Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: Francis Severeyns

I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.

I should really put this down as a club thing. Clubs who have done extremely well in the past whether it be in the cup, or Europe, or league. But…this time, I have decided to pick a player. I came across a player who most clubs in the Pro League will know as well European clubs and lower league clubs. Francis Severeyns!

To continually write about Club Brugge and Anderlecht is, no offence, dull. It’s full to whoever may read my blog on a regular basis (if anyone does) and it’s dull for me. It’s the equivalent of constantly writing about Liverpool and Manchester United. But I digress. Francis Severeyns, also known as Cisse, came through the ranks at Royal Antwerp in 1984, signed originally from Westmalle as a youngster. Primarily, I’ve written about Cisse because I thought I’d kick of my Back in Time with a 7/8 finish in the year, but stumbled across a goalscorer, who, was always the bridesmaid and never the bride.

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In a generation full of top Belgian strikers, Francis Severeyns managed to play for the Red Devils 7 times and managed to bag a goal in the process. Taking that into the clubs he played for, he did have a decent goalscoring record. In his first spell at Antwerp, his best personal performance was a goal haul of 24 goals when the Great Old finished 3rd in the 1987/88 season, striking up a good partnership Marc Van Den Linden. That season helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup.

With his impress start to his career, his major disappointment followed where Serie A came calling. Possibly the league to join in the 80s and 90s which is a huge compliment. Unfortunately, the Italian Job ended horrendously, with Pisa finishing second bottom, and, going by my research, no goals were scored by Severeyns. Where does he go from there? Well, he was a lucky boy, to an extent, when Mechelen signed him! Yes! The Belgian Champions sent him a huge lifeline.

After that, De Kakkers did well, finishing 3rd, 2nd and 4th in Severeyns three seasons, trying to build a relationship with John Bosman. Those finishes meant the Cisse always had European football. After his mini spell there, which was reasonably good at a club level, scoring nearly a goal every 3 matches, he rejoined Antwerp. In some ways, coming home.

Again, this is where the bridesmaid comment comes in, as they’d won the Beker van Belgie the year before he joined. Meaning clubs had success the year before he joined! But that first season the club reached the Cup Winners Cup final, losing out to an impressive Parma team. Francis Severeyns even managed a goal in that final before the Italians won 3-1! Domestically, Severeyns managed 19 goals (joint 5th) and sparked up a good relationship with Alexandre Czerniatynski (I quadruple checked that). The club began a descend down the table, actually finishing just outside the relegation places in the 1994/95 season, until picking themselves up the season he left, finishing 6th, ensuring an Intertoto Cup place.

But the now experienced Belgian moved to Austria with Tirol Innsbruck. An average season all in all where the club finished 6th, which is mid table in the Austrian Bundesliga, and the club also went out of Europe early to Celtic. This was to be his final stint abroad as he returned to Belgium in the form of Germinal Beerschot. 

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Three seasons with the historic club were followed by his last season in top flight at Westerlo in 2001/02. Thereafter, he played football for the love of football, playing in the Belgian lower leagues, before return to his home club KV Westmalle, where he is now the manager. 

This is unique in that I don’t often write about former players of yesteryear, but a player who had the courage to play abroad is one thing, along with being at clubs in a successful era in their history, without actually winning a medal of his own. A fantastic career with I’m sure many stories, with no silverware to boast for it! I wonder if the second coming in the form of management will happen for Francis Severeyns?

Posted in Uncategorized

Talking for the Sake of It

I felt that I rather wanted to write tonight rather than need to. Football isn’t how it used to be for me. And it’s echoed by everyone, well, most here in England. Football is money money money! When you see Manchester City spend £200 million this summer already and majority of that on full backs, one of whom hasn’t even got a plethora of international caps, it makes you wonder when will the bubble burst?

I shouldn’t compare the Pro League with the Premier League I know. When I went to Lokeren, the press officer did say ‘whatever you do, dont make comparisons with the Premier League‘ when I arrived at the Daknamstadion. I didn’t. I did however compare it to lower league clubs in England, where the club I’m most local to, a League 1 side, has the same capacity as Lokeren, and they’re nowhere near the biggest club in League 1. 

