THURSDAY September 1st, 2016
The big Dutch clubs were raided at the end of the window. Lazio bought Fischer from Ajax, Southampton took van Beek from Feyenoord, and Swansea now has the services of PSV’s de Jong. That’s all good for me.
SATURDAY September 10th, 2016
I just found out last night that most managers set up specific instructions for corner kicks. Kader Mangane plucked up the courage to share the concerns of the team. I had no idea. So, we worked out a plan and now maybe we’ll score some goals from corners. Managing is so complicated.
SUNDAY September 11th, 2016
Game day. We headed to Zwolle confident that our corner routine could score us a goal by itself. We won 13 corners and not a single one was performed the way we drew it up. I have no idea what went wrong there. Zwolle outscored us 2-0 in the first half. In fact, their first goal came from one of our corners. They broke away with the ball and scored. Insane. The second was a penalty and I’ve got no place to complain there.
We finally clawed one back in the 70th minute. Salvo claims it was deliberate, but no-one is quite sure what to make of it. He was on the sideline being closed down by two guys and just sent a long lob that landed in the far corner of the net over the top of the keeper. Maybe the goalie was too far off where he should be and Carlos saw it. Maybe Carlos just booted the ball out of trouble. Either way, we had a sniff. I yelled out to play like we did against Udinese and they did. Ten minutes later the new guy, Ledson, avoided traffic in the box and scored. A draw. But it could have been much worse. I need to go and have the players explain exactly how this corner routine is supposed to work. Or I need to explain it to them, because there’s clearly a misunderstanding here somewhere.
Zolle’s manager walked out of his press conference without saying a word. I did not. I took full credit for the fightback. I like to keep the pressure off the players that way.
This week, the Muscovites arrive.
THURSDAY September 15th, 2016
Game day. Spartak Moscow lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with the midfielders sitting very deep. That meant they were scared of us. Probably heard about me.
60% of the possession, but we just couldn’t buy a goal. The first half was dreadful, to be honest, and they had a few shots that Smits managed to keep out. We got it together in the second half, but we really struggled with their six-man defence. A draw is not too bad of a start, I suppose. Maybe they’ll let the us play in the away match.
Joey Sleegers was man of the match. Again. He’s really enjoying the spotlight.
Villarreal beat Tottenham in the other game in the group.
THURSDAY September 22nd, 2016
Game day. The RKC manager was talking some trash before the Dutch Cup game. He told the press that there wasn’t much of a difference between his division two team and the mighty NEC. The first half said otherwise – not a single shot from his team. We only scored one goal, but it was a good one. Crivelli held the ball up, hit it out to Calvo, turned and ran to the goal, picked up Calvo’s return pass and slotted it in off the keeper’s right foot.
The second half was a bore. They still struggled, but my reserves team couldn’t take advantage. We won 1-0 and we get to play a second Cup game this season! Their manager was adamant that his team is still better than us. Ha!
SUNDAY September 25th, 2016
Game day. We traveled to Cambuur and the boys were weary. Luckily I had a few fresh guys after the Cup game. Calvo was probably the least ready to play, but that didn’t stop him delivering a great free kick onto the head of the Goalla the Bean Pole. Well, it was supposed to be onto his head, but an accidental knee counts. Goal for us.
The second half began with more dominance from us, but against the run of play, they scored a (probably offside) goal in off the post. I was not thrilled. It got worse when Sleegers saw a shot go the other way off the post a few minutes later. 66 minutes gone and I need to get Joey off the pitch as he was still limping from an early kick to the shin.
Then it happened! We actually scored a goal from a corner. Ledson was waiting outside the box and took the ball from Vadócz. He had one touch and then slammed it in from distance past the bewildered eyes of players from both teams.
Ten minutes before the end of the game, we strung together 18 passes in a row in some silky movement, including a little dance by Santos at one point. It ended when their right back slid in on Djurdjic, but boy did it make my heart sing a little bit.
A good road win and we are sitting in fifth position with two games in hand. Wouldn’t you know it, PSV and Ajax are in first and second.
Next is the little matter of traveling to London to play Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday.
WEDNESDAY September 28th, 2016
One of NEC’s past players wanted to point out Tottenham danger man, Eriksen, just to make sure we weren’t taking him for granted. I’ve looked at this squad. Is there anyone who isn’t a danger man for us, really? They have 16 players on their books worth more than my entire squad. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to have two guys on the bench worth less than an entire team. So, should be just a walk in Hyde Park for us. Oh man, save me from abject embarrassment, please.
THURSDAY September 29th, 2016
Game day. I had a dream last night that Tottenham rested their stars to concentrate on the Premier League. Yeah, that didn’t come true. Harry Kane looked like he was made of steel.
I went back to the 4-5-1 considering our opponents and the away nature of the game. And somehow we had the best shot of the first 35 minutes. Just missed by Crivelli. The Spurs players were amazing to watch, frankly. They were like freight trains running all over the place, giving our guys no time on the ball. Oddly enough, the NEC boys did me proud. Normally they dwell on the ball and become nervous schoolgirls when they have the ball. Maybe the prospect of being run into by one of these giants encouraged them to get rid of the ball quickly.
All good things must come to an end though. Samir Nasri (ex-Arsenal player who clearly loves to antagonise fans) ran past Brenet and shot from an impossible angle. Impossible until it went in. 41 minutes of hard work wasted. Naturally, that’s not what I said to the boys at half time, but I was feeling it.
I put us back to the W-W formation at 62 minutes and made some substitutions. They made subs too, obviously ready to counter my genius move. Unfortunately, Nasri scored again five minutes later. I really hate that guy.
We got our first shot on target in the 83rd minute. They’d already had ten at that point. You might say it was a little uneven. But 0-2 away to the Premier League is not too shabby.
The trip wasn’t a complete loss. I did get to see Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard.