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Quiet Week

This week I have been quiet. Probably much has gone on in Belgian football. I’ve tried to keep abreast of any news I can be bothered to look at but my recent ‘efforts’ have mainly been out of fantasy or somebody calling me a tourist, which I still love by the way.

Because this weekend is so important to five clubs in particular, between 6-8 and 15-16 positions, my focus has been more on the pitch than anything in the boardrooms around the Pro League. Obviously things at the top of each club can have some relevance on what happens further down the pecking order, and then can spill onto the pitch. I guess an example could be Oostende this season, who once their new owner was named their results have picked up.

I want to try and find new ways of writing something half decent rather than writing for the sake of it. I can never do this ‘tactical analysis’ of matches because when I played football, I played with my head and heart and I hate how now, footballers can tend to be robotic. If you know you’re better than the opposing player, then beat him. Take that shot, play that ball, take those chances! Sometimes that shot you take spills out of the keepers hands. Or that pass you attempt deflects into an unmarked strikers pass. That’s how I played. Not forceful, but at least play creatively.

What makes me laugh is everyone thinks they’re a coach, but never the player. The player is the one who dictates the results essentially. Those same players at Kortrijk, Gent and Genk can’t just be performing because of tactics surely? I’ve always had the thinking that a player can’t be excused when they might say ‘I’m more effective down the middle’ or out wide, WHATEVER.

Just do as your told. Your profession is footballer. Not attacking right full back or centre half who can play as an auxiliary forward in the last ten minutes. And like when a player can’t use their weaker foot at all. Would rather play the ball with the outside of their right foot instead of using their left. You train everyday. Practice your weakness, then maybe you’d be better?

I have clearly turned this into a rant, but I think modern day football has annoyed me slightly, where the most simplest of games can be turned complicated by people who think they’re too smart. Winning is winning like I said last week, and I’m sure if your team won 1-0 every week and guaranteed success, you wouldn’t be moaning. And if you moan then you’re clearly an idiot.

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Am I a Tourist?

This isn’t planned, although most of my entries aren’t. They’re more a reaction of something that’s happened, much like most news anyway. However, I’m just a blubbering fool who spends/wastes his time typing about Belgium and the football played there. But tonight, something tickled me when I read something…

On Facebook I am part of a group committed to every top club in the land. I do this to get an idea of what football fans think over there from right here. People might have and can have this idea if they like, I can’t control your minds, but someone said I was a member of ‘the real tourist fans’. That’s fair enough, each to their own. I replied stating I’m always there with my bumbag, camera around my neck, along with my half and half scarf.

I honestly found it funny. I have one love in football and that is the pile of shite that I went to watch yesterday afternoon in Brighton. The six tattoos prove it! I have stated in the past I don’t have any favourites in Belgium, although I am warming to some clubs more than others. But win, lose or draw, I try to remain neutral.

For example, I like Gent. I also like Oostende and that’s why I applauded De Kustboys in their victory. Even though I like Gent and their fans, it was a great result regardless of performance. I got accused of loving Kortrijk. I like Kortrijk as much as anyone else. Socially I like them because their Twitter is great along with the fans I’ve conversed with. I have also damned them on the racism in December. If I ‘loved’ them I wouldn’t have said anything at all if I didn’t want to ‘upset anyone’.

I’m such a tourist, I use minutes, sometimes hours in a day to write about a league that nobody here cares about. I’m trying my best to make people care, but we’re English, and selfish, and nothing is better than the Premier League, unless you’re pretentious and say La Liga or the Bundesliga is better, whatever. But like I’ve said, hilariously I’m a tourist, trying to learn, put my thoughts online and engage with other Belgian football fans to bring a wider community.

If it works, great. If it doesn’t, great. I like writing and love football, especially from the Pro League. Looking up reasons to visit Belgium, football wasn’t on there unfortunately. Chips, beers, chocolate and history was, but no football….never mind. More for us to enjoy!!!

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Where’s Their Bottle Gone?

As the regular season draws ever closer to its end, two clubs have led the way. Club Brugge and Charleroi have been outstanding all season and deserve their place on the podium. Anderlecht have themselves done extremely well to get themselves into contention of anything, although in my opinion, they undeservingly sit third, but then again, the table never lies.

