Time to put our Champions League woes behind us. The experience was worthwhile, the money even moreso, but it all counts for nothing if we don’t consolidate our position and ensure consecutive seasons among Europe’s elite clubs.
As always, the new year starts with the all-important Winter Transfer Window. However, for the first time in this save, we made no new signings in January. I’m happy with the squad – we have strength in our first XI and I’m confident in our squad depth to cover all but the most disastrous situations.
There was little to note on outgoings also in January. Promising youth intake player Bram de Vries (DC) ended his 6 month loan spell at NEC and stepped up to take on a further 6 month loan spell at Eredivisie club FC Emmen. Amine Moussaoui (STC) has been unable to dislodge Ali Sen from his starting berth with only 3 goals in 16 appearances (of limited game time) so goes out to Club Brugge in Belgium for some more involved first team experience.
Three friendlies in January had us back up to peak match fitness for the resumption of the league campaign. Heracles and Helmond were wins as expected, albeit that we just pushed the Helmond one over the line, either side of two second half goals from Ajax that had me questioning whether we were on that level yet again. A 5-1 stomping of Sparta continued our hopes in the KNVB Beker.
Our victory over Utrecht was an epic as we took the lead three times before being pegged back, Sen’s hattrick goal finally sealed the points in our favour. RKC, AZ and Vitesse took points off us which left me thinking the inevitable was on its way again… but yet again it was a win against Sparta that straightened us out.
Dauda Mohammed’s trio of goals for bottom club FC Emmen left me dumbstruck but thankfully Majetschak stepped up to ensure a share of the spoils. The Beker wasn’t to be as PSV took a deserved victory to push them through to the final. Our performances in the Feyenoord/Ajax double header restored my faith in our ability to compete at the top of the table and strengthened our position in the fight for Champions League football. FC Twente were finished off by half time but Sen struck once more after the hour mark to make it sweeter.
Sen’s run of goals continued in a series of assured results before the final day showdown against PSV.
We were 3 points behind the Eindhoven club with a 2 goal deficit in goal difference terms, however with a much superior goals scored record – Goal Difference then Goals Scored being the rules for sorting in this league. The 2-1 victory did what was required to swing the permutations in our favour.
Maybe I didn’t shout this loud enough – FC Groningen were EREDIVISIE CHAMPIONS for the first time in their history! A tremendous and much unexpected outcome for this season.
End of season squad update
Éver Banega retired after two seasons with the club, although he only actually managed 12 league appearances in that time.
Moussa Sissoko’s one year stint at Groningen comes to an end with a league winner’s medal to his name, his second Eredivisie title in three years – having won his first in 2022 with Ajax.
I went back to my old youth intake method of being selective and only signing up capable players on pre-contract agreements. Jeroen Visser, Chavez Leidsman, Jeffrey Konijnenburg, Emrah Dogan, Rick Lenting, Camiel Nijland and Alejandro Arteaga were the lucky recipients.
End of season stats and awards
Frank van den Berg continued his ascent within the squad at the tender age of 19. Jeong Woo-yeong and Joao Ganchas were instrumental in our attacking movement but all credit goes to starlet Ali Sen for his goalscoring prowess!
Ali Sen’s goalscoring tally was simply incredible – with 44 goals in all competitions but 35 in 33 league matches. Demetri Mitchell continues to be an assist demon down that left flank.
Yet again, and rightfully so, the awards flooded in and the records tumbled down:
Eredivisie Voetballer van het jaar: Ali Sen – 1st, Demetri Mitchell – 3rd
Eredvisie Topscorer: Ali Sen – 1st (35 goals)
Eredivisie Talent van het jaar: Ali Sen – 1st, Damian Michalak – 2nd, Joao Ganchas – 3rd
Manager’s Manager van het jaar: Me – 1st!
adidas European Golden Shoe: Ali Sen – 52.50 points (35 goals)
Ali Sen’s 35 goals was an Eredivisie record
This is Groningen’s highest ever Eredivisie finish
Ali Sen’s record of 62 goals in 62 games has now brought him to the attention of the top clubs in Europe. Valued at £18.75m, the former Bayern man is coveted by Liverpool and Manchester United with minor interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munchen.
The dilemma comes that Sen only has one more year on his contract, is unwilling to negotiate and, to top it all off, has an £18.5m release clause for clubs in a continental competition. It seems like we may be resigned to losing our biggest talent and will then have to look to Amine Moussaoui to step up and help cover the loss of goals.
Along with the interest in Sen, Didier Acevedo and Joao Ganchas are also attracting interest from across Europe with Ganchas having a similar release clause of £20m.
A bright future
While we have concerns about losing some of our top players, we have something to look forward to in our plans to build a brand new stadium!
Boardroom details indicate there is a planned capacity of 32,723 – a 10k increase on our current rented Euroborg (Hitachi Capital Mobility) Stadion – with completion estimated for 2027, 3 years from now!