Posted in Matches in Brief

The Pro League is Back with a Bang

Last night we saw Kortrijk find their level. As they’re easing off now where they started so well, what was there, just isn’t now. Antwerp carried on their magnificent early season form with a 3-0 win. All three goals were of high quality and were all different by Owusu, Dequevy and Rodrigues.

With the 7 remaining fixtures, Saturday has matches where one of teams in each match needs a win more than the opposition. Oostende face Genk in the early match where, of course, they really need their first league win of the season. Managerless and rudderless they need to perform. Genk would also love a win but Oostende’s situation is a whole lot worse right now.

Then the middle matches include sides where they have just one league between them too. Thanks to the 2 sackings this week, I do think Mechelen and Eupen are one match away from losing their manager. Mechelen host Sint Truiden who have been a different class frankly. They are the Mechelen of last season and I wouldn’t be surprised by an away win.

The same can’t be said for Mouscron – Eupen. I can only see a home win. Eupen are the Mouscron of last season! (haha) Mouscron can be devastating if they perform as well as they have done at home against Gent and Club Brugge. Eupen aren’t terrible. They proved that in the derby last week, even though Standard seemed to dominate. However, I only see a home win.

Lastly tonight, another managerless club in the champions Anderlecht travel to Beveren. Les Mauves need Onyekuru firing still as he is their only hope right now. At the same time, Beveren need Ryota Morioka in the same form. I feel the likeliest result is actually a draw, unless Anderlecht finally turn up.

Tomorrow sees a huge match as the meat in the sandwich. But before then, the afternoon match is a doozy too! Gent welcome Zulte Waregem to the Ghelamco Arena. I do think an away win has the most chance. Gent finally managed their first win in the league last week, but against Oostende, that doesn’t count for much. Zulte for me just have too much quality even if Yuya Kubo finally found his shooting boots.

And now…Charleroi vs Club Brugge. This is the test to see if Charleroi can withstand the season in a title hunt. The only undefeated side in the league against the team at the top. Like many, again, I see an away win. I just think Brugge have the savvy to see off Charleroi who’s luck looks to be running out, especially after they threw away the victory last weekend to Beveren.

And finally…Standard Liege see us out of another weekend, at home to Lokeren. This match isn’t particularly make or break for either. I guess a draw if I had to pick a result. But another draw for Standard (if that did happen) wouldn’t be ideal. Lokeren have picked up as the season has gone and are finding their level now, whereas Standard have disappointed me so far.

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Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Nigel Pearson

A familiar name to English fans, Nigel Pearson is the new Leuven manager in Belgium’s second tier. The 54 year old takes the short leap east across the English Channel/North Sea to take charge of the coincidentally owned King Power club. The Leicester City connection is strong after his dismissal from the club, the year after the great escape, and the season at the beginning of their title winning campaign.

I honestly believe he is a good manager, regardless of his stint at Derby County which wasn’t the best. He can round up a group of players and succeed as well as get a club out of the division below, into the top tier. It’s one of those hirings where I’m slightly shocked OHL have dismissed Dennis van Wijk because I felt the club weren’t doing too badly, but then again, I’m not surprised between the link of the ownership and new management.

Pearson will come in and have people on the playing staff where English is their first language, which will help him to begin with, and depending on the length of his stay and how commited he is, then we’ll see the progression of the club. As I’ve said, regardless on how fair or unfair the initial sacking was, Pearson is a very good replacement. He is a manager who expects 100% in effort and I feel the players will be too scared to give anything less.

The only problem, potentially, is the baggage that comes with him. Whether it’s holding a player down in his dugout by the throat, to calling journalists ostriches, to even having his son…well I won’t go into the Thailand fiasco without getting all the details wrong, even though most of Twitter saw what actually happened.

I’ll end by being honest, as this is a short post from me, but with this hiring, I do think OHL may well get promoted now. My opinion on manager hirings in Belgium hasn’t always been on point, but I do feel he won’t only succeed this season, but even do well the next with the backing of the board, the quality on the pitch and the quality in the dugout too!

All pictures courtesy of Getty Images

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Franck Berrier

This week I went through the fixtures and was undecided on who to go with. Then again, there is currently one club in a desperate situation and they are KV Oostende. This week as well, they lost their leader in the dugout. When Yves Vanderhaeghe left, many may have been upset, yet many may have felt it was needed. Now the manager has gone, does the second oldest player in the squad, the one who keeps the team ticking, the play maker Franck Berrier, does he take the mantle as leader? 

