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TUESDAY August 6th, 2019
We had a boot room meeting this morning in preparation for the season. Iddo wanted to remind me (again) that he thinks Trujillo is going to be a star. Thanks Iddo. Some more useful news would be helpful. Or news that is actually news. I asked the boys about trying out a 2-4-4 tactic I came up with in the shower. They voted me down. I’m starting to reconsider the entire premise of democracy.
THURSDAY August 8th, 2019
Gert Heerkes from Fortuna Sittard has hit out at my preference for foreign players. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last. And yet, he’s still wrong. Most of the Dutch players good enough to get into my team are either playing for Ajax or in another country.
FRIDAY August 9th, 2019
Game day. Fortuna Sittard v N.E.C.
In just over two minutes, Uth knocked the ball into Trujillo just inside the box, who in turn knocked it outside to Fetfatzidis who had the keeper completely off balance. He slotted it in with no problem.
And that was it. There was very little of interest in the rest of the game. Bib Fortuna Sittard had a shot come off the post in the 73rd, but that was pure luck. We controlled the game, but it certainly didn’t show in the end result. However, a win to start the season is what I was aiming for.
SUNDAY August 11th, 2019
We’ve sold 10% more season tickets than last season, so that’s a good thing. Winning tends to be popular.
Girondins de Bordeaux sent me their annual list of players they’d like me to take on loan. I sent them a note pointing out that we’re ranked higher than them in Europe and that maybe they should stop bothering me. I’ve got more important things to think about.
It’s been pointed out that some members of the social media commentary clan are expecting us to win the league this season. Not in a joyous, supportive way, but with the understanding that if we don’t win it, we’ll be an absolute failure. There’s nothing like couch crusaders putting the pressure on.
WEDNESDAY August 14th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Heracles.
Trujillo twisted his ankle in training, so I started with the 4-3-3. I told Mark Uth it was because I thought he was the only one who was capable of leading the line. That turned out to be a genius untruth.
Uth got our first goal from a long Vela cross. He just tapped it into the net after the keeper was unable to get to the lofted ball. Frederico Santander got an equaliser ten minutes later and I was concerned. Earlier in the half he had sidestepped two of my defenders and wrong-footed my keeper only to shoot wide. He was a potential match winner. The half ended with the score tied.
The Vela to Uth conveyer belt continued with a cross and goal in the sixtieth minute. This time it was scored in front of the keeper. The boys like to keep it unpredictable. After that, I brought on Rooney and Schweinsteiger to get their match fitness up. The crowd loved watching them hobble onto the ground.
The 81st saw Uth score his hat trick from a ball in from Fetfatzidis. It was a great game for Marky Mark and a game that kept us at the top of the table after two games. In fact, Vitesse and N.E.C. are sitting at the top together as undefeated teams. Is this an indicator of the season to come?
SATURDAY August 17th, 2019
Game day. ADO Den Haag v N.E.C.
I talked to Mr. Big Ears Shrek before the game and he assured me he could start this game. I was happy to let him try. And so Wayne Rooney got to walk out onto the pitch in an Eredivisie game for the first time in his career. I imagine it was quite a moment for him. I’m sure he’d find it hard to compare to some of his past memorable experiences.
Goran Sekulovski is not one to worry about big moments for big players. He took the limelight away from Rooney with a slamming goal from a Fogarty cross. The two Australians were ecstatic and, using (abusing?) Rooney, they made a Vegemite sandwich celebration. I really don’t want to see that again, but I kind of do. It’s a dilemma.
Den Haag equalised with a fast break from a broken attack. Three of their players sprinted the length of the pitch and were able to put in what ended up being an easy goal for them. This was in the sixth minute and the fans started salivating at what looked like it was going to be an open game.
Monsieur Rooney was having none of it. He closed the game down with a goal from inside the box in the 33rd minute and then a headed cross in the 37th. After that, I let the boys play around with the ball, not taking any risks. We got to the end of the first half with no more scoring. And again to the end of the second half. 3-1 and we are 3-0. This was more like it. Rooney took a bow. Or three.
