Belmondo Diary #9

MONDAY February 1st, 2016

The last day of the transfer window is nuts. I was desperately trying to find someone to bring in on loan to replace the lost Roman. Some clubs wanted insane amounts of money for their unwanted guys. Some wanted an extra fee every month on top of the player’s salary! Crazy.

Finally, a young English defender from Everton named Tyias Browning was all I could get. So, the opposite of a striker. However, he’s the best player I’ve got in defence now. That allows me to move captain courageous to right back to try to work on getting those crosses on target.

Then at 10:14 Southampton called me. Southampton! From the Premier League. They wanted Frank Sturing, my young centre back. I was gobsmacked. And I was torn. Last time a million dollar bid came in I refused it and the player (my loyal captain) is now planning to leave on a free at the end of the season. I only had just under two hours to try to make a deal though. I didn’t know if the club was going to even let me use the money to reinvest.

I sold him, dear diary. And maybe my whole season. Maybe my whole career.

And then I signed a striker on loan. No-one was giving me enough time to buy anyone. The board wasn’t giving me any money in time. Quesi Appiah came in from Crystal Palace in the Premier League. He is said to be a good finisher. He’ll be lonely at our club.

And then. And then. ROMA (!!!!) came sniffing around Jay-Roy Grot. The press listed him as being worth $2.4 million!!! The window closed before they could make a bid, but it makes for interesting thinking about next season.

I didn’t understand this whole two-transfer-windows-per-season thing when I took the job. Why limit sales? But wow, do I understand it now. The adrenaline is insane.

The big news for the window was Arsenal coming in with $23 million for a Twente player. That’s got to be good news for me as Twente certainly didn’t spend that much on new players.

I now have six players in the first team on loan. That seems a bit unfair, but I’m willing to go with it. Next season, I’ll need to build an actual team of Nijmegen players. If Jay-Roy is sold or lives up to his potential, that could be a good start. On the other hand, if we get games in Europe next season, we’re going to need more players.

One game at a time. The next game is basement dwellers, de Graafshap in a week. Have to get these new guys onto the training ground.

FRIDAY February 5th, 2016

After all the excitement, guess who walked into my office wanting a new contract? Only Rens van Eijden. It seems he’s happy with how the club is going and now, all of a sudden, feels that staying here is the right move for his career. I’m sure he plans to retire here now. Mercenary bastard. I gave him a new contract so his value goes up for June bids.

SUNDAY February 7th, 2016

Game day. We headed to de Graafshap feeling pretty confident. I had the new recruits in the starting eleven. There was some concern about match fitness, but ultimately that was unfounded.

Our first half was business as usual. No shots on target, no goals for either team. Then Janio Bikel, my Portuguese midfielder, picked up a second yellow card on the 41st minute. I was pretty sure you’re only allowed to give out one yellow card per player per half, but I was corrected by some of my staff who were also busy holding me back at the time.

All was forgiven three minutes later when new recruit, Kwesi Appiah, slid in between two defenders and scored a sublime goal. It was given offside and my staff carried me back into the change rooms a few minutes early. Against my wishes.

I gave the team a piece of my mind when they joined me a few minutes later. If we’re going to be playing in Europe, we can not be playing to draw away to the bottom team in the league. I sent them back out in a 4-4-1 with one midfielder breaking up play and the other running the length of the pitch for the rest of the game. The big Scot, Fulton, put his hand up, so the role was his.

We were certainly losing the midfield as de Graafshap tried to sure up a big point against us. Still 0-0 at 70 so I subbed off the yellow carded Golla, just in case this ref did something he’d regret again. At 76, I brought on Limbombe for some fresh legs and a bit of dash. At 79, Limbombe scored at the far post. Naturally.

Three minutes later, Breinburg dispossessed the dribbling defender and took it in for an open goal. So, we made a difficult game look easy in the end and walked away with a 2-0 win. I did not shake the hands of the officials.

MONDAY February 8th, 2016

I got an updated league statistics sheet after yesterday’s game. We’re 4th best in goals conceded (and Roman is ranked 4th individually), but only 9th in goals scored. That’s not too surprising. However, the good news is we’re ranked number 1 in both yellow cards and red cards! I do like leading statistics and always had a feeling the other teams were a lot rougher than us.

