The Unexpected Champions – Part 3 | @verbist_philip

Happy Saturday! Here’s Philip with your weekly dose of Belgium

Hallo allemaal!

On this final Saturday of the summer holidays let’s find out if the unexpected champions of the 96-97 season, Lierse, manage to retain their title. If we do so, it will be with an almost completely new squad. A lot of players left at the end of last season, but we managed to get some decent replacements in. Just before the winter break we are leading the pack and confidence is rising!

Apart from an offer on Haagdoren, nothing exciting happens during the break. I am hesitating for a moment though, but I am not letting him go. He is too valuable for the moment.

A new start of the year and you know what that means: Cup time! We drew Club Brugge, so we’ll have to be at our best to advance. And oh boy, are we good! Raimond makes a few crucial saves and we strike a first time just before the half. No matter what Club tries in the second half, it doesn’t work. Football wisdom then says the goal falls on the other side. In our case, 2 to be exact. Final score: 0-3 and a quarter final at home against Antwerp.

In the league we kick it off against Charleroi. Citko is a revelation for me, I did not expect him to be that good. I have played him now on both sides of the attacking line and also as number 10 he seems to do fine.

I feel sorry for my home town. At least they tried. But they had no answer whatsoever to stop our striker combo Citko/De Gier.

If we lose, somehow we prefer doing that at our own turf. Lads, seriously, how can you go from scoring 6 goals to only 1 single shot on goal in the next match?

In between the Beveren and Harelbeke match I got an offer for Zdebel. He has a Big Club release clause and I am forced to let him go. He wasn’t a starter, maybe that’s why the offer caught me a bit off guard. We are thin on good defensive midfielders so I immediately bring a new lad in: welcome Geoffrey Claeys. He even comes in cheap!

Next we travel to Liege. Mbo opens the score early in the game and we struggle to get chances. When Bodart gets sent off, we have a unique opportunity to equalise. Citko however fails miserably. It doesn’t matter if they are reduced to 10 players, Standard keeps dominating and sends us home with a 4-1 beating.

Last week Lazio gave us a beating as well and we redeemed ourselves in the Cup. Can we do that again in the quarter finals of the Cup? No, apparently we can not. On a sarcastic side: now the lads can fully concentrate on the title.

That’s three losses in a row and I need to make a change. Perhaps playing Citko as number 10 wasn’t the smartest of moves. Pedersen goes back in and Citko moves to the bench.

All our suspensions kick in at the same time and we need to reshuffle a bit. Lads, that’s how you should have played in the Cup! 3 of our 5 goals come from guys that typically start on the bench. And that’ll be crucial in our title hunt: we’re not dependent on 1 or 2 guys scoring all of our goals.

Brian “super-sub” McClair. He isn’t a regular starter, but he is so useful.

Third time’s a charm against Germinal Ekeren. It’s an intense game with 2 reds on their and 2 injuries on our side. Most probably I will have to play Menzo until the end of the season. Everybody loves Raimond, but I expected him a bit stronger. To be fair though, he hasn’t been a liability either.

Haha, 2 wins against Anderlecht in your first season, now that does not happen too often either.

Lokeren, what a bunch of idiots they are. It’s only when they’re 0-3 behind that they realise it’s not a friendly.

Two days later we host Sint-Truiden and we grab 6 points in 3 days. We are title contender number 1!

Anderlecht is having a poor season. Will winning the cup save Arie Haan’s ass?

Unexpected is also the word to use for the current performance of Lommel. Typically a team that fights relegation, now number 2 in the league. They are determined to win and reduce the gap to 6 points. Our comeback is way too late and the title race is not over yet!

Everybody loves Raimond so he worked very hard on his recovery. Sooner than expected he is fit again and he goes back into the Starting XI. We manage to score only once, but a win is a win at this stage. Lommel loses and with 3 matches to go the gap is back to 9 points.

Our mission at Club Brugge is very simple: get at least a point and the title is ours. That should be easier said than done, but they are simply having a woeful season. We take full advantage!

CHAMPIONS!! With 2 matches remaining we accomplish our mission and retain the title!

We invite Westerlo to our title party and they happily play along.

With the team at full strength we travel to Aalst and finishes the season in style.

This are the final standings. Standard ultimately jumps over Lommel and finishes second. Club Brugge and Anderlecht don’t even make the Top 6, and that’s actually quite a big surprise.

We nearly hit the 100 goals mark. When your offence “clicks” the sweeper keeper is a fantastic formation to use with goals guaranteed. That was our key success factor this season.

We definitely added the right players. And everybody loves Raimond, including me now.

Anderlecht wins the Cup and that brightens their grey season up a little.

Belgium didn’t qualify for the World Cup in France, so we’ll support our players that got selected to the World Cup Squad of their countries. We’ll have 4 players present: Per Pedersen (Denmark), Claus Eftevaag (Norway), Andrei Ivanov (Russia) & Esteban Valencia (Chile).

We do already a bit of our homework for next season and we bring in 2 new players on positions where I believe we have to add a bit more depth.

Who of our players got the furthest at the World Cup? A bit to my surprise that is Valencia. He even captained his team in the quarter finals against Holland.

But in the end it is Brazil that lifts the World Cup!

We have a great season and that shows in the annual awards. Both De Gier & Eftevaag win a player of the year trophy. And I am also called to the stage.

I continue to Season 2, contemplating who we should buy to make the squad stronger. And then suddenly this happens.

WTF! We don’t even have 1,8M in cash you idiots! We start the new season with the very much needed and required 5,000 additional seats, but also with a deficit…

Stay tuned as we kick off Season 2 next week. For now enjoy the weekend!

Tot dan!

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