FRIDAY November 2nd, 2018
Jan van Dijk has told the press that he loves the way I’ve got N.E.C. playing and he can only hope to be able to beat us by pressing hard and long. I like this guy. He is the manager of Helmond Sport, our opponent tomorrow. I think the press need to ask him about me more often.
SATURDAY November 3rd, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v Helmond Sport.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis showed intent in the second minute with two cannoned shots that were parried by the Helmond keeper. I continue to be impressed by this guy. Very light on his feet and always seems to be in the right place. We had four corners in the first four minutes, which says something about the way the boys came out to play.
Zorba had another shot stopped in the tenth minute and it seemed only a matter of time before this game went into a scoring frenzy. That time stretched way out though. Another save from the keeper stopped a glorious goal after a Vela run left scorch marks (and his opponent) on the ground. Finally, in the 34th minute, the Greek teed up Uth who tapped in the opening goal. The team let the foot off the gas after that and we (I) had to settle for only a one goal lead.
A minute after the second half kickoff, Helmond took advantage of that overconfidence and scored from a cross. My screaming from the sideline helped get things going again and Fetfatzidis finally scored the goal he deserved. And what a goal! Shot through three players from just inside the box. I can’t imagine the keeper could see it. A third goal was chalked off for offside, but two goals always beats one, so I was satisfied. Our run of wins and draws continues.
SUNDAY November 4th, 2018
Goran Sekulovski, the Australian attacking midfielder, has arrived on trial for two weeks. We’ll see how he looks up close. He prefers to play off the striker, but I’ll be using him down the left. He’s 19, and physically slight, but he’s a bit of a firecracker. Determined as hell too, if our phone conversation is anything to go by.
THURSDAY November 8th, 2018
Game day. Gent v N.E.C. Europa League Group K.
With Captain Ayoub out and two Brazilians injured, our midfield was looking bare-boned. I pushed Van der Heijden up into Ayoub’s role and brought Arno Joosten in for a big opportunity. The short trip over the border was good because I sat next to Arno and tried to explain the size of the opportunity I was giving him. I wanted to make sure that he realised I was doing him a big favour. Huge.
Souleymane Diarra was always going to score the first goal. I watched him run towards the box from the half way line. There was no doubt he was going to get on the end of a ball from Breno. He rocketed the header only to see it parried, but thankfully the ball came right back to him and he smashed it in.
Diarra’s second goal should never have happened. He took a ball way outside the box from a cross from Mark Uth’s left pink boot, tapped it in front of him, and shot. The keeper was watching him the whole time but the ball started outside, curved ridiculously, and ended up in the top corner.
His hat trick also came from Uth. Marky Mark back heeled from right in front of the goal because he was blocked by two defenders. Soulyeman said, “yes thanks”, and wheeled across to the traveling fans. I’m good at this signing players thing.
Gent got a consolation in the 84th when a shot from a corner bounced just across the line after hitting the crossbar. Their much vaunted young forward, Vasileiou, was credited with the goal, but the woodwork did all the hard work. Another three goals to our European campaign total and we’re a little bit on fire.
SUNDAY November 11th, 2018
Vitesse sacked their manager today after three consecutive losses. Surely they’re used to that kind of performance over there. Weird.
Game day. sc Heerenveen v N.E.C.
Heerenveen started the game passing the ball around like we weren’t even on the pitch. It was a sight to behold. Thankfully when their string of passes made it into the box, Van Heijden was there to boot the ball into the cheap seats. The ball came back seconds later and was skied over the top of the goal by their Korean forward.
Three minutes in and a red card for Meijers. Two footed tackle. Unbelievable. He was skinned by their winger and went after him with intent. Thanks Aaron – it’s so much more challenging to keep a streak going when you only play with ten men for 87 minutes.
Hyun-Jun made us pay as he took advantage of the space and set up Morten Thorsby for his first goal of the season. One of my favorite things in the world is when a player scores their first goal of the season against me. It’s way up there with Vitesse bumper stickers on cars driving around Nijmegen. Jimmy Smits kept us in the game with a couple of great saves and then we went into the dressing room. Meijers was wisely not to be found.
The second half started with the Jimmy Smits show back in prime time. He kept out a one-on-one opportunity after my defenders forgot about the reason they receive pay checks. Two more saves and I decided to bring on Van Der Vaart to see if he could roll back the years. And boy, did he! In the 79th, he took the ball from a corner at the edge of the box and absolutely drilled a ball at Golla who was attacking the far post. The Bean Pole didn’t even have time to react and the ball bounced off him and into the net. A draw! The run continues.
Schlupp picked up a yellow card which rules him out of the next game. So, both left backs are gone. My life is difficult.
SATURDAY November 24th, 2018
Game day. AZ v N.E.C.
Jonathan Parr came in at left back, but otherwise we had a full-strength squad after the international break. Golla was given a yellow card in the fifth minute, which had me worried I was going to see a repeat of the Meijers incident. No red though, thankfully. Mark Uth nearly scored a legendary goal after stealing the ball from a defender, but his shot was kept out by the keeper. Finally, in the 33rd minute, Zorba scored a goal from a Vela touch-pass.
We took that lead into the half time break. It stayed precariously balanced through the first ten minutes of the second half until Breno drove deep with the ball and carved the ball through traffic to a pouncing Uth. I need to look back to my prediction about Uth’s goal tally this season. I think it’s going to be smashed.
Marky Mark scored again in the 57th, taking his tally to 15 for the season. I checked – that’s the number I said he’d beat for the season.
My hat is safe.
AZ scored in the 78th by flooding players into the box on a counter attack. It’s good for their confidence, so I didn’t begrudge them the score. They didn’t get close again and we took a 3-1 win back to Nijmegen.
THURSDAY November 29th, 2018
Game day. N.E.C. v Wolfsburg. Europa League Group K.
I brought Goicoechea in for this rather big European game. He seems more of a big game guy and wow, was I glad I followed my brilliant instincts. Wolfsburg were after blood and ended up with twenty shots for the game. Eight on target and Goicoechea was named man of the match for his blocking of them.
The game started well for us with Vela sneaking in at the back post for a tap in from a Parr cross. Wolfsburg answered with their own version ten minutes later and then the barrage began. We weathered it through the first half and into the second. Then some sort of Uth Miracle happened. Vela sent a looping ball across to a wide open Uth running down the middle of the pitch on a break. Their defender, Jung, made an archetypal interception. Nearly. He got his head to it, but the ball only grazed his scalp, subtly changing speed and direction. Marky Mark and the keeper got to the ball at the same time. Despite his hand advantage, the keeper fumbled and fell over, leaving Uth to escort the ball into the back of the net.
2-1 with about forty minutes of game to go. I called it a barrage in the first half. I have no word to use for what happened in that last half an hour. The defence did their part, but Goicoechea stole the show and the game ball. We won! We’ve topped the table with a game to go.
FRIDAY November 30th, 2018
Mark Uth has broken the record for goals scored in a season for N.E.C. In less than half the season. Wow, what a good buy! Someone needs to get a raise. Oh, that also happened today. I was offered a new contract to “create stability”. Not because I’m a genius, but because I represent stability. I’m not sure there are many people less representative of the word “stable”. But I’ll take the extra money. Stroopwafels aren’t free, you know.
And with impeccable timing, Enzo Crivelli just walked into my office asking for more playing time. I told him that Uth was in incredible form and he’d have to be patient. He responded with “I don’t think he’s playing that well.” Umm, Enzo, he just broke your scoring record for the club. Maybe rethink this. Maybe rethink your life.