Belmondo Diary #19

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THURSDAY December 1st, 2016

The Nijmegen Football Informer claimed this game has a draw written all over it. I can only hope – we’ll find out in three hours.

Game day. Well, a Harry Kane wonder strike was all that could separate the teams on the day. That’s what the press will say. In reality, we only had one or two good shots on target. It is true that we kept them to about the same though. I’m really proud of the boys, but in a weirdly equal group, our two wins and one draw were not enough to get us through. We had to beat Tottenham today and that was always going to be tough. The good news is that we finished above Villarreal.

We were credited with a credible total of seven points by the media. I’ll take it.

SUNDAY December 4th, 2016

Game day. We played Feyenoord, who had also just been knocked out of the Europa League. They lost 4-0 to Roma, so they obviously did worse than us.

In the 33rd minute, we had one of our typical goals. Brenet rampaged down the sideline and found Carlos alone at the corner of the box. Carlos then sent the ball to Breinburg (I’d decided to start him in order to rest Europa League battlers) who scored an easy strike. If there’s one part of my tactic working, it’s that one. Calvo could have a big career ahead of him if he wasn’t already 31. Breinburg was injured later in the match – out for four weeks. Four weeks seems to be the standard injury length for us. Maybe I should look into the skill levels of my physio team.

Dirk Kuyt scored an impressive goal from a middle-of-the-pitch pass with a few minutes left in the first half. Pity it was about two yards offside. Pity also, that the linesman didn’t flag it. I’m told Kuyt is a bit of a national legend, so they let him score these sorts of goals from time to time. That goal took him to ten on the season though, so I don’t exactly feel sorry for him.

I was looking down the barrel of a draw on the back of the disappointing departure from Europe, but with 14 seconds left in “injury” time, Christian Santos enhanced my man crush with a cross that went over three Feyenoord players in the box to a lonely Djurdjic on the far post who simply put his boot through the ball and watched it go into the back of the net. Oh my poor heart. I need to check out how health insurance works over here. And perhaps life insurance.

TUESDAY December 6th, 2016

We’re playing Heerenveen tomorrow. That’s at least one more e than they need. They’re on a five match unbeaten run and sit in sixth. We’re still in third, but kind of in first with the games in hand assumed to be wins.

WEDNESDAY December 7th, 2016

Game day. We had most of the ball, but only managed to squeak in a 1-0 win thanks to Crivelli midway through the first half. Heerenveen were popping off shots from just about everywhere, but luckily Thor didn’t have much to do with only two shots making it on target. We never really looked like losing, but boy I can admit we never looked like impressing either. More work needs to be done. Maybe I need to play with tactics again.

THURSDAY December 8th, 2016

One of my scouts suggested I take a look at a young Australian striker. As is tradition with my scouts, they prefer to communicate in vague terms and star ratings. They suggested he has the potential to be a two star performer, or maybe five if the that’s what the black stars are supposed to represent. Some day I should ask them about those stars. I’m bringing the guy in on a trial, assuming he accepts.

FRIDAY December 9th, 2016

One of the journalists at the pre-match press conference asked me for my thoughts on the fact that Peter Bosz is in trouble at Vitesse. I couldn’t decide whether to argue that they should keep him because he’s hopeless or dig the boot in and suggest he should aim a bit lower next time he accepts a job.

Somehow we’re playing Heerenveen again tomorrow. This time, away.

SATURDAY December 10th, 2016

Game day. What a disgrace. The home fans were not thrilled after seeing their team concede two soft goals and fail to score from any of their twelve shots. I had to rest a couple of key players due to general fatigue, but this was just not good enough. It’s even worse when considering PSV lost yesterday. Perhaps two games against Heerenveen in four days was too much.

Ajax won in the set of games after ours. That means we’re no longer unofficially first. We’re tied for second with PSV, but in third on goal difference. We do have an extra game, though.

MONDAY December 12th, 2016

Everyone is getting excited about the Gelderse Derby this week. We’re facing Vitesse in the fourth round of the Dutch Cup and they’ve sold out all of the tickets. The press is setting it up as a grudge match between Bosz and me. Duh. This is a match I can’t lose.

TUESDAY December 13th, 2016

Game day. Towards the end of the first half, Ricky van Wolfswinkel (do wolves even have winkles?) outmuscled my Bean Pole in a run for the ball and smashed home an angled ball. Joshua (I call him Jimmy because I loved NYPD Blue) Smits had no chance. I really need to start recruiting better physical specimens. We get beaten physically too often.

