MONDAY January 1st, 2018
I am being bombarded by agents and clubs trying to steal my guys. Janio Bikel left us today, which has been a long time coming, but I also received a $1.5 million bid for Adam Taggart. I told them it would take three times that to steal him from us.
I’m looking for another attacking player, preferably one who can play on either side as an inside forward. My hopes are not high after looking through the lists my scouts have prepared for me. None of them have the right mix of attributes I’m looking for post-bathroom-meeting.
FRIDAY January 5th, 2018
Palermo have offered $3.8 million for Taggart with add on clauses that could (will) get it above $5 million. And I took it. Because the dollar signs in my eyes blinded me to logic. I’ll miss that big Aussie.
MONDAY January 8th, 2018
I’ve just bought a diamond from Japan. Kazuki Nagasawa is cool as a cucumber, has all the traits I’m looking for, and possesses great technique. And he can play inside forward or advanced central playmaker. He’s a dream come true, to be honest. He’s been playing in Germany for the last few years and cost a mere three quarters of a million. Bargain. Hopefully this will get some TVs turned on late at night in Japan.
WEDNESDAY January 10th, 2018
Sylla has signed for an Italian side for when his contract is up at the end of the season. He turned down my offer because he wasn’t happy with his playing time. What is wrong with people? I sold the guy keeping him out of the team five days ago. Five days! Come on!
SATURDAY January 13th, 2018
I brought in a keeper from our parent club. Mauro Goicoechea will be very handy if Jimmy Smits gets injured or loses form.
Sylla was injured in training. An excuse to not play out his contract? Who knows? The physio said it will be about a month. Now I need a replacement. Luckily my scouts have been out looking for people to fit the new profile. There’s an English guy we’re looking into, but no details yet. I don’t want to jinx myself.
SATURDAY January 20th, 2018
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink told the press that he doubts I will be able to get my foreigners to commit to the cause. I can only assume he hasn’t been watching us overachieve for the last two and a half seasons. Maybe do your homework before facing us Jimmy.
I wonder if he even knows we signed Danny Graham yesterday. This guy’s got Premier League pedigree, but has been plying his trade in Bristol City for a few years. He’s a bit of a bruiser, but has the technical and mental skills to create the kind of play we’re looking for. He’s got an English physicality and the brains of a Dutchman. Perfect. He’s like a miner painted by Rembrandt.
I’m not sure I understand the point of a winter break. I get that it helps the players rest their weary bones and all that. But why have a month long break and then ask us to come back and play four games in ten days? At least it lets me test out the new signings in a pressure situation.
SUNDAY January 21st, 2018
Game day. SC Cambuur v N.E.C.
Danny Graham nearly got into the action straight away after Sándor Szűcs sprinted down the wing on the kickoff and delivered a pin-point cross that Graham smashed into a defender who was inconveniently standing between him and the goal. Only a few minutes passed before he got another chance though. Diarra played him in and he placed a shot into the corner of the net. Welcome to the club, Mr. Graham.
Diarra scored our second with a header from a Happy Vela free kick in the 31st minute. Jimmy Smits made a great stop in the 75th minute to keep them in a hopeless position. Nagasawa fed Diarra for his second goal a few minutes before time and that ended a winning start to the year.
One has to be happy when one’s new signings contribute to two goals in their first game. My transfer game is so on point.
TUESDAY January 23rd, 2018
I’ve signed a left back to ease Burt Buysse out of the club. I love Burt, particularly his ridiculous goals from the sideline, but the truth is he doesn’t look like one of our new-style guys. Jeffrey Schlupp comes to us via Aston Villa, a team from Birmingham, the Venice of the north. He’s a 25 year old Ghanaian with a bit of speed. Maybe he can match Breno on the oft-neglected left side of our well-oiled machine. Breno and Vela are pretty much a force of nature on the right.
WEDNESDAY January 24th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v AZ.
I started the new guys again, figuring they might as well continue their goal scoring/creating form. Little did I know they had not received the memo. There were zero shots at goal until the 31st minute and it didn’t come from us. A free kick sailed over the head of one of their attackers and onto the foot of another. All of my players had chosen to cover the first guy. They chose … poorly.
Just after the second half began, AZ scored from a counter attack, my least favorite way to be scored on. My guys were passing the ball around the box like they were Arsenal and then lost it and bam, we were down 2-0. There were three more good chances in the game, two to us and one to them. All three were squandered and our nice run of form ended just like that. AZ had 54% of the possession in a home game for us. That speaks volumes about the kind of mood I was in after the game.
SATURDAY January 27th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v Willem II.
I tried not to offend Willem II with my use of the backup crew, but it’s hard to do. My guns were tired, so the replacements faced up to the team named after a king.
