of the season now and March is upon us. 4 games loom in the month, including a big one at Barnsley, and 4 steps closer to seeing whether or not we qualify for a place in the Championship play-offs.

 

First up in this high-stakes month was a visit from Birmingham City, who had proved a thorn in our sides in a 3-3 draw at their place in November. So how would we go this time?

Well… grateful we didn't lose, irritated we didn't win.

 

The first half had been even and not the best, but George Friend scoring after the break seemed to act like pouring a bucket of cold water over us. Suddenly we woke up, creating chance after chance until finally Harry Cornick forced it over the line with just over 10 minutes to go.

 

A defeat was avoided, but this really felt like two points lost even if we did concede first.

 

Evidently, work is still gonna be needed to secure our spot in the Championship top six come season's end.

 

Next down the line was another team beginning with B - Blackburn, to be precise. Would that go any better?

Talk about picking your moment to deliver the worst performance of the season. Exactly how Vyner and Baker got 7+ ratings in a 5-2 defeat is something I find mystifying, but anyway.

 

This game had seemed fairly interestingly set-up at the break, with Matty James having scored a cracking equaliser to cancel out a Blackburn opener and our defence holding firm.

 

Then it all collapsed. Daniel Ayala scored twice at corners either side of an own goal by Ryan Manning, who had a dreadful game including being repeatedly exposed and getting a booking - as it turns out, his 10th in the Championship of the season, earning him a two game ban.

 

Not even Han-Noah Massengo's late goal could rouse us, given Blackburn scored two minutes later. No doubt if this was a real game we'd be serenaded off with Blackburn fans going “Premier League, you're having a laugh”

 

After that disaster, we had one of our biggest games so far, in the form of a trip to Barnsley, who are also in the hunt for a top six spot.

 

This feels like must win after that disaster. Would it be?

I mean, I guess I'll take that. Sort of like the Birmingham result, a game where we should've won on stats but could easily have lost.

 

The opening phase of this game seemed to be a hangover from our collapse across the Pennines at Ewood Park, with Carlton Morris striking early and our defence creaking a bit.

 

After the break, however, our changes got Barnsley pinned back, and we were in the ascendancy. We could easily have equalised before we did, and had that relief when substitute Alex Scott forced home an equaliser. Could've followed that with more, but I'll not be greedy and take that.

 

Our final opportunity to avoid a winless March was a big one, as West Bromwich Albion arrived in Bristol still with faint hopes of challenging Bournemouth and Fulham, who seem to be on the way to earning promotion automatically.

 

Could we bag a noteworthy scalp over WBA in our final game before the last international break of the season?

Well now. This seems to show us off as no pushovers, not least as we could get ties against WBA in the dreaded play-offs.

 

In fairness, West Brom could easily have been in front after missing several first half chances, and not only did they fail to help themselves with that, but they gifted us a two goal lead with first an own goal and then an error by Sam Johnstone leading to Chris Martin making it 2-0.

 

Joe Williams swept in a lovely third, and although Callum Robinson got a goal back in injury time, West Brom left it too late. A penny for the thoughts of Daniel Bentley, stuck on the bench and still yet to play since leaving us for West Brom in January.

 

Anyway, that concludes our activities for March, and the table now looks like this…

With seven games to go in the Championship season, we remain just ahead of Millwall in the final top six position. Some tough games are on the other side, with Bournemouth and Sheffield United coming up, along with trips to struggling Peterborough, Stoke and Huddersfield sides who are still fighting to stay up and a Derby team that are trying to avoid the fate of going down with single digit points.

 

The end of the line is in sight though, and now it's a case of seeing whether we have what it takes to hold our nerve.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

As the end of the season gets closer and closer, we have a small handful of games remaining for us to secure our place in the Championship play-offs.

 

April will be a super busy month, with one match at the start of May to wrap the season up, and it looks likely that it'll be a tight chase between ourselves and Millwall to swipe the final spot in the top six.

 

First up is perhaps one of the more difficult assignments we could choose to get, as we make the trip to Bournemouth, who are on course to break the 100 point mark and are unbeaten at the Vitality Stadium so far this season.

 

It could be a tall order. But how would we fare…

What a result. A crazy game settled by our stand-in left back Cameron Pring, with a fine strike in the final stages of the 90.

 

We made an extraordinary start, heading to Dorset and going 2-0 up after just six minutes, with set-pieces yielding goals by Joe Williams and Tomas Kalas.

 

But Bournemouth then got their bearings in order, with a pair of goals in five minutes when Jefferson Lerma and Dominic Solanke took advantage of some sedate defending to strike.

 

Bournemouth had chances come and go but an even game meant both could conceivably have found themselves the game's fifth goal as it moved into the latter stages, until finally, it was us who broke the door down when a fine hit by Pring flew into the back of the net, and we resisted late Bournemouth pressure to take 3 points.

 

It was a super result on the South Coast, but now we had to build on it. Next up for that was back-to-back games against two members of the bottom 3, with the first seeing Peterborough making the trip to Ashton Gate. Would we see another result go our way?

Just about, yes. A 2-1 win isn't necessarily the most glamorous eye-catching result, but it's proof we got the job done on this one.

 

I made the slightly bold approach to stick Conor Hazard in goal for his first appearance since joining in January, and it looked potentially like backfiring when Jonson Clarke-Harris put Peterborough in front.

 

But not long later, Ryan Manning marked his recall with a delicious finish, and from there, we generally looked likelier to do something productive. Finally it came when a free-kick hit the bar and Kalas put in the rebound.

 

All good stuff and something in our favour.

 

Next up on the list, meanwhile, we had the trip to Stoke, which was once a difficult place to go but with the Potters in the relegation zone and in serious danger of dropping into League One, less so.

 

We demolished Stoke 6-0 at Ashton Gate earlier in the season, so would we inflict more pain on them in our Good Friday match?

Very much even this time.

 

Stoke did certainly give us trouble, particularly after the half-time break, but this was a game where both side's attackers ended up getting it wrong, and the points were shared.

 

With that being the first part of the Easter double header, our next step is to take on the second part of that equation, as Easter Monday saw us welcome Sheffield United to Ashton Gate. So would there be a result in our favour?

Could've been better, could've been worse.

 

A fairly low quality first half would see a fine strike by Rhian Brewster crash into the back of the net, but Nahki Wells put us back on level terms just after the break.

 

We were likelier winners from there, creating plenty of chances and pressurising the Blades backline, if ultimately without reward.

 

After the Easter double draws, we now have 3 games to go, in the form of contests against Derby County, Hull City and Huddersfield Town - all teams who may perhaps have pointers for us on what to do or not do in the Premier League.

 

This is how things are shaping up…

6th with 3 to go, in a tightening fight after Barnsley ran out of steam and have picked up just one point from their last 4 games. Ourselves and Millwall are very much snapping at their heels.

 

Elsewhere, that draw we had with Sheffield United, with West Brom practically in the play-offs. At the other end, Derby and their single digit points total are gone, and were mathematically relegated in February, while Stoke and Peterborough are pretty much on the way out.

 

Three games to go in any case, and it's all on us to try and get this done, and maybe even land promotion to the Premier League's promised land on the first try.

KEZ_7
17 years ago
1 week ago
1,875

Fingers crossed, would be a great start to hit the play-offs

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650
By KEZ_7 24 February 2023 - 22:52 PM UTC 

Fingers crossed, would be a great start to hit the play-offs

 

Thanks for commenting and yeah. Not long until we find out if we make it.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Just three games left of the season and our push to get ourselves a spot in the play-off picture.

 

Unfortunately, for drama purposes, we don't have a big decisive summit against Barnsley and Millwall, with our final assignments being against teams with relatively little to play for.

 

First up were Derby, for whom the 21 point deduction ended the season before it had even really begun and they will descend into League One with nary a whimper.

 

Could we add some more points to our tally here?

Assignment one, tick.

 

Not necessarily the most convincing display of work, but we were in a 2-0 lead at the break thanks to Kasey Palmer and then Nahki Wells, with Zak Vyner having had a goal disallowed in-between.

 

Derby actually gave it a good go - they had a higher xG at the end, and a higher number of shots, but Wayne Rooney's side couldn't beat Max O'Leary, and we held out to take the points.

 

Mid-table Hull City were next along, in our final home game of the regular season and a chance for us to seal that top six spot.

Not quite.

 

Try as we might, we just couldn't break the door down. Hull City managed to frustrate us successfully, and they return to Yorkshire with an extra point while we have to get a win on the final day at Huddersfield to be absolutely sure a top six finish will be ours.

