THURSDAY November 2nd, 2017.
Game day. FC Kobenhavn v N.E.C. Europa League Group F.
We left Golla and Rios at home due to their yellow card collection, so the boys were a bit nervy as we toured around Legoland. They really didn’t get into it, but that doesn’t really matter because I did. I mean it was big things made out of Lego. What’s not to like?
Not long after the game started Djurdjic somehow pulled off a turn that left two defenders scratching their heads. He then slipped a ball to van der Vaart who smashed a pass to the other side of the box where the goal-hungry Vela one-timed it into the net. Ten minutes in and that Legoland trip was looking like time well spent.
The wonderfully named Kasper Kusk tied the game up half way through the half. I couldn’t be mad though. What a great name.
In the 43rd, it was Vela doing then happy dance again as he defied physics with a ball curved around two players to hit Guedioura who took one touch to place the ball in front of him and swung his leg through to smash the back of the net. We went in at half time ahead 2-1.
My midfield was getting tired by the midpoint of the second half, so Breinburg and Zimmerman came into relieve them. I was nervous, but we held firm. In the 70th minute, Breno took a ball from Zimmerman and sent it hopefully into the box. Taggart was there to reward him and we took a 3-1 lead away from home. I shut up shop and that’s how the game ended.
Lazio and Sporting drew, so we’re sitting a good position, three points clear on top, and five points clear of 3rd and 4th. Two games to go though, so just another point will be enough. This is good news because the way things are going, we’re going to need to win the Europa League to play in Europe again next season. I wonder if anyone has won in Europe in the same season as being relegated.
SUNDAY November 5th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v Fortuna Sittard.
Christian Santos’ 100th league game for us. It’s a nice little landmark, but meaningless if we don’t start doing better in the league. He started this game because a lot of the main gang were exhausted from the Danish trip. Sylla also got the striker position, which hopefully gets him off my back. Same with Marengo.
We had our customary 60% in the first half, but nothing on the goal front. Also customary. Thankfully Bib Fortuna Sittard didn’t manage to score either. The fans were restless as the players headed off the pitch at half time. I was also far from happy. I let them know it. They communicated their ambivalence.
Thankfully Adonis Santos wanted to make his centurion game memorable and bagged a goal coming into the far post to capitalise on a great cross from Zimmerman who was enjoying a start at right back.
We’ve jumped up to 12th position. We’re still behind Vitesse, which is just embarrassing. It’s only three points and we’ve got a game in hand. But it is a big issue. Especially now that Zidane is managing them. We can’t have our crappy rivals doing better than us after appointing a big name manager. FC Twente is on top of the league, 11 points ahead of us, also having played a game more.
THURSDAY November 16th, 2017
The manager of VVV, Gert Kruys, has publicly come out against my “foreign focus” and suggested that I am keeping young Dutch players out deliberately. Seriously. And maybe he should focus more on his own club and get them to adopt a proper name.
Sándor Szűcs has told me he expects more playing time. Start some cup matches, Sándor? Nope, not good enough. Can I bring you on as a sub so you can show me what you’ve got, Mr. Eighteen Year Old? Nope, not enough time. Can I interest you in starting at left forward, third-choice guy? Yes, that will do nicely. Glad to be able to negotiate with you, Szűcs.
FRIDAY November 17th, 2017
Game day. VVV Venlo v N.E.C.
Szűcs got his start, along with Sylla. Szűcs didn’t impress, but Sylla did. Mamadou wandered out of position to the right, creating an overload with Vela. Sylla back heeled into the box and the path of a marauding Breno who took advantage with a placed shot. We went ahead after 30 minutes.
A second goal came just before the whistle in the first half courtesy of a more traditional attack. Bruno bought it out of defence, got it to Vela, and he sent it into the box and Sylla finished it off. Maybe there’s something to Sylla’s claims that he deserves to start. It’s tough with Taggart being the media darling, though. Any time I leave him on the bench, his reporter pals give me grief.
Very Very Very Venlo had a man sent off for a second yellow card with ten minutes to go, which sealed the win. We’ve now soared into 9th place with a zero goal difference. Equal with Vitesse, but seven goals behind.
