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The late heartache against Leicester in our first game after losing both Bazoer and Pavlovic meant that really, we might have some work to do in order to ensure that we don't fall into these pratfalls again when in contention for vital points. After all, I can tolerate losing points now and then but it's ill-advised in a relegation battle to make a habit of it.
Our last game of October in the Premier League took us up to Turf Moor, and a face-off with Sean Dyche and Burnley. Could we take a win here?
This really should've been a game we took the rewards from, and it looked to be set to go our way when sub Harry Cornick teed up Ben Brereton Diaz for the ex-Blackburn man to score. But we lost focus and right at the end Stuart Armstrong brought Benfica level. That it was set up by winger Xavier Amaechi, who turned us down to move to Burnley when we both bid for him in the summer, was another kick in the balls.
Halloween was next in sequence and a Carabao Cup tie against one of those we had left behind in the Championship in the form of Huddersfield Town. So would we get a treat or be on the wrong end of a trick?
Hmmmm… that didn't really go 100% to plan, even if the right result was sourced in the end.
It wasn't a great game in truth, and with Harry Cornick having a goal disallowed after coming off the bench, it added up to very much something of a frustrating one.
As it was, Huddersfield missed their first penalty and with no other spot-kicks kept out, it allowed us to advance into the next round.
Moving swiftly on, we welcomed Everton to Ashton Gate chasing a first Premier League win in four.
And we would get it. Huzzah.
With late drama seeing us lose to Leicester and miss out on 3 points against Burnley, this time, it was satisfying to see a late twist fall in our favour. At the end of a largely even game, albeit one where we tested their keeper more than we tested ours, it ended up being the substitutes the settled everything in our favour. Matt O'Riley cued up Antoine Semenyo, and he got the goal home.
Next in sequence was a trip to play Brighton at the AMEX. Would that also deliver a further few points?
Not this time.
We actually did enough to win this game on stats, with a higher expected goals, more shots and more saves by their keeper, and that was on fewer possession. But as it was, Kyogo did the damage to win it for the Seagulls.
That contest was the last game before the November international break, and sees us make the 11 game mark of the Premier League season. Just time for a quick look at the burgeoning Premier League table.
Well I'm happy so far. We're above both the two teams that came up with us along with a multitude of other squads with big budgets and stars in their favour.
Onwards then, as a dicey December featuring some big contests comes up.
We carry on our push to achieve survival in our first season in the Premier League with a home contest against West Ham United, who we're level on points with in what could demonstrate signs that we're adjusting to the task.
Could we get ourselves a 5th win of the season and in turn leapfrog the East Londoners?
No, but we did still get a point on the board. Can't be unhappy with that.
Bamba Dieng had been something of a misfit since his January arrival from Marseille in the Championship, but he had shown something in cameos and in turn got a few more runs. This episode proved to show that as a great idea, with our Senegalese striker scoring a pair of equalisers, one of which coming in the 93rd minute, to give us a point.
Next in sequence is an opponent who we played in the not-too-distant past as Southampton, who were promoted with us last season, are the team we shall next test ourselves against.
We picked up something in both of our meetings with the Saints last season, so a win would be bloody marvellous and a sign of us picking up points against our likely dropzone battle rivals.
The spirit of repetition is in on this one then - a late equaliser getting us a 2-2 draw.
This is one where, for most of the encounter, we didn't really look like we'd get anything. Che Adams got an early goal for the Saints, Bamba Dieng had one disallowed, and we sort of just drifted for most of the encounter.
But we improved when we made a few subs and got an equaliser courtesy of Antoine Semenyo off the bench. In turn, it all got a bit madcap, with Adams scoring a second goal to give Southampton the lead again just seven minutes later when, in the 89th minute, Matt O'Riley lashed in a second equaliser.
These two however felt more winnable than some of our upcoming clashes, with some of the Premier League's big fish turning up.
First up was Manchester United, who arrived as the Premier League leaders.
Well… Could've been worse.
Lautaro Martinez scored the only goal in a strange and at times scrappy game at Ashton Gate, where we actually did miss 2 or 3 decent chances for an equaliser in the second half. In the main, Manchester United were chipping away and likely to add to their goal.
Ho hum. This wasn't a game I was expecting three points from, and one where we duly did not.
On paper, a similar theory can be seen for our trip to Spurs, as despite Diego Simeone making a slow start, they still have some exceptional players capable of ripping our defence to shreds.
