Welcome back to #HaarlemGlobetrotting, my current FM15 save where I have recreated one of the former “giants” of the Netherlands who went bust in 2010. We started four seasons ago, in the 4th tier of Dutch football, as an amatuer side and using the basic rules of “Soccernomics” and “Moneyball” I am trying to lead the club back to the Eredivisie title that they won once back in 1946.
At the end of season three we missed out on promotion to the Eerste Division in a final day classic. Ten minutes to go and we were up, before JVC scored a decisive winner that saw us destined to another season in the Topklasse A.
For those that are not familiar with what I am trying to achieve, have a quick read of the rules I have set myself below:
- Only sign Dutch players on free transfers (this has since changed since getting promoted from the 4th tier – I am now signing any nationality, as most I am picking up have been released by top Dutch clubs)
- These players must be U23 on the day of signing
- If anyone makes an offer that exceeds the value of a player, sell them
- Always have a replacement lined up for players that are wanted by other clubs – 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 moved into the fourth season I felt the backroom team needed a little refreshment, and I don’t mean Grolsch. I let my assistant since day one, Bobby Davison, go and recruited a Dutchman in Rene Klomp. He has the same coaching qualities as his predecessor but has a better eye for a player’s ability – as you can see below.
For the first time in this journey I had to put rule number four into place – if anyone makes an offer that exceeds the value of a player, sell them. FC Lisse, one of our biggest rivals in the division, came in with a bid of £44k for Nieuwenhuis, who was valued at £20k. I accepted and he left. This then triggered some transfer activity coming into the club, I brought four in;
- Nijhove, back up central defender to provide cover to Janzen. Released by Heerenveen
- Van Lankveld, a tall central midfielder released by VVV Venlo
- Van Leijenhorsdt, a two-footed centre back to replace Nieuwenhuis, released by Groningen
- Maletic, a striker released by Excelsior
Our back up ‘keeper asked to leave, so he was sold for £15k, and I promoted kid from U18’s rather than bring in another very strong ‘keeper who would get frustrated on the bench. It was fair to say I was happy with the squad strength and depth as the season approached. Once again the board expected me to win the division and this was backed up by the bookies making us 3/1 promotion favourites alongside Katwijk who were relegated from the Eerste.
As I write, we have played six league games and just won our first cup match. As you can see from the fixtures and league table below, we have won five out of six and sit second in the division. The game we lost was frustrating as Janzen was sent off very early, and any other day we would have hammered them. But, we bounced back with a stunning win over Rijnsburgse.
Some of our players have been simply magnificent already. Vanmaris continues to wow me – seven goals, five assists, three MOM’s at an average rating of 8.23. Van Lankfeld, one of the new boys, has started the last four since Chacon tore his calf and he has performed brilliantly, average rating of 7.80. New strikers often struggle to hit form for me, other than Vanmaris who got seven in his first five when he signed, and Maletic is settling in very quickly – four goals in the first seven matches. The two seventeen-year-old midfielders, Musah and Smit, have taken their opportunity even better than I imagined and are already first team regulars. With Janzen, when he isn’t getting sent off, leading the team superbly from the back I have very high hopes for this team this season.
Through pure chance, I have noticed that this current line up seems to perform better playing with the “control” tactic as opposed to the “overload” which I have traditionally started the matches with. Since switching to that we have genuinely dominated matches, so I will continue with this approach for the time being and keep a close eye on it. It actually goes against my beliefs, I like my teams to start fast because I believe it is difficult to up a tempo if you have started slowly, but the results are proving otherwise currently.
Our next match is against the team at the top of the table, VVSB. If we can beat them in the same way that we beat Rijnsburgse then I cannot see anyone touching us this season. To add a little more spice to the early part of the season, the KVNB Cup has drawn us away to JVC, the team that beat us to promotion last season.
There is something brewing here at the Haarlem Stadion, this already has the feel of a hugely promising season and I hope I can report back after Christmas with everything still going in the right direction.
Kom op Haarlem!
(if you enjoy my writing, why not spend £1.99 of your hard-earned cash on my first book, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” here: http://buff.ly/1G0WNV9 or my second one, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager – The Second Season Syndrome” here: http://buff.ly/1NXwJ4r)