Posted in Uncategorized

Big matches as things hot up

That’s not just a comment regarding the weather, although we’ve had the hottest day in April since 1949! Think it reached 29 degrees Celsius yesterday. Roasting hot today too! It could be like a cauldron in Belgium though (on the pitch). Big results needed by big clubs, still hoping to progress further and break some ground in the process.

Humongous derby tonight, which is the match of the weekend in my opinion, because these too have been fantastic. Zulte Waregem hosting Kortrijk in a must win for both. Whoever wins this could give themselves the psychological edge going forward for the rest of them season, with two of the hottest strikers in the country. Hamdi Harbaoui vs Teddy Chevalier, with both looking to be the hero tonight and beyond. The atmosphere will be fantastic for sure. It could really be a cracker because of the quality on show right now!

Playoff one is actually really fun in that Gent and Anderlecht stumbled, and can Standard take advantage? Could Les Rouches miraculously get Champions League football? It’s unlikely, and undeserved because of their regular season form. But they’re doing what most clubs do. They’ve won a trophy, guaranteed Europa League and are playing without any fear. With the South American vibe they have, they can turn on the style and be extremely dangerous. Sa Pinto May be getting his point across just at the right time and they’re just three points off of second!

On the other hand, can anyone explain what’s going on at Charleroi? I feel sorry for their fans as I felt they could challenge, but this calendar year has been a disaster. Les Zébres have picked up ten points this year. Seven of those points are draws. Embarrassed in the cup as well as last night to a Hans Vanaken master class. They’re finishing on a whimper and it’s a shame. Europe is surely out of the question, not mathematically, but confidence wise, Mazzu will have to dig deep and drag his players, and himself, out of this slump.

(Halfway through this I had a little cry reading about Arsene Wenger)

Forgotten my place now…I don’t think I can finish. I feel like eulogising about Arsene Wenger. I am only 28 and just about remember Bruce Rioch. But Arsene Wenger is a different class. I am Wenger Out because he has stagnated and taken the club backwards in terms of league position, but we have also gone so far forward under him. Everyone talks about dietary introductions he brought in and training techniques, but he brought in style and a way of playing. The thing I loved most is when we had our backs against the wall, we’d come back fighting every time. Sometimes it was too late, but sometimes it made you even more proud to be a Gooner. Arsenal fans went too far when they sung certain songs about him dying when protesting. We all love our clubs and when all said and done, football isn’t everything unless you have nothing else. When he fell at Stoke and people laughed, he is an elderly man. Any other elderly man would’ve been helped up. There have been embarrassments too under his watch, like the 6-1 and 8-2 at Old Trafford, 5-1 at Anfield, 6-0 at Chelsea. But we won at the Bernabeu, Allianz, San Siro against both Milan clubs, even Monaco. All these never ever being achieved by am English club until then. I won’t continue because I get more emotional by the word…

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Posted in Uncategorized

Thank You

I don’t know how much I’ll write in this post. I was looking at how many people had read my blog and switched it to just this year. I have already surpassed how many people had read my blog throughout the entirety of last year already and we’d only had 107 days at the point it was overtaken. Every time when I see how many people have read it, I am shocked because I can talk a load of bollocks, but I am also extremely grateful. You all know me. I’m an Englishman who loves football and have fallen in love with the Pro League. No cutting edge stories. Just opinion.

People always ask ‘why?’ As well as being called a ‘tourist’ and probably worse, but I just enjoy this. I’ve been a bit quieter recently because I’m not interested in the playoffs, but doesn’t mean I’m not interested in opinion from anyone who reads my stuff. You’re all passionate about your clubs and have love as well as hatred for your team and others. It’s why football is up there as possibly the greatest thing invented. Something we pour our hearts, soul, money and time into and more often than not, we get nothing in return except for hopefully the three points we all crave.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because as I’ve gotten older, I forget what I’ve written before and then think that I’m just regurgitating what I’ve previously said. Then again, football can be as surprising as it is familiar.

