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SATURDAY December 1st, 2018
AZ just fired their manager. Another scalp for my collection.
SUNDAY December 2nd, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v Feyenoord.
I gave Uth a rest and put Crivelli up front for this game. He paid me back with a surprising goal just after the 30th minute. Breno drove deep and wide as he tends to do and crossed the ball. As he tends to do. Crivelli got to it and sliced it between the goalie and the near post. The whole play didn’t seem to obey the laws of physics, but that’s why I hire players and not physicists.
Six minutes later, Breno delivered another goal, this time to Carlos “Jolly” Vela. That ended the game. Feyenoord couldn’t catch a break and Breno walked away with the man of the match award. That’s fourteen games in a row unbeaten.
WEDNESDAY December 5th, 2018
Game day. Excelsior v N.E.C.
We headed up to play Excelsior in Rotterdam. Uth was back, but the inside forward spots were taken up by the backups, Christian Santos and Nagasaki. I was starting to regret that as the first forty minutes resulted in a number of failed attacks. Blocked shots, wide shots, scuffed shots.
Uth fixed that all up though. From a lacklustre cross from Schlupp, Marky Mark accepted the ball, took a few steps away from the goal, turned to take on a defender, and shot across the face of goal, putting it in the corner. He makes the complicated simple. He makes my stress disappear. With a minute left in the half, he changed my team talk.
In the 45th, Uth changed my team talk again. This time it came courtesy of a superb cross from Breno. In two minutes, Mark Uth changed the 0-0 scoreline to 2-0. That two goal lead came in handy when Excelsior scored from a corner early in the second half. Mark van der Maarel jumped higher than any of my guys and smashed a header in.
In the 66th minute, Van der Vaart had to come off after a heavy challenge. Poor old Rafa is struggling in his old age. A few minutes later, Diarra gave Christian Santos the chance to get us back to a two-goal buffer and he took it. That man is a god amongst men.
Mark Uth has 18 goals from 20 appearances this season. I would never have dreamed of such a performance. Somehow we’re still fourth.
FRIDAY December 7th, 2018
Van de Looi has said he’s ready for a tough game against us as we keep the ball so well. It’s always nice to play against the good guys in football. And by good guy, I mean someone who says good things about me. This is why Groningen is our brother team. They’re on an 8 game unbeaten streak, which the press is excited about. For some reason they didn’t mention that our streak is currently 15.
SATURDAY December 8th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Groningen.
I was surprised to see Jay-Roy Grot lining up against us today. Having sold him to Roma, I figured he wouldn’t ever come back to haunt me. Apparently he hasn’t played a game for Roma. He’s been loaned out to Spezia and now Groningen. Good to see him again, but he is certainly looking a little buffer than when he left us.
Of course, it was Grot leading a counter attack that resulted in a goal for Groningen at the 21st minute. It only took us five minutes to draw level though. Fetfatzidis sent in a long-distance free kick, right to the end of San Francisco Jackson’s timely run. Jackson put his top-knotted head to it and the keeper had no chance. A minute later, Zorba sent in a corner that Golla headed back into danger. Joosten, in space, headed with direction and purpose, but their keeper got a hand to it and deflected it clear. Well, clear is perhaps not the correct word. The deflection took their post-stander by surprise and the ball came off him, bobbling into the net.
A 2-1 lead was comfortable, but I told the boys to push on. I certainly didn’t want a Jay-Roy equalizer any time soon. At the end of the 52nd minute, we got another corner goal. This time Vela sent it in to Golla at the near post. Goals from corners is new. I think I like it.
Jay-Roy was taken off immediately after Golla’s goal and in his place came our some-time nemesis, Michael de Leeuw. De Leeuw has lost a step since last season, but he still gave me the willies.
A beautiful series of passes from my boys came to nothing in the 80th minute. Groningen recycled the play and before the minute had ended, De Leeuw had scored. It was a bit of a wonder goal and my concern about a magical equalizer had returned.
I shouted some instructions to Captain Ayoub and the team closed ranks for the last ten minutes. Accordingly, Groningen didn’t manage a shot. In injury time, we got a fourth to seal the win for good. Vela played a short corner, took the ball back, and sent it in to a lurking Diarra. Diarra slammed it home, splitting two defenders and the keeper.
THURSDAY December 13th, 2018
Game day. Trencin v N.E.C. Europa League Group K.
We had 300 fans travel one thousand miles to the game in Slovakia. They had just under 700 travel the whopping five miles to their stadium. Weak. Perhaps to their defence, the wind was strong enough to be blowing the rain sideways. Wonderful match viewing weather.
Despite the weather, we scored three goals in 60 minutes, enough to take the foot off the gas for half an hour. That allowed them score a couple of consolation goals in the dying minutes, but a win is a win is a win. We have topped the group with five wins and a loss. I would have given a left hand for that if you’d offered before the season started. Not my left hand, but someone’s.
FRIDAY December 14th, 2018
We’ve won six games in a row, which is apparently a record for us. Yet we’re still 4th! And just to remind me that the league hates me, they’ve scheduled a Saturday game in the league against VaVaVoom followed by a Dutch Cup game on Tuesday. This is after playing on a Thursday in Europe. Thanks Eredivisie. If one of my players dies of exhaustion, it will be on the league’s conscience.
SUNDAY December 16th, 2018
Ajax finally lost a game. Maybe there is hope for us after all.
Game day. N.E.C. v VVV.
