I’m back again with #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. After a brilliant start to the season we lost our final game of yesterday’s run, losing 4-3 to second placed rkav Volendam. We still sit top, albeit on goal difference.
For those reading this for the first time, 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
As we licked our wounds following the Volendam game it was back to the standard fare of trying to ensure no more players got poached by clubs in and around us, let alone the ones from a higher division. Another contract was offered to a young centre-back in the U18’s (he is nowhere near ready for the first XI yet), someone came in for our second choice youth team goalkeeper and then finally a contract was put under the nose of Yannick Kuijpers, who has been playing very well in the absence of Burly.
To annoy me further there was a new “Wnt” sign hanging over my first choice goalkeeper, Voss as well as Nieuwenhuis who plays at the back. Will it end? Once again I checked the shortlist to ensure I had replacements lined up as my methods suggest I should.
By the time the home match with Montfoort came round Kuijpers had buggered off. Where is the loyalty? Well, to be fair he was off to JVC who play in the Eerste, so it was a proper step up for the lad. I moved quickly for Michael Chacon to replace him, just released by Heerenveen. It was a tough week, Tihouna was in the office enquiring why I had bothered signing him if I wasn’t going to play him. Fair question, I hadn’t expected Fer to (a) play so well and (b) not get a ban at any point.
So, Montfoort. Burly was back in the starting XI for the team to face the ninth placed opposition. Following some fantastic writing by Guido Merry I had added a new long throw routine to our set-pieces and was looking forward to seeing it in action (it’s all total football around here, I can tell you). We looked ring rusty for the first twenty minutes and then we settled. Burly fired us ahead with another strike from distance, he was back in the goals already. We didn’t push on however, and they got level before half time. Fairouz made sure we went in ahead though, a clinical counter attack ending with a twenty five yard screamer. The second half was tight and we needed a super save from Voss near the end to secure us the win. From that save we went up the other end and Fairouz made us all forget about Kuijpers by getting his second of the night. Without stating the bloody obvious, it was important we bounced back from our first league defeat with three points, and to do it in this manner was very satisfying. We got an extra treat, Volendam had slipped up losing 1-0 away to VVA ’71 so we had opened up a three point gap again.
For some reason I had a quick glance at our finances and was delighted to see that we had £444k in the bank. I was curious as to why and it turned out we had got about £250k in gate receipts from the cup game at Feyenoord. I hadn’t even thought to check at the time, so this was a very pleasant surprise. I went to the board and asked them to do something about the youth training facilities, but my request got instantly rejected. No bother, I’ll hassle them again soon! I did manage to get them to increase the youth coaching budget, but no idea what that actually gets me as I didn’t see any available U18 coaching slots as a result.
Whilst waiting hopefully for Chacon to come aboard, I offered a contract to Tim Lindhorsdt. Tim is a right footed central defender released by Vitesse and with Racaj and Niuwenhuis currently injured I feel a bit light at the back, especially with all three starters just one yellow from a ban. As I typed the words “Chacon” and “come aboard” the lad signed for us, excellent news to balance out the fact that at the same time another three youth teams players were offered routes out of Haarlem. A young full back, Holtkamp, that I was trying to make a midfielder followed Kuijpers to JVC. The revolving door kept working hard as Lindhorst signed.
Finally the trip to Hollandia, 6th, came around. Lindhorst was straight in the side, playing on the right of the back three. Chacon was on the bench depsite being urged to drop Fer for him in the backroom meeting. The first half was scrappy and then we got a break when their centre back was dismissed for a shocking lunge on Vanmaris. Despite dominating we were unable to find a way through. It was the same in the second half, all over them with no clear cut chances and then the ineviatable happened, they scored from a set piece. It was a surprise defeat, no mistaking that. It meant that, once again, everything was all square at the top of the league with a third of the season played.
There was a two week gap before the match against the team in third, Sportlust. It wouldn’t be a week in this season without one of my players being tapped up and probably leaving – this time it was Niuewenhuis who got an offer from above. Impressively he opted to stay and was rewarded by going back into the starting line up, Janzen moving central at the back. With Dos Santos struggling to score I decided to give Gyasi his first start. Strangely, other then Vanmaris, Burly and Faz, nobody else has really found their shooting boots, including last season’s top scorer Brinkman. As I typed the name of Faz Sportlust offered him a deal, cheeky sods. It added a little spice to the match!