 

Going into the final day, the table does take on an intriguing complexion…

Results elsewhere do mean that ourselves, Millwall and Barnsley find ourselves all level on points going into the final game of the season. Barnsley had been a long way clear at one point but a collapse in form in April - including a heavy defeat to Millwall at The Den - has seen both ourselves and the Lions jump ahead of them.

 

They however have the more difficult final day assignments. Millwall have a final day visit to Bournemouth, who still need a win to stave off Fulham and secure the title, while Barnsley are at West Brom, who will likely rotate given they can't be caught by us or catch 3rd place Sheffield United, but might well see this as a chance to get their range in for the play-offs.

 

So, Huddersfield Town away, final game of the season. Would we grab a play-off spot?

That was that.

 

One goal was enough on the day, as Harry Cornick converted Antoine Semenyo's cross. Huddersfield provided very little threat to us, so we were able to avoid that and while there may be a little regret we didn't get the second goal that would've fully settled the nerves, we did the job.

 

So that brings an end to the regular season. My suspicion was that a win would've been enough to bag a play-off position. Would it?

We're in. 5th place is an excellent finish - it's 12 places higher than the real Bristol City managed in 2021-22, with 24 more points in the fold.

 

The other place ended up chopping around in a different sense. Barnsley had begun outside the top six and lost at West Brom, but by a smaller margin than Millwall, who were demolished by Bournemouth as their play-off dreams went up in smoke.

 

So that's the main bulk of the campaign done. Both Bournemouth and Fulham broke the 100 point mark, but it was Bournemouth who wrapped up that contest, with Sheffield United, West Brom, ourselves and Barnsley as the top six, ahead of a litany of fancied sides (including, it's worth noting, 3 of the teams that actually made last season's play offs, with Luton and Huddersfield coming nowhere near matching their real world counterparts).

 

Derby's 21 point deduction saw them sink without a trace - they failed to even reach double digits, though still would've come last with them. Peterborough returned to League One but perhaps the big disappearance is Stoke, who just 4 years on from their 2018 relegation out of the Premier League fall a step further below.

 

We meanwhile have another assignment as a coda to this season.

Two or three games to decide a spot in the Premier League then. Difficult opposition, no doubt, but there's no such thing as an easy game in the play-offs. So let's see what happens next.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

The play-offs then. That unusual skirmish that pits 3rd-6th in the Championship one another for the chance to become Premier League whipping boys (at least that's how some more cynical types see it).

 

This one has slight contrasts. West Brom and Sheffield United are bidding for instant returns to the Premier League, meanwhile Barnsley last played in the Premier League in 1998, and we're bidding to end Bristol City's wait for a top tier spot that stretches back to 1980, a time when of course the top tier had yet to divorce itself from the Football League and become a monster.

 

Our ties are against West Brom, where the score was 1-1 in our regular season meetings. We lost 1-0 at The Hawthorns while we were still transitioning to the 4-2-3-1 we have since sworn by, and had certainly adjusted to by the time of our 3-1 win at Ashton Gate.

 

Game one came in Bristol, and it was on us to try and gain some kind of advantage to take into the trip up the M5 a few days later.

 

Big game then. How would it pan out?

Hmmm… the springboard is there but this could've been so much more.

 

We fell behind to misfortune when Matty James scored an own goal just after we'd missed a glorious chance, but persisted and broke through when Nahki Wells turned in an Antoine Semenyo cross.

 

Most of the game, I'd say we were likelier to find a breakthrough, but it wasn't to be.

 

This means that in order to get to Wembley, it'll all hinge on whether or not we can take a victory at The Hawthorns. Not something I'd be especially confident about, but needs must.

 

Still, the stage is set for us to try and perform. Would we do it?

Not this time, and it's another season in the Championship for us. Balls.

 

So, this was a compromised job off the bat. Without noting, Wells and Kasey Palmer both disappeared to go on international duty as part of the North American version of the UEFA Nations League, which - so uncool. Ryan Manning getting an injury didn't help either, although his poor performance in the first leg means I can't say I'm irritated that much.

 

While the first leg had lots of creativity and decent plays, this was a tighter, scrappier affair. One goal decided it, as West Brom full-back Daryl Horgan squeezed the ball past Max O'Leary from the edge of the box, and that was enough for West Brom to book a meeting with Sheffield United at Wembley.

 

What a shame but nevermind.

 

I guess we'll just have to rebuild in the Championship and figure it out from there. But before we get on with it, here is a presentation of our best 11.

So that concludes season 1, where we did our best and got so near but so far to the ultimate goal of this season, which is getting Bristol City into the Premier League.

 

Better luck next time then.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Our first campaign at Ashton Gate was ultimately a case of so near yet so far. Absolutely a sign we can do well given we managed to get into the play-offs with a squad many expected to be lower midtable at best, but still a kicker that when we got to that skirmish, we just couldn't dispose of West Bromwich Albion.

 

The board expectation for season 2 is, somewhat surprisingly, content with midtable. For that end, however, I actually have a smaller budget than what I had to play with after selling Daniel Bentley and Jay Dasilva in January, meaning our hopes of more cash rest on high-end sales.

 

Coming into the season, however, our blue-chip players like Han-Noah Massengo, Alex Scott, Kasey Palmer, Nahki Wells and Antoine Semenyo did not attract bids - Semenyo had a sniff from Premier League Watford without a tangible offer - so they're all still here.

 

We do however have two options in the squad. Defender Taylor Moore is regarded as being at least as good as the centre-backs we already had, and is back from a loan spell with Scottish side Hearts. Our other new signing is a player who is currently playing in Scotland in the form of Matt O'Riley, who in real world January 2022 joined Celtic from MK Dons and has impressed. O'Riley was still in Milton Keynes, however, so we picked him up for the decent fee of £600k, rising to £1M subject to add-ons.

 

The most noteworthy first team exits, meanwhile, were Andy King and Callum O'Dowda, who left on frees upon contract expiry. A few youth teamers left, including a midfielder I had no need for that joined MK Dons a few days after I bought O'Riley in a separate non p/ex deal.

 

All of which means the squad is now regarded as looking like this…

No real different to what I had at the end of last season then, with the possible exception of Moore coming up as an option as depth in centre-back.

 

In truth I didn't feel a big rebuild was yet necessary. Though this campaign may be a lead to a rebuild in a season to come because…

… we have a lot of players out of contract at the end of the season, including some of my two hearners in Palmer, Kalas and Wells, as well as Manning, who only signed an 18 month deal when we signed him from Swansea in January.

 

The pre-season expectation meanwhile last season saw us predicted to come 14th but we instead finished 9 places higher. So are we interpreted as on to a campaign where we can finish higher?

Not quite. Though by that logic of finishing 9 places higher, we could well win the league… I wish, anyway.

 

The new-look Championship sees the names Bournemouth, Fulham and Sheffield United disappear, with the promoted trio replaced by Southampton, Crystal Palace and Brentford. Meanwhile, the relegated trio of Derby, Peterborough and Stoke are turfed out, making way for Ipswich, Charlton and Burton, and we have to play all six early on in this World Cup-bisected season in a curious twist of fate.

 

Pre-season meanwhile looked like this

Some reasonable preparations - beat League 1 newboys Northampton and non-league Solihull when we returned, had some comfortable wins during a training camp in the South of France, but then got held to a frustrating draw with Oxford United and then the perhaps unsurprising defeat by Man City (a late replacement as Leicester and Spurs cancelled on us).

 

Anyway, that's the return to business conducted. Matchday one is an interesting one as we welcome Coventry City, with Chris Hughton's side the first of a variety of tests we shall endure to try and prove we can reach the Premier League jackpot.

 

So, how would we fare with our starter?

That is a very handy start.

 

We shaded a tight first half but Neeskens Kebano's goal just before half-time really lit a rocket under us. After the break it was pretty much all Bristol City pressure and goals by debutant O'Riley and one by substitute Kasey Palmer extended our lead.

 

The Palmer goal lead to a crazy busy period, as Callum O'Hare pulled one back, Palmer got a second, then Viktor Gyokeres scored another one for the Sky Blues.

 

It still added up to an opening day win for us, however, and in a slightly more eventful manner than the 2-1 we managed over Blackpool in our opening assignment last season.

 

Now for all the other ridiculous challenges lying in wait.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

The season had started well for this little project, with Bristol City winning on the opening day with that win over Coventry at Ashton Gate.

