WEDNESDAY October 4th, 2017
Janio Bikel came to complain about game time. Again. I told him I think I’m just going to have to sell him. He said he would be glad to see the back of me. What? Seriously, these players don’t seem to understand what I’ve given them.
FRIDAY October 6th, 2017
I was invited to watch the Holland game today. In Sweden. That was a nice little perk I didn’t know would be part of being an incredibly successful and popular manager. It was a pretty eventful game, ending in a 2-2 draw, however the most exciting action came in the toilets.
There I was minding my own business when an older gentleman said, “So you’re the one working on N.E.C?” I nodded and tried to get on with my business. “I’d like to talk to you about your methods,” he said. I gave up trying to conduct my business and zipped up my pants. “Sure, maybe we could go somewhere else?”
We met up at a cafe in the Friends Arena and the man introduced himself as Johan Cruyff. Apparently he played for Ajax for a bit. We had a long conversation about tactics, philosophies, and dynasties while he sucked on lollipops and I consumed a number of Omnipollo beers. I assume Omnipollo means every chicken, which is a strange name for a beer.
This Mr. Cruyff had some very interesting ideas. I’ve decided to take them on with N.E.C. and see where they take us. A number of them were similar to mine, so there will only be minor changes. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to write them down here. Well, write them down as well as I can remember them. Those beers were not weak.
He wished me well in beating Feyenoord in our next game and then disappeared with an agile 180 degree turn to walk out of the cafe.
SUNDAY October 15th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v Feyenoord.
We scored an early (own) goal from a van de Vaart corner. He sent it straight to the head of Guedioura who sent it to van der Heijden at the far post. His shot was blocked off the line, but it went right into the butt of another defender and across the line. We were happy to take anything at this stage of the season.
Two minutes later, Elijera Elia scored an easy open goal. Ten minutes into the game, two goals had been scored. The neutrals were loving it. Unluckily for them, the next forty minutes had far less excitement. We went in with the score still the same. We’d had 60% of the possession.
Two minutes into the second half, Elia got loose again, this time providing a cute pass along the ground to be tapped in at the near post. We trailed. Still with 60% possession, something we maintained through the following 43 minutes. Two super saves from their keeper. Two shots onto the woodwork. I started pinching myself to see if I was in the middle of a nightmare. Though, I’m not sure sure pinching works for nightmares.
Ninety-one minutes into the game and my guys decided to score. Rios with a long cross to a sprinting, jovial, Vela at the far post. We got another point to add to our season total. We now have nine points. FC Twente have 24. That’s quite a bit of catching up we have to do if we’re going to win the league in my third season.
THURSDAY October 19th, 2017
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Kobenhavn. Europa League Group F.
This game felt like the last one. Except for the exciting early goals. We were hogging the ball while shooting off target and occasionally at the frame of the goal. 0-0 at the half. 0-0 at 70 minutes. 0-0 at 80 minutes.
Then it happened. Breno and van der Heijden were doubled up on their winger inside the area and for some reason, Breno decided to lunge in. Penalty. Chamakh lined up to take it and shot hard, low, and right. Jimmy Smits dove hard, low, and right. Saved! I love this keeper. I’ve always said he’s the future of this club. He’ll still be here when all the rest of us are long gone.
Another European draw, but we’re still sitting in first at the half way point in the group. I don’t think anyone was predicting that when the group was drawn. Take that, miserable critics and useless experts.
Rios and Golla picked up yellow cards and will now miss the next game. It’s the return match against Kobenhavn, so they’re going to miss out on the side trip to Legoland. I imagine they will have learned their lesson.
SUNDAY October 22nd, 2017
Game day. Ajax v N.E.C.
Buysse came in for some criticism before the game as the reporters continued their annoying habit of stopping me in the tunnel for comments. They asked me why on earth I’d started him instead of the tired Rios. Well, he’s tired.
Twenty-three minutes later, Buysse ran into the box, passed to Taggart, and we were a goal up. Bart was in acres of space while the play came down the right – the happy-go-lucky, goal-scoring Vela was attracting lots of attention from Ajax. The ball went across to the left through a series of four passes to find Buysse. He may not be able to defend, but he can certainly produce in the attacking third.