It has been a tough season for the Frenchman. Not because of poor form but because of the joint effort reflected in the clubs results. Scoring just one goal this season, the player will probably be his own worse critic with no assists. The reason it has also been tough individually is because he was sidelined for 3 matches with a thigh problem. 

This week however, the club did finally grab their first win in any competition, defeating Union Saint Gilloise 3-1 and Berrier helped himself to a couple of assists. I guess the only problem is that De Kustboys face Genk who’ll be smarting from their derby defeat to STVV last week and may want to exact some damage on the league’s bottom club at the Luminus Arena.

This season is the Frenchman’s 5th season at the Versluys Arena, and the wiley midfielder knows his way around the Pro League already plying his trade at Zulte Waregem and Standard Liege. A quality player on his day, maybe the Belgian league equivalent to Santi Cazorla. Technically good with a pass and an eye for goal. If things start clicking between Berrier and Zinho Gano, it could still work out to be a good season in the end, considering how it has started. 

I’m just sure that Oostende won’t go much longer without a win. Why not tomorrow against Genk whilst they’re against the ropes themselves? 

Posted in Back in Time, Manager Profile

Back in Time: Bill Gormlie

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.

After this week in the Belgian top flight, I thought I’d look at the longest serving manager in Anderlecht history. I’m guessing his the longest serving as he has managed the most amount of matches, along with the fact he has won the most league titles for the club. Bill Gormlie was a remarkable coach in that he did what most Englishmen won’t do. He went abroad!

Born in 1911 in Liverpool, he went on to play as a goalkeeper for Blackburn Rovers and Northampton Town. But he really excelled as a manager. He originally became manager of the Belgian National team in 1947 around the age of 37 which would never happen now if you think of it. His first match was a derby against the Dutch. The problem at the time is the Belgian FA didn’t want to participate in the 1950 World Cup, so no qualifiers were played.

Because of that, maybe that was the reason he split his role with the national side, as he took charge of Anderlecht in 1950! He quit the role of Belgium manager in 1953, leaving them in a good position at the time as they’d defeated Finland and Sweden, helping them towards the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. But as I were saying, he took charge of Anderlecht until 1959.

In those years he won 5 titles, winning one in his first season, following on the good work of Irishman Ernest Churchill Smith. In that first season however, Les Mauves won the league on goal difference and only winning 13 matches out of 30! Remarkable. It then took 3 seasons til his next title, but after the 1953/54 season, Anderlecht were ruthless. 

In that season, they scraped the league by a single point, but then the next, not only did they win the league by 3 points, they also managed qualification for the European Cup. They repeated the feat the next season before he won his last league title in his last season as manager in 1958/59. Five league titles in 9 full seasons is fantastic. 

Unfortunately for Gormlie, he couldn’t take his league form into Europe. Okay we know Real Madrid ran Europe then…much like they do now. Anyway, the inaugural European Cup saw Anderlecht lose 10-4 to Vörös Kobogó (I know) and were out immediately. The next season was no better after the Belgians were, frankly, demolished by Manchester United 12-0 on aggregate, the second leg being 10-0! The season after Bill Gormlie was let go, Anderlecht still disappointed on the European stage as the went out to Glasgow Rangers in the first stage again.

Bill Gormlie laid the foundations, and carried on good work from those before him too to be fair, for Anderlecht’s domination to this day. He helped in their history to shape the club in some way. He did do ground-breaking stuff, such as beating Arsenal in 1954 at Highbury, the first foreign side to achieve this. He was credited in finding Paul Van Himst, one of Belgian football’s greatest players. To only manage in Europe and succeed doesn’t happen often, especially for Englishmen, so this is one story which many won’t know, and maybe should know. 

Posted in Manager Profile

Vanderhaeghe Gets the Chop

I feel bad as I have run out of phone data and I have to wait til I’m home to actually find out things about the world not around me. I walked in last night to read the inevitable. Yves Vanderhaeghe has been let go by Oostende. The 4th manager to lose their job in the Belgian Pro League this season and we’re still in September!

I feel guilty within myself because I happened to not only have data, but be free to write about René Weiler losing his job, as well as vent and give opinion on the other sackings which had already happened. Not that Oostende fans read this daily or probably care about one Englishman’s opinion, but still, it comes across that I either don’t care or that another club has preference over the other.