 

Now for the challenge of actually keeping such a run going. First of all was a distraction in the form of the season's first cup tie, as we took on Notts County in the play-offs in the Magpies' first game back in the competition after finally getting out of the National League.

 

How would we fare?

Got there in the end I guess.

 

Just before the half-hour mark, Notts County took a shock lead through Alex Lacy, and with time running out, it looked like we might be about to miss the boat and suffer a humiliating reverse until League 2 opposition.

 

That was until Matt O'Riley intervened, coming off the bench to grab an equaliser with 5 minutes remaining, and we still missed chances from there to win. An expected goals of 3 indicates we could've done a lot more from there.

 

What then followed was an almighty penalty shootout. Each side scored their first 10 penalties, and then it seemed like Notts County had match point when our back-up goalkeeper Conor Hazard had his kick saved by Sam Slocombe, only for Hazard to in-turn also deny Slocombe.

 

On and on we went for a few more kicks until Fred Vincent was the man with the short straw, missing Notts' County's 14th penalty to decide the shootout at 13-12 in our favour, and booking us a second round trip to Blackburn Rovers, but also perhaps giving everyone the chance to sigh in relief that it was finally over.

 

We'll breath a sigh of relief that we avoided a cup upset, then move on to another game where on paper we are favourites, as we travel to face last season's League One play-off winners Burton Albion.

Our positive start continues. A fairly low quality game but we did the business in the moments that mattered, with Nathan Baker and Nahki Wells scoring first half goals, a second hand fightback kept to a minimum, bosh, thank you, next.

 

As it was, next on paper looked harder, as we hosted Crystal Palace, bringing along the first of last season's relegated sides and one that still look a danger, given the likes of Zaha, Eze, Edouard and a few other Premier League level talents are still about.

This could be a bit of a statement result.

 

Many expect Palace to be promotion challengers as they seek to avenge their drop, but we did so well in this one. Wells gave us the lead, one-time Norwich loanee Xavi Quintilla took advantage of mistake to smash home a leveller, but we took the lead again through Tomas Kalas, and duly managed the game from there.

 

Palace could be aggrieved as Mateta had a late equaliser disallowed for offside - no VAR review here ofc - and from there, we were able to keep ourselves in front. Big result.

 

With 3 wins out of 3 in the Championship to start off the new season, we are in a good place so far, and could make it 4/4 if we were to see off the challenge of Nottingham Forest, who have invested big and also made a bright start. So, how would this contest go?

A game of tight margins ended up being resolved in our favour. Huzzah.

 

Saying that, had this finished a draw from a game where we were 3-0 up at half-time, I'd have been pretty furious. We crushed the first half, and deservedly lead 3-0 at the break when Andreas Weimann and a Wells double gave us such a lead.

 

We then seemed to just take our foot off the gas after that, however. Much of the second half drifted by, and there were some nerves when Junior Stanislas poked in with less than 10 to go. Ultimately Forest ran out of time but van Hecke's goal in added time did have us begging for the full-time whistle, and giving stuff to ponder.

 

One big net result however is that with four games gone of the season so far…

… top of the league. Nice.

 

Sure, it'll be a better achievement if we top the Championship table on game 46 than after game 4, but it's nice to see it.

 

In a division as relentless as this, all we can do is try to keep this positive vibe going, and to do that, we travel next to London to face Charlton Athletic.

Alright, that didn't go to plan.

 

A frustrating trip to The Valley in the end, given that we were the better team for much of the game, failed to beat their keeper, and were duly punished when Jayden Stockley got a late tap-in to win the game for the side promoted from League One last season. Balls.

 

Would we be in for similar misfortune a few days later on our trip to face Huddersfield Town and continue a slide down from the early summit?

Scratch that. A brilliant result at the John Smith's Stadium was achieved and we can say 4 wins out of 5 is an ace start.

 

This was a game where our former Huddersfield players did damage, as one-time Terriers forward Wells and ex-Huddersfield loanee Kasey Palmer each bagged a brace, as part of an attacking unit that frankly put in some corking football and left them no chance to escape with a point.

 

We did fail to keep a clean sheet again, as Bright Enobakhare scored a lovely late goal, but by then the game was ours.

 

August wrapped up with one more Championship game in a relentless month of football as they try to crowbar in a lot before our month off for the World Cup, and this final assignment was a choice one, bringing Southampton to Ashton Gate in another contest against a team that was in last season's Premier League. So how would we fare?

Rather well.

 

This was a fine, end-to-end game with lots to recommend it. Sadly our keeper Max O'Leary didn't cover himself in glory, arguably being at fault for Nathan Tella's opener and thinking more may have been done to stop Nathan Redmond putting Southampton back in front. O'Riley had continued his fine start to the season with a goal in-between.

 

But in the second half, we ended up doing the business. Taylor Moore brought us back on level terms, and less than 2 minutes later, sub Antoine Semenyo cued up Wells for a tap-in, continuing his excellent start to the season and putting us in front for the first time.

 

Stunned by that, Southampton offered little response, and another win was ours.

 

Now alas I forgot to photo the table and played on, so an update will come at the end of September after another four Championship games, but we are still top.

 

Obviously asking us to keep this up through to the end of the season is a tall order, but it's so far so good.

 

Deadline day was quite, meanwhile - few reserves being loaned out, but no first team movement. Stoke made an offer for Taylor Moore that we rejected, but that was about it.

 

So onwards and seeing if this project to get Premier League football to Bristol is still on.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

September begins for us with the Carabao Cup, where we made the trip north to face Blackburn Rovers in the tournament's second round after surviving a scare against Notts County in the previous round.

 

So, would we do the business more efficiently this time around?

It would appear so.

 

Liam Delap put Blackburn ahead after Nathan Baker conceded an early penalty, but we responded brilliantly. A double by Neeskens Kebano and a strike by Harry Cornick saw our double attacking signing made last January come up with the goods, and in turn, saw us through. Blackburn did have a goal back but in truth, their chances to equalise were OK to deal with.

 

So that's round 3 sorted, and quite the glamour tie in wait, which will be a trip to Premier League side Arsenal. That however will have to wait a few weeks.

 

First, the matter of continuing our strong start to the Championship season. Next up is a Severnside Derby match against our local rivals Cardiff City, reprising a game we won 4-0 in the early part of last season. So could we inflict similar humiliation on our cross-channel rivals again?

Not quite.

 

Should really have won, happy our defence did the job when they needed to, but annoyed our attack couldn't find a breakthrough.

 

So let's move on. Next up after that was a home contest against Barnsley at Ashton Gate, bringing us in for a clash against one of the other sides whose promotion ambitions came unstuck in last season's play-offs.

 

Would this game get us back on the right track?

Eventually, yes.

 

Barnsley made a roaring start. A foul by Ryan Manning gave away a penalty but Max O'Leary won the battle of wits with Cauley Woodrow, only to be beaten by Ryan Williams anyway.

 

But that woke us up. Antoine Semenyo grabbed a quickfire equaliser, before Cornick and Taylor Moore would strike later in the half.

 

No goals were added after the break, but this was a job well done. An injury to Cornick that will keep him out for a bit is an unfortunate bit of collateral damage, but we'll just have to manage it from there.

 

All we can do is duly move on, starting up next with a trip to face Brentford as we play the third of last season's relegated teams, having already faced and indeed beaten Southampton and Crystal Palace.

 

Would the Bees meet the same fate?

Yeah, not quite. But defeat isn't the worst part of that…

Losing Cornick at the weekend was bad enough, but to then lose Kasey Palmer to a knock limited our options further. Then we lost Semenyo to another injury that will keep him out for a while as what already felt like enough salt in the wound, until this blow. Wells, our top scorer, captain and main threat so far this season is going to be out for a huge chunk of the remainder. A huge blow and one that I coulda done without, not least as I'm already irritated he skipped town on our play-off second leg last season to go play for Bermuda.

 

We were the better side at Brentford, but couldn't take our chances and just seemed to run out of ideas when Wells' injury necessitated another position switch in the attacking area. Frank Onyeka scored the winner, handing us our second defeat of the season - the other of which also came in London - and leaves us wondering where we go from here.

 

Push on we must, however, and a teamsheet was cobbled together for the visit of Hull City, who we didn't beat in either game last season…

… and who we didn't beat this time either.

 

Ultimately this was one where we had to blame ourselves again. We had the momentum burst of an early goal through Matt O'Riley, pushed forward due to the myriad absences, only for Keane Lewis-Potter to equalise. Momentum then seemed back in our hands after Alex Scott gave us the advantage again just before half-time, only for us to concede within a minute of the restart, and we duly missed some excellent chances to win after that.