Watching the Pro League has made me realise that football is beyond the money. The only problem however is the lack of support at some matches. You do have fantastic stadia in Belgium, with fantastic support. But some clubs are let down by their fans when the matches aren’t sold out. Okay, the population of the country is a third of what it is here AND football is a religion in England. It’s also a fad to some people where it has now become ‘trendy’ to associate yourself with a football club. With the Pro League though, I’ve dived in two footed and when my mum, who I do go to football with, asks me about certain things in the Premier League, I tend to know about what’s currently happening in Belgium, amongst the broken French I know and Dutch that I definitely don’t know looking at the news!

But less of that and more of this. My opinion (which may count for nothing to some people) and I think that, and wait for it, Anderlecht will win the league again. There I’ve said it. If anyone asks me, and nobody actually does because England doesn’t particular take notice of any leagues other than their own, I look at Les Mauves and just see quality. Losing one player basically and having the depth to fight in league and cup. Of course the players aren’t going to be content with being squad players, like Hamdi Harbaoui and Diego Capel who’ll want regular football. Maybe the obvious reason for why Franck Acheampong left?

But when I look at other teams I actually feel Standard Liege could be the closest contenders. New manager. Fresh ideas. Good recruitment. No European football. It looks good. Their first few matches is a real acid test as the opposition are very good in the opening 8 matches. The only reason I put them ahead of Club Brugge, Gent, Genk and Zulte Waregem is because they all have European football (apart from Genk) and that could make or break their season. Brugge out of the Champions League early on could put a dampener on the season early on. Gent haven’t brought in enough in my opinion. Genk as well haven’t recruited enough and Zulte Waregem have personally brought quality in, but juggling the Europa League with the Pro League may be tough?

I know I’ve left out Charleroi and Oostende but I think the 5 I have already mentioned could be within the Championship Play Off come March. Lokeren could be the 6th team with their solid signings, and Rùnar Kristinsson has assessed the league now and could surprise some this coming season. I maybe totally wrong, and the likelihood that I am could be high. These are just predictions which I may reel out from time to time! But who knows in Belgium? Over the course of recent history, Anderlecht have dominated with a spluttering of teams who look promising like Gent, Genk, Club Brugge and Standard. René Weiler just seems too focussed when it gets down to it and uses his squad well.

Posted in Uncategorized

Who Will Keep the Cleanest Sheet?

Last Friday, I decided to discuss, with nobody, who would be potent the strongest in attack as a team and individually. Looking at each team’s attack, it’ll look likely that Anderlecht could well be the strongest along with Club Brugge. The same could be said between the sticks with Frank Boeckx and either Ludovic Butelle, Ethan Horvath and Guillaume Hubert. The reason why I’ve picked all 3 possibilities is because Butelle of course was ever present until Horvath came in during the Play Offs and performed superbly. Hubert is a new signing from Standard and probably didn’t sign to sit on the bench.

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But along with those 4, much like the strikers, there are more than capable goalkeepers who could follow Courtois and Mignolet to pastures new. But not all goalkeepers are the reason for keeping clean sheets. The defence in front of them tends to be as I because they prevent shots, crosses and headers coming in on the goalkeeper. In England, Arsenal had a great goalkeeper in David Seaman in the past and Petr Cech at Chelsea have kept records for goals not conceded in a season. One thing in common, they had fantastic defenders in front of them.

That goes for now as well. For example, Hendrik Van Crombrugge is a very good goalkeeper in my opinion, but unfortunately, and Diawandou Diagne agreed, defensively Eupen are just not good at all. Will Genk perform as well without Mathew Ryan this coming season? Mouscron have the same problem with Logan Bailly being their only goalkeeper, apparently, and Lokeren will need to replace Copa Barry too. 

Goalkeepers are the toughest position to replace or look after as it’s the costliest position. Nicolas Penneteau and Colin Coosemans had extremely good seasons individually last term keeping 25 clean sheets in the league combined. Hopefully they’ll be able to replicate that form this season, which will be tough! Along with them, we will get to see a full season out of Lovre Kalinic at Gent and a favourite of mine who somehow never fully hit the heights, Guillermo Ochoa. The Mexican who signed recently for Standard Liege could help the team progress better than last season. I remember writing a piece where if the team who scored first went on to win the match, Standard Liege would’ve actually finished top! So clean sheets are a major issue for Les Rouches, along with seeing out matches.

