THURSDAY August 2nd, 2018
Game day. Apollon Limassol v N.E.C. Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round Leg 1.
So, who knew Cyprus was a country? They’ve even got their own soccer league. I just assumed it was an island owned by someone else. Italy? Greece? I don’t know.
Our new forward, Mark Uth, started after getting close to full match fitness. He scored 15 goals for Heerenveen when he was playing in Holland in 2014/15. I’ll eat my hat if he doesn’t score more than that this season.
Apollon L. took a corner in the 25th minute that was intercepted by Vela and then cleared to Fetfatzidis out left. Zorba then ran the length of the pitch, at one point breaking an opponent’s ankles with a dazzling piece of footwork. He finished the run with a cross into the middle where Uth met the ball just outside the box and sliced it across the keeper for a goal. Apparently the guy with the ankle problem recovered. No break.
Less than five minutes later, Diarra scored a second for us from a corner. He performed some great movement off the ball and headed it in. I’m liking Diarra more and more. He’d prefer to be playing behind the striker, but he loves running forward from the middle of the pitch.
I was more than happy with a 2-0 lead at the half while on the road. Uth wanted more though. In less than a minute of the second half, Breno delivered a cross into the box that Mark darted onto, behind one opponent and in front of the other. He stuck that pink boot of his out and tapped it into the net.
In the 75th minute, Uth paid Fetfatzidis back with a ball slipped into the box and onto the end of the Greek’s run. 4-0. Uth missed his hat trick in extra time with an off target header, but with two goals and an assist in his debut, I think he was satisfied. I was.
THURSDAY August 9th, 2018
Girondins Bordeaux sent their list of players available for loan and it was surprisingly deep in talent. Maybe Zidane likes me after all. I brought Goicoechea back just in case we have need for a keeper during the season. There were three others that I would have loaned immediately last season, but the squad is quite complete at the moment. I suppose if anyone gets a big injury I can go back to the well.
I sold Djurdjic last week. It wasn’t for much, but it saves his salary. And finally, he gets punished for his meddling last season. Hopefully that will lead to an awareness in the squad that if you screw me, I’ll screw you. Figuratively.
Game day. N.E.C. v Apollon Limassol. Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round Leg 2.
I was quite cognisant of the drop off in the last round after we had a dominant first leg. We ended up being lucky to go through against the Irish Cliches. I reminded the boys of this and told them in no uncertain terms that I expected at least four goals again.
Mark Uth scored a hat trick in 29 minutes, so I guess the message was received. Nagasawa chipped in with a fourth in the 37th and I went in for the easiest half time talk in history. Mostly we talked about what we were going to eat at De Waagh after the game. In the second half, the Cypriots scored two goals, but one of them was for us. A 9-1 aggregate win tastes better than anything we could eat in central Nijmegen.
FRIDAY August 10th, 2018
We’ve been drawn to play the Finnish champions. I’d type their name, but I know I’d get it wrong. They’re listed as HJK, which is nice and easy on the keyboard. I’m sure the quickest rising team in Europe can handle a playoff against the Finnish champions. I mean, how often could they actually play games in Finland? Surely the snow would get in the way and then there’s the problem of having no daylight half the year.
All of those national management jobs were filled without even an email to me. Roberto Mancini took over England. Never heard of the guy who is in charge of Belgium. Unai Emery is at Spain and some other person I’ve never heard of is leading Italy. Maybe once I win the league this season, I’ll get a job in the next round of dumpings.
WEDNESDAY August 15th, 2018
Before the game today, Liverpool and Atletico both tabled offers for Sándor Szűcs. I countered with $5 million thinking there’s no way they’d go that high. Oh how little I know. Looks like our wonder-kid is off to the big leagues. I like him, but I have to be honest, I was turning a blind eye to his lack of anticipation during games.
Game day. N.E.C. v CS Cambuur.
First home league game of the season and the opposition goalkeeper wins the player of the match award. Lots of shots, zero goals. It sucks to get a draw at home in the first game of the season. Particularly as PSV and Ajax have both already won two games.
SATURDAY August 18th, 2018
Sándor Szűcs left for Liverpool today. Good luck to him. I’ll send him a note when we pass Liverpool in the European rankings.
Game day. Ajax v N.E.C.
We headed up to Amsterdam for the Ajax game with high hopes. We went back to Nijmegen wondering if the TV highlight show would be able to find more than 30 seconds to show their viewers. I mean, I’m happy enough to take a point from an away game against the league champions, but sometimes I remember why American audiences can’t stomach this sport. At least no-one was injured.
THURSDAY August 23rd, 2018
I just signed an 18 year old right back from Australia. He was playing for some bush league team and one of my scouts has picked him out. Mario Fogarty has some good mental and physical traits, but needs some time with our trainers before he’s going to get a look-in in the first team.