 

If nothing else this gives plenty to ponder as we approach a very busy October, as we get through the next run of games before that World Cup hiatus. Considering the Championship table as we prepare to embark on the last seven league games before Qatar, plus the small matter of a cup tie at the Emirates Stadium, we are in…

… top spot at the 11 game mark.

 

If nothing else, we have quite the initial platform to be building from. Top of the league after 11 games and Championship high-scores is quite the demonstration that so far this season, there's clearly no play-off hangover.

 

Managing the injury issues in attack and fitness of those still on call is another question, however, not least as an admin error means young prospect Saikou Janneh, who is over 21 but wasn't registered, can't be called on. So we shall see how we adapt accordingly.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Despite our injury problems in attack, we did enter October still as top spot of the Championship. Staying there would however be a challenge, given we might not be able to sustain it.

 

The next test as to whether we could manage this would be a trip to Bedfordshire, as we played Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in our first assignment as we try and cram in games before the World Cup interrupts things.

Good stuff. Deserved to win over a Luton team who have appointed Nigel Pearson - the current real life Bristol City boss, no less - where a second half brace by Kasey Palmer did the job.

 

Before we continue our focus on league, we did also have one other assignment of note, as the EFL Cup produced us a trip to play Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

 

We didn't exactly go in expectation so much as hoping we could blag a memorable result…

… holy shit, a memorable result!

 

This wasn't quite expected either. We'd opted to rotate with reserve striker Chris Martin and youngster Sam Pearson getting starts, but at half-time, we were on to something brilliant when Joe Williams poked us in front.

 

Rob Holding brought Arsenal back on level terms but an expected Arsenal onslaught never quite came through. Indeed we actually nearly nabbed a winner at the end, but penalties were needed instead.

 

A hero moment came though, as on the first round of sudden death penalties, Nuno Tavares missed the target with his kick, putting Arsenal out and ourselves into the 4th Round. Manchester City away may be a dubious award, but knocking out a Premier League giant with a reshuffled squad? Wow, I'll be very happy.

… but as is often the case in football, we followed up a big result by crashing to beatable opposition in the form of a 2-1 loss to Preston North End, who in the first time in 3 meetings didn't get a red card.

 

In this case, it was Preston North End. It was a fairly even game but an early goal by Daniel Johnson and a strike in the last ten by Emi Riis decided things in the home side's favour. Martin got a late goal back but we didn't really look like equalising after that.

 

But the games they keep on a churning, so how would we fare against last season's play-off rivals Millwall as they try to turn around their season following a slow start?

Got there in the end.

 

We nearly got it wrong as we took a long time to add to Martin's first-half opener, and Mason Bennett thought he'd punished us with a goal in the last 20 only for an offside flag to interrupt. Sure enough, Palmer made the most of our reprieve later on.

 

This was the first of two home games in a row as we try to get back a little momentum, with our next assignment seeing Blackburn Rovers make the trip to Bristol. Back-to-back wins in coming?

Not quite. Indeed this 2-0 reverse is our first home loss since we were beaten by Bournemouth by the same score just over a year prior.

 

Ultimately, we had ourselves to blame, missing the best chances we got, offering little in response to a Harry Pickering free-kick that swept into the back of the net, conceded again in added time, and were beaten. Infuriating, but that's football sometimes.

 

A trip to Birmingham City was next, taking on a team now under the charge of Mikel Arteta after he was binned by Arsenal with the team in a relegation battle. So could we get the train back on track?

Maybe Arteta was underrated on FM22. Or maybe we made him look good by conceding an early goal to Troy Deeney, barely attacking after that, and conceding at the end.

 

3 defeats in 4 then. Very much not a record that will get us promoted if this carries on.

 

Could we arrest our slump in our trip to QPR the following weekend?

Talk about a dramatic way to get things back into shape, no?

 

This had been a fairly even game but it wasn't quite going to plan as we approached the final 20 minutes. Neeskens Kebano had equalised to cancel out an early QPR goal, only for Ilias Chair - who scored when we lost there last season - to put us behind again in the opening minutes of the second half.

 

It then threatened to get away from us, however, as Taylor Moore was shown a second yellow card and duly dismissed. Hopes of any points probably would've evaporated had Jake Clarke-Salter's goal from the free-kick given after Moore's dismissal been allowed, given an offside flag was duly thrown up.

 

We reshuffled to a 3-4-1-1 as an approach in response, and it already looked like it might work better when Harry Cornick scored an equaliser. But then Antoine Semenyo made it even better for us with a goal right at the end of normal time, giving us an extraordinary win.

 

Would we sign off for the international break with two wins in a row by seeing off Reading?

Nope. Reading in truth were the better side, and we could've fallen behind on multiple occasions. But as it is, the defence held firm and a 0-0 was duly reached.

 

So that ends our first part of the season, given the World Cup is about to start.

Given our ambition for the season is just to finish mid-table, 6th is a very credible spot to be in, given back-to-back play-off spots would be a half-decent result.

 

We've got a month to figure things out as to how we can get ourselves back in the automatic promotion chase, or at least keep those who want to swipe our top six spots at bay. So we'll figure it out from there.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

In this save game, England won the World Cup. A 2-1 win over Spain in a grand final in Qatar giving the Three Lions a first World Cup in a while, and a euphoria we didn't see in real life. FM's coding alas precludes us from getting evidence of fans engaging in a supermassive binge-drinking party or where the flares are going this time.

 

As it is, we just get on the job with trying to get Bristol City into the Premier League. Before the World Cup finished, we still had 3 games to navigate (5 if you count 2 friendlies against local non-league sides I added for fitness).

 

Our first game back in action saw us welcome West Bromwich Albion, for our first encounter since they ruined our PL dreams last season by beating us in the play-offs - a tournament they duly failed to succeed in. Would we get payback?

Ah balls. So near, so far.

 

Inattentiveness in both halves' added time is a pretty infuriating repeat. It was bad enough when Jordan Ayew had cancelled out Harry Cornick's first half opener, but we looked to have done the job when Antoine Semenyo put us in front and WBA offered very little in response, until Leo Bonatini forced in an equaliser in the first half of stoppage time.

 

So, goddammit.

 

Next in line was a trip down the M4 west to face Swansea. Would that go any better?

Yes it would.

 

Taylor Moore got the only goal, nabbing one from a corner late in the first half. We could've made it better when we won a penalty which got left to Ryan Manning, a player we signed from Swansea last January, only for the left-back to not score. But one goal proved to be enough against Swansea, who blew all their best chances.

 

Next up was Ipswich, who have made a flying start to life back in the Championship and are in the mix for back-to-back promotions, as I managed when in charge of them in a previous FM22 career mode. Could we stop that push in its tracks and gain an upper hand ahead of our meeting in the FA Cup Third Round next month?

Nope.

 

We deserved six points from the last two games imo but at Ipswich, a 1-0 win was about right. Our attack were lamentably bad in the absence of a few rotated players, and we barely troubled Ipswich in the second half. Joelinton scored against us for the only goal in a game that could easily have ended 0-0 and been a fair result, but I'm allowed to be annoyed we didn't offer a lot. Losing Alex Scott for a few weeks with injury also didn't help.

 

Maybe things would go better on Boxing Day, when an oddly structured fixture list gave us a third straight away game in the form of a trip to Blackpool.

That's more like it. A 3-1 win, where we did enough to keep Blackpool's attack quiet. I'll take that.

 

The crucial moment was the restart. Having taken the lead through a smart finish by Moore at a corner, Semenyo scored an excellent goal just after the break, and then duly nabbed another one straight away afterwards.

 

Blackpool did get one goal back but we kept any attempt at a comeback at arms length and duly swanned off three points richer.

 

Our final game of 2022 would see Swansea City taken on again, as we had a quickfire double meeting with Russell Martin and the gang. Having beaten them 1-0 in Wales a few games earlier, could we see them off again?

Yes we could, and back-to-back 3-1 triumphs. Not bad.

 

This one would follow a different script. Swansea struck an equaliser after a defensive mistake, but barely threatened after that and ultimately looked beaten when we made it 2-1, let alone 3-1.

 

The day belonged to Semenyo, however, who scored a hat-trick - our first of the season, I believe, maybe first of the save, and demonstration that moving him to a central striker role has had an unexpected dividend.

