Roda JC – Eredivisie
Due to the fairly lengthy winter break, the list of fixtures for this update is significantly shorter than the beginning and end of the season. I can’t say I’m too terribly disappointed, as we’re still keeping up with the top pack fairly well, but a slight slump in form and too many draws means we’ve slid back from briefly occupying first on a few occasions. At least now everyone has evened up on games played so the table is a lot more representative. Although taking a point from Ajax and Feyenoord is still a good return for a side of our stature, knowing that we’ve beaten both of them in the recent past makes it slightly disappointing. The club, under my direction as well as in real life have developed a knack for upsets against PSV, but a totally embarrassing display means that run is over for the time being.
A little while ago I changed the expectations from respectable league position to challenge for a Europa League spot, which we look to be still on track for and hopefully our slaughter of ADO is a sign of good things to come.
UEFA Europa League
A very intense group from start to finish. The last update ended with a nervy 0-0 draw away at Napoli, and the return fixture was absolutely the complete opposite. I had gotten into a bit of a row with Rafa Benitez prior to the match, and after getting three goals in the first six minutes it looked like I had certainly shut him up. I think the lads must have felt the same way, because they slacked off and let the Italian side score four in a row without putting up much of a fight. Long term loan star Adam Reach smashed one in from outside the box with a little over ten minutes left, but it just wasn’t to be as Napoli grabbed another shortly before the final whistle.
While we had a goal bonanza, Spartak and Betis drew, leaving the group completely level on five points and wide open with two matches left. We did fairly well in the first half in Spain, taking a two goal lead into the locker rooms. Real Betis came back out on fire, scoring three goals and turning the match completely on it’s head. A great goal from hot prospect (and super sub) Brian Jacobs got us back level, and highly impressive rightback “Henk” grabbed us a dramatic late winner. We welcomed the Russians knowing that just a point would qualify us to advance. Things looked very bright early, with loanee Jordan Ibe finding Tahiri for a goal almost straight from kickoff, but things quickly turned as Spartak just drowned us in pressure. We went in at the half knotted up at two, and defended our hearts out for the final 45.
The final result had us topping the group on goal difference, which is absolutely brilliant for a club only in their first season back in the top flight and with a relative lack of European experience or success. We’ve drawn M Haifa from Israel in the first knockout round, with the winner advancing to play either Arsenal or CKSA Moscow.
Not much activity here, although due to some disputes with players I would have liked more. Verbauwhede was actually brought in as a backup because number 1 Verbist was having a hard time settling and wanted a friend or countryman. Verbauwhede is not only a fellow Belgian, but is also listed under Verbist’s favored personnel as his father, despite being two years younger. On the plus side, even though my scout rated him only as a decent backup, when he arrived and my assistant manager (who has much better skills at judging players) seems to think he’s actually a fair bit better than Verbist, who has been in fine form the past two years. On the negative, despite being a countryman and father(?!), this did not seem to phase my unsettled keeper in the least bit and he’s nearly cost me my job.
Biemans wasn’t getting much game time and was sent to our affiliate upon their request. van Leer was released because he had ended up being fourth choice and wasn’t happy about the lack of game time, but no one would buy him, even for free. Plat, one of last year’s stars, simply wasn’t getting much match time due to not really doing anything when he did and initially asked to leave. Multiple deals for him fell through, until NEC swooped in with a loan offer on deadline day. He gets to play more, they pay 80% of his 11.5k per week, everyone’s happy. Duven is a pretty solid prospect that simply wasn’t able to get any match time, and I agreed to let him to go Den Bosch only as long as he would be a first time player. We should have had another out, as midfielder Faik wasn’t getting any match time and wanted to leave, and although I accepted a bid for him on deadline day, he screwed around with his contract negotiations and the deadline passed. Somehow, he blames me, even though I offered him out and accepted the bid, but these are the things we managers have to deal with.
First up is our standout rightback whom I’ve ended up simply calling Henk, partially because I’m entirely unsure how to pronounce his surname, and partially because I just really like the name Henk. (I think setting a nickname might be in his future). He has consistently been one of the best players on the pitch week in and week out, even if the stats this season don’t outright show it. Most notably he scored our dramatic late winner over Real Betis which was neither a header nor from a corner.
A player that a lot of fans of English football may well be familiar with, Ibe was brought in on loan from Liverpool and has been outstanding. He doesn’t have many appearances in the league, mainly because I play a flat 4-5-1 domestically and he’s been training to play in a wide midfield role. A goal and three assists in six appearances in a role that he’s just learned is a very impressive return, I think. He’s also been instrumental in our Europa League success so far, starting almost every match and grabbing an astounding three goals and two assists.
Not much on this front this time, mostly just more crappy offers from struggling English teams. I did get one interesting interview offer, from Schalke in Germany, which I actually attended despite my relative lack of interest in leaving Roda. Schalke ended up not offering me the job, but my attendance of the interview ended up with Roda offering me a new contract which I graciously accepted after a week’s delay to see what Schalke ended up doing. Nothing else of note really, except for the strange player interactions mentioned earlier.
Next time we’ll come to the end of the season, with us pushing for European qualification and seeing how far our Europa League campaign can take us. Will the end of season update bring dramatic success? Disappointing failure? More players with fathers younger than they are?
You’ll just have to wait and see.