I must not lie, I am not the most patient of managers. I have been known to walk out on a save after a few games if I haven’t immediately clicked with the club, or the team, or the colour of the away kit. I don’t have a great deal of discipline, and genuinely one of the biggest fears when I start writing “Johnny Cooper” was that I would lose interest if I didn’t start the season well, and as those of you have read the first book know the season did not start well at Mansfield Town. So here I am again, this time at HFC Haarlem of Holland, one of the oldest clubs in the Netherlands but a club that was forced into bankruptcy and became extinct in 2010. I have reformed them as an amateur side in the 4th tier of Dutch football with a view to restoring them to their former glory – the kind of thing I normally witter on about. Anyway, we are seven games into the season.
Seven games in, and my patience is already being tested. I made an error in pre-season, which is costing me a bit now. I had decided to play 4-3-3, my usual go to tactic if I am doing it myself and not using a strikerless from the legend that is @merryguido. But, to be frank, the 4-3-3 bores the life out of me now, I much prefer my 3-3-1-3 that was devised from my old CM93/94 days. So, having won the first league game 4-0 and not enjoyed the football we played at all, I switched to the 3-3-1-3. The only problem is, my squad was full of full backs, wingers and only two strikers! Luckily, as we are an amateur club, players are not on contracts do it doesn’t cost me money to release the ones I don’t need and it is fairly easy to pick up replacements in the right positions. Don’t forget, I am only signing Dutch U23’s. But, having spent the pre-season trying to get the lads working well together, now I have changed it all up and we are not exactly hitting the ground running in the way that I hoped.
The six league games have gathered 10 points, which sees us sitting in 5th place having played one more match than a few of the sides around us. The top side, who have played five games, are on twelve points and we play them next. We also just got battered 5-0 in the second round of the Dutch cup by NEC of the Eredivisie. Simply, they were a class above but we did have chances in the first half to be a couple of goals ahead. Against top sides, you have to take them! We did sell the ground out though, 3500, which was great.
It is going to take time to get these boys playing the way I want. The Dutch league is obviously different to the three leagues where the 3-3-1-3 has been successful before – Mateliano and AR Crimea (both custom created leagues) and Italy. I am facing different opposition formations out here and we are not breaking them down too well yet, so there maybe some tweaking needed once the tactic is fully fluid. Previously I have had experience in the side as well, this time round we don’t have that so that also makes it different.
Still, on the plus side, we have a strong backroom team, some very talented young players and once they start settling into the style and get trained up in their different positions I think this is going to be one hell of a save. I am thinking promotion might be a push this season, already, but we are by no means out of contention as we have only played six matches. I need to be patient, just because I normally fly out of the lower divisions doesn’t mean it is going to happen this time!
Oh, and I would love to find some left footed players for a bit of balance. I thought the Dutch were supposed to be very technical like that.
Anyway, I am going to push on through with (hopefully) about ten matches tonight and see where we are at at the end of that little run.
Kom op Haarlem!