They didn’t play like they were offended. Bruno Andrade scored his 50th league goal (and first goal of this season, of course) in the 27th minute. For some reason Golla and van der Heijden had each run in opposite directions, leaving Andrade about six miles of space in the box. They’re hardly helping Jimmy in goal.
Nikola Djurdjic was our savior with a tapped in goal after one of their defenders blocked a shot from a corner right on the line. I wonder if we should put defenders on the posts for free kicks. It seems effective. I had to take Nikola off at the half as he’d pulled up a bit lame in the celebrations.
Ten minutes into the second half, Marengo was fouled at the edge of the box and the ref awarded a penalty. I’m pretty sure he was inside the box, or at least really really close, which is basically the same thing. Krisztián Vadócz strode up to take the penalty and struck it straight at their keeper. Score remained 1-0.
In the 77th, Danny Graham played Szűcs in beautifully, only to see the shot parried out of bounds. In the 81st, Marengo gave us a winner after playing a very impressive game. He showed great awareness in the box and shot true. Man of the match!
Djurdjic is out for three weeks. Luckily I brought in those signings or I’d be feeling a bit thin at the moment.
TUESDAY January 30th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Twente. Dutch Cup Quarter Final.
The quarter final. Such dizzying heights. Playing against the team sitting on top of the league table. It was quite a battle to face up to after three hectic games. It became much more daunting when Nagasawa was stretchered off in the 4th minute. Less daunting after van der Heijden absolutely cannoned home a goal from a long Vela free kick. 1-0 at the end of the 8th minute! Three minutes later, Vela was denied at the near post by their keeper. So close to a dominating lead.
Van der Heijden got a second in the 30th, again from a free kick. This time he was a smidgen offside. So were three of my other players. Might need to work on that on the training pitch. Vela was denied again in the 41st and after a half that we dominated, we went in at 1-0 instead of 4-0.
The second half started with more Vela. This time he got on a break and went one-on-one with the keeper, shooting wide. I need to get him on some shooting training, stat!
In the 55th, our lack of shooting boots bit us in the ass. Diedhiou ran out wide to receive a pass and somehow shot across the face of Smits and the ball went into the net at the far post. Our attacking play suddenly disappeared and the game became a bit of a bore fest.
Never one to tolerate a bore fest, captain Breinburg slid into the back of one of their players who was dawdling on the ball and he was sent off. Just like that. It was the 87th minute and shortly after we went into thirty minutes of extra time with one fewer player. Jimmy Smits kept us in the game with a few great individual efforts and then we came down to penalties. To keep things exciting, Danny Graham had to come off after pulling up short on a sprint just before the end of the extra time. We ended the game 9 against 11, but 1 to 1 on the score board.
Penalties! This was the first time the dreaded crap shoot had come up during my tenure. I had no idea how to order the takers, so in true Sun Tzu leadership style, I let them work it out themselves while seeming like I was taking charge.
Our most recent penalty-taker, Krisztián Vadócz, stepped up first. Keep in mind, he missed that last penalty. My finger nails began their short journey to disappearance. He sent it straight up the middle though, and the keeper dove right. 1-0.
Jimmy’s turn. And he saved! Unbelievable! Then Schlupp sent his shot straight into the keeper. They scored their next. Guedioura scored his. Their third shot went right off the crossbar and clear! We were up. Vela’s went up the middle too and all of his misses during the game were forgotten. Well, for a while. Their guy scored and then it was up to Breno to win the game for us. Breno, the little Brazilian. Breno, my favorite little Brazilian. It was true. We were through! A semi final to come. Then a final. Then a trophy.
Nagasawa broke his toe today and will be out for two months! Graham did him one better, tearing his hamstring and will be out for three. Now I’m officially feeling a bit thin.
WEDNESDAY January 31st, 2018
I’ve signed a sixteen year old prospect at striker by the name of Serginho Lelieveld. He’s Dutch, but I’m guessing his parents are fans of Brazilian football. He has a tremendous work ethic and loves bringing other players into the game. I don’t expect him to get any game time this season, but maybe in cup matches next year. Although, saying that, with the current injury debacle, maybe he’ll be my leading goalscorer this season.
AZ came in for Santos and FC Twente for Smits with risible bids today. On the last day of the window? Who are these jokers? Oh sure FC Twente, of course I’ll sell you my starting keeper without any time to sign a replacement. Presumably they’re worried I’m going to catch up to their league lead.
Ajax spent $43 million in this window. That’s $43 million in the January transfer window for those keeping score at home. As usual they sold $36 million worth too. They are a veritable factory. Doing great work for the Dutch economy.