Thank you

Posted in Matches in Brief

Mixed opinion

Midweek matches in Belgium which I always enjoy, mainly because I have more of an opportunity to watch them rather than at the weekend. A lot of things to take into account, mainly at the thick end of the table, because I have always been a bit of a prick when it comes to match timings. Even though I absolutely hate Tottenham, and I have been said to say some disgusting things, when they ‘battled’ Leicester for the title a couple of seasons ago, Leicester always played first, putting Spurs on the back foot. However, in Belgium Club Brugge always play on a Sunday which seems to have helped them as they can see what they need to do when it boils down to it. Once again, the leaders play last, obviously knowing they need a win, but depending on how other results go, it may not be a necessity.

Playing at a certain time suits players physically and mentally and gives them an advantage? I don’t think I’m wrong though. Not saying I’m right, but the players can prefer this. I always liked a Saturday 3pm kick off when I played. But if I had a 7:45pm I’d hate the travel and everything around it. I don’t know why. Looking at things, Charleroi right now may not like a Friday night match as they’ve fallen away. I’ll move on from this, but right now, I have sympathy for Brugge as well, IF they don’t win the league. Every other fan must love how there is now a competitive look to this one horse race of a season, but it’s clear Brugge have been the cream of the crop and if anyone pips them, I just feel it’s undeserved.

Yes there are rules. No, nobody wants to see a one horse race, but if a team has been consistently good and has warranted themselves as champions I feel uncomfortable if they don’t get what they should get. I don’t agree with playoffs. I like how people do though. They’re as committed to their beliefs as I am to mine. Belgium isn’t like most leagues though. There are numerous teams where if they get their act together they can win the league. This isn’t a Scotland or Germany or France where really, one team wins regularly.

I’ll shut up now about that. Playoff 2 looks better by the match day though. Because of the determination to either continue the good work teams were doing…making….? Erm…teams are either proving a point, rescuing a season or carrying on their momentum. Kortrijk maybe should’ve gotten sixth, even though Standard did put a run together this year, and I still think if Mouscron get flack for alleged…you know, then why can’t Oostende? And Zulte Waregem have continued nicely too. But it’s PO2B that I’m liking as Lokeren look to extend their lead at the top. It’s great. The surprise package who I thought were just hoping to do well and finish 15th and above next season, could, although unlikely, get a European birth!

You can’t rule any team out cause complacency will prove costly. I honestly don’t care who gets into Europe, as long as they perform better than the shower who showed up (or rather didn’t show up) this season. And furthermore, the JPL is looking better than the Eredivisie which is satisfying, although a trend in England this season is that people are liking Turkish football and Portuguese. I don’t know why, but then again I’m biased!

Posted in Matches in Brief

We have a title race

I know right. It’s taken until the playoffs and the 2018 capitulation has begun at Club Brugge. There is just three points in it now, and in a way, Blauw-Zwart are fortunate that Asare hung out a leg to trip Edmilson Jr on Saturday, otherwise they’d have two teams breathing down their neck! They still do really but Anderlecht could miraculously have a very good season from the pitiful effort they threw up in August, September, October…

I don’t know who to question at the Jan Breydel? The manager or the players? Leko is inexperienced as a coach and his player recruitment hasn’t been amazing. I’m jumping the gun here but Brugge have to rekindle their form that made them so irresistible this season. There are obviously three other teams in this group, but one is guaranteed European football and are playing without the handbrake on, in a good way, with Genk and Charleroi tussling for fourth. It is a fascinating look on how the remainder of the season will go right now at the top, but the way the playoffs are also panning out below them, it is getting more and more interesting.

You have three points separating four teams in Playoff 2A, and OHL are the good surprise in this. Whether or not they can sneak in somewhere is yet to be seen, but they’re proving that they are good and maybe could compete in the top flight, if and when they get there. Kortrijk and Zulte Waregem still look most likely to progress, with Hamdi Harbaoui scoring 4 against Mouscron in a five star performance. Thankfully there’s no runaway leader in either group to just make the end of the season a non event. Still have sympathy for Beveren though. They’ve charmed us this season with fantastic performances and individual quality. The playoffs have been a terrible thing for them. Nana Opoku Ampomah said they’re not just playing for the sake of it, but judging by results, that’s exactly what they’re doing unfortunately.