Game day. N.E.C. v HJK. Europa League Playoff Leg 1.
We blitzed them from the start. Breno and Schlupp were getting plenty of room out wide and sending balls in to a packed midfield. A couple of shots were sent off, but nothing stuck. But in the 18th minute, someone knocked someone else to the ground and suddenly we were awarded a penalty. Uth converted and we were on our way. At that point we’d had 75% of the ball and HJK hadn’t had a shot.
Two minutes later, Vela pounced on a rebound from an Uth shot and bam, 2-0. Just before the end of the half, Diarra ran into the box and slammed in a strong header. They still lacked a shot and we were still over 70% in the possession stat. This Europe thing is a cake-walk.
Vela was enjoying himself with HJK’s lack of coverage of our width and scored two tap-ins to take him to an easy hat trick. We unfortunately allowed them to get three shots off, but still, a 5-0 win to start off proceedings was palatable.
SUNDAY August 26th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v Vitesse.
We welcomed Vitesse to the Goffertstadion with open arms. Just kidding, we had supporters lining the bridge with hate signs. Unfortunately, it didn’t slow the pace of their left winger, Ibarra. He sent in a pretty terrible cross, but it got too close to Smits who parried it (probably correctly) and it was tapped in by Vito van Crooy. This was after six minutes. Van Crooy got a second a minute later after a three-man break. I was livid.
That was nothing compared with my mood after Van Wolfswinkel scored a goal that was at least two yards offside. I am seriously not exaggerating. I’ve watched it six times. I have no idea what happened. That linesman’s days are numbered.
The boys went back out to the pitch with legs slightly trembling from the massacre I unleashed at half time. It took them a while to get back to looking comfortable and, finally, we scored a goal in the 52nd. Parr, on the left, sent a cross in that just missed the head of Vela. The ball was cleared out to Breno, who sent it back in and Nagasawa made no mistake on the far post. A single goal was far from good enough, but it was a good start.
Jimmy Smits kept us in it a couple of minutes later when Vitesse stormed forward from the restart. A wonderful save that might have kept him his job. I brought Fetfatzidis and Crivelli on just after the 60th minute in an effort to blow the game back open. Shortly after, Breno drove into the box from deep on the right, lost the ball, won it back again, and slashed it across to the head of Enzo Crivelli. Goal. 3-2.
With one minute left, Zorba drove down the left after three players collaborated to win the ball back. He went around one opponent and through another before crossing from the byline right on to the head of .. Enzo Crivelli! 3-3 with a couple of minutes left. We didn’t manage the win, but at least I can look my players in the eye again.
THURSDAY August 30th, 2018
Game day. HJK v N.E.C. Europa League Playoff Leg 2.
I started a few of the young and fringe guys considering we have another league game in a few days. Arno Joosten got his first senior game after impressing in the reserves recently. High hopes for this guy as he’s a Nijmegen boy, born just down the road from the Goffert. Goicoechea got a start in goal just so I could have something to compare Smits to. Jolly Vela took the captain’s armband.
The first ten minutes were end to end as both teams excelled at misplaced passes. Goicoechea made two stellar, point blank saves to keep them scoreless. Joosten had to come off after 25 minutes with a twisted ankle. Bad luck for the young guy, but I’m sure he’ll have more memorable games to come.
In the 38th minute, Golla easily took control of a long ball, but then decided to tee up the HJK striker with a short pass toward the box. Koljonen didn’t bother stopping to thank him. He struck the ball past Goicoechea who did take some time after the goal to let Golla know how much he appreciated the move.
The second half started with a bit more focus after I reminded the players of the gulf in talent between these two teams. Naturally they rewarded me by giving Koljonen another goal. Sometimes there are just no words to describe a feeling, so I’ll leave it there.
Despite losing 2-0, Goicoechea was the player of the match. That says something about the performance of my backup midfield and defence. Golla was atrocious after coming on for Joosten, also giving away a free kick just outside the box at the end of the game.
FRIDAY August 31st, 2018
The Europa League groups have been drawn. Wolfsburg is the big opponent for us, I’d say. We also have Gent from Belgium and Trencin from Slovakia. Groningen, our buddy club, had a more difficult draw, facing up to Sporting from Portugal and Galatasaray.
As normally happens, Dutch clubs came in with outrageously inappropriate bids for my best players on the last day of the transfer window. I turned them all down, though I did loan out Bai Kamara to Bib Fortuna Sittard. There was a lot of attention on my Brazilians, which is a good sign for the future.
I did try to bring in a loan signing. Francesco Lovric is an Austrian halfback who would have been a great backup for Ayoub. Unfortunately, his paperwork was not properly finished before the transfer window ended. I blame Stuttgart. Watch this come back to bite us in two months.