 

This may be just as well, given Chris Martin got a season-ending broken leg in an under-23's game, and given Nahki Wells is still recovering from his own, Semenyo could well be the player we have to put all our faith in. Either that or, as January opens, we go out and buy another one for competition. Even moreso if someone gives us loadsamoney and we have to sell, as Bristol City did with Semenyo when Bournemouth brought him in January 2023 IRL.

 

All that to come, but first a quick look at the table at the end of December…

Our top 6 hopes remain on then. We're paying a little for our erratic form as we recalibrated following our injury crisis in attack, but only outside the play-offs on goal difference is still a half-decent place to be. Whether a 7 point deficit to the automatic spots is too much to overcome is another question.

 

Anyway, onwards to January. Last season, that ended up being very busy with 2 key players leaving and 5 coming in, so who knows if we're in for another window quite like that.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

January, then. Last season was quite the up and downs on the transfer front, given that 2 key men left in Bentley and Dasilva, with 5 coming in. So what would this one bring?

 

Well first up, we welcomed Cardiff in a Severnside Derby at Ashton Gate.

Pretty much a repeat of the game against West Brom in our first match back after the World Cup break. Gave ourselves a springboard with good goals, but conceded late in each half. At least this time it wasn't in added time at the end of each half, but still wildly annoying.

 

If nothing else we did at least see a decent goal return for Han-Noah Massengo. Usually used as BWM, this time he took up the box-to-box role and scorerd both an early penalty and one other. Not bad.

 

It is worth noting, however, that things are already moving on the player front. After I rejected a low-ball offer for Tomas Kalas, the Czech defender got upset, and refused to sign a new contract. He ended up signing a deal with Dutch side FC Utrecht, and with FM now having a “Sell now” option, I agreed a £200,000 deal to send him to the Netherlands.

 

Also on the way out was Tyreeq Bakinson. Having fallen down the pecking order, we opted to offload, but while Charlton gave us a decent fee, Hearts and the lure of European football proved more up his street. Like with Kalas, we arranged a “Buy now” deal and sold him to the Edinburgh-based side for £150,000. Less than ideal, but better than £0 I guess.

 

Moving on, the FA Cup Third Round saw us play Ipswich, and with it a chance to get quick revenge on the Tractor Boys after a recent loss in the league. So could we get that vengeance?

Not quite. And indeed we are still yet to win an FA Cup tie after also going out in Round 3 last season. Crap.

 

In truth, Ipswich should've won this as although we had a decent array of chances of our own, they had more, particularly in a late rally and with a goal also somewhat harshly disallowed. But there was no way through for the Suffolk side or indeed ourselves, and as happened in 2 of our Carabao Cup ties earlier this season, penalties would be needed.

 

For one moment, I thought it was gonna go our way when Scott Fraser saw Ipswich's first penalty kept out. But it was a mirage, as Andi Weimann and Matty James missed the following 2 kicks and there was no way back for us. So, ya'know. Boo.

 

It wasn't exactly about to get easier either, given our next assignment saw us travel to play Manchester City in the 4th Round of the Carabao Cup, who in something of a multiverse bending curio have a front 3 of Gabriel Jesus, Erling Haaland and Raheem Sterling. Which… mercy?

We may have pulled off a spectacular result against Arsenal in the last round but there was no chance of that here. Man City were on it from the off and were duly 4-0 up very quickly. Indeed, it's this which is perhaps why we changed shape and rested a lot of players.

 

We actually did grab some goals in our defence, given that Harry Cornick and sub Saikou Janneh would grab goals for our away following to cheer. But in this one, it was no use. They were just a steamroller.

 

So with the fear of God in us knowing that if we achieve my goal of promotion, this is what awaits us in the next division up, we move on. Specifically, it's on to Barnsley, and the hope of getting back to winning ways. Would this be a possibility?

More than possible. Fantastic.

 

A single goal decided a close and hard-thought contest, which was a fine strike from Kasey Palmer just after half-time, and our defence resisted home attempts to get back level after that. So good times there.

 

Next up was a home game against struggling Luton, who in a curious twist of fate are now managed by John Terry.

 

So would we give generously to the former Chelsea star or would we plough on regardless?

Well we won. So there's that.

 

It did help when Luton gifted Palmer an early goal. This was more of a grind then the xG perhaps suggests but we would take chances when first Antoine Semenyo and then Matt O'Riley did the business for us.

 

Sub Janneh did get a first EFL goal to go with a first club competitive goal in the drubbing at the Etihad in a nice moment, though his goal was sandwiched by Luton strikes that ended our defensive line's hopes of back-to-back clean sheet bonuses.

 

One new thing would be noted before our next game, meanwhile, in the form of a new signing. A striker was being sought, and one was purchased, as a deal was struck to sign promising Senegalese striker Bamba Dieng for £1.5million from Marseille, split 50/50 between up-front and installments.

 

Next up was a trip to Hull, who curiously we are yet to beat in any of our meetings…

… and we still haven't. 

 

A disappointing game in truth. We simply weren't there in the first half, falling behind and struggling to create. It got better as it went on, however, with Semenyo equaliser just after the break and us having the chances to level, but we just couldn't get them in the back of the net. Which, shame.

 

And that ends January's fixture list, leaving a table that looks like this…

The fight for a top six place is still on. Plenty of twists and turns along the way before we see if we can stick the landing ofc.

 

January also saw an end to the transfer window, and some moves were made.

 

The last game at Hull saw us not call upon Taylor Moore, despite the centre-back arguably being our best defender so far this season, and that's because in the week between the Luton game and that one, Moore was the subject of an offer from Fulham. A deal of £5million with potential to rise to £6M subject to add-ons was agreed but had some dragged out negotiations.

 

On deadline day, the paperwork was duly agreed, taking Moore to London and once again seeing us lose a key player in Jan.

 

Having already been one defender light following Kalas' exit, this meant we had to bring in a new defender. A few unsuccessful attempts were made, including one for a highly regarded Bolton defender after they couldn't source a replacement. In the end, one would arrive, in the form of Brazilian defender Lyanco, who joins on loan for the rest of the season from Southampton.

 

We also recalled Liam Morrison from a loan spell in Scotland as a back-up. I'd like to think he might get a game or two before season's out.

 

But that's January, and while not as insane as last year's, it was still quite a busy one. Time will tell if we've made the right moves and can get this club into the Premier League, with a lot of football still to churn through until then.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

February then. What happened in February?

 

Well, it began with a home game against Preston North End.

It was a slow start for a modified team, as although we dominated mid-table Preston and created some excellent chances, we just couldn't get one in the back of the net.

 

Maybe we'd get better luck in our next game, which was the form of a trip to Millwall…

… that would indeed be better luck.

 

Not a high quality game by any means, but the decisive moment came our way when Ryan Manning swept in a lovely free-kick. On his comeback, Nahki Wells had a goal disallowed that would've made it 2-0, but we did the work we needed to in order to win this contest. So yay us.

 

The third game of the month would represent an escalation in the difficulty as we made the trip to go play Nottingham Forest, who are currently in a good spot to make the automatic promotion spots.

 

Winning at the City Ground could be a decent statement of intent that we might try and get ourselves still into the debate for a top two finish.

This would ultimately not be our day then.

 

It looked like it might be at one point as we made a better start to the match, and deservedly took the lead when Kasey Palmer finished after good work by Bamba Dieng.

 

But a collapse in the final stages of the first half undid it, with Tyler Roberts and Brennan Johnson putting the game on its head.

 

The second half saw us waste plenty of chances to equalise, and with that, we were beaten. Crap.

 

We would sure enough need a tonic to get over that, and we were hoping one would come against Charlton Athletic.

Consider Charlton dealt with then.

 

We were generally the better team throughout this contest, but would have to wait for our substitutes to do the job, as first Antoine Semenyo and then Alex Scott got the goals to make it 2-0.

 

A good result regardless of how it came, so there's that.

 

Now to try and make it 2 home wins out of 2 as we welcomed Huddersfield Town to Ashton Gate.

Huddersfield didn't quite follow the script.

 

It looked going to plan after Palmer put us 1-0 up with an early penalty, but very much didn't follow.

 

I made the slightly bold choice to give Connor Hazard a run-out against Charlton and after he did well, I stuck with him, but Huddersfield just didn't give him any mercy, scoring a trio of goals and leaving us shell-shocked.

 

We were at least able to avoid slipping to defeat when Neeskens Kebano and then Palmer got goals to haul us back to 3-3, and in that context, any result is a good one. It's hard not to be irritated we were in the need of a comeback like this in order to treat this game as a “… welp, better than nothing” sort of contest, mind.