And now to Playoff 2B where Lokeren have been superb. It’s as if Peter Maes has targeted this all along. They’re finally winning home games and we all know how dangerous and stubborn they are away. They embarrassed Eupen with a wonderful goal by Jose Cevallos from his own half! Yet again I question Van Crombrugge though. Thinks his better than Eupen? Maybe, but not good enough for the top six. Not yet anyway. Antwerp also have the bragging rights in the derby too, with William Owusu, who looks to be leaving the club, becoming the hero. Antwerp’s squad looks to be getting pulled apart slightly, either through loan deals ending or permanent deals coming in. It’s a worry for the Great Old to rebuild if this happens because they’ll just get the players the top clubs don’t want, which isn’t always great quality.

The game which ended our weekend was at Oostende where they threw away a 2-0 lead against an improving STVV. De Kanaries fell away just like Antwerp at the end of the regular season and may have found their second wind in such a tight group. I can’t see Lokeren maintaining their position, but then again, I can’t choose who’ll actually finish top!

Matches this week and weekend could really sort things out in these groups. With Brugge playing last, they’ll see exactly what they’ll need to do. Obviously win, but if they definitely need one, the intensity will be better rather than maybe a more sluggish display. This’ll be fun, and hopefully crammed with goals too!!!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Alexander Maes

I thought seeing as I’ve got time, and plenty of it for once, I’d give credit to a player who I was honestly going to write about a couple of weeks ago. Since then he has shone quite brightly against two Pro League clubs and has scored two in two. He looks to be a manager’s dream looking at where he can play, be willing to play and put in a shift as well.

Alexander Maes has played almost every minute in the league this season, missing just 146 minutes in matches he could be selected for. He is vital because of his versatility, as Maes has played anywhere across the pitch, showing us that the utility player isn’t dead! You could say scoring just two goals and chipping in with three assists isn’t outstanding, but like I’ve just said, he is pivotal in that he doesn’t need those kind of stats to be selected and to be important to the team. To play football for a footballer is the main objective, with other aspects being a bonus. Although there are many positives that I’ve just mentioned, you do have to question the yellow cards he is getting. Whether its through petulance, mistimed challenges or anything else, he has managed to get seven in all competitions, missing a game through suspension by accumulating too many, and he managed to get sent off versus Cercle in the promotion playoff, missing the second leg! Obviously I primarily focus on the JPL, so if anyone actually reads this, they’ll know more, but missing the return leg, who knows if Alexander Maes could’ve made a difference if available? Moving onto the here and now, he has the aforementioned two goals against teams Beerschot would’ve been looking to beat if promoted. Scoring a header and a penalty, it again shows he is a goalscorer if in those positions, although with one of the biggest foreheads in the land, he should get his head onto crosses. Up against Antwerp, it’s a huge match for the area with with just 5.8miles separating them! This derby will be huge in the fight for that playoff spot, even though both teams may be slightly out of the picture right now. It’ll be tough because it is a derby, but also because Antwerp have been impressive this season, even though they’ve taken a downward turn this year. Being defensively vigilant will be key for the team, and with Maes not only hoping to play, he’ll want to help make a difference too, whether it’s performing in one of his many positions he can play, or personally, scoring another vital goal for a team hoping to get their first win. He is a fighter. To start off so well at Willem II and then work your way back up the pyramid, Maes is clearly a battler who is still striving to do well in his native country and I can’t see why not at KFCO Beerschot, if not elsewhere.

Posted in Pro League in Europe

European football after Christmas

This fortnight there have been sixteen matches that have almost gripped a continent. Teams from England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France…you get it (even Austria) have played their part in amazing comebacks and quality goals. My ‘obsession’ with the Pro League have slightly dwindled in recents weeks, mainly because I am against a playoff system. Of course this is my opinion, a preference of what I have always been used to and what I prefer.

