The next chapter in guest writer Matt’s Belmondo Diary.
FRIDAY January 1st, 2016
Days after denying me any extra funds for wages, the board asked if I wanted to change my expectations for the season. I bit their hand off. Another $5,000 per week available should mean I can bring someone in. Now, what position do I need? Maybe a great right back. The scouts are on the job for me. I need someone of good quality who isn’t currently playing on a contract anywhere. Should be easy.
With the new year comes the awards. None of my players were mentioned in the World Footballer awards. I’m sure that will change within three years. Laporte won European Golden Boy, which sounds just a bit inappropriate. Leo Messi won World Golden Ball, and Juan Mata won World Player of the Year. What the difference between those are is beyond me.
I had a few drinks with the boys last night. It’s the mid-season break, so why not? It’s not like I’ve got any friends over here. While I was sitting there at the bar, I realised that half of my team wouldn’t be legally able to drink with me if we were at my local bar at home.
SUNDAY January 10th, 2016
We played a friendly against Cologne today and no-one scored a goal. Not to worry. It was good to get van Eijden some playing time so that he’s ready for the second half of the season.
Some good news on the player search. I’ve got another player on loan. His name is Bilal and I’m not holding that against him. He’s been brought in to offer up some more tackling prowess to those two ball-winning positions in the midfield. We really don’t have anyone who naturally fits into that role, so Bilal will help a lot. He comes to us from a little German team, though he is Turkish by birth.
I also brought in an old Iranian guy for the same reason. He’s on trial, but so far looks pretty good. I’m sure many of my friends back home would not be thrilled with me working with an Iranian, but we do what we have to do. Maybe he and I can improve diplomatic relations between our two great nations. Well, one great nation and Iran.
SUNDAY January 17th, 2016
Game day. Home to Willem II. Sleegers to Roman who one-touched it beautifully into the net. 35th minute. I love this game.
Christian Santos got a gash in his leg that forced him to come off the pitch for a bit in the 40th minute. We wrapped it up and sent him back out, but the club just didn’t have enough bandages to avoid replacing him at the half. He’ll be out for two weeks after just coming back from a previous injury.
Then Joey Sleegers came off half way through the second half with an injured shoulder (looks like 3 weeks). This was the third sub and we hadn’t even got to the 60th minute. A bad omen, particularly as Ritzmaier was really struggling with match fitness.
Never mind his tiredness though, he got onto a cross from a rampaging Marcel Appiah and scored the second goal. What a boy!
I have to tell you, dear diary, the team is performing quite well. We’re in 6th, but only one point behind 3rd. I wonder if it’s a case of them starting to trust me. Team talks are seeing a lot less apathy these days. Maybe they realise I am the second coming of Bob Bradley.
Maarten van der Meijs pointed out in the press conference that we’re one of the best passing teams in the league. Nice to hear.
THURSDAY January 21st, 2016
We’ve got Groningen away this weekend. They beat us 1-0 at home and their manager gave me some crap about my style and ability. The press, naturally, have not forgotten this. Now that we’re one place and one point above them, the journalists at the press conference were interested in my thoughts. I told them Erwin van de Looi was as ridiculous as his name suggested and that I was excited to show him just who was better. v.d Looi took the high road, of course.
FRIDAY January 22nd, 2016
I offered a contract to the Iranian. He declined and headed to the Romanian league. The Romanian league? Surely Nijmegen is a better option than that. Maybe it was my citizenship that he took umbrage to.
Game day. We headed to Groningen where Erwin van de Looi celebrated his 4,222nd day in charge. Kill me if I stay managing one team for that long and don’t turn them into a powerhouse. Promise me, dear diary.
We started with an unbelievable stop by their keeper in the second minute. There was just no way he should have stopped that shot, but he did. After that it was a lot of back and forth. I don’t know if I’ve made note of this in the diary before, but my players suck at shooting at the goal. Honestly, Breinburg was standing in the box with no-one bothering him, received the ball, took a touch, and blasted it ten feet wide of the post. Just as an example.
However, later in the half, Limbombe won the ball back on the wing (love that instant pressing) and crossed it into an open Roman who volleyed it in. Roman was wide open because he had just lost the ball after a horribly errant shot didn’t even go out of bounds. Not sure if I should be happy and angry with him. Apart from the goal, the first half was pretty even.
The second half was not even. They dominated. But they didn’t score a goal. If their manager was writing a diary, I bet he’d be complaining about winning every category except for goals. But goals win matches and he should have learned that over his 14 year career. No point complaining about statistics.
One of the journalists was particularly impressed with van Eijden’s performance and asked me if I expected to receive some bids for him. I said, I’m sure I’ll be fielding calls tomorrow. And if anyone offers me a million, he will be out before you can say traitorous bastard. Only a week left in the window though.
TUESDAY January 26th, 2016
Van Eijden and Golla both made it into the team of the week! They were pretty great against Groningen. Once again Golla is apparently one of my leading players, but I nearly bench him for every game. Have to make a mental note to stop that impulse.
A midweek game against Twente tomorrow followed by a Saturday game against AZ. That should separate the men from the boys.
WEDNESDAY January 27th, 2016
Game day. I can’t complain about their goal. It was an impressive lofted pass right onto the foot of a angling winger. I can complain about the fact that we had a goal called offside after an exquisite piece of play led by Rayhi and Breinburg. I can complain that we won in every category except for goals. I can complain that there is still not a single member of the press who has mentioned my green pants.
0-1. We are definitely a team that likes low scoring games. It wouldn’t be off-base by much for someone to compare me to Mourinho. It would be nice if Nijmegen could show me the kind of loyalty and love that Chelsea shows Jose. Time will tell.
I admitted to the press that the goal that sunk us was brilliant. The player in question, Chinedu Ede, responded that it was a dream to receive that kind of comment from such an amazing manager. Finally someone has noticed! This guy has had a fifteen year career – he knows what he’s talking about.
THURSDAY January 28th, 2016
We’re twenty games in and it’s tight for those European spots. The teams in 4th to 7th qualify for some sort of playoff system to be able to play more European games. Or something. Anyway, PSV and Vitesse are both pretty clear at the top. In 3rd are Twente after they beat us. We’re in 4th. FC Twente has 34 points. In 11th place are Roda with 29 points. Dropping points at this stage is pretty damaging. I hope my team realizes that on the weekend.
SATURDAY January 30th, 2016
Game day. God, I hate this game. 0-0 and we absolutely killed it. We did everything right. The boys were near death by the end of the game – second game in four days. Breinburg was superb in the middle attacking midfield position. Thor was colossal in goal, stopping a penalty. Unfortunately Roman was injured in the first half. He’s going to be out for two months!
What did I say about dropped points being important? Somehow we’re still fourth though. Small mercies.