 

Our last February assignment, by contrast, is a game where a point would represent a good result, as we travelled to the South Coast to take on Southampton, who we beat at Ashton Gate in one of our first games of the season, but who have duly pushed on and look set to get promoted.

 

A home and away double would certainly be quite the statement of intent, but would we earn it?

Not quite the home-and-away double, but the satisfaction of a late point cannot be denied.

 

Southampton battered us at times, especially at the break, but the belief was there as they failed to add to Reine-Adelaide's goal in first half stoppage time, and from nowhere, we got something right at the end. A long ball by George Tanner, substitute Bamba Dieng got something on it, and a goal was found. Delicious stuff.

 

So we end February with two points, if from very different vibes as to how I feel about them.

 

The net result is that with 12 games to go, our Championship table resembles this…

My target is a top six finish and we're still on track for that. So, guess we'll keep on keeping on.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Into March we go, and there is still plenty to play for as we try our best to lock in that top six finish. Can we do it? We'll see. Will I be happy if we do? Partially. Will I actually show game photos rather than asking rhetorical questions?

 

So first of all we had the task of a trip to Blackburn Rovers, who beat us in the reverse fixture and where we lost 5-2 last season. Would this visit to Ewood Park go any better?

Well it was better than a 5-2 but a 2-0 loss isn't exactly the same kind of an improvement that a point or more woulda been.

 

Things might have been different had a Bamba Dieng goal not bit the dust at the hand of an offside flag, denying our January signing the chance to push on after he got his first Bristol City goal at Southampton last time out. But our attack was worryingly insipid throughout, leaving us reliant on the hope we could grind out a point.

 

We were on track to do that in fairness, but then came a tour de force by Sheyi Ojo and Joe Gelhardt, as first Ojo assisted Gelhardt, and then Gelhardt assisted Ojo.

 

So that was a misfire. Would we do better against Birmingham City in the next contest?

In one sense, yes. In another, not really.

 

There was a proper disappointment right at the end when it looked like we'd got a priceless late winner against a side that is also in the play-off fight, only for an offside flag to disallow Han-Noah Massengo's goal from standing. This in truth is one where we can be disappointed, as while we did a great job at keeping Birmingham's attack quiet, we couldn't turn pressure into goals at the other end. Which was infuriating from this one.

 

Maybe a clash with an out-of-sorts QPR would do us better.

And do it better it did.

 

Or at least it was a better day for Antoine Semenyo, who was restored to the central striker role after looking kinda unremarkable out wide and duly bagged a hat-trick, justifying the switch. It may also give me a headache given Dieng and Nahki Wells are pushing to start there, but Semenyo's emergence as a central striker could at least answer a question at the end of the season on what to do up top, assuming somebody else doesn't take note and gives us a lot of money to buy him.

 

So at the third attempt, that was our first win in the month of March. Would there be another from a trip east down the M4 to take on Reading?

Not exactly.

 

If a side was going to win this one, it was us. We created a litany of excellent chances, our attack was in sync in terms of prepping stuff, our defence mostly did alright at stopping Reading - barring a chance or two that Max O'Leary repelled - but when push came to serve, it just didn't go our way in terms of finding a winner.

 

Ho hum.

 

So that's March out the way and with an international break following our trip to the ground no longer called the Madejski Stadium, we had some time for contemplation and reflection or similar qualities ahead of the sugar rush of games coming our way in a busy April and May.

 

But first, the table.

Match may not have been the easiest of months for us, given we got just 1 win in our 4 games, but our rivals weren't that consistent either, so we remain a team in hold of the coveted top 6 berth for the time being.

 

This is a tight fight, however. From 4th place Blackburn to 9th place Birmingham, there's a gap of just six points of separation, and given 10th place Ipswich are 3 points off the play-offs, they might be a valid contender for this fight as well.

 

Eight games to go, and there's plenty of twists and turns left in this one yet. That's absolutely the case for us, as our April fixture run is intense. We still have to play Brentford, Middlesbrough, Ipswich and West Brom in quick succession, with a Crystal Palace team that still has a PL-quality squad despite flatlining also lurking in wait.

 

Nothing about this fight is sorted yet, in short. One way or another, however, we'll try to stay in this through to the bitter end. Given the pre-season expectation was just to fight for midtable, we are already doing better than the board expected, so let's see if we can stick the landing and truly smash our expectations in the grand manner.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

April has arrived and with it the first of our final 8 games to try and secure a place in the play-offs, and hopefully this time succeed after we were dumped out over 2 legs by West Brom last season.

 

We dive straight in with a clash at home to relegation-threatened Burton Albion.

Success.

 

Nothing much more to say about this one. Took longer than ideal given we created and duly spurned a ton of chances, but Antoine Semenyo got one just after the break and in the sixth minute of time added on Nahki Wells finally got his first post-injury goal, coming just a day after he said he will not sign a new contract and will leave Ashton Gate at the end of the season.

 

Not much time to dwell on that, mind, as the Championship still has lots of games to throw at us. Next up, the first game of the Easter double header and the reverse of our season opener as we travel to play Coventry City.

 

We thumped Coventry on the opening day so another result like that will do us a world of good ahead of some tricky looking games against play-off rivals and teams with strong squads

Well… that's not good.

 

We were already not having a good time when it all fell apart in quick succession, as first George Tanner got a dumb red card (and a 3 game ban to go with it), before Tyler Walker squeezed in what turned out to be the only goal.

 

A few days of work are duly needed to figure out how we got that so wrong, and try to do better for a more tricky looking test as we welcomed Brentford to Ashton Gate

Now that's more bloody like it. Possibly one of our best displays of the season against a Brentford team stuffed with talent and making a late dash for the play-offs, but we very much came on top.

 

A little disappointed we couldn't keep a clean-sheet but a 4-1 win over Brentford is absolutely a sign we've made progress with this Bristol City project, with Harry Cornick, Semenyo and Neeskens Kebano those getting a cheeky goal bonus.

 

Next on our fixture list was a trip to play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and in the process, a side also relegated from last season's Premier League, albeit one who have fallen wildly below expectations and are on course for a bottom half finish having come nowhere near challenging for a return to the top 20.

 

What would go down here?

Another important win, this time showing resilience both in coming from behind and crucial changes off the bench.

 

We did well to quickly come back after Wilfred Zaha had given Palace the lead midway through the first half, with Cornick striking four minutes later. But the decision to hook Wells and Kasey Palmer proved dividends, with Matt O'Riley scoring two super goals - the second of which was assisted by fellow sub Alex Scott.

 

That game means we now have just 4 remaining, and the situation at the top of the table looks like the following…

Those wins over Brentford and Crystal Palace have certainly helped us keep true, given that some of the teams behind us are also getting results at a good rate.

 

There's certainly a tight fight on, mind, with just six points splitting Reading in 3rd from Brentford in 9th, and in truth, 10th place Ipswich might see a 5 point gap as something they might be able to overcome in such a crowded fight.

 

As if Brentford and Palace wasn't a tough enough double for us to overcome, we also have to play Middlesbrough, Ipswich and West Brom all in a row, and realistically, we will need results from all 3 of those matches to ensure we're not jumped by somebody behind us.

 

Best get on with trying to do that, then.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Time is running out on our second season as Bristol City manager, and with it, our attempt to make it back-to-back top six finishes for the Robins.

 

Four games remain, starting with a trip to play Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium…

That will do alright I guess. Not the best display imo, though on balance probably did enough to win it.

 

As it was, an equaliser by Neeskens Kebano means we take a point back down to Bristol with us. So there's that.

 

Next up, Ipswich, and a chance to try and finally beat the Tractor Boys after losses at Portman Road in league and FA Cup earlier on this season

Success eventually then. Yay.

 

At this point of the season, we're in the business of taking what we can get and a 1-0 win courtesy of a dramatic goal in the last few minutes after we threw on all our strikers certainly ticks the box.

 

Top scorer Antoine Semenyo was the belated hero. We spent most of the game battering Ipswich, but that last bit threatened to be elusive until finally, right at the end of it all, we managed to prize the door open and nab the goal that grabs us what could yet be a vital win in the context of this season.

 

Just two games are left to play of our season then, starting with a trip to our play-off conquerors in last season's top six skirmish - West Bromwich Albion, a team who are also in need of points for their own play-off push.

 

A win would likely all-but confirm our spot at the end of this tricky run of games and ahead of a final day contest with mid-table Blackpool.

Well, it goes to the final day but we'll go into it still nursing a top six spot.