Unfortunately however, my mind has been so far away from these playoffs, although I’m obviously keeping myself up to date, I am already looking forward to next season where only relegation has been confirmed, and right now, a title race is well and truly on the cards. It is exciting if you’re a fan. Without mentioning about ten teams, there is much to look forward to still as another week comes and will go quicker than we’d have wanted.

Maybe league football is not on my mind because my club has just let themselves down, even though they broke their transfer record twice in six months with sums of money JPL clubs could only dream about. But actually getting towards my point, and without going back over the same ground I’ve and you’ve covered, I guess I’m just feeling the disappointment (again) of how Belgian football clubs let themselves down in Europe. I don’t expect them to win a trophy. Nobody does. In modern football, money talks, and Belgium are skint compared to the top leagues. But what they do have is that quality if it all works well. Zulte Waregem are the only club who didn’t embarrass themselves this season, along with Oostende, seeing as De Kustboys went out to current semi finalists Marseille in the qualifiers.

Anderlecht had a dreadful start domestically and in Europe, and I still think sacking Weiler before the Celtic game proved costly, although Bayern at home could’ve gone a hell of a lot better too. But there you go…Bayern, the Champions League semi finalists were in their group, along with perennial bottle jobs Paris Saint Germain. But third wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Mismanagement is what it boils down too, as well as not having a proper striker before Christmas.

Gent and Club Brugge haven’t gotten away with it. Disgrace is a word which comes to mind. But then again, if one of these two win the league, they obviously won’t give a fuck. I wouldn’t. But with these two failing to get into proper competition, what could’ve been five teams in Europe ended up with two, and both were out before Christmas. We all know, if you don’t have quality, you most certainly need luck. The draw needs to go your way and having Bayern and PSG, or Lazio and Nice just doesn’t help.

Next season should be different (in my opinion) as you’d think Belgian football could progress. How? I don’t know? It must come down to luck. We know that Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent and Standard Liège will be there you’d think. But who’s the fifth team? Genk? Most likely in my opinion, and that is a great crop of teams. I just want Belgian football to progress domestically, but more on a continental stage. Internationally you’re huge, even with Roberto Mythinez, and I purposely put ‘Myth’ in there. But hopefully spring 2019 will see a Belgian club go beyond their group and into a knockout phase. This is totally irrelevant to what I usually write building up to a matchday weekend, but as I’ve stated, I’m not fussed about the playoffs and European football is on the forefront of a lot of minds, especially mine.

Posted in Uncategorized

Are the Playoffs interesting?

I’ve honestly switched off from Belgian football right now. I don’t know why I just don’t care. Not about writing about it or watching goals and seeing results. I think because I’m so disillusioned with my own team, I’ve just abandoned football. I haven’t been to The Emirates since the 3rd of January, but I have been away and going Newcastle and Man United away. Hopefully the Europa League final too.

Obviously all of what I’ve just said means nothing at all to Belgian football, or a blog about it, but I still can’t quite care about what’s going on. I mean it’s great on the surface. Lokeren and Mouscron are topping their groups, where if the Pro League season had another ten matches instead of these playoffs, their form may have seen them eventually relegated, seeing as Mechelen and Eupen battled so well. If these two top their groups, I’d be highly surprised and I’m sure their opponents in the final will be celebrating.

Still a long way to go though. Kortrijk slipped up and Zulte Waregem grabbed a very good away win. I felt they’d beat Beveren because of the decimation of their squad. In this group it’s more the head to head against those three, whilst hopefully picking off Beveren, OHL and Lierse. It is likely that we could have a battle, although you can’t look beyond Essevee and De Kerels.

The next group however still looks to be anyone’s. Lokeren could really surprise because they are very good away and if they pick up the odd home win, then they could shock us. STVV look like they’re finally bouncing back though. A huge 4-0 win over Antwerp was what they needed. When it boils down to it, I just think Oostende and Sint-Truiden will end up fighting for top. As I’ve said all season, the cream rises to the top. I predicted this would be the top six, in no particular order, or maybe with Zulte Waregem in there instead of Standard, but my point is, those there right now will fade and the better teams will battle for a playoff match when it comes to May time.

