We haven’t started this season in the same way as we did the last, however, there was light at the end of the tunnel in our last update by way of that win over ADO Den Haag. As I play toward the conclusion of the winter transfer window I will also finally take on the task of sorting out our backroom staff.
Hannibal’s famous line was “I love it when a plan comes together” (you may be glad to know that this is where the A-Team references begin and end) – I’ve been planning to make the necessary coaching appointments since the save started but spent last season distracted by our highs and lows in the league. Assembling an effective coaching team is a fundamental part of player development so it’s fair to say that I dropped the ball on this to date but I fell that has now been rectified.
Achieving the ‘gold standard’ in these columns is a pleasant thing to see. We still have work to do in terms of expanding the coaching team but to be top of the pile in five areas and above average in the rest is a very good start. Fitness, Mental, Technical and Tactical are four categories that will be key to how a team plays.
We now have two coaches in each discipline: Goalkeeping, Fitness and General. The ultimate aim will be to have the best coaching team available, part of that will be that they should eventually all be in possession of a Continental Pro Licence. For now, I am pleased with the team I have put together. Excuse the colour scheme, I am a creature of habit and have used this scheme since earlier iterations and it suits me!
The U19 staff still has work to be done. We still need to recruit a fitness coach and ideally another goalkeeping coach. Our HoYD (in the above graphic) should also be noted here – a Professional personality. There are a few familiar faces in this group: Henrik Larsson, Michel Vorm and Johann Vogel all bringing international quality to the ranks.
There is less to show in terms of the medical side of the staffing – good physios are good physios. We’re not topping the tables in these areas yet but are comfortably above average in attribute comparison across the league.
Scouting remains something that needs refined, an update for another time. I am under no illusions of realism in my save. I like to micro-manage and have the final say in almost all areas of the club. For now, my chief scout is in charge of the assignments but as I grow the scouting/transfer side of the club I will gradually take on the role of assinging scouts to their duties myself.
There were a number of outgoing loans sanctioned in January, all for fringe or youth players at the club. Jannik Pohl joined Lokeren (Belgium) for the remainder of the season, while Tim Riksman, Sam Crowther and Ken Raghoebar joined MVV, Helmond and TOP Oss respectively (all Netherlands) until the season’s end. Youth player Oskari Sallinen left for PEC Zwolle on a free transfer – a player that would never have breached our senior squad here. The biggest transfer news of this window was AZ (Eredivisie) swooping in to sign our first choice left back Django Warmerdam for an initial £1.9m – rising to £2.5m subject to fees and clauses being met.
We were reactive to sales in this window, keen not to repeat previous mistakes – both signings making use of our affiliate agreement with AC Milan. With Warmerdam leaving we made a move for young full back Andrés Llamas, not in the same bracket of quality but a decent replacement nonetheless on a temporary basis, signed on loan until the end of the season. Summer signing Luis Machado suffered a recurrence of an old injury from 2016, damaged cruciate ligaments, and will be out for the season having made only 10 appearances for the club. With Machado’s injury in mind we brought in Gabriele Capanni on loan from Milan (Italy) for the rest of the season to give us options on the flanks.
We carried the ADO Den Haag win into September and recorded league wins over FC Utrecht and Heracles Almelo. Giving up a winning position against De Graafschap to lose was a sore one but an assured KNVB Beker performance against lower league side ASWH brought spirits up again.
An unbeaten October was just what the doctor ordered to give our season a belated push forward. 9 goals in 4 league games was the upside but we were disappointed to concede twice in 2 consecutive league games. A dominant 6-0 win over Quick ’20 in the Beker was a delight to watch, even if it was expected.
November was a month of peaks and troughs in itself, a fantastic win over PSV being levelled out by a disappointing loss to PEC Zwolle. We expected to beat MVV and a loss to Feyenoord is not a shock, they’ve recovered from their poor performance last season.
Our win over Willem II meant we would take our place in the KNVB Beker Quarter Final but it was an annoyance to go into the winter break on the back of consecutive league losses. Ajax’s 4-0 win was a terrible result and a terrible performance across the team from 1-11.
We regained match fitness in a friendly against German side Babelsberg. There was perhaps some rustiness in our draw with Excelsior but we did well to come back late to equalise. A second win over Den Haag this season gave us confidence going into the Quarter Final with PSV but the Eindhoven side were in inspired form and the tie was done and dusted before half time. A mixed January for FC Groningen.
We’ve recovered well from losing our opening 3 fixtures and our current position gives us a decent platform to try and push forward. A challenge for 3rd place is not out of the question if we can put together a decent run of form but our realistic aim is to ensure we are in contention for Europe again via the playoffs.
We’re steady if not spectacular and progressing well. This is the sort of position I’d have expected us to be in. Realistically thinking 2nd at this point last season was a false position and we ended up with what we deserved. I’m confident in the squad we have currently to at least achieve my own expectations. The board want a top half finish so we will at least demand to meet expectations on that front.