SATURDAY! Philip’s in a great mood so you should be too.
I don’t care if Monday’s blue, Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too, Thursday I don’t care about you, it’s Saturday I’m in love. With that small adaption of a famous The Cure song, we return to Beveren for the last part of Season 5.
We start today’s blog in 3rd position. But don’t let our current position fool you, we are having a very good season. We qualified for the Champions League Group Stage (and earned 3 points), we are in the Quarter Final of the Belgian Cup and we have 42 points after 18 games. Too bad Club Brugge and Anderlecht are equally good so far.
Before we get to the action there is the qualification draw for the 2004 European Championship. With Denmark as the only top nation in the group, Leekens has no excuse really not to qualify.
We kick off against Standard. For the first time this season we lose at home. That’s not the best of starts, and on top we lose Bistrussu (Verschelde) for several weeks.
Goor (Van Kets) will pair up with Van Den Eede the next couple of weeks. That seems not a bad combo as well as we give Genk a 5-1 spanking.
I am amazed how well Marien (Wilmots) is performing in his first regen season. At the start of the season my mind was set on Abeels (Nilis) as my future left attacker, but I am starting to have second thoughts here. I am sure his rating will come down as the season progresses, but this is the real deal.
Next we go to Brussels to play Eric Gerets’ Anderlecht. Michael Mols scores twice and we return home with a 2-0 loss. The winner is always right they say, but we definitely deserved a draw here. Better luck next time.
With F Scifo (Van Rethy) out on suspension, it is time to pick up our experiment again on the DM C position. Van Acker (Staelens) starts in our Quarter Finals Cup match against Harelbeke. We easily make it to last 4, where we will host Standard.
Our form is increasing. Turnhout takes the lead, but we soon take over and get another dominant win.
F Scifo (Van Rethy) returns from his suspension, but I keep Van Acker (Staelens) in the line-up. A bit of gamble perhaps as we play next Harelbeke, who are in 6th position. Well Walter, my dear friend, getting a red card is not exactly the way to thank me for the confidence. Luckily the red card doesn’t have an impact: we manage to hold on to our 0-2 lead until the end of the game.
The team is good and our form is peaking. We keep on winning.
We have now won our last 6 league matches, but still we are only in 3rd position, 6 points behind Anderlecht and Club Brugge. Can we still close the gap and compete for the title?
Several players have stand-out seasons, and one of them for sure is Bart Van Den Eede. It’s only early April when he breaks the club record of goals in a season. How many will he still add to this already impressive number?
And even when we are only playing average, we take the win. Thanks to another goal of Van Den Eede and some good goalkeeping of Van Meir (Preud’homme).
But if we really want to be a title contender, we have to grab the 3 points at Jan Breydel. And we do! Van Den Eede, who else, bangs in another 2. Have we ever played better?
Before we go into the season finale, let’s try and qualify for our second Cup final. We host Standard and that’s far from easy. We lost both our league matches against them, so this would be the perfect opportunity to turn that around. Bistrussu (Verschelde) gives us an early lead, but they equalise pretty soon after. As so many times before this season, Van Den Eede is on the right spot after a deflected shot and gets us the victory.
But dammit, we go into the Cup final as the home team. Like the previous 4 seasons, are we doomed to lose?
We lose our DM C Scifo (Van Rethy) for the remainder of the season. Should I play safe and start our initial captain Soenens? Or continue my experiment with Van Acker (Staelens)? Well, the blog is about Belgian regens, so Van Acker (Staelens) it is. Our rivals of Lokeren are the perfect victim for yet another victory.
We travel to Ghent for our next match, but we do that without scoring machine Van Den Eede, who sits out a 2-match suspension. Can we score goals when he is not around? His replacement is Goor, the Van Kets regen, and he handles the pressure quite well. He picks up the Man of Match award, marks twice and we go home with a 0-4 win.
Last year our title run stage freight started against Waregem. But not this time! A solid 3-0 win that pushes us to 1st position!
It feels like a déjà-vu, just like last season we control our own fate with 2 matches remaining. Will we give it away again?
Lierse is next and they are a difficult opponent to beat with the Southall regen in goal. Van Den Eede returns from his suspension at the perfect moment. We score 3 times, but somehow we also concede 3 and the game ends with a draw. Anderlecht & Club Brugge can’t win either and we stay in 1st position! Is this a sign?
In a fully packed Freethiel stadium we host Mechelen in our hunt for the title. An early goal cannot distract us at all. We take over and overpower them in a 4-2 win. Champions! WE ARE CHAMPIONS!!! And with 82 points we are more than a worthy champion!
A few days later it is the Cup Final and as expected we go down: 1-3. And that’s not because of our excessive partying after winning the title, as you know by now the home team somehow always loses this match.
Let’s have a look at our expiring contracts before starting the 2002 WC. The role of Flies and Soenens is played out and are released on a free transfer. Talbaoui (Vandersmissen) gets an extension and what to do with Van Den Eede? In these 5 seasons he became an absolute club legend with 128 goals. I’d be lynched if I didn’t offer him an extension. He is the only original player left in the line-up. He fully deserves his extension, but next season I will move towards a full regen squad.
When Belgium got eliminated for the WC, I didn’t want to bore you with their useless friendly matches. For the final 2 U21 matches this season, 6 of our players receive a call-up.
After back-to-back titles Eric Gerets isn’t satisfied with 2nd position and adds a big name to the Anderlecht squad. How much impact will he still have as a 34-year old?
In the meantime the WC has started and there are no big surprises to note so far. Holland qualifies for the next round already after 2 matches.
The first big surprise comes in the Second Round, when title holders Italy get eliminated by Wales.
Similar to Belgium, England didn’t make it to the WC. Northern Ireland on the other hand play a fantastic tournament and upset Holland in the Quarter Final.
Brazil is the first team that makes it to the Final. France joins them a day later after eliminating tournament sensation Northern Ireland.
In an entertaining final Brazil wins the 2002 World Cup!
And that concludes Season 5, by far our most successful season to date. After an excellent season with 44 goals Bart Van Den Eede wins the Footballer of the Year award. Karim Marien (Wilmots) was outstanding on the left attacker position and gets the Young Player of the Year award.
Sooner than expected we closed the gap with the Big Three. After our title the newspapers are now talking about the Big Four instead. Can we live up to our new status in Season 6?
Tot volgende week!