Welcome back to #HaarlemGlobetrotting, my current #FM15 series where I have recreated the famous old Dutch club (they went bust in 2010) and placed them as an amateur club in the Dutch 4th tier. We’ve had a brilliant start to the second season, top of the table after five games and in this update we start with a very tough cup tie, away to Feyenoord. Here is a quick reminder of why this save is happening:
Firstly, to restore Haarlem to the top of Dutch football (the club was one of the oldest in Holland and won the top division in the 1940’s and the cup a few times). Secondly, as the club had been declared bankrupt in 2010 was to run the club sensibly financially. Having started to read “Soccernomics” by Simon Kuper and been fascinated by the film Moneyball, as well as enjoying the series by Alex Stewart on The Set Pieces I set myself some simple rules:
- Only sign Dutch players on free transfers
- These players must be U23 on the day of signing
- If anyone makes an offer that exceeds the value of a player, sell them (unlikely to factor for a season or so as we are currently amateur)
- Always have a replacement lined up for players that are wanted by other clubs (I have been rubbish at this bit so far!) – this replacement, ideally, will come from the U18’s
- Always replace a player with a better player if he becomes available and fits the criteria
Having just hammered DOVO, the league favourites, 4-1 at their place we were full of confidence. This was tempered slightly with the news that Burly was out for eight weeks with a twisted ankle and my transfer target, Kessels, being chased by three other teams. As we approached the game with Feyenoord I was tempted to rest some players, but decided that would be unfair on the lads that have started the season so well. They deserve their game at a big stadium so I only made one change, Kuipers coming in to midfield. We looked light in defensive back up as Lopes had moved on and no signings had come in.
We walked out at De Kuip wondering what the next 90 minutes held, other than lots of goals. We had been here in pre-season and only lost 3-0, but they weren’t really trying. This is one of the Dutch old guard, like we used to be. They have won the lot, the Eredivisie 14 times (we have won it once) and the Champions League twice, when it used to the European Cup. I was not hopeful of getting a result here. The bookies agreed, we were 20-1 outsiders.
They went ahead after two minutes, totally ripping us open. But, but, but! We got level after 15, Dos Santos managing to pick out Morengo in the box and he squeezed it in. That’ll do, can we go home now please? We battled so well, but fell behind again in the 33rd minute. We just couldn’t clear the ball and they nicked it in. They got a third before half time and our heads dropped visibly. We played well second half, and Brinkman even had a great chance to make it 3-2, but put it wide. I made three subs to protect players, and then we had a lad go off injured – typical. So we were seeing the game out with ten men. We managed to not concede again though, and it was my proudest performance as manager of Haarlem. We played the second half with “control” and we had the only clear cut chance of the half, maybe next time I will start this way in an underdog situation. It was a fine effort.
We were now in October and the three matches this month could set us up beautifully for the clash with Volendam. We had 14 days to recover before welcoming Odin ’59 to the Haarlem Stadion. Kessels chose DOVO and Hafuild chose to stay at his club so the search for defenders continued. There is another 16-year-old in the U18’s who has the potential, but he is still on white stars so I think it might be a few months too soon for him. Annoyingly, I think such a respectable performance in the cup put some of our players on the radars of other clubs, once again I have a lot of “Wnt” against some of our better players and some of our younger youth prospects. Again, in line with the club philosophy, I sent the scouts out to have replacements lined up. I popped to the toilet and came back to find that our young back up striker, Zara, had moved to Zeeburgia, Mulder was likely to be off to Fortuna Sittard in Eredivisie, and Nadvi was off to Almere. Again, not a penny received for any of these lads. Oh, and then FC Oss came in for the other talented young midfielder, Yilmaz. Is there any point me working with the youth team?
On the upside, I was able to get one of the defenders I have been tracking for a while. Hodselmens is quick, can pass it for a defender, good in the tackle and not bad in the air for a 5ft 10 defender. He may well end up coming straight in if Mulders does leave.
Anyway, we were ready for Odin. They were in 4th and I expected a crowd of over 2000 for the first time in the league. Ten minutes in and Yannick Kuipers had put us ahead, another fine goal from midfield. Voss made a simply incredible save on 20 to keep us ahead, clawing the ball from behind him. They drew level with a fine strike, top bins on the angle. The lads got a beating at half time and came out all guns blazing. Marengo, so great to watch as an enganche, fed Kuipers 30 yards out and the boy belted it home. Vanmaris made it 3-1 from a great ball by Brinkman and it felt safe. We switched to “control.” A free kick from Vanmaris was poked home by the excellent Marengo and the run was destined to continue! Brinkman had one ruled out for offside, it would have been the best assist ever from Dos Santos, a cross field pass along the deck splitting five players. We were brilliant today and we totally deserved the convincing win. Volendam lost which meant Sportlust moved into second place and we were two points clear with a game in hand (and a 100% record).