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Within this post I’ve purposely named goalkeepers as they are the most underrated position in my opinion, along with full backs in football. They are the players who receive specialist coaching and equipment and can win you as many points as a striker or attacking midfielder. They deserve a huge amount of credit and mentions! There is a list of real quality keepers within the Belgian Pro League who may, unfortunately, not see out the season or may be bought come next summer. As long as that doesn’t disrupt teams too much, which it most probably will, then we could see some real quality performances!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Taureau d’Or Race is on! 

Well…not quite just…anyway, to the blog post at hand. Belgium has a mix of quality strikers for the league and across Europe. There is a trifecta of strikers at the top clubs and with a full season for some of them, if they remain injury free, this could be a close one! 

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However, Anderlecht hold the upper hand when it comes to goalscorers currently in the Pro League. The pairing of Henry Onyekuru and Lukasz Teodorczyk up front could be deadly. Forty four goals in the league between them last season is nerve wracking for any defence this coming season.

Then you have Jelle Vossen, Jeremy Perbet and Wesley at Club Brugge who’ll be looking to get amongst the goals. The signing of Perbet could be the difference between top and second this season for BlauwZwart. The problem for the chasing pack is that Gent, Charleroi, Oostende and Zulte Waregem have lost attackers, or in the case of ESSEVEE, haven’t exactly strengthened in that department in comparison to the others.

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Standard Liege have managed to keep hold of Orlando Sa and Ishak Belfodil so far which is fantastic for Les Rouches in their own bid for the title, or at least European football. And along with holding onto players, Mbwana Samatta has stayed at Genk which is a big boost too.

Other contenders include Teddy Chevalier, which looks unlikely, and Eric Ocansey will have to step up to the plate for Eupen. You also have Igor Vetokele at STVV! The only other possibility right now could be Zinho Gano at Beveren, but his inconsistency could go against him. There’s a clutch of top strikers at each club so goals could be on the agenda this season, but one club in particular is hoarding them.

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To sign off, let’s not forget Lokeren as a club who have an insurmountable amount of strikers. I’ve counted 11 strikers at the club. I may be wrong but they have the chance to field a starting line up of strikers.

Posted in Matches in Brief, Uncategorized

How Will the Competition Fair?

I felt I had the need to write this piece. It’s not exactly news or anything specific about any team. It’s just my thoughts on the Pro League and how…erm…unappreciated it is in someway. Let’s look at last season’s Pro League. From 1 through to 9 (and sorry if this is boring) it went like this:

Anderlecht                                                           Club Brugge                                                         Gent                                                                   Oostende                                                               Charleroi                                                               Zulte Waregem                                                   Mechelen                                                             Genk                                                                     Standard Liege

If I’m incorrect please get in touch. I enjoy conversation. Anyway, if my memory serves me correctly that’s nine football clubs in Belgians top flight who are capable of winning the league. Some more than others are likely of actually succeeding, namely Anderlecht and Club Brugge, but last season, majority of this clubs took points off of eachother. It then boils down, and this is a cliché, that in a title race, it’s about taking points off of everyone else rather than those around you.

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The only problem with that is, if it really was a simple as suggesting these nine are real, honest contenders, then it works the other way, as 48 points are on offer here amongst your competitors, meaning you’d only need 13 points from the ‘bottom’ seven to copy Anderlecht’s regular season tally from last season. 

But let’s get away from figures. The whole point here is that, realistically, is there another league in Europe, and a top league, not the Albanian or Estonian or whoever else, although I’m sure Skenderbrau overhaul everyone in Albania, who can say we have over half of a league full of title challengers? Even those televised in England. Premier League may have 7 if they’re lucky, Italy has maybe 6 as best, and then Juventus win. Holland have maybe just 3, and they’re of similar level to Belgium. Portugal – 3, Scotland – 1, Germany – 3 maybe? And I could go on. But majority of league have pretenders to the thrown and the usual suspect ends up with the trophy. 