VaVaVoom came to town desperate for a win. The desperation was never more evident than the effort to clear the ball after a corner routine saw a Golla thunderbolt kept out by their keeper. Players swarmed around the ball trying to clear it and they finally did.
Their striker was getting onto lots of lofted through balls, which was a little concerning. Finally in the 23rd minute, he got into the box and was fouled by a chasing Joosten. Penalty. They converted. Our streak was looking shaky.
They kept rebuffing our attacks. One Fetfatzidis shot was kept out by what can only be described as a miracle. Finally, after 12 shots on target had failed to score us a goal, Vela came to the rescue with a well-timed run to the far post. Schlupp’s cross was pin point and we pulled level. The half came to an end and I demanded better effort in front of goal. In my friendliest angry voice.
After more failed efforts continued to keep my guys’ heads down, Breno finally pulled off a bit of magic. He ran along the byline, drawing opponents, and sent a ball across to Francisco who created enough angle to finally sneak a ball past their keeper, and importantly, inside the post. That was in the 73rd and we were able to easily hold that lead for the rest of the game. 60% of possession and 21 shots on target equal a 2-1 win. This sport is insane.
MONDAY December 17th, 2018
Another record announced! Eighteen games in a row undefeated. Still in fourth!
I also got a memo from my assistant today with some individual statistical updates. Breno is leading the league in assists with nine. Number two only has seven. Captain Ayoub is currently sitting in second place in percentage of completed passes with 86%. Number one is ahead of him by less than one percentage point. Jeffrey Schlupp is also leading the league in yellow cards accrued. He doesn’t have a bonus clause in his contract for that though – he simply does it for the love of it.
TUESDAY December 18th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v PSV. Dutch Cup 4th Round.
With the fixture congestion, I started Uth on the right side of the attack with Crivelli in the middle. Goicoechea, Mr. Big Game, started between the sticks. I really want to make a run for this trophy this season. The fans need something from me, I think. My pride needs something from me.
Guardado is their danger man so I started Parr on the right. He tends to be more defensive-minded than Breno. Then again, who isn’t? Naturally, Guardado started in central midfield instead of the left wing. Oh well, that allowed him to be matched up with Captain Ayoub. It was a whale of a job, but our captain loves that kind of thing.
Bergwijn, the man who actually started on the left wing, had a long-distance shot cannon off the post in the 18th minute. Not much after that he was injured and had to be taken off. Marky Mark had two shots repelled from close range in the 19th and I was starting to feel confident. Ayoub was doing his job and Uth seemed to be enjoying his time out wide.
However, it was Jan-Arie van der Heijden who scored for us with a probing run into the box and a neatly slotted shot inside the post. And no, I’ve never typed those words about a central defender.
In the last minute of the half Christian Santos sent a cross in from very close to the corner flag. It was not placed very well for a cross. However, for a shot, it was perfect. It went past the stretched arm of the keeper and hit the crossbar, bouncing off the goalie’s leg and over the goal line. Two nil made for a pretty relaxed half time break. Not too relaxed though. We know how that goes.
We kept control of the game early easily through the second half. Enough so that I brought on young Serginho Lelieveld for a bit of first team experience. That was pretty inspired as he scored his first N.E.C. goal from a neat pass inside the box from Uth. Pretty inspired is usually a good description of me. I’m sure it’s been said many times outside of this journal.
So, 3-0 against powerhouse PSV. We’re onto the quarter final. Marky Mark won player of the game, so perhaps playing wide is going happen a bit more often in the future.
THURSDAY December 20th, 2018
We’ve been drawn to play Zenit St. Petersburg in the Europa League. The first leg will be in Russia. Should we get past Zenit, we’ll face either Lyon or Fiorentina. I can’t imagine Zenit holding us back. Would be nice to visit France. There’s an ice cream place in Lyon I’ve heard a lot about.
We get to play Ajax in the Dutch Cup quarter final. I think the main goal there will be to injure as many of their key players as possible in order to spark a devastating collapse in the league. Winning the game would be nice, but I have more grandiose plans.
TUESDAY December 25th, 2018
Christmas. The chairman called to offer me a new contract. On Christmas Day. Sometimes I wonder about these people. Three years at $7,000 per week. What on earth can I do with that much money? Put it under my bed, that’s what. You never know when the spectre of unemployment will arrive to tear your life to shreds. So I’ve heard, anyway.
WEDNESDAY December 26th, 2018
Game day. FC Groningen v N.E.C.
Jay-Roy Grot enjoyed his first trip back to Nijmegen since leaving for Italy. Groningen made him captain, which was obviously designed to fire him up. It worked. He scored in the 24th minute, a mere three minutes after Uth had a goal called back for offside. Grot was in the box alone as both centre backs had been drawn wide. That made for a particularly seething gaze from me as we walked in at half time down by a goal.
Vela got us a point with a spin and shoot move in the box after seventy minutes. The assist came from Crivelli who I’d brought on one minute earlier. No comment needed.
MONDAY December 31st, 2018
We’ve ended the year on a twenty game undefeated run. The last three full months have not seen a loss. Considering the start of the season, I am thrilled. But we’re still in fourth! To push Ajax, we’re going to need reinforcements. The last couple of games we’ve been down to the bone.
We definitely need another player in defence. I’m going to try to find someone who can play as a defensive midfielder and in central defence. One who knows how to pass the ball. And I am also going to try to change my instant gratification style of transfers. I’ll discuss players with the scouts, ask Christian Santos for his opinion, think about our finances, and then pull the trigger. That’s my plan. I’m also going to stop drinking coffee. Probably.