Blauw-Zwart have stood above everyone else virtually since day one. Waregem faded along with other, and many rivals never got going. They deserve their spot at the top and look exciting. However, with Leko being very young for a manager at a top club in Belgium, he may unfortunately learn the hard way of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. My point is that this revolving goalkeeper door of shot stoppers starting one week to the next, shipping some out and bringing others in. It’s not great to do this with the most important position on the pitch, in my opinion.

Next is Les Zébres who were so good defensively, and then great towards the end of matches. A strong defensive unit, with fantastic work on both wings and a superb striker in his maiden Pro League season. It was sweet at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi. Mazzu is one of the managers of the season and the barcodes look good for some sort of European football next season.

Lastly, Anderlecht have snuck into third and with some really good signings in the past window, you’d think the garden was looking rosier. The problem is, there’s no real first choice striker, as their biggest goal threat has gone back to his parent club injured. A bit like Club Brugge, I’m unsure Vanhaezebrouck is stuck on which goalkeeper he wants to use, and losing the talisman and captain rolled into one to Spartak Moscow, getting wins has become extremely difficult.

This is where the lack of bottle, a pair of bollocks if you will, looks to be missing. Not just from one of them, but all three are pissing their season up the wall. Yes I know, there’s plenty of time once the league splits, but until then these three are looking at Gent and almost encouraging them to join the party and upset it frankly. Gent have been superb in 2018. De Buffalos have made up 5 points on those above them as the three aforementioned clubs have all won just six points in the five matches they’ve all played in 2018.

Club Brugge, Charleroi and Anderlecht just need to pick it up. The winter break just hasn’t helped them at all and has made the run in more exciting. If form continued to the end the way it’s going, Gent would be second joined on points by Charleroi, with Anderlecht a point off and making the playoffs unbelievably fun. This obviously won’t happen…yet. Because of the stuttering from the top three it has allowed Gent to come in and upset whatever was going on.

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First Goal Wins

I did a post last season regarding this sort of subject and sometimes it’s fascinating. Last season, if I recall, Standard Liège would’ve won the regular season IF they knew how to hold onto a lead once they took it. This season, there is a leader by just one point and that team will rue not holding onto a lead once taking it. Obviously football is a ninety minute match, and no two halves are the same (usually). I used to always say to my sister that you can’t win a match in the first half, but you can definitely lose it, which is a bit of a cliche.

With all that said, Charleroi would be top of the table with 51 points. They have taken the lead more than any other club, and therefore top the table. I have a few rules if I ever followed through with my coaching career and they are…points are as vital in August as they are in May and that set pieces and fitness are the biggest factor in football, but that ideology is for another day. Charleroi’s start has aided with where they are now in reality, with Gent and Anderlecht playing catch up, but in this new league I have, they may look at themselves and think defensively, could they have done better once taking a lead, including last Sunday.

Club Brugge are third, with Anderlecht fourth, but Gent would be second just a point off of Les Zébres. This league throws up some surprises, but most of the teams are around where they are in real life, or at least there or thereabouts. As I’ve said, five of the top six are still in the top six (Antwerp being the other) with Genk in seventh. But the one who’d be fifth and eleven points better off if they held a lead would be Kortrijk.

Holding a lead, no matter when you take it, is such a mental thing rather than physical. It can give you confidence if you get it early, and then make you nervous the longer you hold it. On the other side, it can wake you up, that’s why if an underdog takes a lead, they say it’s possibly the worst thing as it can ‘anger’ the favourites. I guess that’s somewhat true as Club Brugge are twelve points worse off here than in reality, showing their battling instincts in the real world.

At the bottom, you have Mechelen, showing how abysmal this season has been in every way, ten points adrift of Lokeren! Oostende and then Standard Liège make up the bottom four. Because I haven’t taken goal difference into account, Eupen could be tenth if they were better defensively, proving my point from earlier regarding how early season points can be important as they have always been woeful at the back under Jordi Condom. I’ll just leave you with the table if a team scores first and then that was it!

