SUNDAY May 7th, 2017
Game day. Heracles v N.E.C.
We headed to Heracles with one thought on our mind. Winning. Well, probably it was more like “not losing”. The first half was boring. We had 60% possession, but no threats. This reinforces my idea that we should try to be more attacking next season. I need more players attacking the goal.
Groningen were down by one in the first half, so the dream was still alive. Not that I even know what the difference between third and fourth is.
Perhaps fittingly, we conceded a penalty in the 83rd minute when Santos ran past our old player, Anthony Limbombe. And that ended the season. I say ran past because he didn’t touch him. From my memory of the rule book, there is supposed to be contact. I let my feelings be known in the press conference afterwards. The reporters gleefully anticipated my fine.
We have somehow finished fourth despite not winning a game since February 10th. Maybe I can get some sort of award for that.
MONDAY May 8th, 2017
Now I know the difference between third and fourth. Fourth has to play against fifth, sixth, and seventh to see who gets to play in more playoffs to get into the Europa League. This is my punishment.
The FA have been conspicuous in their silence over my penalty comments. Brilliant. Not that it would have mattered, but it’s the principle of the thing.
THURSDAY May 11th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v Feyenoord. First leg of the first round of playoffs for European qualification. Mouthful.
Two goals for us in the first fifty minutes! Calvo and Santos did the job and it seemed our guys might actually have some ambition to play in Europe. Before the game, a reporter asked me if I was concerned about our lack of goal scoring compared to our generous control of possession during the season. I asked him if he’d been reading my journal.
Naturally, Benik Afobe scored a five minute brace and we were back to even. Their keeper, Vermeer, was painting a perfect game as well. 63% of possession and seven shots on target. And we drew. Again.
SUNDAY May 14th, 2017
Game day. Feyenoord v N.E.C.. Second leg of the first round of playoffs for European qualification.
After eleven minutes we saw a penalty given against us again. And again, it wasn’t real. The ball hit Sleegers on the arm, but there was no chance for him to get out of the way. I would have thought my public, correct statements last time would have given us an advantage. Perhaps the referee guild has joined the schedulers in their campaign against us.
Luckily, it was Jimmy Smits’ turn to paint a masterpiece in this game. He parried away the spot kick and then kept a clean sheet throughout. And he had it tough because we scored in the 26th with a headed assist from Crivelli. After that, Feyenoord was all over us. They even brought the tired, but usually tireless, Dirk Kuyt on to try to seal the deal. He led the league with goals this season but he couldn’t get them over the line in this game. Now we play Utrecht. We haven’t lost to them in the last four meetings.
And we finally won a game!
THURSDAY May 18th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Utrecht. First leg of the second round of playoffs for European qualification.
Near the end of the first half, Gregor Breinburg, getting a rare start, made a great run into the box and was rewarded with a nice pass from Zimmerman that he blasted into the back of the net. And we were off to the races.
We started the second half with tempered confidence. The tempering reduced a bit in the 60th minute. Rios, pretending to be a midfielder again was inside the box right in front of goal, took the ball, and slid it over to Adam Taggart who turned his defender and cooly directed the ball into the net. And now it was 2-0 with only half an hour to go.
Breinburg missed an open chance with less than ten minutes ago, but we came through with a convincing win. They had one shot on target. One more game…
SUNDAY May 21st, 2017
0-1. We won the playoff! It felt like winning a trophy, but really it’s a chance to get thrashed around a bit by some big European teams in a few months. No matter, we’ll enjoy it.
TUESDAY May 23rd, 2017
They’ve asked me to vote for Manager of the Year again. After finishing second with a newly promoted team, I failed to earn a place, so I’m going to assume no-one will be voting for me. I gave my five points to my buddy Erwin at Groningen. No doubt the winners will be Jans and Cocu.
WEDNESDAY May 24th, 2017
The vultures are out now that the season is over. AZ wants Golla. A number of clubs wants Breinburg. We’ll see how this all plays out. I’m spending this week analysing the players at the club and how they’ll fit into my new philosophy. Which means I need to spend tonight working out what my philosophy is. Updates tomorrow.
Tottenham won the Europa League today. That’s good news for us because it means we were two goals away from winning the Europa League. I’m going to add that to my resume. It’s always good to keep it updated.
SATURDAY May 27th, 2017
Time to look back on this season while I create my player dossier. And while I avoid picking up the phone because I am being inundated with agents offering me their castoffs.
We led the league in possession, which is about as good as you can hope for when setting a goal. 55.45% is also just a bit above what I aimed for.
We scored 46 goals (6th in the league), conceded 30 (5th), and had 15 clean sheets (2nd). We led the league with goals from indirect free kicks (8) and came second in pass completion (80%). We had 38% of shots on target, which was only 12th in the league. We led the league in dribbles per game (20) and fouls against by a large margin (417). We also came second in tackling percentage.
We’re spending $6.75 million on salaries which ranks 10th in the league. Ajax and PSV are both spending over $20 million.
So, in looking at all of that, am I wrong to be trying to piece together a new tactical approach? Could it be that we’re doing quite well considering our financial restrictions? If I get a few new players, are we going to challenge the top guys by doing the same thing? Or does the slump at the end of the season indicate a problem? Have the other teams worked us out? If only I actually had someone to ask those questions to who wouldn’t run to the press. If only there was a set of expert managers reading my diary, eager to share their thoughts.