We went in at the half down 1-0 and I tore shreds off the boys in the locker room. I’d had a big lunch, so I was in no mood for humble pie. They needed to win this game, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Luckily they listened and Crivelli intercepted a loose ball out of defence and sent it out sideways to Djurdjic who approached the goal all alone. He scored off the inside of the far post. 1-1 at the 47th. Ten minutes later, those two were involved again. Carlos took the ball at the edge of the box and sent through a bullet pass to Djurdjic, who dummied, and let it run through to Crivelli, who scored. When they’re beautiful, they’re beautiful.

That’s how the score stayed and we were into the quarter finals. PSV and Ajax needed extra time to get through… No comment.

Naturally the press conference was mainly focused on the battle between Bosz and me. I helped them with a few choice headlines and quotes. It was also nice to see van der Heijden credited my half time “talk” with the win. Bosz has called NEC a “small team” and me a “bad winner who lacks dignity”. Amazing! If dignity requires losing, I don’t want to be dignified.

SATURDAY December 17th, 2016

Game day. Heracles hired a new manager two days ago. I feel quietly confident that we will win this game. I guess not very quietly, as that’s exactly what I told all the reporters at the press conference. I accidentally insulted the new guy by saying he might have made an error in judgement taking on an Eredivise team. He took it personally, of course.

When the player of the match is your goalkeeper, you expect to win. Thor received a 9.1 rating after the match despite the team conceding two goals. We scored in the first half to lead 1-0, but for some reason the team decided to give up and Heracles got a win for their new manager. We’ve lost three of our last five home matches. What the?

Golla gave up the second goal with a pretty ridiculous mistake. He has not had the best of seasons, to be honest. And I rely on him to be the rock. It’s two weeks until the transfer window opens and perhaps I need to look at a centre back as well as the wide man we need.

MONDAY December 19th, 2016

I got Joey Sleegers signed to a new three-year deal. He’s getting paid double what he was, but this should make it harder for teams to come in for him now. Or at least we should be able to get paid more. My money man tells me he’s worth $1.9 million. There’s a release clause in the contract for $6.5 million, so I feel good.

This week’s game against FC Twente is the last before the winter break and then we’ll have transfer madness.

WEDNESDAY December 21st, 2016

Game day. I was relieved to see us dominating the match from the start. The first half of the first half we managed 8 shots and had 60% of the possession. Then Djurdjic slid a ball past the keeper and into the path of Crivelli who grabbed the easiest goal of his career. Three minutes later, Calvo gave Crivelli his second easiest goal. Calvo attracted three defenders in the box and then threaded a ball through them to the waiting Crivelli who just volleyed into the net. Easy peasy. Calvo finished the first half with a direct free kick goal. It’s been a while since we clicked like that.

We conceded the most ridiculous goal in the second half. Thor jumped on a ball that had rebounded off the cross-bar, but fumbled it right into the path of their guy, Veron. He, naturally, made Crivelli’s first half goals look difficult. Djurdjic gave Crivelli his hat trick in the 80th minute.

A 4-1 win is a great way to go into the break. Every team has played 18 games and we’re sitting in second place, three points behind Ajax and two points ahead of PSV.

Crivelli has seven goals in the league with an average of 94 minutes per goal. Maybe I should start him more often. He’s only started 6 games. Calvo is fourth in assists with six, and fifth in key passes.

TUESDAY December 27th, 2016

Christmas has come and gone and I’m still looking for a good present. The Australian striker left the trial and really did nothing to impress. I’ve now been presented with another Aussie striker who is on loan at Den Haag. He’s owned by Fulham, but seems to be available at a reasonable price. I’ve put in a bid.

There’s also an Algerian wide player I’ve taken a shine to. The scouts are checking him out for a more nuanced opinion. He plays in Turkey and I don’t know how much they’ll want. Do I dare try to sell Mihai to raise funds?

FRIDAY December 30th, 2016

Well, I am now the proud owner of an authentic Australian striker. Adam Taggart drove a hard bargain in the contract talks, but he has arrived in Nijmegen just in time for the New Year’s Eve party. He’s the fastest guy at the club, so we’ll see what that brings to the team and our tactics.

A Ukrainian team has offered Thor a contract. His deal with us ends in six months and I am not sure if we should keep him on the books. Jimmy Smits is going to want to take the reins next season and I might lose him if I don’t promote him to starter. Obviously Thor won’t be happy on the bench. Should I offer him a contract and then try to sell him?

Oh, and why did I sign another striker? Idiot.

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