Charleroi 51pts

Gent 50pts

Club Brugge 46pts

Anderlecht 45pts

Kortrijk 44pts

Antwerp 39pts

Genk 38pts

Zulte Waregem 36pts

Beveren 34pts

Mouscron 33pts

STVV 32pts

Eupen 32pts

Standard Liège 31pts

Oostende 28pts

Lokeren 26pts

Mechelen 16pts

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Is Home where the Win is?

When you play football, players tend to have a routine. Same song before the match, getting things done at a certain time and getting used to your surroundings. And that last bit of ‘getting used to your surroundings’ can take time to get used to. Does that necessarily mean victory though? Home form is key to every football club. It can help you stay up, get European football or even win a title. I’ve looked at who has performed best home and away and it is interesting.

That’s why I’m starting with Lokeren. The team currently in 13th are bottom of the home form list, but sixth in the away form table. Almost having double the points away than at home, it’s their away form that has saved the Tricolores from relegation. If Lokeren had even Eupen’s home form, they’d be seventh, proving how important winning or gaining any points at home can be. Eupen have 17 points at home which is why they’re currently ‘safe’ for now. But just four away could be their downfall with three away matches still to play.

The best home form by a mile is of course Club Brugge. If they lost every away match 1-0 this season AND had every point they have gained at home with the same results, they’d be fifth! Unbelievable really. It goes to show how important home form can really be as their away form is good, but not great, placing fifth in the away table. Charleroi have the best away form, which is a point better than their home form. Anderlecht have been equally as good at home as away (in a way) and Zulte Waregem have exactly the same points at home as away.

STVV have almost threes times the home points as away. Six clean sheets at home and five 1-0 victories may be dull, but affective. Wins are wins, and those 24 points gained at home by De Kanaries have proven vital as they’re still in with a shout of sixth, but home and away form has been pretty poor in general recently, with just ten points altogether home or away since the end of October! That’s why the chasing pack have all overtaken Sint-Truiden, as Beveren, Kortrijk and Standard have gained more points, although Kortrijk’s form has coincided with the hiring of Glen De Boeck.

Before I finish, I have to say how are Genk sixth when they’ve managed just twelve points at the Luminus Arena? Phillipe Clement needs to fix that ASAP as he hasn’t even won a league match at home yet for De Smurfen, although he managed to scrape the Croky Cup semi win last night! Had to end on that as that is pretty pathetic and unbelievable!

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Wish I could make the Unfashionable, Fashionable

When I jumped into doing this I thought I could write about all sixteen Pro League clubs on a regular basis. There’s 365 days in a year, meaning I could technically talk about each club 22/23 times a year. I haven’t looked at who I’ve spoken about more often, but I’m certain Lokeren, Mechelen, Beveren, Standard Liège, erm…STVV and Mouscron haven’t had their day in the sun from me.

Not that any of you give a fuck, I’m just an idiot who spills his thoughts about Belgian football and I don’t have set dates on the calendar that I tick off, saying ‘today, I’ll choose Eupen’ or do a UEFA Champions League draw where I unscrew a ball an hold up ‘KV Kortrijk (BEL)’ and pluck some story out of my arse (sorry about giving anyone that image). But it’s true, I love the unfashionable, underdog teams who I don’t often speak about, and that includes Standard, but even the press publish more about the ‘top teams’ more often. The only way Beveren are mentioned is regarding Morioka leaving, but there’s no digging story on who’s coming in.

What doesn’t help, for me, is the lack of social media interaction from those teams. Kortrijk are brilliant at it to be fair, but Oostende, Lokeren, Waasland-Beveren and Mechelen for example just don’t post on Twitter (which I prefer). If you can’t write on there because there’s nothing worth talking about, I understand. I don’t just comment for the sake of it. But it’s like a ghost town on some accounts. Is it because there isn’t a designated social media expert on there? I don’t know. I’m not solely picking on those four. But a regular communication would be superb.

Sometimes though, no news is good news. I’m sure Lokeren fans may agree that their away wins against Zulte Waregem, Antwerp and Oostende this season were probably not so much spoken about a superb away performance, but an poor showing from the home team. Mechelen are in the news because of negativity. Same applies to Oostende, if they’re even spoken about and you’ll have to tell me, are Sint-Truiden getting credit for staying in sixth almost all season, or is the focus on Genk and Standard Liège chasing them?