WEDNESDAY August 21st, 2019
Mark Uth has broken down with a hernia in training today. He’s supposed to be out for four weeks! I don’t really know what a hernia is, but I’m quite sure four weeks is too long to be out for it. Two days before the Ajax game. Timing is everything.
FRIDAY August 23rd, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Ajax.
Friday night football. The big boys were in town and we were in the mood for making some big boy soup. I’m sorry, that’s best I could come up with right now. Ajax were here. We wanted to beat them. Yeah.
After Rooney’s great debut, I figured he could start again. Not that I had many options with Uth and Trujillo injured. 4-3-3 again with Lemar and Zorba out wide. Diarra and Gedion sat in front of Ayoub in the midfield. Golla and Hansen formed the rock in front of Van der Hart while Olaza and Nwakali prowled the wide areas. It might be the best eleven I’ve ever put out.
The Goffertstadion was filled to capacity. Rooney told me he’d never felt an atmosphere like it. That made me proud as I am obviously the reason for the recent expansion and the positive, excited mood of the fans.
In the 27th minute, Lemar absolutely drilled a shot at the Ajax keeper. It bounced off his chest back into play and Lemar had a second shot. Parried just wide. Warning shots had been fired.
In the 30th, we surged forward on a break with Olazo carrying the ball. Three men streaked across the box ready for the cross that didn’t come. Olazo shot himself and sent it way wide. I had a few choice words for him at half time. Most of which started with F. And ended with uck.
In the 43rd minute, against the run of play, Ajax scored from a corner. My half time talk was torn to shreds. There were a couple of players I wanted to tear to shreds as well. They both wore Ajax kits. My boys came in to the changing room and I gave them the silent treatment. I looked each one of them directly in the eyes. Then I walked out. I desperately needed to go to the bathroom, but they didn’t need to know that.
They walked out onto the pitch without me. I was struggling. And thus I missed the goal that came 24 seconds into the half. Rooney held the ball up at the edge of the box and back heeled a pass to a running Diarra who outflanked the keeper for an open goal. Apparently. The crowd roared when I walked out of the tunnel. I assumed it was for me, naturally, but it was for the goal. Good enough.
In the 55th minute, Rooney took the ball out to the right, dragging a defender with him. Lemar and Nwakali were too close to each other, but Rooney sent the ball to them anyway. Lemar is a genius. He held the ball for less than a second before sending it back to the centre where Gedion Zelalem beat the trap on a dashing run. He got himself one on one with the keeper and slid it just above the leg and below the hand. A goal! From the American! Be still my beating heart.
Van der Hart kept out a hard shot in the 76th minute after some dazzling footwork from Renteria. The resulting corner was sent into the box and the whistle blew. My heart stopped. But it was a foul by Ajax, not a penalty. The defence was rock solid throughout the second half. Amazing. I brought on Schweiny for some stoic leadership. It worked.
We won the game! 4-0 after playing Ajax.
FRIDAY August 30th, 2019
The Europa League groups have been drawn. We’ve got Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow, and Panathinaikos. We’re obviously favorites, but Inter will be tough. And I hate traveling to Russia – always worried about being denied entry because we won the Cold War.
Ajax lost to PSV in Amsterdam tonight too. Two losses for our main competition already. I think that’s more than they lost all of last season.
SATURDAY August 31st, 2019
Game day. FC Groningen v N.E.C.
The friendly rivalry was rekindled as we headed up to Groningen.
Thirty-five minutes in and their central midfielder lofted a ball toward the corner flag. Their winger did some sort of ballet move when he reached the ball, crossing from head height. It bulleted across the pitch to a waiting runner on the far post. Goal. Unbelievable. It was their first shot.
And then we lost the game all of a sudden. It’s going to be very difficult to have a friendly rivalry if they insist on beating us. One plus was that Van de Looi said I was one of the nicest guys in management. Easy to say as the winner.
We end the month at the top of the table. We’re three points above Feyenoord, but they have two games in hand. Ajax are ninth with half as many points as us. Nice.