 

Things seemed to go our way as, after a slow start, we began to offer more of a threat and struck when Semenyo slotted us in front just after the break.

 

Unfortunately, we weren't able to prevent West Brom from equalising, but we resisted their attempts at a comeback win and could even have nicked a winner of our own. But a draw is still a reasonable enough thing to pick up from a tough place to go.

 

That all meant that, with one game outstanding of the 2022/23 Championship season, the fight looked like this…

While Southampton and Nottingham Forest have already confirmed their Premier League progression and Blackburn have a play-off spot to go, the battle for the other 3 spots is mighty close. Just 4 points split 6 teams, all of whom could yet end the final day of the campaign as in the play-offs.

 

Worth noting that our 79 points total matches what we got last season in finishing 6th. Could yet finish with a higher number than that and miss out if results don't go our way on what's likely to be a tense multi-team focused final day squabble.

 

Would we hold our nerve against mid-table Blackpool at Ashton Gate?

Well we're there but holy shit that was close.

 

It very nearly looked like we were going to suffer a case of the yips. The live-score ticker was giving us updates that West Brom, Middlesbrough and Brentford were all winning their final assignments of the season whereas try as we might, we just couldn't force the ball into the Blackpool net.

 

Then, with the final minutes arriving, and just like we did in Ipswich two games prior, we somehow got the ball over the line right at the end. A cross from Harry Cornick, substitute Kebano got a yard on his covering defender, and just like that, the ball was in the Blackpool net.

 

So thank fuck for that, and a genuine note of tension I've not felt in a video game since playing Last of Us 2. Or maybe that's a sign I don't play them enough.

 

Anyway, final table…

So we're in a 4-way skirmish with Blackburn, Reading and West Brom for that final Premier League spot alongside the already promoted Southampton and Nottingham Forest.

 

It's certainly less painful than the heartache suffered by Birmingham City, who had gone on a brilliant run to get into 4th on the final day, only for a final day reverse at Blackburn to see them miss out by one point. It's also less miserable than Brentford, who sacked their manager in direct response to a failure to make it into the top end. We've also at least still got something to fight for, unlike QPR, Burton and Luton sides who slip beneath the waves into League One.

 

But that's a different equation. To the more important business…

So two games against rivals about 1hr20-30 down the M4, with the prize of a trip to Wembley on offer against either a side we haven't beaten as Bristol City manager in Blackburn, or a West Brom team who beat us in last season's play-offs.

 

Will we strike it lucky this time? I don't know just yet, but I will soon enough.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

The play-offs are here then. That strange post-season skirmish where somebody will end it on the way to the Premier League and all its millions.

 

We have a two-legged affair against Reading, starting with a game at Ashton Gate as we finished 5th so have our home leg first. 

 

We do have a blow, however, as both Nahki Wells and Kasey Palmer suffered injuries that will rule both out of the play-offs. In saying that, both skedaddled on our play-off second leg when we needed them, but signings and others taking charge means that I think we can manage better, and we're gonna bloody have to.

 

Anyway, Reading in the first leg, so what would we manage to do?

We've done the hard part in theory.

 

It didn't start well as Troy Parrott scored a fine early goal, but just two minutes later space opened up for Antoine Semenyo to equalise.

 

Lyanco then scored his first goal since joining on loan from Southampton from a Neeskens Kebano, and after Parrott had a goal disallowed, Lyanco scored again from another Kebano corner.

 

It certainly puts us into a position of great advantage, but it's naive to think the job is done. The first leg was a bit of a tight contest and Reading had a few decent chances to eat into our 3-1 lead without success.

 

Four days later, and we arrive at the Select Car Leasing not-Madejski Stadium to place Reading to try and book our place at Wembley Stadium. Would we do the job?

Well, that was much closer than I'd like, but we just about did the job.

 

It did feel like it had all fallen apart when a goal in each half gave Reading a 2-0 lead, wiping out our advantage and our attack just wasn't getting going, leaving me worried it might be running out of steam here.

 

Then, however, with extra-time looming, a fine pass forward by substitute Alex Scott released his fellow sub Bamba Dieng, and for once, our misfiring striker managed to find the back of the net.

 

On another day, it would have just been a consolation, but this time, a 2-1 deficit on the night made it 4-3 in our favour, securing us a play-off final place from nowhere. What a relief.

 

We're going to need to do a lot better to win the play-off final, but we're in, so we'll have no choice but to do the best we can to win the damn thing.

 

There's lots of narrative to play with for that final game, as we would be facing either a Blackburn Rovers side that beat us home and away in the Championship regular season, or a West Bromwich Albion team that ended our play-off promotion hopes last season.

 

So, what's the fate we face?

This is a tricky one, but that's what we've got.

 

Blackburn Rovers, for the trainspotters, had lost the first leg 3-2 at The Hawthorns in a game that saw both teams have a player sent off, but roared back to win 3-0 at Ewood Park to book their place at Wembley.

 

So, it's a big game.

 

The team that came 3rd in the Championship versus a team that came 5th. I'm not going to turn up expecting it - whatever happens will happen. I'm not 100% sure how we'll do if we were to win this thing, but it's on us to figure it out if we get there and just win the bloody game before worrying about that.

 

The self-styled “richest game in world football” rolled around one week later, and our last assignment of a mammoth season. Can we succeed where Bristol City failed in 2008, win the play-off final, and reach the Premier League promised land?

Not that you need this image to process what that 1-0 win means, but…

WE FUCKING DID IT! WE ARE GOING UP!

 

It wasn't an amazing play-off final in truth. One goal did the business - a poorly thought out challenge gave us a penalty inside the opening ten minutes which Ryan Manning duly converted.

 

Blackburn, in truth, didn't really turn up, although the xG pushed close to 1 which does mean that in fits and starts, they did trouble us, but we did so well to keep their attack at arms length in the most part, see the job through, and in turn win the play-off final, despite no Wells, Palmer or Han-Noah Massengo (injured in the week before the final). It all means that we've got Bristol City into the Premier League in our second season in charge, and avenging the heartbreaking loss to West Brom the year before.

 

I guess now I do get to worry about how the hell I'm meant to keep them up in the Premier League.

 

Best 11 before we go…

Now I guess we get to figure out how to use our £35million-odd budget to do get in the best bang for our buck and in the process ensure that Bristol City can stay in the Premier League.

 

The euphoria was absolutely excellent, but now an even harder project to figure out.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Season 3 of our run as Bristol City manager represents a very different challenge.

 

After all, the first 2 were defined by our attempts to make it into the Championship play-offs. This, however, is now what comes after making it into that skirmish, as we now have to try and plot a route to Premier League survival, which isn't exactly simple.

 

Still, I managed it with Ipswich on FM22 as well after starting from the lower base of League One. Maybe I'll strike it lucky again.

 

To do that, some new signings would have to be sourced…

… some duly have been. Which makes a difference as in our first few campaigns, most of our business has been done in January, and particularly the final week of the month.

 

In full declaration, we are also trying to sign an extra right-back, but that deal is yet to be completed at this point.

 

Defence has ended up being the target area, as following the January exits of Tomas Kalas and Taylor Moore, we had plugged the gap briefly with loaning in Lyanco from Southampton, but they don't want to sell us him back.

 

In have come two new centre-backs, as highly regarded Serbian centre-back Strahinja Pavlovic joined from Monaco while a few days before the season starts, we got the very highly rated Levi Colwill to arrive on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

 

In-between were the two other signings. The big money arrival, as is par for the course, is in attack, with a club record fee agreed to sign Ben Brereton Diaz from Blackburn Rovers. In parallel, we also picked up a new defensive midfielder, signing Dutch midfielder Riechedly Bazoer from Vitesse Arnhem, largely on the whim of a scout saying he was a “must sign” option.

 

Bazoer's target came as we offloaded Joe Williams, who joined Fulham alongside Moore. Williams had been a very good option in our first season, but faded in season 2 with Han-Noah Massengo, Matt O'Riley and Matty James generally playing better, and was out of contract at the end of the season, so we offloaded him.

 

We also got a fee for Andreas Weimann, selling him to Austria Vienna, while the other main first teamers out are Nahki Wells and Chris Martin, though given they were injured for the second half of last season, we can live with that. Saikou Janneh is also out on loan, though his stalled development and being out of contract at the end of the campaign means he might be on the way out anyway.

 

Obviously a transfer spend of £26million is quite modest by PL standards, but from a £35million-or-so budget and with £7million or so raised in player sales, perhaps the best we could do. I imagine, however, that we're still going to be among the relegation favourites.