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But the Belgian Premier League has no place on English television unless you become a subscriber to another channel on a satellite television. The beauty is that I write this because, and to people who have read my blogs previously, I love football and enjoy going to Belgium. I’m going to paraphrase Tim Vickery who is the go to South American expert in England who, I think, lives in Brazil, and that’s that he said when he first saw Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and both Juninho’s (the Middlesbrough one and Lyon one) he felt like Christopher Columbus discovering and seeing all these talents before anyone else knew them. 

The same in some way applies to Belgium. Obviously, I knew Henry Onyekuru before he moved to Everton. The one tweet I tweeted once he joined had over 600 views in that hour. Nobody knows who he is unless they look on YouTube. Henrik Dalsgaard who has gone to Brentford. I knew he was quality, as many knew in Belgium and Denmark, but I’m sure Brentford fans are looking to see whether or not his actually good. There’s of course many more and seeing and hearing about these top players before they spread their wings and fly away gives me joy, as well as sadness because I’ve said many times, who likes to see the best players leave the league?

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End of the day, this league is extremely competitive and can one or 2 teams show that courage and express themselves and challenge for the league, Beker van Belgie or for Europe? We’ll find out who’ll be progressing or digressing in just 8 days…

Posted in Transfers

The Belgian Connection

I have been thinking for a while about writing this post. Belgian football is on the way up. At the same time, it may level itself out with the losses of Tielemans and Onyekuru from the league. If players like Henrik Dalsgaard are willing to swap top flight Belgian football with Europa League this coming season for an average Championship club in England, then there’s certainly a worry (and I’m not going to assume it’s money that lured him away). 

But titling this as a Belgian Connection wasn’t just a play on the French variety, but also, why can’t Belgian clubs either create or continue this parent/feeder club association with clubs around Europe, and the world, like they used to? I always remember the links between Beveren and Arsenal, where Arsenal youngsters would gain much needed first team experience in adult football, with Beveren also getting players eager to impress and help the side too and Arsenal would capitalise with signings such as Emmanuel Eboue, or taking Yaya Toure on trial or Marco Ne. 

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The other link I also seem to remember is Manchester United getting the most out of Antwerp as well with the same premise that Arsenal had. And this segway ties in well with my next part. Antwerp have created a three season link with FC Porto of, well, Portugal… obviously. And Antwerp could gain real quality players from the Dragões, with probably the better players from the Great Old going in the other direction, with probably a cut price option. 

I under not every club will be up for this. Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent and others will probably feel they should rather be a parent club rather than a feeder, and that’s fine. If they haven’t got this situation already, although it’s likely that they would have with some clubs, why not broaden your search for players at differ clubs and maybe take advantage of players in Germany, Holland, second tier Spanish clubs or something along those lines. Chelsea use this extremely well with their links to Vitesse Arnhem which has mainly benefitted the Dutch outfit rather than the English champions, seeing as Chelsea don’t often use young players unless they’ve been bought for £20 million. 

Eupen have a great connection with the Aspire Academy. With Onyekuru, Diagne, and of course, many others, and this season there have been another influx of youth players arriving at the Kehrweg Stadion doorstep. If they’re deemed good enough they play, if not they’re sold, released or if they’re very good, they’re sold for big profit. Whether the actual club see much of that is another matter, but with Eupen rise and then consolidation in the Pro League, something must be working down there. And I bring this up because this is an example of success through an affiliation.

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On the negative side, what’s the point of having an academy if you can simply take players from a different club who are of the same age as the players in your youth team? I did an under 21 team of the season last year and scraping the bottom of the barrel is an understatement. The criteria is that they had to feature in 10 or more league matches and Eupen (unsurprisingly) could’ve filled the team on their own. There really wasn’t many at all unless they were strikers, which isn’t a risk to take compared to a goalkeeper or defender. 

I also suggested a Belgian Carabao Cup altern too to blood youngsters rather than play average older players. To reiterate, I don’t !ran this player is average! But Kums at an older age has replaced a 19 year old Tielemans. Anderlecht have to do what’s best for them, but to change a fantastic youngster for a good older player, René Weiler may have stopped the progress of another youngster coming though?

That last paragraph is another post for another day, but the point of this was to see if affiliation between clubs around Europe and the world could still be worthwhile if done correctly!