THURSDAY February 11th, 2016

It turns out that being first in cards is actually the worst.

This weekend, we host league leaders, PSV. Their manager, Philip Cocu is pretty well-known to be an admirer of mine from all of his attendance at our games. He told the media today that we have to be respected because we’re clearly performing consistently above expectations. You’d better believe it, Cocu.

I should say, I have no doubt that we’ll lose this game. They’re too good. We beat them away last time, but let’s be honest, that was pure luck.

SATURDAY February 13th, 2016

The press think Cocu’s comments were negative – that they were condescending. I told them I’m pretty sure I know how Philip feels about me. They also pointed out that PSV haven’t lost in ten games and that they’ve won four of five away games. There seems to be an anti-NEC agenda. I’m going to need to be careful when speaking in public. They’re obviously out to discredit us.

I just found out that PSV is playing Roma in the week after us. Maybe they’ll rest some players.

SUNDAY February 14th, 2016

Team sheets came out. No resting for PSV.

Game day. The first half was scoreless, as everyone probably expected. Well, everybody who has been following Nijmegen this season. Joey Sleegers missed a difficult opportunity towards the end of the half when the keeper was out of position. But I’m okay with missing difficult chances. It’s the easy chances that get me.

Sleegers missed another shot in the second half, but that was about the only excitement for the fans. 0-0 draw. Ritzmaier was player of the match for his control in the midfield. Playing against the team that owns you presumably creates a desire to show them what they’re missing by loaning you out. Good for us. Bad for them. This season.

I don’t know what I’m going to do for Hannes Þór Halldórsson at the end of the season, but it needs to be good. He’s changing my mind about goal keepers. If Barcelona come in for him, I don’t know what I’ll do. 326 minutes without conceding a goal.

So, we have not lost to PSV this season. And they’re on top of the league. That means we’re the best team in the league. Job done.

THURSDAY February 18th, 2016

PSV lost at home to Roma today. Should have rested those stars.

We play Heerenveen on the weekend. They’re at the bottom of that playoff hunt after losing a bunch of games. We’re still at the top and will need to beat them to stay that way. Ajax is right behind us and I don’t see them as the kind of club to stop winning. After firing their manager because of me earlier in the season, they’ve been doing very, very well.

SATURDAY February 20th, 2016

Game day. I told the guys we owe Heerenveen after they beat us in the first matchup. Kwesi Appiah took it to heart and scored his first two goals for the club. Both of them involved outmanoeuvring the keeper and slotting an easy shot home. Man, how well can I recruit?

The second half was a bit of a stalemate, but there’s another 2-0 on the board. Ritzmaier was great again, but obvious man of the match was Appiah who desperately tried to get his hat trick with no luck. We had 61% of the possession which is unusually high for us. A great game, all round. Cocu was at the game too. I know some season ticket holders who have been to fewer Nijmegen games than this guy.

More good news came later in the day when it was announced that de Graafshap held Vitesse (currently 2nd) to a draw. We’re still in fourth behind Twente, but slowly we might find ourselves in a battle for 2nd rather than one for the European playoff spots. There are ten matches to go in the season. Our games against Ajax and Vitesse are going to be big.

And even more good news as I added another scalp to the sacking bed post (I know that didn’t make sense). Jaap Stam was fired right after the game. I feel bad for the guy as he was only hired at the start of the season. A dreadlocked, funny-glasses-wearing guy has taken over as caretaker. And I’m still not on the Sack Race hot list. Naturally.

THURSDAY February 25th, 2016

We travel to play against Stan Lee’s favourite team, Excelsior, tomorrow. Apart from Mihai we are a fully fit team. That feels good. A few fringe players are getting upset with a lack of game time, though. It’s a tough balance as I think I’m going to need them if we’re playing in Europe next year. If we weren’t, I’d be getting rid of them. No room for whiners in this club.

FRIDAY February 26th, 2016

Game day. Dear diary, you know that feeling when you get cocky and decide to rest your best couple of players against the second bottom team and they score within ten minutes and then hold you to zero shots for the first half? Me too. And then they score two more in the second half and you match your zero? Me too.

Devastating.

SUNDAY February 28th, 2016

Ajax won their game and now they’ve moved past us. I hate this game.

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