I was touting other managers to see their P45 before Vanderhaeghe. I don’t know why. I guess I just believed the next game will be the one where they get back on track. For me, the signs were incredibly early that things weren’t clicking however. Losing their first match against Mouscron. Other home defeats to Antwerp and Beveren. Gaining just one point which should’ve been three. Confidence could be at its lowest at the club for a while and it may have gotten to the point of no return.

Losing certain players too. Namely Dimata and Proto. Knowledge Musona has been injured too. Siani being suspended too. Those are big names who were unavailable to the gaffer and maybe that didn’t help. I really thought all was rosy in the garden. Two-year deal signed (if memory serves) Europa League on the horizon which was unfortunate because Marseille are Marseille at the end of the day. If was always going to be tough. But results are always what matter.

Certain clubs go on style. Some go on lack of attendance. Some go on results. Either way, Vanderhaeghe had to go. If I’m now sounding repetitive I’m sorry. I feel bad for the former manager but these things happen. His CV is certainly still adequate and maybe will get back in to Pro League football before the season is over. With who? Who knows, but he is decent regardless going by a 4th place finish and runners up in the Croky Cup. Good luck Yves. I’m sure this was done with a heavy heart…

All pictures courtesy of Getty Images

Posted in Manager Profile

The Sack Race has Begun

I ended today’s post by stating I’d write something this week regarding the ins and outs of managers and who’d be next. We’ve already seen 2 managers part company with their clubs this season. One of whom we’d never no how well he would actually do, but his predecessor has been fantastic. In all fairness, Lokeren have looked to have done the right thing too as they have kicked on. Whether or not they would’ve done that under Kristinsson we’ll never know.

But coming into the present, Anderlecht same sacked Rene Weiler. We all know Anderlecht have underperformed, but is that totally down to the manager in his second full season? Seven matches played and just 2 wins. Not good. But, I don’t know. Is it weird I’m in shock? The Belgian Pro League is such a small, compact league that losing a couple or dropping points can be disastrous because if your opposition put a run together, the gap in points can be caught up. 

I’m a believer that the cream rises to the top. As long as Anderlecht reach the top 6, who says they can’t win their 10 play off matches? One of the only leagues where you get some sort of second chance at a title and Europe. Losing Youri Tielemans couldn’t be that bad could it? Which is why some, if not, majority of the blame could be left with the players. Fans in Brussels will know more than me, obviously, but I can’t get my head around it.

Which leads me to this…if Weiler has gone, then how long has Ferrera, Condom and definitely Vanderhaeghe have left? The worry for these 3 is that if the champions are willing to sake their manager, these 3 won’t have long left either, especially Yves Vanderhaeghe and Yannick Ferrera! Both haven’t won this season, and maybe after the Croky Cup matches, we’ll know more then. 

I hate seeing managers go, unless it’s deserved, but I’m not sure what to think at Anderlecht. I immediately mentioned Frank De Boer at Les Mauves. Probably won’t happen, but he is a big name and has won league titles. He is also desperate to get his reputation up and running again. Perfect match? 

When it’s all said and done, I just feel there could be 4 more sackings sooner rather than later. The 4th being Vanhaezebrouck at Gent, who may have saved his job for another week after yesterday’s win. Only time will tell though. In my opinion all bets are off and anyone could be next! 

Posted in Matches in Brief

Zulte Make Up Ground as Gent Finally Win

The title says it all really. I’ll now be filling out a blank screen for the next few paragraphs in case somebody actually stumbles across this! Before I speak about yesterday’s action, I’d like to go back to Saturday where I was unable to speak give my opinion on a couple of goals as I couldn’t find them! Ibrahima Seck’s finish yesterday was fantastic for Beveren, as was Roman Bezus’ free kick!

Now that my conscience is clear, I will now begin. And in a tedious link, it was kind of Zulte Waregem’s defence to clear the way and allow Taiwo Awoniyi to basically stroll through and slot the ball home. This has been a tough week for the hosts after their awful result against Nice on Thursday, and Mouscron were hoping to show no mercy in a tricky fixture this season.

To be fair though, Zulte fought back and equalised through Leya who has had a fine start to the season. Sandy Walsh scored a fine winner drilling the ball home at the far post to hopefully turn Waregem’s form around. Mouscron couldn’t build on their fantastic win last week but will still look to the positives!