Posted in Uncategorized

Waas Going on at Beveren?

Recently I’ve been looking more at clubs rather than signings. I didn’t exactly scrap the ‘Brief Transfer Roundup (insert Roman numeral)’ and simply put it on hold to look more at the clubs who aren’t exactly strengthening and maybe should be looking to progress rather than potentially digress.

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Beveren this pre season, and post season for that matter, have been less than convincing in the transfer market. Signing 3 players in 6 weeks isn’t a bad thing, but with an average season last time, maybe they’re settling or hoping to consolidate their league position in the top flight. I’m not one to tell a club how to run their business as firstly, I’m not in their position, secondly, I don’t see players on a daily basis, and thirdly, who knows what their targets actually are? 

With Phillipe Clement installed as the new gaffer, it could be a tough task ahead of him this season as his never managed a team in the top flight, working his way through the Club Brugge staff to assistant, which is easier at a bigger club with bigger players, ambition and under Michel Preud’homme, it would be easier in general. Beveren can’t lure the players as well as Brugge and the budgets will be different. I’m sure he is relishing the task ahead and I am half surprised Cedomir Janevski went because they ended the play offs a hell of a lot better than how they started, although I did suggest his job may be under threat back in April. 

Back to the playing staff, the main positives from my point of view is that the club haven’t had a big amount of players leave the club, meaning that it’s not as if they have a huge turnaround of players and the squad will seem more settled than clubs around losing 10 players and then signing 12. Another positive in a weird way is the acquisition of the Japanese midfielder Ryota Morioka from Wroclaw on a three year deal. The first Japanese to play for Beveren, and, will boost the clubs interest in Asia (hopefully). With a couple of Japanese internationals now in the Pro League, interest in the league and maybe revenue could boost the finances of the club and could see even more players come this way?

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After my Royal Antwerp post the other day, they went and signed 4 players, so possibly a similar situation may occur, but as long as Clement feels the squad has enough depth, quality and understanding, maybe 4th from bottom can be achieved. At least that’s progress?

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Europe Beckons for These Three…

Today is the day where Club Brugge, Gent and Oostende have found out who they’ll face, qualifying for the Champions League and Europa League. 

Personally, I think Club Brugge have had a reasonably good draw. All opponents, whether they’re good or not, always have their positives and negatives. Out of interest for whoever reads this, the Blauw-Zwart drew Istanbul Başakşehir from Turkey, obviously. When I think of Istanbul…..hir I think, unfortunately, I think about Emmanuel Adebayor who briefly played for them last season. 

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But back to the club, finishing behind Beşiktas (I believe) is a very good effort, mainly because they were above Fenebahce and Galatasaray in the process. Also, a long journey to Turkey isn’t ideal, especially when it will be hot there! With the second leg being in Turkey, a good result at home is vital and Ivan Leko would love nothing more than a positive result in his early tenure at the helm of the Brugge management.

Gent and Oostende also had a European draw of their own today and it is safe to say, the tastiest draw regarded Oostende as they face Marseille! Fair to mention that this is a huge European opener for De Kustboys in their maiden season in Europe. 

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Unfortunately I have a bad feeling as Marseille have received some money from the ownership and the Stade Velodrome is considered one of the most hostile environments in European football, along with the fact that the Versluys Arena…well…isn’t. A clash of the European seafronts in this one.

Gent return to the Europa league after a mixed campaign last term, defeating Premier League runners up Tottenham before being torn apart by Genk in the next round. This year they start their journey in either Belarus or Austria against Dynamo Brest or Altich respectively. Honestly, this is a good draw on the surface because I consider Gent are far more superior than their potential opposition, and with Yuya Kubo available for selection this season in Europe, that’ll help their cause all the way to wherever they end up in the tournament.

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A mix bag of results really from the draw, but European football can throw up surprises now and again. Of course I hope all 3 succeed and crack on, but who knows…? 

Posted in Uncategorized

Will the Great Old Freshen Up?

I’ve been looking at the transfers intensely since the 4th of June basically, well, even before then, and Antwerp have been so sterile regarding fresh faces within the squad that it’s worrying. Promoted as Champions of the B division, you’d think they’d sign some players, loan or permanent, to give them the best chance of survival. It’s good of László Bölöni to keep the entire squad together and maybe give them their best shot of survival as a reward, but I’m not confident that’ll work.