We were one down very early, we had so many chances to clear it and failed to do so. Burly got us level after 20 though, following up a free kick from Faz. Early in the second half Cerny rifled their second home, that lad can finish with power. I made a couple of changes and they paid off instantly, Burly scoring from a short corner routine. Vanmaris then hit the post. The short corner routine worked again towards the end and Faz put us 3-2 up with ten to go! I switched to “control” to close the game out, but no. 3-3! They hit the post in injury time then Brinkman had one chalked off for offside. The final whistle went and it was the kind of game neither team deserved to lose. Absolutely fantastic entertainment.
Football can be a bitch sometimes. Burly was just starting to look like a world-beater again (despite being the worst ranked player in my squad) and he picks up a hip injury that needs a specialist. He will be out for three months, again. Then Faz left, off to a Topklasse side. Suddenly we didn’t have a midfield even though I had been religious in lining up replacements. Beumer will come in, with Tihouna and Chacon. This time, rather than going outside to sign replacements I have promoted a lad from the U18’s, Isa. The coaches have been praising his training for a while so he will be in the squad from now. There is another one in the U18’s that will get called upon if anything else happens, but as a safety net the scouts are searching once more.
We travelled to Hercules looking like a different team, and we had the pressure of only one win in four games. We took the lead within 8 minutes, yet another short corner led to a scramble and Marengo stabbed it home. Another set piece got number two, another scramble in the area forced home by Janzen. Brinkman finally got a goal, 3-0! They got a fine goal back before half time and looked like they might get back in it. I warned of complacency at half time and switched to “control” – we saw the game out comfortably with barely a 3D highlight to speak of.
I can almost take it when a team in a higher division tempts one of my squad, but I virtually panic at the thought of them taking a sideways move to a club at the same level. RVVH are in the Hoofdklasse and have gone after the goalkeeper, Voss. Not as old as us, slightly bigger ground (by 100) and no history of note whatsoever. I have to trust that common sense will prevail and he will stay put. Either way, to protect us, I have offered a lad released by AZ a contract – Flynn Jochems. We’ve been watching him for a month and has been first choice on the shortlist for a while. Nieuwenhuis chose to stay, turning down four offers which was a relief and Voldendam messed up their game in hand, only drawing. Not a bad day!
Christmas Day 2015 came and it was completely ruined by Voss joining RVVH. They are 7th, yes 7th in their Hoofdklasse. They are semi-pro though and were able to offer him a contract, I guess that is the difference. Well, Jochems had better be good. Bah bloody humbug.
January 2016 brought us a home game against De Dijk, who were second from bottom. Janzen was suspended, Jochems was in for a debut but other than that I stuck with the same side, meaning Fer was on the bench. I had a word in the ear of Messrs Cimen, Marengo and Gyasi telling them their form has not been of the high quality I would expect recently and they all took it on board and we trotted out at the Haarlem Stadion full of New Year hope and promise.
Five minutes in it looked like we liked 2016 – Lindhorst headed home from a cross. Two minutes later Vanmaris picked up where he left off in 2015 by running half the length of the pitch, drawing the keeper out and scoring from a tight angle. Fifteen minutes in he nailed his fifteenth of the season, another cracking finish. They pulled one back on the half hour from the penalty spot and then Beumer absolutely boomed one in from distance for 4-1. 4-1 became 4-2 and 1746 paying customers had already got their money’s worth! Brinkman made it 5-2 straight after the break and I switched to “control”. On the stroke of the hour Vanmaris got his hattrick, linking up with Dos Santos who was on for the injured Gyasi. Was that it? Hell no, they got a third! Then Brinkman got his second and our seventh (SEVEN). That was that, what a game – we are conceding a few at the minute but my god we are fun to watch again.
So we are in the second half of the season now, top of the table but neck and neck with Volendam. 47 goals in 14 games is a nice return (3.3 a game). In Vanmaris we have a twenty-one year old that tops the goal scoring charts and the average rating charts – so no doubt I will be worried about losing him shortly. He is also third on the assists chart, not bad for a lad of 5ft 3 (the reason, I would imagine, that Fortuna Sittard released him). We have 14 matches left to secure promotion and I really feel we can do it this year if, and only if, I can keep hold of the star players. This season 15 players have been poached by other clubs, and of that 15 only 3 were ones that I was not that fussed about. They have been replaced by only eight new faces, each of which now have a critical role to play at the club. I am working rule number four pretty well I am pleased to say.
Tomorrow I am hoping to push on through to the run in, so Kom op Haarlem!
(if you enjoyed all that ramble, why not spend £1.99 of your hard-earned cash on my first book, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager“)