We went in at the half with a one goal lead. Away to Ajax was not a time to expect that, so I didn’t really know what to say to the boys. We had kept them to zero shots on target and we had a bit under 60% of the ball. Good times. Could we keep it up?
No. Ajax promptly tied things up. Babel ran behind the defenders to take a through ball, but Golla caught up and slid in, knocking the ball away. Unfortunately, the ball went straight to Milik for his tenth goal of the season. Ten goals? Our leading scorer has five…
Milik scored again after I made two substitutions in the 67th minute. They had an amazing break, where five of their players were matched up to two of ours. Something clearly went wrong there. 2-1 away to Ajax. Not horrible, but when you’re sitting at the bottom of the table, it doesn’t help.
Luckily I had shared with Buysse the comment from the reporter before the game while we chatted at half time. Taggart got the ball just outside of the box in the 92nd minute and found Bart in space (again). This time Buysse took one touch and blasted it into the net at the far post, somehow getting it across the face of goal with his left foot. I don’t know how he did it, but I don’t care. Jurgen Klopp is a reserved celebrator compared with how I reacted to that goal. As I slid across the turf, I was reminded of how useful green pants are for such activities.
The reporter from the tunnel was nowhere to be seen after the match.
WEDNESDAY October 25th, 2017
Game day. GA Eagles v N.E.C. Dutch Cup 3rd Round.
Bai Kamara’s header from a corner came off the bar and was cleared by a Go Ahead defender. Well, cleared is not a good term to use considering it bounced straight off his team mate and into the net. We went ahead of Go Ahead. No doubt it’s a tired joke, but it’s impossible to resist.
Breinburg hit a ripper from just outside the box later in the half. He’s our captain, but our fifth choice central midfielder. Yet, every time he starts, he does well. It’s hard for me to justify sitting one of the others in the big games though. So Gregor remains an impact guy when it’s time for someone else to rest.
In extra time of the first half, Sándor Szűcs did a bit of dazzling down the left and crossed the ball into the recently sulky Sylla and we went into the locker rooms 3-0 up. This was feeling like proper N.E.C. play, finally. If only the league was full of lower division teams…
We didn’t score in the second half. To be honest, half the team looked complacent in the locker room. Who was I to complain? They were killing it. I just told them all that they were awesome, hoping team morale might increase as we head into November.
SATURDAY October 29th, 2017
Ed Sturing told the press his Den Haag team face a tough game against us because of our amazing ball-keeping skills. Good to be finally noticed. I mean, we only led the league in possession last season. Way to keep up Ed.
Game day. N.E.C. v ADO Den Haag.
After the pregame talk of our domination and the struggle ADO Den Haag would have, naturally they scored from a corner nineteen minutes into the second half. And it goes without saying that they scored on a five man fast-break two minutes later. I started screaming. More wailing than screaming. The fourth official asked me to stop after a toddler in the second row started crying and blocking her ears.
Thankfully my players also heard me. Six passes after the kickoff from their second goal, we’d scored. Vela into the rampaging Diarra. Then we did it from their kickoff. Not as quickly, but without a stop in play, we scored again from the right. This time Breno to van der Vaart. My midfielders were bombing into the box, clearly scared of what I might do at half time. Van der Vaart then sent a free kick onto the head of Golla who slammed it home. If my calculations are correct, five goals were scored in seven minutes, including three in two. My half time talk became a lot easier. And more calm.
We scored again in the 73rd with a struggle in the box that resulted in a hopeful loft from Rios that Taggart was just able to deflect into goal with a giant jump and stretch of his neck. Ten minutes later we got our fifth, again from a movement down the right finished by a central midfielder, this time Guedioura.
Sturing said after the game that he was hoping his comments would make me complacent. Good luck getting me to feel complacent when my team is hovering at the bottom of the league table, buddy.
Speaking of motivation, we were recently criticized on social media for our lack of goal scoring by one of those “tactics experts”. He just uses a single name – he’s the Madonna of tactical writing. I imagine 8 goals in two games should keep him quiet for a while.