I got back to the office to hear that Raymond Gyasi was joining us. 21, lovely technique, can already play AM/STR so will be a very good F9. He’ll have to wait for a chance but I am pleased to have picked him up as a free agent. He had been released by AZ earlier in the month, so we moved quickly and efficiently. I never attend a press conference about a new signing, but I did with this lad and hopefully helped him settle in even quicker. I made a very rare move next. My chief scout had just recommended a left footed defender released by Groningen. Normally I would get him watched etc, but he is 6ft 3, a natural left back that can also play centre back and had lots of green in his attributes so I moved for him fast. There is no way that Mulder will stay and having lost Lopes I need another left footer at the back. I am hoping Ron Janzen is that man.
Yilmaz went to FC Oss. Clubs came in for Brinkman, NO! But Janzen did sign, which was pleasing. All these transfers in and out were unsettling me. We had started do really well when I stopped chopping and changing, and now it was being forced upon me. It was going crazy, offers were coming in for U18 players that were unlikely to even make it in my first team.
I managed to focus on the next game, the trip to EDO. They were 12th, we were top. Mulder sealed his move to Heracles of the Eredivisie so I decided to bring in Janzen to the back three for a debut. He was going to play centrally and Cimen would move back to the right of the three.
It was tough to break them down in the first half, but we made the break through with minutes left on the clock. A patient build up saw Brinkman deliver a deep cross to the back post and Dos Santos headed home. They were tough opponents and we needed Voss to make another brilliant save to secure the points. Despite the scoreline it was another very dominant performance, but I took the opportunity to keep the team’s feet on the floor by telling them I was unhappy. Janzen had made a very solid start to his Haarlem career and if Brinkman does walk out then I am confident Gyazi will be a fine replacement.
We had two weeks before the next game, Huizen and Brinkman made my day by deciding to stay with us. The scouts were in overdrive, another F9 had been uncovered, a free agent, and another defender noticed, also a free agent, so replacements were lined up in advance which was pleasing. Van der Steldt had been released by AZ and Lindhost by Vitesse so they had pedigree.
Huizen came to us in 7th place. We were buzzing for the game, and other than Niuewenhuis picking up a back strain in training it was going to the same XI again. In came Hodselmans for his first start and Janzen shifted left. We absolutely battered them for the first 45 minutes but somehow came in at 1-1. The big boot up the backside worked again as we found ourselves ahead early in the second half. Brinkman crossed to Vanmaris, he backheeled to the on-coming Kuijpers and bang, 2-1. The next time Brinkman crossed Vanmaris went for goal himself and netted his tenth of the season. 3-1 and cruising. 60 seconds later they combined again for the same outcome and 4-1. It was a scintilating second half performance and set us up perfectly for the big game against Volendam.
Volendam had won seven out of eight and trailed us by three points due to our 100% record. It was a proper clash. Burly was fit, but I only had him on the bench as Kuijpers had been brilliant in his absence and the only way I was going to make changes whilst we were winning was through injury or suspension. Rkav were made slight favourites but I believed we could extend the gap to six points after just nine games.
We found ourselves a goal down inside five minutes, the ball sneaking in at the near post. Vanmaris levelled straight away, however, another fine goal. We were getting killed on possession so I switched to control to little avail. We then scored a comedy own goal. The cross came in, we cleared the ball into the back of Fer and it rebounded home. Rather than kicking them at half time I encouraged. It worked, we won a penalty two minutes after the restart and Fairouz slammed it home, 2-2. But they went ahead again with a goal that looked offside to me. Nothing I could do, so we kept pushing hard. Their lad Nolet then scored a fantastic solo goal and the game looked up. Vanmaris gave us hope, making it 4-3. That was how it ended it and it was a barnstomer of a game. We stayed top on goal difference, but Volendam had got themselves level on points.
Well, it’s never nice to end a run on a defeat but that was the end of my playing time for the night. It was a fantastic run, winning twelve league games on the bounce and really getting the side looking like contenders for this season. Yes, it has been frustrating losing a couple of the players that have moved on but I hope their replacements will prove to be even better players than they were. Volendam seem decent, they are going to be big competition for us this season so we must make sure there are minimal slip ups elsewhere.
Tomorrow I hope to get seven matches in which will take us through to the end of January, and each match looks pretty winnable!
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: www.chrisdarwen.com)