When Haarlem reformed last summer great things were expected from the famous old club. They re-emerged full of promise, full of hope and will end the season disappointed. The 3-0 beating at ASWH all but confirmed that Haarlem will not win the Hoofdklasse C this season and will have to spend a second season in the fourth tier of Dutch football. Too many finishing second will still be a massive achievement, if they can hold on to the runners-up spot in the remaining seven games, but to manager Chris Darwen it will feel like failure, reports Filippo Spada of De Volkskrant.
Haarlem have struggled to find the magic potion of consistency this season. In spells they have been delightful to watch, their 3-3-1-3 formation completely different to anything else in the division. On other occasions they have been woeful, and on these occasions Darwen must have been yearning for some older heads on the pitch to guide his young troops through the games where their youthful enthusiasm had fallen away. They are still the league’s top goal scorers but, amazingly, they have conceded only one fewer than the bottom club, Oranje Wit. In Brinkman and Benda they have two of the three leading marksmen in the division, but they have only kept three clean sheets.
They were not out-classed against the league leaders, just simply impotent at both ends. Chance after chance was missed and every time ASWH attacked they looked capable of putting the ball past Voss who, it has to be said, has not had the calming impact in goal that had been expected. ASWH’s victory widened the gap to eight points, with a game in hand meaning Haarlem should now be more concerned with keeping Baronie and Kloetinge away from 2nd place.
Manager Darwen said, “I have to hold my hands up, I’ve been asking a lot of my players playing the system we play. It is different, and I have not been very flexible in my approach. Between now and the end of the season we will try a couple of different systems as well as tweaking my favoured approach and see if we can find a consistent winning formula. By the same token, we sit second in the table which, for a club that didn’t exist this time last year and for a team with an average age of 20, is pretty bloody good. However, I wanted and expected the league title. Having been promoted in my first season at Clapton FC, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, FC Sete, US Soregno, Gvardiets and Padova I am no stranger to getting out of the lowest division at the first attempt so this is helping me reassess where I have gone wrong this season.”
It is thought that Darwen might dabble in a formation that does not include strikers, something he used successfully at Clapton FC and is also currently being used at Benfica with their legendary manager Guido Merry. It would be another upheaval in the style of play at the Haarlem Stadion with Darwen shifting from a traditional 433 to his 3313 after just one match.
Still, this is a club that it is on it’s way back so patience is needed. With Haarlem predicted to finish mid-table in their 125th anniversary year many will be happy with what they have seen so far.
Kom op Haarlem!
(if you enjoyed all that ramble, why not read a chapter of my second book, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager: The Second Season Syndrome” here: http://www.chrisdarwen.com)