I guess what’s great is the small six point gap in the Championship playoff. Gent got a massive win, as did Anderlecht who are now putting pressure on Club Brugge. It’s beginning to get competitive for once at the top. Blauw-Zwart have a tremendous home record though and that could see them win the league with this two match advantage they currently have. I don’t know if I’ve said this publicly, but I said to Dave Pringle, my predictions friend, as well as actual friend, that I’d put money on Gent winning the league on the 16th of February (looking at my Twitter messages).

I’ve just felt the momentum they can create, with their defensive capabilities will help in this battle. There should really be just one winner on the Pro League this season, but a dreadful 2018 has seen Brugge slip mentally and physically. Even Anderlecht are showing determination to win and are getting goals out of Teodorczyk now. Playoff one is keeping us all interested with 24 points to play for.

Posted in Matches in Brief

Why aren’t I bothered?

I’ve been ill this week. I have ached all over, headaches, all of that. It’s like my annual flu but not flu, if that makes sense? Last year I had it when I interviewed Jordan Mustoe, who is now in Finland, if anyone wanted to know? I haven’t quite got writers block. I’ve just totally lost interest in the playoffs. I don’t like it. I can’t throw myself in and get passionate about it. I’d rather there were 18 teams in the Pro League and have one 34 game season? Having a good discussion on twitter regarding other things all Belgian football, the thought of a league cup (from me) was mentioned, but drawing an audience wouldn’t be possible…probably.

I can understand why Kortrijk, Zulte Waregem, Antwerp, Oostende, etc will be excited and up for it because it’s the second chance they needed. The top six in Belgium have been very good though, either recently or all season, so to overcome them is an ask. Essevee didn’t really do themselves any favours with that draw and Kortrijk look most likely to not only top 2A, but maybe even beat a Charleroi or Genk in the playoff.

The way the JPL has gone this season, you still can’t rule out anyone though. When you have Lokeren leading 2B, that looks to be the most entertaining because there is more competition. Oostende have only just begun to hit form whereas STVV have fallen by the wayside. But you can’t rule anybody out. When it come to 2A, yes I’ve mentioned everyone’s favourite to top that group (I’m guessing) but a lapse in concentration, an injury, a mistake, anything could disrupt a team’s rhythm. Unfortunately for Beveren, the cherry picking of players and staff has ruined everything for them.

Not that Lierse, Beerschot or OHL would’ve upset any odds, the point of them entering this as well? Yeah the latter two picked up good points last weekend, but when it comes to the crunch, can they dent any ambitions of the top flight clubs? I might be unfair there, which I don’t intend to be, but I’m giving my opinion. Is it shared? There seems to be loads of opinions, all right and all wrong, and to have this setup that nobody else in Europe understands and maybe some in Belgium don’t want. It stands alone. It’s unique, different, cutting edge. Or is it complicated, long winded and giving undeserving teams a second chance? What if Eupen win their next nine games? Should they get Europa League when the stayed up by one goal, not one point.

Like I said last week, I was all for this last season. But when I stand back and take in the full season, a season which had twists and turns, an historic club going down and the table was on its head for a fair while. It was a soap opera for many a month. Maybe the extended break due to the international friendlies is what did me? But we’ve had the season now and we’re just filling in two months. I’ve probably come across miserable or boring. Maybe it’s the delirium from my weak condition right now? Or maybe I’m being soft. Either way, the title looks won and I just think it’s Kortrijk versus anyone for a place to fight for Europe.

Posted in Matches in Brief

Still not excited

The first round of the playoff fixtures were finally completed and even with 27 goals scored, I can’t get myself up for it. Last season I was excited, but I was naive. I’d just started my blog. But when you’ve gone through an entire season already, with the last day excitement of relegation and who’d get top six, it’s just a bit rubbish, unless both groups begin to get going and there’s a real battle in each group.