So I can't say I'm making the trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium expecting a result.
Well well well.
This is a definite contender for our best result as Bristol City manager, up there with winning the play-off final, knocking Arsenal out of the Carabao Cup final, and a 6-0 win over Stoke City in our first season.
An early goal gave us the advantage when a Neeskens Kebano corner picked out Semenyo, who got the nod over Ben Brereton Diaz, and yielded an early goal.
Spurs, despite Harry Kane, Coutinho and a litany of other half-decent attackers, offered surprisingly little, with the shots they did get together thwarted by Max O'Leary and before we knew it, we were victorious.
So much for prioritising the games I expect points if we're gonna pull this off.
This feels like as good an opportunity as any to dig the table out.
15 games into the season, and we're halfway to the magic 40 points total already. Fantastique.
Of course this isn't a guarantee we'll achieve the goal of keeping Bristol City in the Premier League. Could easily fail to win any of our remaining 23 games and drift into the Championship, so we'll just carry on.
A definite sense of delight came from our unexpected victory over Spurs, but it's not as if things were about to get more straightforward.
After all, next up was a home match against Chelsea, and it's just as well we had Strahinja Pavlovic and Riechedly Bazoer back in contention given Levi Colwill is a Chelsea loanee, so ineligible against a parent club now managed by Zinedine Zidane.
Still, we could hope we might be in for a victory…
… as it is, not quite this time around.
We actually didn't disgrace ourselves but made the cardinal sin of conceding first when Callum Hudson-Odoi put Chelsea in front, failed to create a lot in response, then duly gave away a penalty that Jorginho scored.
Bamba Dieng did grab a goal back, but Christian Pulisic ended hopes.
This was never likely to be our priority in any case, and in truth, neither was our next match, in the form of an EFL Cup tie against Liverpool at Anfield.
Well, would've been nice to spring a surprise on them. As it was, not quite.
Not much to say here really. They demolished us, and we're out of the Carabao Cup. So let's move on.
What we are moving on to is indeed quite a big game, as in a December where we've mainly had to play big teams, this is a game amongst it as Nottingham Forest, promoted with us last season, made the trip to Ashton Gate.
This had the air of a game where our ambitions of staying up would be so well served by winning.
And win we did. Excellent.
This was a game where we got into the task with gusto, racing into a 3-0 lead by half time as the decision to pick all of Dieng, Antoine Semenyo and Ben Brereton Diaz yielded a first half goal for each of the three players we have as first team capable strikers.
Dieng would grab another just after the hour, and although Nottingham Forest would score two, we were able to prevent any further comeback, let alone the nerves I felt at Wolves a few months earlier when we nearly blew a 4-0 lead.
This was our last game before Christmas, so time for a quick look at the table.
Very much not occupying the dreaded “bottom at Christmas” spot. Indeed, keep this up and we could get a top half finish, which given we were favourites to go down and be with the likes of Forest, this is an exceptional start to our life as a Premier League manager.
Not that I can exactly expect to give a late Christmas present, given our Boxing Day game was a home tie against Arsenal, who arrived in our neck of the woods fresh off the back of beating Manchester City.
Still, we've had a few surprise wins. Why not dream of grabbing another one?
Oh OK maybe not.
We did have a spell at 1-1 after Harry Cornick took advantage of a rare start by grabbing an equaliser to cancel out Ryan Kent's opener. But when Minamino put Arsenal back in front after the break, we were a beaten side, struggling to create anything, missing the injured Juranovic at right-back to restore some defensive solidity and eventually conceded a killer goal to Reiss Nelson.
Nevermind. Onwards we go in search of more fruitful opportunities to pick up points later on down the line.
January began with a test, in the form of a visit to Leicester City - under the tenure of Erik Ten Hag, no less.
We were unlucky to lose out to a 90th minute goal when we welcomed them to Ashton Gate, so could this meeting of Foxes and Robins go better for us…
… not quite.
We did at least have our eye in for goals, with Antoine Semenyo cancelling out Youri Tielemans' opener and Bamba Dieng threatening to give us a comeback when he made it 3-2 late on. But it wasn't really our day. It looked like it might be when Max O'Leary kept out a Tielemans penalty, then rapidly fell apart anyway as they scored with their following attack and grabbed another one straight after, with Patson Daka duly adding a 4th in injury time to rub it in.