And so we are. The outright favourites, as it turns out. Ho hum. But we've proved this wrong before, so we could easily do it again. Maybe.

 

Though as is often the way, the best 11 depicted here is at odds with my assistant's recommended one…

Still, I can pick a starting 11 somewhere with my lot to try and plot a course for survival.

 

The excitement is nevertheless there tbf to think we're a Premier League side, as we first contend with a pre-season run.

A fairly reasonable bag. Defeat to a Bournemouth side that went in the opposite direction to us and out of the Premier League was a disappointment, although a goal by young regen/newgen prospect Darren Jackson is a sign he could be someone to try and give game time too as we progress. Beating Napoli and Atletico Madrid back-to-back is also a pretty handy pair of results.

 

So, the first game of the season is here, and our Premier League adventure starts away at Watford. This feels like the kind of game where avoiding defeat is a must, as while they might not necessarily be down there with us, it certainly feels more achievable than trying to rouse the gang to try and get a win at Old Trafford.

 

Matchday one, and the first game in the Premier League. How would we fare?

I'd have taken a point pre-game and certainly would've done after we fell behind. So all in all, I can be content.

 

It was not an easy first half as Watford, who had previously phoned in a performance in losing to us in the Carabao Cup in season 1, did have the better of the opening half and struck when Emmanuel Dennis turned in from Jamal Lewis' cross. But after the break we were better and snagged an equaliser when Antoine Semenyo received Alex Scott's pass to score.

 

Excellent for starters indeed. Now to try and get the other 39 points to hit that magic PL survival points total.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Before our second game of the season and first Premier League encounter at Ashton Gate, some business was conducted. A £3million fee has seen us sign the full-back Josip Juranovic from Celtic, further strengthening our defensive line. Admittedly, he was a back-up choice as our first choice in the form of a young Spanish right-back from Basel failed his work permit application, but we have a high quality option in.

 

Admittedly, we have failed an objective as the board still want us to make a profit on transfers, but I fail to see how we're going to be able to do that as a newly promoted club. Maybe next season if we impress and stay up, although we absolutely would make a profit if we got relegated and had to sell everyone.

 

Anyway, our first home game of the season and a team for whom money is a different kind of crux, as we take on the big-spenders that are Newcastle United. So how would we fare?

Our first win in the Premier League. Not bad.

 

We did very well to consistently limit Newcastle's attack throughout, and struck when it counted, as a quickfire double by Ben Brereton Diaz and Alex Scott did the business for us. If nothing else, at least we will not go a season winless, and indeed we're still unbeaten as a Premier League manager. Though admittedly it's a 2 game sample size.

 

The Carabao Cup would beckon our attention next, as we welcomed Charlton Athletic to Ashton Gate, and in the process took on one of the teams we left behind in the division below.

Reshuffled the pack but did the job. Charlton were limited against what was a back-up side featuring only Juranovic of our summer signings, and while we could have easily won by more than just the Bamba Dieng goal we did get, I'll take what I can. Win's a win in this business ofc.

 

So that's all good. Also making a surprisingly decent go of it is Scott, as while admittedly we only had two rounds of Premier League football in August, he did enough to win August's Young Player of the Month award. Not bad. Given I didn't think he was that great last season, it's a pleasing sign that this could see him develop very well.

 

The first team would be back in the line of duty for the next assignment, as we welcomed Sheffield United in a game that I think is the kind we need to target for 3 points, given expectations are that the Blades will be down with us for most of the campaign.

Three points achieved. I'll be happy with that.

 

Kudos that we didn't let frustration get the better of us, as Brereton Diaz had a goal fall victim to VAR, but we would pick ourselves back up, and our summer signing from Blackburn was in the right place to convert from a Juranovic cross. Sheffield United were much better after the break, we'll give ourselves credit for holding out and winning.

 

So you know. Yay.

 

This backed on to an international break, although given only 3 Premier League games have gone, it's probably a bit soon to draw up a table with a tangible feel to it. We shall move on to after that then, and a contest that raises the difficulty level quite a bit in the form of a visit to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola may have bailed after winning the division in season 2, but they've still got the talents to rip us to shreds.

And sure enough, we were ripped to shreds.

 

I tried something with a pivot to a back 3, but the fact we were breached by Gabriel Jesus nearly straight away was a sign it was going to fail. Even switching back to the comfort of our usual 4 at the back didn't stop Man City's tidal wave of attacks, and if anything, getting a goal back through Bamba Dieng off the bench just made them angry, with Jesus and Erling Haaland each bagging second goals in added time to confirm this was just one we'd have to take on the chin.

 

These games kinda aren't our battles I guess, but given how crucial goal difference tends to be in these battles, I don't think I would be happy to see a lot more demolitions like this.

 

Welcoming Liverpool at Ashton Gate in our next home game isn't what I'd necessarily call the most conductive to that, but here's hoping it won't be a repeat.

Well would you look at that - we avoided a repeat.

 

As was perhaps to be expected, Liverpool did do their best to try and bludgeon us into submission, creating a steady stream of chances all through the 90 minutes. But while Manchester City scored early and duly carried on, this time, we proved much better resistant to what Liverpool had to throw at us and got something good.

 

It could have been even better when with 20 minutes to go, Antoine Semenyo beat Alisson to seemingly give us the lead. But alas, VAR said no.

 

Still, a point against Liverpool is enough to continue a broadly positive opening to this campaign. Now the goal is to make sure this continues.

Number 1
16 years ago
10 months ago
3,650

Having got ourselves some acclaim in holding out against Liverpool with all their talents, we turned attention to an on-paper more winnable assignment.

 

Next up, we welcomed Lincoln City, very much not in the Premier League, to Ashton Gate. So it would be good to see signs of progress and try to win this one.

This briefly threatened to be more complex than it needed to be.

 

It all seemed to be proceeding swimmingly when Neeskens Kebano gave us an opening goal within the opening three minutes, but a dumb penalty we gave away was scored by Mo Eisa.

 

But we just kept plugging away until the damn burst when Rob Atkinson put us in front in the final moments of the first half, and when Lincoln had a player sent off, it was pretty much game over from there.

 

As it was, we'd grab another pair of goals and Lincoln had another one sent off, but it was good enough for us to progress.

 

The regular team would be put back into the fold for our next contest, as we travelled to take on early strugglers Wolves at Molineux

Well… I'm happy we beat Wolves but nearly blowing a 4-0 lead and crawling home 4-3 is the less fun angle.

 

We started in extraordinary fashion. Ben Brereton Diaz grabbed two goals in 3 minutes and just four after that, Alex Scott justified his start to add in another. We were exceptional in the first half, and Brereton Diaz scored again before the break.

 

At that point, I could be arrogant enough to think that it was all a done deal and that we'd be returning home with 3 more points. Then came the final 20 minutes when Adama Traore scored a brace and Sergi Roberto got one. Suddenly, it was threatening to escalate, so we had to just scramble over the line.

 

This was the first of two back-to-back games leading into the second international break of the campaign. So, how would we fare in the second of those up at Elland Road?

Less well. Ultimately giving Leeds a 2-0 head-start proved to be a disaster.

 

It had seemed like we were beginning to creep back into the game when Kebano made it 2-1, but we had pretty much nothing in the tank after that and if anything it was likelier Leeds would score again. A 2-1 is at least OK for our goal difference, but still - this could've been better.

 

At the point of the October international break, which followed this trip to Leeds, the Premier League table looks something like this…

This has been a very good start. 3 wins in our first 7, more than our fellow promoted sides Southampton and Nottingham Forest combined, is a brilliant opening to the campaign, and our goal difference actually looks a little rosier when one takes out the fact 5 of the 11 goals we conceded came in one game at the Etihad Stadium.

 

It's less ideal though that we went into that international break on the back of a loss to Leeds. Hopefully we'd restart accordingly with something against Leicester City at Ashton Gate in our next contest.

Well… perhaps not.

 

It could've gone either way tbf - after a poor first half, we grew into the game and it looked for all the world like we might get something, despite some big losses - both Pavlovic and Bazoer, two of our marquee summer arrivals, were injured during the international stoppage and will be out for a few weeks.

 

But unfortunately not, as we failed to take a few good chances and paid a price in the 90th minute when Cody Gakpo ran clear of our defence to strike. Bugger.

 

A brutal December is also coming into view, given it contains games against Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal lurking. With some seemingly more generous games to come before that, we're gonna need to get a move on and grab some more results.

You'll need to Login to comment