The league was basically sewn up yesterday. Brugge have second, third and fourth (Gent, Anderlecht and Charleroi) in their next three games. If they manage to win all of those, which I can’t see, but IF they do, the league should be wrapped up fairly quickly. I’m just happy Lior Rafaelov scored cause I just really like him. Gent didn’t surprise me either. I felt that they’d win on Friday because they are better than Anderlecht right now. It’s a shame their season kicked off once Vanderhaeghe arrived, as they look most likely to get second and have done for a few weeks in my opinion.

Glen De Boeck has continued to do really well, refocusing his players so that they try and get Europa League football. They look likeliest to get the playoff match come May and could actually get it in my opinion. Not that they are guaranteed anything yet, but that 4-1 win over Beveren looked emphatic. It’s just a worry that their players get snapped up if they don’t reach Europe next season, because why leave if you’ve got that competition to look forward to?

I know I haven’t mentioned Mouscron at all, but in 2A, I can’t see them surpassing Kortrijk or Zulte Waregem, and even Beveren if I’m honest. Lierse just didn’t look at their best from the highlights I saw. Full credit to OHL too who came back from adversity twice to get a point. Im not saying it’s down to him, but Nigel Pearson is actually very good. He doesn’t accept anything less than 100%.

Playoff 2B looks more intriguing to me now. Lokeren won their third home match of the season against a poor Sint-Truiden side, who have fallen since the turn of the year. To not beat Lokeren at the Daknam is a bad sign. And then game of the weekend came yesterday at the Bosuilstadion with Antwerp and Oostende drawing 3-3. Oostende have gotten better and better. I’m not accusing anyone though, but how comes Mouscron came into some criticism losing to Eupen, but not really a mention of the second half collapse by De Kustboys against Standard Liège? Not accusing, just curious.

I haven’t mentioned Eupen-Beerschot. Alexander Maes goal was very good with the build up, bested by Edmilson Junior’s brilliant winner against Charleroi. Luis Garcia has to stay at Eupen too right? Unfortunately there are just nine games to go now though and then I’ll be wallowing in sadness until next season. Fuck the World Cup (although I’ll be all over that to be fair).

Posted in Matches in Brief

Feels like a new season

I don’t know how I totally feel right now about the playoffs returning. Of course I’m thankful because I’ve hated the lack of domestic football. It’s been too long. Now you know why we don’t have a winter break here. However, I’m not a huge fan of playoff football, unless it’s a two legged match going into a final. I’m set in my ways, can’t help it.

It’s also good and bad for the second tier clubs because they play in the playoffs and then lose their best players. We all knew Nicolas Rajsel, Samy Kehli and Manuel Benson would get snapped up in pre season, which is great for them professionally, even if they all rarely played, but it meant Roeselare and Union Saint Gilliose had to scrap and fight, rather than rise and battle for possible promotion. So Lierse will have to be wary again, along with Beerschot and OHL!

Other clubs are fortunate to get a second chance of Europe. I felt sorry for Genk last season who pissed all over everyone in their group, to then lose to Oostende. I can’t see anyone here getting Europa League qualification unfortunately. It’s blunt. But if Genk need the playoff I can see them overcoming the likes of Kortrijk, Zulte Waregem and Antwerp, because right now, they’re edging it with quality. In my mind, the only other option is Charleroi, and even that will be tricky, although possibly more doable as they’re stinking the place out, especially after last night.

For me, the playoffs are for players to also get snapped up to the likes of the top three, Turkish clubs, average French clubs, or if you’re really lucky, your name is Henry Onyekuru. Also gives the fringe players a chance to get some playing time. If four matches pass and you have one point, then give academy and fringe players that opportunity to show their stuff and may give you a headache next season. I don’t expect the ‘bigger’ clubs to do this, as you may still sneak top place if results go their way, but anything can happen and when you have a free hit, take advantage of using your squad.

I don’t know what else to say? This won’t get going til about matchday three when we’ll see either surprises, or the cream rising to the top. Maybe even a surprise. Could Oostende miraculously do it again and get to Europe? Could it be a dream season for Antwerp, Beveren or even…Lokeren? I’ll start to slowly get excited. But for now, I’m just tired. Woke up early when I didn’t need to and watched Man vs Food. Thought I’d write because, let’s face it, Casey Webb is no Adam Richman.