No matter. We'll just have to look elsewhere for the points we need, and on the surface, a home game against Leeds United looked like a more winnable sort of contest. They might be in the European places, but it's not exactly unbelievable to think we might shock the Yorkshire club.
Hey look, we shocked the Yorkshire club. Go figure.
This was quite the interesting game. Both sides had their moments but we managed to grow into it after keeping it at 0-0 in the final minutes, and would be rewarded in some style as Bamba Dieng, who is turning into an unexpectedly impressive goalscorer at PL level, grabbed us an 89th minute winner.
Next up was the task of advancing in the FA Cup, which would be an improvement given we contrived to get knocked out in the Third Round in both of our first two seasons at Bristol City.
Standing in our way were Northampton Town, for whom Saikou Janneh was ineligible given he's on loan from us to them. So could we take advantage?
Finally, we win an FA Cup tie.
Northampton were ultimately pretty limited and that allowed us to dominate the game. Should probably have won by a bigger margin, but we got the goal that proved decisive when Antoine Semenyo forced it home ten minutes after the break, and that was pretty much that.
Moving on, we next had the test of a trip to Goodison Park and a contest with Everton. Victory on Merseyside would see us complete a home-and-away double over the Toffees so hopefully we'll be able to do just that.
Before that came some transfer window shuffling of the deck. Defender Rob Atkinson voiced his displeasure at becoming a back-up after we brought in a few new defenders in the summer, and was allowed a loan move to Championship side Ipswich. To fill his squad space, we recalled Cameron Pring from his loan at Aberdeen to serve as a reserve.
Anyway, Everton away. Would we bag another decent haul of three points?
Not a great attacking display was the root of our undoing in all truth. We had the odd chance here and there but never convincingly looked like beating Jordan Pickford, and just struggled after Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck to give Everton the lead.
So, back to the drawing board, but not too long to come up with a recalibrated plan as next up, we had a home match against Burnley. Sean Dyche still in situ and all.
Maybe we would bounce back here.
Bounce back, tick. And scoring four goals against Burnley like we did against Nottingham Forest at least demonstrates our attack has its plus points.
This was more like it. We could've let our heads drop when Borja Iglesias cancelled out Bamba Dieng's opener, and very much did not do that. Dieng got a second, before Antoine Semenyo grabbed a nice strike and in perhaps his best display for us, Alex Scott followed up two assists by lashing in a tremendous fourth.
Ben Mee might've got one in at the end, but there was no stopping us in this one. An excellent evening's work.
Making it back-to-back wins would be a little harder, given our next assignment took the form of a trip to the Emirates Stadium and a meeting with Arsenal. So it's one to go for in hope more than expectation in truth.
Hello there. Away win for Bristol City at the Emirates to go with our shock win down the road at the Tottenham Stadium a few weeks earlier? Fantastic.
Even just taking a point with the score 0-0 in the 87th minute would've been enough for me, as Arsenal had plenty of chances in each half to trounce us in the way Manchester City did in our one full-on thrashing so far since promotion.
While we had the collateral damage of five bookings, it looked like we were about to hold out for a point until Bazoer, seemingly looking to make up for a 5th yellow and suspension, took it by the scruff of the neck, picking up a pass from sub Semenyo and floating a delicious lob into the back of the Arsenal net, winning us the game in a shock turn of events.
Hell, this might well trump our win at Spurs as the high point of the season.
That unexpected win ends our January commitments, and with it another month of the season. At the end of which, the table now looks like this…
Still on course for a possible top half finish, and will almost certainly hit the 40 point mark before long.
Didn't think we'd have it in us for such a fantastic arrival on the Premier League scene. Sure, we've been jumped by our fellow new-boys Southampton, but I don't care. I would've taken 17th ffs. There may well be 15 games of the season to go, but with a 15 point lead, I just can't see us sinking below the waves and back out of the top flight now.
February comes next then, so hopefully we'll manage to add a few more high quality results for the road before worrying about another Premier League season.
February has rolled around, and we will be doing so with a new face in the fold.
January had been a fairly quiet month on the transfer window front, with letting Atkinson go on loan and recalling Pring to stand-in the main thing of note. Antoine Semenyo and Max O'Leary had been the subject of bids, but neither enough to tempt me into a sale of key men.
