This is a fictional piece written by guest author @footyanchor and is the final chapter in the series.
In Part Four of van Hooijdonk’s diary, the rivalry with Mourinho escalated after Chelsea’s poaching of Riechedly Bazoer from Nottinghamshire. Jose bagged his fourth Premier League title in a row but the Dutch tactician had the last laugh, lifting Forest’s first Champions League title since 1980. Can he finally stop the relentless Blues in the league?
The Diary of Pierre van Hooijdonk – Part Five *LAST*
We had such a disappointing end to last season that I did not want to write about it. The boys did brilliantly to reach our second consecutive Champions League final, only to lose out to a rampant PSG side and I was terribly upset after falling at the very last hurdle. Despite improving on our points total, Chelsea wrapped up their fifth consecutive league title win with an unbelievable 100 points and we ended up 15 points behind in second place. We concluded the anti-climactic campaign with only the FIFA Club World Cup title and I was desperate to put things right. Most of the season end was spent on going through clips and clips of matches we didn’t do too well in and it became apparent that we had three positions of weakness. I managed to persuade the board to go all out to strengthen them with whatever we had in the bank. I wanted the very best the club could afford as I was cocksure that it would win us the Premier League.
There were definitely cheaper center-backs out there on the market but Phil Jones emerged as my final choice because we needed more home-grown players in the squad. The tough tackler wouldn’t need much time to settle into the Premier League and will join Niklas Sule in the heart of our defense. Last season’s number one, Jeroen Zoet, was sold for 11.5 million pounds to Swansea after a couple of high-profile mistakes last campaign. I was elated to find an excellent replacement in Timo Horn available on a free transfer and he was snapped up without hesitation. We concluded our businesses for the summer with the most outrageous deal and 70 million pounds was thrown at PSG for world-class left-back Jonathan Silva. Our left flank was often targeted by opposition teams last season and it proved to be very costly in the end as both PSG goals came from that area in the Champions League final. I don’t think I will ever do a deal as crazy as this again.
There was one big reason to be excited about in the upcoming season – we have a new home! The club has made some tremendous progress in the past five seasons both on and off the pitch and as a result, our fan base grew considerably and we needed more space to accommodate everyone. Everyone was eager to catch a glimpse of the new 42970 all-seater Brian Clough Park and I was desperate to win our first Premier League title since 1978 at our gorgeous new home. To break Chelsea’s stranglehold on the title, we couldn’t afford to fall behind early in the season and I was determined to get off to a strong start. Liverpool was Brian Clough Park’s first ever visitors and the lads looked a tad nervy playing in front of a bigger crowd. I remembered how Arsenal struggled when they first moved to the Emirates Stadium and we were facing a similar situation here. Thankfully, Anthony Martial converted an early penalty with assurance after just four minutes to put us one nil up. We were far from our best but our resilience showed throughout the game as the boys closed the game out successfully. I was just relieved to get off to a winning start.
It all came crashing back down very quickly as we dropped our first points of the season in only the second fixture against Norwich at Carrow Road. Swansea was our second visitors at Brian Clough Park and the lads managed to shake off their nerves this time round to beat the Welsh outfit 2-0. It was important to get back to winning ways as we faced a trip to the defending champions in our next game. Arguably our most important player, Gabriel Barbosa, got us off to a brilliant start after sweeping home from just inside the area to give us an early lead. Things got even better when we were awarded a penalty on the 14th minute and the Brazilian duly converted to put us two goals up. Diego Costa pulled a goal back near the hour mark to get Chelsea back into the game and we began to look nervy once again. Thankfully, the Blues left some space for us to exploit while pushing for the equalizer and ball-winner Muhamed Besic obliged, ghosting behind their defense to head past a hapless Thibaut Courtois. I didn’t remember when I last got the better of Mourinho at Zola Park and the pleasing 3-1 win propelled the lads to further wins against Stoke, Hull and Arsenal in our next three fixtures.
Our first defeat of the season came at Old Trafford where Roy Keane’s no-nonsense United side beat us 2-0 via goals from Malcom and Bruma. I made it absolutely clear to the boys that if we want to finish ahead of Chelsea, we cannot keep producing appalling displays like this and they responded superbly, putting together a 23-match unbeaten run to go clear at the top. Chelsea were abnormally inconsistent, dropping points even at home against the smaller teams and that elusive title got ever closer. Worryingly, the run ended at the Riverside Stadium where we struggled to put away our 22 shots in a narrow 0-1 defeat. The chance to wrap up the title came in the next round of fixtures and third place Southampton were our opponents at home. Having won all but one of our home fixtures so far, the Brian Clough Park had been a fortress and the boys continued to charm our supporters, dismissing the Saints comfortably in a 3-0 win to put pressure on Arsenal before their fixture. We were all glued to our screens and seats when the Gunners competed in a must-win game. To our delight, the pressure eventually got to them and our rivals were held to a 1-1 draw. We could no longer be overtaken with five games to go. We have officially broken Chelsea’s streak of five straight league title wins. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF ENGLAND!!
What a feeling that was. We have finally done it after five years of hard work back in top flight. After finishing 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd in the last four campaigns, the boys had finally gotten the better of the mighty Blues on our fifth try. We have also broken the league’s record points total after winning all of our last five games. To make things better, we were the league’s top scorers. We also conceded the least amount of goals (just 16) and won 33 games in total, finishing with an unbelievable 102 points. We were the league’s outstanding team and fully deserved our first title in a very long time. Fawaz Al-Hasawi was very pleased. The supporters were on cloud nine. Brian Clough would be extremely proud of this.
As full focus was placed on overhauling Chelsea from the summit of English football, we failed to go the distance in any of the cup competitions. Arsenal knocked us out of the Capital One Cup in the Fourth Round after Ruben Garcia scored an extra-time winner in a five goal thriller. They were our nemesis once again in the Champions League as we fell to a 0-2 aggregate loss in the quarter-finals. The Gunners have had a great season, finishing second in the league and winning their first ever Champions League title. It was roles reversal as Jose got the better of me in the FA Cup, beating us 1-0 in the Sixth Round with a controversial penalty. We were no longer the cup specialists. But I was happy to relinquish that tag.
In spite of the cup disappointments, everyone associated with Nottingham Forest were in high spirits. New signings Silva, Horn and Jones played like they had been at the club for years and took very little time to settle in Nottinghamshire. They were all terrific. My first big signing at the club, Gabriel Barbosa, bagged the Football Writers Footballer of the Year award after scoring 24 goals in 29 games. He was also the Barclays Golden Boot winner. Very well-deserved indeed. Adama Traore, arguably my best ever signing, was named the PFA Player of the Year after another extremely productive season. Our new number one, Timo Horn, won the Barclays Golden Glove award at the first time of asking and he was undoubtedly my best ever free transfer. Last but certainly the least important, I was named the Manager of the Year.
Where do we go from here? My contract runs till 2023 and I am now too attached to Forest to leave for another club. I have had job offers but not even the Holland Head Coach role could tempt me away from the Brian Clough Park. I want more success at our beautiful stadium.
I want to knock Manchester United off their f****** perch 😉
And it’s over! I have had so much fun writing for Cleon’s site and I want to thank him once again for giving me the opportunity to do so. Do share the series if you like it and leave a comment below if you have something to say/want me to continue writing. Thank you all for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed The Diary of Pierre van Hooijdonk