SUNDAY November 19th, 2017
It’s been two months since we’ve lost. Twelve games for five draws and seven wins. That’s quite a turnaround. Five wins in a row and now we face Lazio this week. If we continue our lossless streak, we’ll be through to the group stages in the Europa League and can play youngsters in the final game of the group stage.
THURSDAY November 23rd, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v Lazio. Europa League Group F.
It was a nervy first thirty minutes. Lazio really needed to win or draw this game to be able to keep their promotion hopes alive. Three points behind us, but only two points ahead of the other two. We needed a draw to win promotion. The players on either side were almost hesitant to score.
Then a moment of magic. I thought I was watching Barcelona for a minute. An attack down the left side started with a pass down to the roaming Taggart who sent it quickly inside. Six one-touch passes around legs and then through legs ended with a no-look pass to an already moving Christian Santos who just massaged the ball into the net.
Lazio got one back with a bit too much ease a few minutes later and it was back to nervy-time. Just before the end of the half, Diarra smacked a shot off the post and the ball fell to their keeper who held it tight.
The second half started and it looked like Lazio had received a rather robust half time talk. They went up early and we struggled to settle. In the 66th we got some luck when Breno crossed the ball and it bounced off a defender’s arm (should have been a penalty), wrong-footing the keeper and dribbled across the line. Back to equal.
The second half ended with a bang. Five minutes from time, the newly subbed on Breinburg misplaced a pass out of defence straight to an opponent who found an alert striker running back towards goal and all of a sudden we were losing the game we needed to not lose. And we continued losing for the rest of the match. Is it possible to lose 3-2 when you have 61% of the possession? Apparently.
FRIDAY November 24th, 2017
As luck would have it, Kobenhavn and Sporting drew 1-1. That puts us through, regardless of what happens in the next game as we’re four points up. Halle-goddamn-lujah. The only problem I can foresee is that if we finish second, we may be playing Liverpool in the first knockout round. It would be really unfortunate for me to eliminate the Reds, my English team.
SUNDAY November 26th, 2017
Game day. Heerenveen v N.E.C.
We headed north to the Abe Lenstra Stadion to face the team two points above us. Well, one of the teams two points above us. Tired squad again, so Szűcs, Sylla, Marengo, and Buysse started. Risky, but risk is my middle name. One of them, anyway.
It started well with Diarra scoring a wonder goal from a Buysse pass in the eighth minute. Thirteen minutes was the moment Sylla pounced on a spilled easy take from their keeper. It wasn’t even a shot – just a cross. He dropped it and Mamadou scored. Three minutes later, Szűcs darted in at the far post to slot home a long cross. Three nil and they had no way back.
Szűcs did it again in the 32nd on the end of Zimmerman’s cross again. Same thing, with Szűcs knocking it in about a foot from the line. Maybe I need to be one of those managers who put their faith in the youth. Like a Wenger or something. Not the modern Wenger, of course. The board is working on improving our youth options. As soon as they finish, I’ll ask for more.
The second half started with Szűcs converting a penalty and we entered party time. A hat trick. Maybe the little bastard can be satisfied with his playing time now. I got him three goals, what more can he ask for?
After that beat down, we will be welcoming PSV to the Goffert. They’re in 4th and only three points ahead of us. It seems unreal considering how horrible our start to the season was.
TUESDAY November 28th, 2017
Seven of our players made the team of the week! That’s never happened.
THURSDAY November 30th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v PSV.
We had a great shot repelled early on, but after that PSV had us fully shackled. They pressed hard and close every time we had the ball, no matter where that happened to be. Luckily they weren’t getting much of the ball themselves, so Jimmy Smits had little to do.
Half time came and went. In the 52nd minute, van der Vaart found himself in some space and saw Rios similarly open at the edge of the box to the left. He sent his usual laser out and Rios volleyed across the box where jolly Vela swooped in to tap it in. 1-0 and the fans were up and chanting. We kept the lead until the 80th minute when I yelled out to the boys to shut up shop. Keep possession, short passes, etc. That worked for eleven minutes. They scored a scrappy goal at the start of the 92nd minute and my heart broke.
After the game, Cocu called me laughable. Wow, he must be getting some pressure from the management at PSV to say something so ludicrous. They’re still in fourth after the draw, so maybe that’s a problem for him.
An agent offered me his player, Quincy Boogers. He’s not good enough for the team, but I might buy him anyway. For obvious reasons.