Remember that you can also now buy the book, Belmondo Diary: Year One via this link
SATURDAY February 1st, 2020
Game day. Ajax v N.E.C.
Daniel Ward was ready for the biggest game of his life. That’s what he told me anyway. I told the press that he was my guy and that they should get ready for the official passing of the torch in the Eredivisie power structure.
I started Schweiney in the quarterback position, aiming to use his experience to anchor the team. The Wanderer and San Francisco sat ahead of him with Zorba and Halilovic as the inside forwards. Trujillo led the line. The plan was rock solid.
Then the game started.
In less time than it takes me to microwave my dinner, Ajax scored. Zivkovic, their young striker, headed past the wrong-footed Ward from Wales. Valdívia nearly got us back level four minutes later, but the ball came off the post and back into play.
That was the last time we were in the game. Zivkovic scored again and Klaassen got a third for Ajax. Half time was not a pleasant time. For any of us. Ward was at fault for two of the goals, so half time was even less pleasant for him.
Zivkovic got his hat trick less than two minutes into the second half. Ajax is never short of star strikers, that’s for sure. Maybe we should be investing in a youth academy or some such thing.
The Welshman showed a rarebit of skill with a stop in the 76th minute, but Zivkovic came back ten minutes later for this fourth. 5-0. I’m flabbergasted.
And Trujillo is out for three weeks with a stamped foot.
I sold Van der Heijden in my grief. Last day of the transfer window, so I had to do something.
WEDNESDAY February 5th, 2020
Game day. N.E.C. v SC Heerenveen. Dutch Cup Quarter Final.
After the nightmare of the last game, I obviously had to drink a lot. I managed to stop by Tuesday afternoon, which meant not much time for game prep, but there are some things that simply have to be done.
I put Rooney up front, because beggars can’t be choosers. There are a few guys in the squad who can play there, but they’re better used elsewhere, so Wayne got the nod.
We didn’t do much in the first half an hour, but finally scored when Olaza sent a cross in that was bundled into the net from a leaping scrum. However, the goal didn’t stand for some reason. A penalty was then awarded for something one of their defenders did. I don’t understand why the goal wasn’t counted, but Halilovic converted the awarded kick and it didn’t matter.
We nearly made it to the half with the lead, but Elmo Lieftink scored an outrageous goal, slicing a ball in front of Ward and inside the corner post. Elmo. His name was Elmo. No tickling from what I could tell.
Seven minutes into the second half, we stole the lead back again. Halilovic to the rescue again. He sent in a great corner, right onto the head of Kian Hansen. I’m pretty sure Barcelona should have kept this guy, but I’m not complaining.
Fetfatzidis was mugged on the 63rd minute is out for two months after a horror tackle. I wonder if I’ll have a starting eleven in March. It’s bad enough to have the league campaigning against me, but when the players collude to take out my stars, it starts to get ridiculous.
In the 71st minute, Golla was deemed to have fouled in the box and Heerenveen got a penalty. It was not a foul. Absolutely ridiculous. As luck would have it (perhaps there was some skill), Daniel Ward saved the shot.
A bit over ten minutes later, Ward was beaten. The ball squeezed between him and the post, which is a big no-no from what my goalkeeping coach tells me. 2-2. Never fear though, Halilovic sprinted in toward the far post less than three minutes later to send us into the semifinal.
After the game, I found out we’ve got Ajax in that game. I don’t know what god I need to sacrifice to and what I should offer, but I need to find out.
SUNDAY, February 9th, 2020
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Groningen.
Sleet. We played in sleet. I can’t even write anything after today. Lost 2-1, with the winner coming in the 91st minute from someone who scored their first goal of the season. What are the chances of that happening? Zero. And yet. To add to the disaster, Boveda was sent off with a second yellow card.
MONDAY, February 10th, 2020
We are now seven points ahead of Ajax and Utrecht. This is not exactly going to plan. Time to get the Boot Room boys together for some brainstorming.
The number of yellow cards being handed out to my players is an absolute disgrace. The league is being brazen about their desire to not let us win the league.
WEDNESDAY February 12th, 2020
Game day. VVV v N.E.C.
With Rooney struggling to play so many games in a row, I sent The Wanderer into the striker role. His first start there, I think. It went fairly well. Two goals. Scratch that up to management magnificence.
Va Va Voom only scored one goal, so we came out with a win and can keep our eyes on the prize for a bit longer. A first win in four league games makes sleeping a bit easier. Plus, Rens van Eijden got a yellow card, which will forever make me happy.
SATURDAY February 15th, 2020
Game day. N.E.C. v Excelsior
Five more yellow cards to add to the collection. Is it a conspiracy when it’s real?
We scored in the first and second halves. Both were negated by offside calls that were debatable, to say the least. Excelsior had a man sent off in the 70th minute, which just added more possession and shots for us. We had about sixteen shots between the 79th and 83rd minute. Zero goals, though.
Then, we got to the 90th minute. Rooney finally put the ball into the net. A goal! Hilariously, the Excelsior players protested it, claiming it was offside. I mean, seriously.
Three minutes into injury time, Halilovic absolutely rocketed a cross to Lemar, who managed to trap it without breaking his leg. He then smashed it into the back of the net. 2-0.
SATURDAY February 22nd, 2020
Game day. AZ v N.E.C.
Vitesse beat AZ by 4-0 last week, so I was pretty sure we were in for an easy game. The oddsmakers suggested we were pretty evenly matched. AZ were in 16th place before this match. We were in first. Pretty even? How does one get a job as an oddsmaker?
Halilovic scored two goals in fifteen minutes and we were off to the races. The second goal was a blinder! The ball went between the keeper’s shin and the post – a gap of no more than eight and a half inches, which I’m pretty sure means Alen compressed the ball somehow.
Gedion finished the game off with a sneaky goal in the 34th and we walked away with a win. They’re all important now. Three wins in a row. Is it finally over? Is the league ours yet?
THURSDAY February 25th, 2020
Paris FC are talking about taking Olivier Guégan from me. They want to hire him as manager. All I can offer him is the Boot Room membership, the assistant manager position, and worldwide glory. Hopefully he chooses wisely.
SATURDAY February 29th, 2020
Game day. N.E.C. v SC Heerenveen.
Leap year. This day shouldn’t exist.
Trujillo came back to start up front, much to relief of me, the fans, and our hopes of winning the league. At the tenth minute, an amazing goal came from Boveda. Sitting at the edge of the box, he received the ball from The Wanderer, and slammed it to the left of the keeper. An absolute pearler. There were two gilt-edged chances just before half time. Both came from corners, but both came to nothing.
Kian Hansen started the second half off with a headed goal. Unfortunately, it was not for us. Einar Danielsen double their lead shortly after. He stepped right, shot left, and Daniel Ward had no chance. Nightmare.
Luckily, Boveda was back to the rescue. He drove into the box with the ball just after the 80th minute and caressed a pass across the face of goal and into the path of The Wanderer. A returned favour.
But we couldn’t get a winner. This day shouldn’t exist.
Eight games left. Eight points ahead of Ajax. I’d prefer ten points, but I’m only as good as my players. Well, the team is only as good as the players.