What then came around was a deal that took nearly all of the month to put together coming off. We'd had multiple bids rejected by Crystal Palace for Michael Olise, despite the highly regarded midfielder barely playing for the Championship club, but on deadline day itself, we agreed a deal totalling £17M after instalments are totted up to bring him from Selhurst Park to Ashton Gate.
Olise would start the first game of the month on the bench, as we travelled the long way north to play Newcastle at St James' Park, taking on a side now managed by Didier Deschamps.
Our first big statement that we wouldn't be coming into the Premier League just to make up the numbers was beating Newcastle at Ashton Gate. Could we manage a double?
Well… not quite but I'll take it.
This wasn't really a good game in truth, with minimal chances at either end. But it looked as though the win would be Newcastle's when Wendell gave them a lead with ten to go. In truth, I figured that might be that, but in the fourth minute of time added on, a strike hit the post and Ben Brereton Diaz nicked us a point.
A point is satisfying enough I guess. So we move on.
Next on the schedule was an FA Cup tie against Port Vale at home, and the expectation that like we did against Northampton in the last round, we should be the victors.
Hmmm… I mean, I'm happy we won. But I can be disappointed 37 shots only yielded 2 goals and were it not for a penalty, we might well have been needing a replay or extra-time or whatever the current form factor is for needing them at this stage.
A super strike from Ben Garrity cancelled out a first half Semenyo goal, but eventually a Kasey Palmer penalty won the tie for us. So.. er, yay?
I mean, we didn't win any FA Cup ties in our first 2 seasons so if nothing else this is progress.
Next on the calendar was a trip to Aston Villa, and a side who still have Steven Gerrard but where the former Liverpool star is hanging on to his role with Villa in a relegation battle.
Well, this is a reminder that we still have a bit of progress to go. That and a number of injuries in our defensive ranks thinned out our options as had to put Riecheldy Bazoer into the defence, putting our main ball-winning midfielder into the defence and not really helping both.
Aston Villa had been the better side at the point when Danny Ings gave them a lead, and while we had a chance or two, it was no use after that.
Could we do a little better against Watford?
Well we did better in that we got a point. That's about it.
Watford created some decent chances but never quite avenged Joao Pedro's goal getting chalked off by VAR, whereas our attack just lacked fluidity. Which, less than ideal.
So far, we've had 3 Premier League games in February and not won any. Would the 4th be any better?
For that, we travelled to face Nottingham Forest, who have found their return to the Premier League tougher than us.
Two goals by Bamba Dieng, a measured defensive performance and some good game management should really have been the platform for us to take a win at the City Ground.
Then Mateta scored a goal back for Forest after the break, which just encouraged them. It had seemed as though we'd weathered the worst of the storm, and then in the 89th minute, Mateta intervened again, grabbing an equaliser.
Not ideal tbh.
February ended with that, and the table looked like this.
In fairness, despite a flat month with no victories, we're still 16 points clear of the relegation zone, and indeed, are still 12 points clear of 16th place Burnley and 8 ahead of 15th place Brighton.
Frankly, this is still above my expectations. 5 points takes us to the magic 40 point mark, though in truth, this points total could still be enough. But we've still got work to do as I'd like to finish as high as possible to grab more of that sweet sweet Premier League prize money, so we shall have to do some work accordingly.
Our cause now entered the month of March, and began with an opponent we had just taken on in the form of Aston Villa. With the Villains still struggling to escape the relegation battle, this could be just cause to get us closer to our goal of staying up.
I think this might well be enough to confirm our Premier League survival.
Against something of an aimless Villa, we were in control for most of the game. Bamba Dieng gave us an early lead and really the only quibble is that it took us until the end of the game to extend our lead. By that point, Villa had seen Tyrone Mings sent off, and a late spot-kick that Ryan Manning dispatched did the job.
With that out of the way, our attentions now turned back to the matter of the FA Cup, as we made the trip to play Crystal Palace, and in turn bring Michael Olise back to face the club we just signed him from.
Would Olise be cheering or witness his former team-mates cheering instead?
A win's a win I guess.
A Crystal Palace team chasing promotion back to the Premier League certainly gave us a ton of problems, and I'd be lying if I said it was one of our more convincing displays. But we stuck it out and managed to get it all the way to penalties.
In the shoot-out, the decisive moment actually came first, as Will Hughes saw Palace's first spot-kick kept out by our cup goalkeeper Conor Hazard, while we dispatched all five of ours to book a spot in the FA Cup Quarter Finals. Not bad when one considers this is the first season we actually won an FA Cup tie in.