Next was what I dubbed the wooden spoon match between winless Oostende and winless Gent. To sum up, Oostende are just appalling defensively and create chances for the opposition rather than the opposition creating fine openings. Yuya Kubo FINALLY opened his account for the season, tapping home an unchallenged volley into an empty net (long story). Gent sealed the win in second half stoppage time through 18 year old Louis Verstraete with a calm finish one on one with the keeper. Oostende, with one point, will be worried surely. No wins and 1 point. What is going on!

Lastly it was Eupen vs Standard Liege in the second derby of the weekend. Both goals coming in the first half with Mbaye Leye scoring his second goal for Eupen in the second minute, before my PP from last week, Paul-Jose Mpoku fired home the goal of the weekend in my opinion. Eupen will probably be more satisfied in my opinion as Les Rouches look for their second win.

A weekend which closes another match day and I’ll probably give a full assessment this coming week, along with the sack race and probably a piece regarding Oostende. I wrote about Gent about 5 weeks ago which I still think is fair, and now Oostende have to be assessed seeing as they are just plain dreadful right now!

Posted in Matches in Brief

STVV Come Out on Top in Limburg

With 3 matches left to play this weekend, at one point, it looked as if nobody wanted to win apart from Club Brugge. Another great match week so far as the tussle for the top swung one way, and then the other.

A comprehensive win for Blauw-Zwart Friday night where Brugge won 2-0 with two first half goals. Firstly, Wesley struck as a deflected Ruud Vormer cross found the only Black and Blue shirt 12 yards out. Dion Cools rounded off the scoring with a decent long range effort, deflecting in and condemning Mechelen to a defeat. Mechelen are looking worryingly poor right now. I questioned how long Yannick Ferrera has left right now, it doesn’t look like he has long unfortunately.

Saturday started with a topsy turvy match. Anderlecht opened the scoring through Hamdi Harbaoui with a strong header, showing there’s still life left in him. But De Kerels turned it around. Firstly through Ajagun, and the main man Chevalier scored his THIRD, that’s THIRD of the season (message to Kortrijk’s Twitter) to complete the turnaround. But with 15 minutes left, a sort of scrappy goal, finally scored by Onyekuru could’ve setup a late win for the champions, but it ended 2-2 at the Guldensporen stadion. Another poor result for Anderlecht on the surface of it.

Then another 2-2 took place, although it could’ve been so much better for Charleroi. Dorian Dessoleil and Rezaei looked to have won it for Les Zèbres. However, Thelin halved the deficit before in the 93rd minute, Ibrahima Seck turned the game on its head. Two each in a match where I genuinely felt Beveren wouldn’t have a chance. All credit to Phillipe Clement and his boys where Beveren never gave up in what would be one of their toughest away trips in the early fixtures. Dropped points for Charleroi but I’m sure this won’t affect them too much.

At the same time, Lokeren grabbed a draw in the final 10 minutes at home against Antwerp. The Great Old took the lead in the first half through William Owusu, although I do have sympathy for Verhulst in the Lokeren goal with a fine save, before nearly keeping out the goal! But in the 83rd minute, a long ball down field delicately nodded on by Tom de Sutter was deftly put away by Miric.  A fine goal in a match where Lokeren nearly took all three points, striking the post before the equaliser and nearly netting from a corner in the dying embers. Another fine point for Antwerp.

Last but not least, the Limburg derby kicked into gear late on as well. Bezus and Dussaut won the day for De Kanaries in the last 10 minutes at the Staaien! One of my favourite players Siebe Schrijvers made it a tense stoppage time for the hosts, but STVV took all 3 points against Genk. Sint Truiden have deserved all their recent plaudits. A great derby victory putting them into 3rd. Unbelievable start considering the early confusion in the dugout this season.

So, in a week where already Club Brugge are the real winners, and Anderlecht still can’t maintain anything, we’ll see if Gent or Oostende will finally win this season! 

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Yohan Boli

This season is 6 weeks old. Twenty per cent of the regular season is over and the unpredictable nature of the league will hopefully continue. A plethora of top strikers within the league vying for glory as a team and as the Taureau D’or with Lukasz Teodorcyzk, Henry Onyekuru, Emmanuel Bonaventure, Zinho Gano, etc, etc…but so far, another player in the mix isn’t just fighting amongst a league of top strikers, but with the front men at his own club.

