Roda JC- Eredivisie
Have to say that I’m very pleased overall with how the season has gone so far. A lot of draws, but for a newly promoted team we’ve ground out a solid amount of points in these first few months. The table is kind of wonky due to a large number of teams having a game or two in hand, but I’m still very happy with our position. Before the loss to Go Ahead, we’d picked up our unbeaten run from the end of last season and taken it up to a massive 18 games, including our first seven in the top flight. A lot of the draws saw us going down first (sometimes multiple times) before drawing level, so to me it’s gaining a point as opposed to dropping two.
Not a very glamorous run, and especially disappointing to go out as defending champions at the first match. It was a great match, to be honest, as thrice we went down and thrice we drew level, including twice in the last ten minutes. This match was played with a league fixture two days prior and a Europa League fixture two days after, so we had to deal with both fatigue and rotation. Extra time was a tense affair with several chances on both ends but no incisive finish. Penalties could have gone quite differently, but last year’s star striker Johan Plat took our first penalty and put it straight at the goalkeeper.
UEFA Europa League
Another area where the team is doing much better than I had anticipated. Halfway through the group and we sit in 1st, albeit by a single point. I went into the first match agreeing with the board expectation of not really being able to get anything out of Europe. The reality was a surprisingly even match at home vs Real Betis, with us having a slight edge in both possession and shots on target, but neither team was able to convert. Our next match was a tough away trip to Spartak Moscow, with neither the media or fans expecting anything but a drubbing. An early goal by new signing Ayite followed immediately by a second from loan star Jordan Ibe put us comfortably in the driver’s seat. Ibe grabbed his brace before halftime and we saw the result through, with Spartak only managing a late consolation goal.
I saw away to Napoli as the toughest fixture of the whole group, and I’m very satisfied to come back from Italy with a point. They came at us relentlessly, holding us to 0 shots on target until well after half time. With a little less than 20 minutes to go, fullback Ard Van Peppen decided it would be a good idea to dive even though he was already on a yellow, earning himself an early trip to the locker room. Some tactical adjustments meant we were able to hold on til the end. The next match (both in the Europa League and overall) is the return fixture home vs Napoli. Having two of the last three matches at home gives me a good confidence boost, knowing that we could get results away to both Spartak and Napoli and picking up some points at home should be easier. Four points should probably see us through, especially if we can pick up a win over Betis or Spartak.
Only one transfer since my last update, which I’ll get to in a minute.
This was our one transfer after the preseason. I had a scout on the UEFA U-19 Championship, who brought this kid to my attention. He scored 4 goals in 3 games for Belgium, picking up both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, as well as a spot in the Best XI. I immediately put in an offer, surprised to find that his club was only asking 300k for him. We spent about a week on the edge of our seats as four or five high profile teams put in bids and discussed contracts. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I got the mail that he’d decided to sign for us. Despite being 18, he’s clearly our best forward, grabbing six in nine matches for us already (most as a False 9!). A massive, massive coup for the club.
One of our star performers from last season, Rutjes is having a solid season so far this year. Playing as an attacking CM, he’s one of several points of our system that we can expect goals from, and he has a knack for banging in shots from outside the box seemingly out of nowhere. Maybe not quite as prolific for us as last year, but he is a clear first choice for the CM(a) spot.
I’m going to try to do this section every update, and highlight one or two players that have really made an impact during the timeframe.
I’ve been offered three job interviews in during October, all from England. Hull came in first, sitting 17th in the Championship. No way I’m going to leave this club sitting where we are for a relegation battle in the Championship, so I declined to attend. A few days later, Reading offered an interview, them sitting even lower in the Championship, a lowly 22nd. No thanks. Another couple matches go by, and now Sheffield Wednesday is offering an interview, all the way up the Championship table in 9th! No that I expect to be getting offers from top clubs, but leaving a club that’s sitting pretty in the Dutch top flight and in Europe for the English 2nd tier just is not appealing to me at all.
Next time, we’ll have pushed on into the new year, finished the group stage in Europa, and possibly had some transfer activity.