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Personally, I do think Mouscron may struggle along with others, and that includes Antwerp. Two weeks til the big kick off and it is champions Vs champions for the curtain raiser at the Bosuilstadion which will surely be a packed house, but Anderlecht’s recruitment has been outstanding. Other than their poor mini tour of Austria which wasn’t the best, the Brussels side have signed arguably the best holding midfielder in the league, they have the 2 top scorers in the league along with keeping others who had won them the league last season.

If that is to end badly, which is a big possibility, Antwerp have what could be the toughest start in the league! With other clubs signing much needed reinforcements around them, Beveren away could be their first ‘breather’ in terms of an even match on paper, and that isn’t until the end of September. Maybe I’m being harsh. Are the fans feeling the same? I’m unsure. Just, as a fan of my club, if I felt you’d need players to add depth, quality, replace then I’d be concerned and if I were a newly promoted side, the excitement of a big signing that may give you hope is a big thing!

The other reason why I may come across as harsh is because they’re not the only team to be a bit slow off the mark in the transfer window. Beveren themselves haven’t hit the ground running and even bigger clubs such as Genk and Gent haven’t lifted any trees. But the latter two look in good condition anyway, with the odd signing nearer the end of august. But again, can Antwerp risk a poor start with their opening matches against Anderlecht, Gent, Genk, Mechelen and Oostende. Home form is always important, along with a commited and hostile environment inside the ground, but with teams taking points off of the Great Old could prove costly when it comes to March.

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Hopefully I’m wrong. I mean that. I hate relegation. Relegation has to happen and tends to be more exciting as humans, players and clubs scrap in times of need. It’s a fact. But the cruelty of relegation in a hard long slog of a season can be too much to bare. The long wait for Antwerp to make the step up may last a long time in division A. But then again, it may be as brief as just a season…

Posted in Uncategorized

Are Charleroi Being Left Behind?

Bit of an overstatement. It’s the 10th day in July and the transfer window slams shut in basically 2 months (7 weeks if you’re pedantic) but Les Zèbres have been extremely quiet on the transfer front in general. Belgium and the Pro League have been busy as a whole with signings, and my phone has slowed down recently with updates of fresh arrivals, none bigger than Ochoa at Standard Liege yesterday, but that’s another story. Amongst all the names though, Charleroi have been extremely quiet. I mean, almost silent! 

Other than Núrio Fortuna, Dodi Lukebakio and Kaveh Rezaei there haven’t been any other names to talk about who have signed. I guess the positive is, unlike my Mouscron post last week where there seemed to be a revolving door, only Damien Marcq is the only one out of any note. Harbaoui was destined to go back to Anderlecht as he was temporary. I don’t know if the club realised they finished in the top 6 last term and narrowly missed out on Europe next season. 

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I guess the problem is that you have five clubs in European competition this coming season and out of Europe includes Standard Liege and Genk who are frankly bigger names within Belgium. Obviously if they’re not interested and you are then you, as any club, should be the front runner, but maybe Charleroi need that certain player to take them from 5th to 4th or push them further in the Beker van Belgie? With an average age of around 25, it’s not a bad age for a squad with what seems a good blend, but I don’t know. Would I be worried this coming term if I were a Sporting fan arriving at the Stade du Pays De Charleroi with the same team lining up again which played well through the season, but didn’t realize any rewards for their hard work.

Maybe I’m just writing nonsense, and majority of blog posts will probably prove that, but with Zulte Waregem, Oostende and other strengthening around you and you’re biding your time, a bad start can bring pressure, tension, worry, PANIC!?! Who knows? But a poor start going into the 1st September could push up prices and make negotiating more difficult if things don’t begin well. Before the window shuts, Charleroi play Anderlecht, Genk and Zulte Waregem. Regardless of where they’re playing, those are 3 huge matches, and Club Brugge come to town before the end of September too. 

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As I have stated, maybe I’m making something out of nothing? But then again, if I’ve brought it to attention, perhaps some movement, regardless of speed, could slowly be made…