We would be sticking around in London for a few days after, as our next game saw us take on Chelsea, obviously sans our excellent loan defender Levi Colwill. Could we manage a result all the same?
The euphoria of our win at Selhurst Park might well have acted as a hangover, though defensive selection problems that lead to our midfield being compromised probably didn't help either.
Perhaps the one bright spot is that, with the game 2-0, I thought I'd throw in a regen/newgen teenage centre-back Christopher Bailey for a PL debut, and he ended up getting one of our highest ratings, so there's potential that might be worth exploring as we continue our work.
Next in line was a home contest against Spurs at Ashton Gate. While they are very much not performing, a team full of strong talents will no doubt be a challenge.
A challenge we duly rose to. An excellent 3-2 win over the Lilywhites and one that does mean we have now cracked through the 40 point barrier.
Nathan Baker's own goal put us on the back-foot, but we would roar back. Ryan Manning's penalty gave us parity, before the surprisingly good season of Bamba Dieng continued with a goal after the break to put us in front. And when substitute Matt O'Riley made it 3-1, I thought that might be that.
As it was, a late Mikel Merino goal did make us sweat, but no matter. We saw the job through.
While this isn't the last round of PL fixtures for March, our FA Cup Quarter Final means it is our last one. So here's the table.
We are staying up, though in truth, it's not really been in doubt at many points in this excellent season.
There is one more March challenge to navigate however, in the form of the FA Cup Quarter Final, which has at least given us a home tie. That opponent is a difficult one, however, with Manchester United making the trip to our little corner of the world, bringing with them all the superstars you need to challenge for the title - something that they are very much doing.
We'd need a big result if we're to reach the semi-finals…
… oh wow. Big result. As it was in the real world Carabao Cup in 2017 (I think?), we beat Manchester United 2-1 at Ashton Gate and we're making it to the semi-finals. Holy moly.
A first Crystal Palace goal for Michael Olise gave us an unexpected advantage. As we figured, the away lot began to bombard our goal, but crucially, the defence was doing just enough to resist their overtures, and the reward came when a through pass by Olise suddenly released Han-Noah Massengo to advance and score.
Karim Adeyemi came off the bench to score and set up a very nervy run to the finish, but we held out. A 2-1 win does further to elevate what is already a magnificent first season with Bristol City in the Premier League, as we are now FA Cup semi-finalists.
So what is going to be our test to reach the grand showpiece that is the FA Cup Final?
Well, on paper, nice while it lasted, wave Erling Haaland and co onwards to playing Liverpool or Everton in the final. But then I felt the same about having to face Manchester United so… the hopes we may yet deliver something incredible are there. Beating Manchester City to go with dumping out their city neighbours would certainly be quite the statement. We shall see if we will be so lucky.
April began with a rerun of the last game we had in March. In that month, we'd ended it with a shock win over Manchester United in the FA Cup Quarter Final, while for this version, we travel to Old Trafford.
So, could we manage to inflict more shock pain on them?
Well - that's quite the unexpected and delightful development.
I'd written this one off when Cristiano Ronaldo bagged himself a quick double, and was kinda expecting a reverse as it's not necessarily our battle.
But we got a quick double of our own - the first when Levi Colwill scrambled home at a set-piece, and then barely a few clicks later, Antoine Semenyo lashed in an equaliser.
There was an element of fortune going our way when Scott McTominay had one chalked off for offside, but this is one to take any result we can and a point at Old Trafford for a side who was Championship last season is an excellent result.
Next in line would be Southampton, who came up with us last season.
A win was duly achieved. Super duper.
Southampton's goal did ultimately wake us up, as to that point we'd blown a few chances and were stunned when a defensive mis-step lead to Paulinho put them in front.
Two assists from Josip Juranovic did the magic for us - the first scored by Ben Brereton Diaz, the other by Semenyo, and together it added up to a win for us. Huzzah.
The game after this would see us take on Brighton, in our last game before our FA Cup semi-final to face down the expensive array of talents that Manchester City have at their disposal. So, would we see the Seagulls off?
Yup, job done.
A slightly reshuffled squad got things done early on, as Kasey Palmer and Matt O'Riley scored in quick succession, and if anything the second half was more a story of us blowing a lot of chances than actually having our lead threatened.
