Belmondo Diary #17

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SATURDAY October 1st, 2016

Alfons Groenendijk hasn’t forgotten our last public war of words. I have. The media asked me for a reaction, but I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about. Excelsior sticks in my mind as one of our losses last season, but that’s about it.

Hannes þór Halldórsson is back training. As I worried, Smits has done fine in his absence. Now, what do I do? Maybe I can just let Smitty play the Dutch Cup matches. We’ll see if that satisfies him.

SUNDAY October 2nd, 2016

Game day. First half saw some really good shots from us, nothing from them. Their keeper kept them in it. Our keeper, however, was looking nervous before the game and at the half. The thought of Thor was obviously on Smits’ mind.

The second half got us a goal through an early cross from Zimmerman. Sylla lost his marker and headed it home true. The goal came a minute after Excelsior had a man sent off, but hopefully history doesn’t link the two. They had a second man sent off with six minutes to go. Perhaps the pregame aggression from Groenendijk got his men a bit enthusiastic. Let’s just say he didn’t meet my eye when we shook hands at the end of the game.

WEDNESDAY October 5th, 2016

Both Bart Buysse and Joshua Smits came into the office today to let me know they’re no longer worried about their lack of playing time. This is fantastic timing because I am about to put them both on the bench for an extended period of time.

SUNDAY October 9th, 2016

Christian Santos scored his first international goal. So, he’s had his debut and first goal since I started coaching him. Coincidence, I’m sure. None of the investigative reporters have made the connection yet.

SATURDAY October 15th, 2016

Game day. Carlos Calvo owned the game today. He had an amazing run down the wing, going around two players. It didn’t result in a goal, but it was magnificent to watch. Later in the half he came in from the wide position, sneaking into space in the box and slotting home an open goal from a Djurdjic pass. Our second goal came from him being in a similar position and assisting a Crivelli goal. The third goal was a mirror of the second. Calvo to Crivelli.

Weirdly, Den Haag had two players sent off late in the game. That’s two games in a row. Now that we’re not racking up fouls and cards in every game, I can take the high road on this kind of approach. And I did so in the press conference after the game. I told the reporters that I’m horrified we’re being targeted with dirty play like this simply because we’re outperforming everyone.

On that note, we’re in third place from eight games. Ajax have also played eight and sit two points behind us. Feyenoord are ahead of us on goal difference, but have played two more games. PSV are five points clear at the top with nine games.

John van den Brom has been fired from AZ. They’ve only got five points from their ten games. The papers say the next in line to be fired is our friend, Peter Bosz. Groenendijk is their third most likely guy to be fired. Maybe people should stop picking fights with me?

We head to Spain on Thursday to play Villareal. I’d say we need at least a point from that game, but who knows? Six games is a short span of time to decide who progresses.

TUESDAY October 18th, 2016

Villareal’s manager, Marcelinho, is telling the press he’s expecting a big game against us, so various reporters have asked if I appreciate the respect he’s showing us (me). The press is also all over Joey Sleegers at the moment. He’s been playing well, but I am sure this kind of attention is just going to bring big bids in January. I don’t want to turn into a team who sells their best player every transfer window. The world doesn’t need a second Liverpool.

Ajax lost their game in hand. I wonder if they’ll have a new manager by the time we meet them. Maybe shortly after we play them…

WEDNESDAY October 19th, 2016

Game day. Louis Sheridan from Yahoo predicted us to win this game before kickoff. I can only assume he no longer has a job with that kind of crazy talk. They were at home. They had two wins from the first two games.

I started with the 4-5-1 and Louis Sheridan started looking like Nostradamus in the fifth minute. Joey Sleegers, playing on the left wing in this game, was hacked down in the box for a penalty. Krisztián Vadócz (not Marko Suler, thankfully) stepped up and converted with the confidence that comes from age.

Unfortunately, the Bean Pole gave away a free kick just outside the box five minutes later and the result was a headed goal from Soldado. But he was offside!

We got to the half leading 1-0. Possession was equally split and they had one more shot than us. Stunningly, we were matching them.

I sent them back out with the direction to stay vigilant. Their gameplay was reminding me of the Spurs game – everyone seemed to be passing crispy and quickly. Soldado was menacing throughout the second half, but he was building an impressive collection of offsides calls.

And then the game ended. 1-0. I sent Louis Sheridan an open invitation to attend any of our games to sit in the director’s box. I didn’t ask the director, but he’s hardly going to disagree after this. Has Nijmegen had a more famous victory?

We’ve now got a win, a draw, and a loss in the first set of games in the group.

Marcelino told the press conference that my mind games probably got to him. Mind games? He said I was good. I agreed.

SATURDAY October 22nd, 2016

Game day. We’ve been bussed to Sittard to play Fortuna. I’m pretty sure that’s a Star Wars character, not a soccer team. They’re doing pretty well this season and the press conference before the game made me sound like I was being condescending by suggesting that the manager has done well. They are certainly professional-level stirrers.

A reporter in the tunnel expressed surprise that I’d started Abdul Bai Kamara, questioning his ability. I blew him off, but thankfully, Abdul himself made the counterpoint, scoring our goal in the first half. Calvo from the corner, first headed by Crivelli, and then headed home by Bai Kamara. Fortuna had a man sent off at 32 minutes, which makes it three Dutch games in a row that we’ve had an opponent sent off. I like his pattern.

A few minutes into the second half, Fortuna’s Dean Koolhof (better than Hasslehoff) headed a goal from a corner. It shouldn’t have been a goal, but for some reason, Brenet on the post decided to turn away from the ball. Not surprisingly, he was unable to block the shot when not looking at it.

We spent the last half an hour peppering the goal to no avail. Twenty-two shots on target for the game and one goal to show for it. No prizes for guessing who won man of the match.

TUESDAY October 25th, 2016

Game day. Dutch Cup. We headed to a little team, Lienden. It was a great opportunity for the punteros to put on a show. Carlos Calvo provided two goals for Christian Santos in the first 13 minutes. Nothing like a bit of Spanish magic to ease the nerves. Santos contributed his own assist in the second half, teeing up Joey Sleegers. We won 3-0 and had 23 shots to 1. That’s how it should be done against weaker opposition. Now to see who we play in the next round.

WEDNESDAY October 26th, 2016

Vitesse! The Dutch Cup fourth round sees a grudge match between us and our bitter rivals. Surely the draw is rigged by the TV channels. We’ll be playing at Vitesse, so that should give them some false confidence, which will make our win even sweeter.

SATURDAY October 29th, 2016

Game day. A windy, rainy day in Groningen resulted in a win for us through an own goal in the tenth minute. We controlled possession, but reverted to old habits with a ton of off target shots. It was a hard game to watch, but this is the kind of game it’s important to win. And no-one likes losing to a team called Groningen anyway.

SUNDAY October 30th, 2016

Ajax traveled to PSV today and won 2-0. That means we’re in third, tied with Ajax in second and five points behind PSV in first. However, we have played one fewer game than Ajax and two fewer than PSV. So, basically, we’re first. That’s what I told the board in our end of the month meeting.

Next month we’ll see if we get to play a knockout game in the Europa League.

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