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WEDNESDAY April 3rd, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v SC Cambuur. Dutch Cup Semi Final.
The 4-4-2, my now legendary tactical creation, suits Nagasawa better than Fetfatzidis, which is not necessarily a good thing. The Greek is a better player, generally, but just not in this system. That makes me wonder if Zorba needs to be sold in the summer. I don’t know. Maybe I can convince him to change his style to suit mine.
That decision is for another day. On this day, we were lining up against Cambuur in a game we should really win any day of the week. Nagasawa was on the left wing and Vela on the right. It was Nagasawa who opened up the scoring on the 14th minute. He took a one-touch pass from Uth, who was double-teamed outside the box and sent it into the goal, deflecting off the keeper’s leg.
In the 29th, Uth took his own goal with a slapped home shot from a Breno cross. We took the two goal lead to the half time break. We kept it until the 72nd minute, but took the win anyway. Cambuur only managed two shots on target at all, so they should count themselves lucky that they can tell their board that it was just a narrow 2-1 loss.
We’re into the final. One win away from a trophy. A well-deserved trophy.
THURSDAY April 4, 2019
We’re facing PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Cup Final. We haven’t lost to them in the last eight games. I’m ready for number nine.
SATURDAY April 6th, 2019
Game day. Helmond Sport v N.E.C.
This was my 200th game in charge. It was a day where everyone was paying attention to me. With good reason. Then Trujillo scored the fastest goal in N.E.C. history – fifteen seconds. I appreciate his enthusiasm, but this was supposed to be my day. I gave him a small clap to make sure no-one thought I was bitter about anything. Then he scored again nine minutes later. I thought about subbing him right then, but I really needed Uth to get some rest.
Zorba gave us a third goal late in the second half and we left the stadium with a 3-0 win. Christian Santos got two assists, so I left happy despite our little Argentinian playmaker’s efforts to overshadow my accomplishments.
SATURDAY April 13th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v AZ
Enzo Crivelli, being sick of playing third fiddle to Uth and new boy, Trujillo, decided to score a brace in the first half. In another version of reality, he could have been an N.E.C. legend. As it is, he’s suffered at the hands of my reluctance to play him while on loan and now while he’s got Uth sitting above him.
We won 2-0 – another triumph for the 4-4-2. The press and fans have had no problem adopting the 4-4-2 name, it’s like it’s been around forever. AZ did the triple teaming on my guys though. Hopefully the cabal of Dutch managers will give up their feeble collusion attempts next season. Because, frankly, it’s not going well for them.
I love that my scouts are sending me reports from other countries suggesting I sign players who make $75,000 a week. My highest paid player is getting $21,500. The board is not going to let me spend that much. Might need to win the Europa League for that to happen.
THURSDAY April 18th, 2019
Game day. Tottenham v N.E.C. Europa League Quarter Final Leg 1.
I’ve been in management for nearly four years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that it’s basically impossible to score an away goal without taking a shot. Actually, it’s very difficult to score any kind of goal without taking a shot. We did get one shot and it was a goal, but naturally it was called offside. We had 56% of the possession and 0% of the shots. They had 100% of the 27 shots in the game.
But the score was only 1-0. And at least the fans were booing Nasri every time he touched the ball. Ours and theirs. Unfortunately, Diarra came off at the end of the first half with a foot injury. Foot injuries tend to be bad for players of football. The physics tell me he’s out for a month, which is extraordinarily frustrating.
SUNDAY April 21st, 2019
Game day. Feyenoord v N.E.C.
Marky Mark Uth had an open chance in the 16th minute, but slammed it right into the keeper. Trujillo showed him how to do it nine minutes later, converting a chance provided by Zorba. That was Alexis’ sixth goal of the season and he’s certainly taken his chance to impress in the first team. Mission accomplished.
Uth started the second half the same way he started the first: a shot right into the keeper. We’ve had trouble with Vermeer before, but I was determined to paint a brighter picture this time. Uth made up for his poor efforts and tapped in a rebound from a Trujillo shot.
In the 59th minute, Donyell Malen ran toward goal, flanked by Golla and Van der Heijden. And yet, he managed to take a lofted ball onto his boot, dribble a few yards, and smash the ball past the keeper. Match fixing is real, right? Players get paid to make subtle mistakes that can be explained away, right?
One minute later, Golla fouled in the box and gave away a penalty. It was converted to bring the game level at two goals apiece. How does one report match fixing to FIFA? Maybe it’s not FIFA – they’re all corrupt anyway, right? FBI. That’s it. I’m calling the FBI tomorrow. Golla is a clear suspect.
Thankfully Nagasawa is a samurai and thus incorruptible. He blazed a ball through traffic to score an absolute dream of a goal in the 71st minute. It ended up being the winner and Nagasawa won player of the match. Golla did not.
Ajax have retained the league title after today. That’s three years in a row. Next year, they’re toast. Feyenoord have solidified second and we’ve secured third. I guess that means I’m putting the kids out to practice in these last couple of games. I might even give Van der Vaart a nice sendoff in front of the home fans.
THURSDAY April 25th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Tottenham. Europa League Quarter Final Leg 2.
Spurs turned up to win. Every one of their starting eleven starts for their respective national team. Diarra starts for his national team, but he’s injured, so didn’t start for us.
Samir Nasri opened up the scoring in the 17th minute from a corner. Luckily, it was an own goal! Eric Dier cleared the ball out for another corner, but it hit Nasri, who was standing on the post, bouncing into the net. 1-0. Bam. Semi Final, here we come. The Spurs fans were as happy with Nasri as one would expect.
We went to the half with that lead, but I’ll be honest, it was not a strong lead. Eriksen and Lamela threatened early in the second half, but we held strong. Well, for a little while. Dele Alli scored after a fast break in the 67th. We had to attack from there because we needed two goals to go through. That didn’t work out too well. The newly subbed on Wilfried Bony outpaced all of my defenders to score in the 76th and we were toast. Spurs ruining my day like it’s their job again.
SUNDAY April 28th, 2019
Game day. PEC Zwolle v N.E.C. Dutch Cup Final.
Considering we hadn’t lost to PEC Zwolle in years, I reverted to the single striker tactic that contributed to that run. Uth was up front with Zorba and Nagasawa out wide. Vela was exhausted from the recent run of games. He wanted to play, but I forced the issue. He could always come on as an impact sub, I reasoned.
This was my first final. Not a semi final. A final final. I actually bought a new pair of green pants for the occasion. They have a chain attached to each leg on the outside. I was assured they were the height of fashion. I mean, obviously. It’s also practical as I can hang my drink bottle from the chains. I might make these my big game pants though. Don’t want them to become common.
There were more than 50,000 people at the stadium in Rotterdam. I think that’s our biggest crowd. It certainly felt big. I think some of the players were anxious. I wasn’t, of course. This is what I was born for. I sent the boys out with some slaps on backs (and one butt) and they were ready to go.
It was a nervy start to the half from all involved. And a nervy middle. The Zwolle players were sitting deep, frustrating any forward thrusts by my guys. At one point in the 40th minute, Uth had gone so deep to get the ball that he was sitting between my centre backs. It turned out to be the right move though, as the play developed into a sizzling cross from Breno and a dazzling one-time finish from Nagasawa. There’s nothing like a goal before the end of the half to calm the nerves.
My half time talk was to the point. You might be doing well, but I expect better. Nothing like an ill-advised team talk to create some nerves. Half of my guys were visibly shaking as they went back out. Whoops.
No matter. We went back out and produced one of the most boring halves of the season, resulting in the win! Finally, a trophy. Finally, a result to imprint my name on the consciousness of Dutch football. Finally, I got what I deserved.
Fans outside the hotel were singing my name all night. I joined in, of course. Didn’t want to be rude. The board members who were at the game (and how could some of them not turn up? Priorities!) told me to keep celebrations to a minimum. Ha. I told the senior players to drink the whole town dry because they don’t need to bother playing in another game this season. Keep celebrations to a minimum? This is the first trophy this club has won in 119 years! We kept celebrations to a maximum.