So next up, the big test. Wembley Stadium, Bristol City vs Manchester City, FA Cup semi-final. How would this turn out?
Holy cow. We absolutely bloody did it.
The fact that we're challenging for a Premier League top half finish on our first try is already mad enough, but our first season will be ending with the FA Cup Final, and with it, our first proper run in the FA Cup has taken us all the way to the big one. Fantastic.
The hope had absolutely built tbf given that Manchester City weren't creating amazing chances and were blowing those that they did, but then suddenly, ten minutes to go, a strike hit the bar and Semenyo poked it past Ederson, and from there, we resisted things to take ourselves a famous win. So, wow.
This was the first of the two semi-finals to be chronologically played. Who would be waiting in turn?
It's Liverpool, who beat Everton after extra-time at Wembley. That could be quite the affair, and would certainly conclude our hard road to success given it's on the back of defeating both Manchester clubs to get to the grand final.
April has two more assignments to see us off before the final part of this campaign. First up, a trip to East London to take on West Ham United.
Yup, job done. An early goal and a strike by Neeskens Kebano saw us take another impressive victory.
Could we do something similar in our next contest as we take on Manchester City again?
Not quite, as this time they got some revenge on us for that FA Cup semi-final reverse. Though tbh, I'll just have to grin and bear with it as getting the semi-final win is enough to be happy with.
Raheem Sterling, Erling Haaland and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage for the away mob, with our chance creation running out of steam the longer the game went on. But it is what it is.
So that concludes April, and just time for a scan of the Premier League table as we approach the final month of our third season in Bristol.
As you can see, we're still very much in the mix of a top half finish. Not bad when we were predicted to finish last. Hell, we're actually not a million miles away from 5th place Leicester, although that might be too ambitious a target, and given we're above such luminaries as Newcastle, Spurs and West Ham, we've absolutely done well for ourselves.
Onwards then to the final month of the season and 3 games to take semi-seriously before that big contest at Wembley. So let's see how this all pans out.
We have stumbled into the month of May, and the end of our third season as Bristol City manager.
Three games remain and contrasting with our pre-season expectations of being certain bottom three finishers, we look on course for a top half spot. Sheffield United, Wolves and Liverpool are our outstanding Premier League games, all of which serve as the prelude to playing Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
First of all is our trip to Yorkshire to take on the Blades, puzzlingly in a game selected for Monday night TV broadcast, despite the Blades look set to stay up.
How would this all go?
Not really worth the broadcast choice then. At least our defence impressed in keeping out a fairly spirited Sheffield United out, but our attack did very much not get going.
Next, Wolves, who are much more in need of points given they're currently in the bottom 3 and need a win to force a final day relegation skirmish.
If we win, we would send Wolves down. Would we inflict such pain on them?
No. A 2-1 Wolves win keeps up their hopes of staying up, and means our impressive first season ends at home with a bit of a whimper.
It's worth noting we dropped Bazoer and Ryan Manning due to any yellow card picked up being their 10th of the season, which would rule both out of the FA Cup final. One unusual option in the shuffle is picking teenage newgen Christopher Bailey, who was probably our best defender.
Bamba Dieng had given us the lead but Raul Jimenez managed to sneak an equaliser past Max O'Leary, before Adama Traore scored a goal that keeps Wolves' hopes of staying up still alive.
Before contemplating our final game of the Premier League season, which sees us travel to Anfield, there was a curious curveball…
This happened in one of my previous FM22 saves, where I travelled to Bournemouth for a Premier League game only for it to be played in Bristol.
Kinda odd that FM is arguing that the Vitality Stadium is deemed unsuitable for the Premier League when Bournemouth are literally hosting the top flight there this season.
Given this is a roughly 2hour20 drive, it's also not exactly close for Bournemouth fans, not least given Southampton and Portsmouth are probably closer options.
But anyway, we will have two seasons of Bournemouth as tenants at Ashton Gate while they build up a new stadium.
Anyway, our season wraps up with an odd preview of the contest to come. The final game of the Premier League campaign is at Anfield, where we travel to play Liverpool a week before we play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
Would we lay down a marker and triumph at Anfield?
Not quite. Admittedly this was not a full strength line-up, with Bazoer and Manning still kept out of the fold due to their bans, a likely goodbye appearance for Harry Cornick (out of contract in the summer and probably not going to get a new one), no place for Michael Olise and indeed a Premier League debut for our back-up goalkeeper Conor Hazard.