Yohan Boli has competition in training everyday which has surely helped he perform on the pitch! Scoring in big matches against big opposition, the 24 year old has been pivotal to all of Sint Truiden’s successes so far this term. The club have had a shakier start off the pitch rather than on it with Tintin Marquez already leaving, but the group as a whole have stayed focussed throughout.

This weekend is a huge match as Genk travel to the Staaien in the Limburg derby, where unfortunately for De Kanaries, the visitors have held the bragging rights for quite sometime. I’m sure the Frenchman will relish this match to not only steal the show, but also to show others that as a club, STVV’s start is far from a fluke.

In his 3rd season at the club now, he is growing with each season and is already a couple of goals off of last season’s tally already. Looking to firstly eclipse last season’s total, next it will surely be for the club to continue down this road of fine performances. His form hasn’t been unnoticed either, after being selected for the Ivory Coast earlier this month too (if my research is correct). 

From a personal point of view, and I was having this discussion the other day, when you see that a team has scored, one name comes to your head immediately, and with STVV, that name in all honesty is Yohan Boli first…then Igor Vetokele, but this isn’t about him right now unfortunately. 

I’ll sum up by saying this will be tough. It may be cagey and Sint Truiden really need to start coming to the party in this derby. You can’t beat Anderlecht away and then cower from your local rivals who aren’t on the same level as Les Mauves. In what will hopefully be a packed house, somebody will need to have an ice cold head in a hit situation, hopefully for him (and for the sake of this piece) it’s Boli.

All pictures courtesy of Getty images

Posted in Matches in Brief

Back to Work for Me & The JPL

This week I’ve slacked off. I published one piece yesterday to prove to people I’m still alive. Along with that, I found renewed enthusiasm to write, at least for another weekend, and its another weekend where Belgian football will hopefully prove to the bigger European football experts that this season especially, it’s not all about the same teams winning week in week out!

And as always, we start with tonight. I won’t lie, I fear for Mechelen tonight. They just can’t win right now and they allowed Oostende their first point of the season last week! I fear because Club Brugge will want to bounce back, at home, after losing their first league match of the season last week. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a 3-0 home win, but with this season, who knows?

Saturday begins with Kortrijk welcoming Anderlecht. With a grounding 3-2 for the visitors last week, hopefully for Réne Weiler, his front 2 will come good this week again. For De Kerels, they grabbed a good point in the derby away to Zulte Waregem last week where it could’ve been worse, yet, could’ve been better. Les Mauves were humbled midweek by Bayern but I’m sure they’ll rectify that tomorrow.

Next up its a weird one. Lokeren host Antwerp where the Great Old would’ve considered this a ‘breather’ amongst their early run of fixtures, but Lokeren have played well over the past month and I wouldn’t be surprised if they nick this. I predict both teams to score, but Lokeren taking all 3 points, but again, Antwerp have been so good this season, you can never rule them out! 

Leaders Charleroi, who I can’t help but enjoy what they’re doing, play Beveren who spanked Eupen last week 5-1! Les Zébres will most likely continue their wonderful start, and will probably think they dropped 2 points last week against an average Standard Liege side this season. Mazzu will look to pick up from where they left off before the international break.

Saturday culminates with the Limburg derby, as a superb STVV say hello to neighbours Genk! Sint Truiden, for me, are the favourites going in. But De Smurfen have a mental edge over their hosts who have outperformed them this season so far. Yohan Boli will be looked at for goals tomorrow night and with Jonas De Roeck, maybe a new outlook may favour the hosts in what will be a tight game at the Staaien.

Sunday brings us a trio of matches where I hope it’ll be more eventful than last week! We start with Zulte Waregem who were demolished by Nice on Thursday night, who face an extremely confident Mouscron who go from strength to strength. However, and I’ve said this too often, I think Essevee will aim to just not lose and will most likely win in my opinion. Francky Dury will get his players playing I’m sure in what is a huge Sunday afternoon match.

The evening affair sees Oostende vs Gent. Another couple of Europa League rejects. And the way they’re going, a couple of Pro League rejects too. Disappointing is an understatement for these 2 where not only can’t they win, but it’s becoming embarrassing. Maybe something will give Sunday evening though?

And we end with our second derby of the weekend. Eupen and Standard Liege will hardly light up the sky on Sunday at the Kehrweg, and Les Rouches will most likely come out on top. I still fear for Jordi Condom’s job week after week, and its admirable his still in work. But I just feel Standard will be too strong.