As happened in the Carabao Cup, Hazard would be beaten four times, with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah tearing out defence to shreds in the first half. We would at least get a reward to cheer when Ben Brereton Diaz got us a goal, but it was never looking like being the springboard for a comeback.
Clearly, if we are to win the FA Cup, we have to work to do.
This marks the end of our first Premier League season with Bristol City and our third league campaign, so we shall sign off with a look at the table.
Well, given our pre-season prediction was strongly hinting bottom 3, to finish 9th is a brilliant achievement. So I'll toast such an accomplishment. I'd have been happy enough with 17th but 14 wins saw us comfortably avoid any notions that we would be going down.
Wolves, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest disappeared beneath the waves to the Championship, with the merry-go-round yo-yo club trio of Fulham, Bournemouth and one of Crystal Palace or Norwich (depending on who wins the play-offs) taking their places.
A shock twist saw Manchester City lose 4-3 at home on the final day to lose the title to Manchester United, and indeed end the campaign trophyless, while Liverpool and Chelsea conclude the top 4. Spurs would actually still get a Champions League place as despite a catastrophically bad domestic season, they are in the Europa League final and winning that would put them into the CL anyway.
There is of course one outstanding assignment for us, which takes the form of the FA Cup Final. Will we manage a shock and defeat Liverpool? We'll soon find out.
Season 2 ended at Wembley, with that game seeing us take Bristol City to the Championship play-off final.
Season 3 will also end at the North London stadium, this time in the form of the FA Cup Final against Liverpool. The Reds certainly might be more expected to be there, with Jurgen Klopp and his superstar array of strikers having won the Carabao Cup and reached the Champions League final.
We meanwhile did very well to get us into 9th place in the Premier League, a full 21 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League table but very much above expectations given my pre-season hopes were just to finish 17th.
My expectations were just to hope things were in. Defeating both Manchester clubs in the previous two rounds was a huge achievement to even make it to Wembley and reach the FA Cup final, but now another test in its own way to try and win this thing.
It certainly makes for different territory. While Bristol City are 3 times winners of what's now known as the Papa John's Trophy, they have only made it to one FA Cup final, which was all the way back in 1909 - a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, for what the records show.
So… could we manage what was already a great season with something even better?
Wow, didn't expect that. We actually fucking did it. FA Cup champions baby!
Even seeing it in this form, there's a case of… “We actually did it?”
This certainly was unexpected in a degree given we barely showed resolve in a 4-1 demolition at Anfield on the final day of the Premier League season.
It certainly had a dramatic flourish, with both sides having goals disallowed in the first 25 minutes, but it seemed to be going the way I expected it to when Mo Salah gave Liverpool the lead.
Great work by Antoine Semenyo however yielded an equaliser when Bamba Dieng scored an equaliser, to some great surprise on my part.
From there, it was mainly staying in the game but we managed to keep Liverpool from making it 2-1, and while we got a chance or two somewhere in there, it was mainly a case of our defence being tested.
Eventually, penalties would be required, and that's when the twist came, as Curtis Jones and Sandro Tonali saw back-to-back spot-kicks kept out by Max O'Leary. Josip Juranovic then missed what would've been a game-settling penalty, giving the fear of God that we might be about to blow it, only for O'Leary to make another save to keep out Goncalo Inacio and that was that.
Bristol City, FA Cup winners. Not bad at all.
Liverpool won the Champions League final against Dortmund the week after, so they can let us have this one.
It's almost tempting to wonder tbf if we've duly peaked with this project at Ashton Gate, having taken Bristol City from Championship mid-table to a top 10 Premier League spot and FA Cup, and indeed it means that season 4 will also have the added challenge that is the Europa League.
In the end, though, plenty to enjoy.
Best 11 for the road..
I always like looking at these because it's unlikely I'd have ever actually named this starting line-up in a game.
I did ponder tbf if two Young Player of the Month games got Alex Scott ahead of Antoine Semenyo and Neeskens Kebano in the RW slot, despite a poor average. But the rest is about what I'd expect.
Anyway, season 4 is our next challenge, where the goal will likely again be about keeping Bristol City in the Premier League, allied to seeing whether we can defend our FA Cup trophy and how far we can go in the Europa League.
There's a lot going on. But it's all an exciting proposition, so let's see where the next phase takes us.