As I’m writing this, I need to do my due diligence and write more about the ‘lesser teams’ of this season. Like I’ve said, I’m in England, there’s no ticker tape across the bottom of my TV with JPL news, but there could be some pieces. I did try and ‘big up’ Mouscron early on, amongst others because of the way this season began, but I know I wrote about the negatives of Anderlecht, Gent and Genk too, so I am guilty. Maybe it’s human nature to kick whilst they’re down than build those up who are in the spotlight. I’ve praised Antwerp enough. Maybe it’s time for others more often. I’ll try at least!

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Why Belgian Football?

I was asked by @Chief_Barefoot on Twitter the simple question of ‘Why write about Belgian football?’ And to be honest, I don’t know. Why write in the first place? Well originally I was going to write about the club I support. I was going to write about Arsenal. Supported them since I was 4, have had a season ticket since the Emirates opened, go home and away and I’ve had enough of the way my club is run.

However, there are so many bloggers who write about Arsenal and of course we have the famous ArsenalFanTV, there isn’t a point of reading more input about this dysfunctional club. So, out of nowhere, I picked a niche topic, especially in England, and decided to write about Belgian football. It’s weird because I loved Holland and Amsterdam as a child because of Dennis Bergkamp, but punted for Belgian football out of nowhere.

I’ve always loved foreign football. In England we always had Italian football on terrestrial telly because of Paul Gascoigne going to Lazio and from then I loved Italian football. I’ve always supported Roma in Serie A because of Francesco Totti and loved the team with Tardei, Mancini and Perrotta. My mum, who I have always gone to football with, preferred Juventus because of Del Piero. Now La Liga is constantly on but I’ve never loved Spanish football.

I followed Belgian football because of, well like I said, I love European football, but I never really cared. It was always just Anderlecht here because Manchester United seemed to draw them regularly in the Champions League. The time I took more notice was when I went to Brussels, which was my second trip to Belgium (my first being a school football trip to Ostend for a week) and I went to Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal, with Lukas Podolski scoring a last minute winner. The 3-3 return match was tough, and embarrassing if I’m honest. But over the years, and I think I’ve mentioned this, I have seen Standard Liège at Arsenal, we also had a link with Waasland-Beveren when we signed Eboue and when Chuks Aneke joined Zulte Waregem, I checked up on them occasionally.

But what lured me in was when I went to Bruges one weekend with a mate and luckily, it was Cercle vs Club Brugge. We were desperate for tickets thinking it’d be a sell out and…we were obviously wrong. I wanted Cercle to win because I always want the underdog to do well, but a 3-0 win for the Blauw-Zwart happened and I loved Lior Refaelov. I wasn’t keen on Ruud Vormer but he has changed my mind this season. I then cared more about the Jupiler Pro League.

To watch it in England is impossible until this season (thankfully) and I was even considering learning Dutch. My French is average and if I’m honest, my Spanish is decent, but Dutch…anyway, I have been in and out of writing this, because, well, could I be bothered? Finding news was tough for me and everything I wrote was an opinion piece. Even every time I go to interview a player I almost bottle it and consider going on a piss up! But since my interview with Aleksandar Boljevic, I’ve fallen in love with writing this again and am dying to write. Sometimes I don’t because of tiredness rather than laziness. But I’m hoping this will expand and I’m really grateful to everyone who has ever read a word of what I’ve written. My dream was to be a footballer, and I was extremely close. Then it was estate agent, which I was and hated. Then it was journalist, which I studied and was bored to death. So blogging instead, and thankfully, football never sleeps, so with my enthusiasm as it is, hopefully I’ll continue for as long as you’ll all read!

Thank you

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Golden Oldies

Cheesy title. But anyway, I thought about this yesterday. In the past I have done an under 21 team of the season. A league full of talent who gets snapped up early, why not give credit to a team full of players who are 30 or older?

And in goal, where I and you will tend to start all teams, it’s a no brainer. It has to be Nicolas Penneteau. The Frenchman was good last season, but has seemed to have gotten better. At 36, his experience is key as it is in all goalkeepers, and is still one of the best goalkeepers in the league.

The defence is tricky. I’m unsure on formation just yet. I want players who have played a lot of matches preferably rather than someone who occasionally comes in as back up. I’ve gone a bit Charleroi heavy but the team who are second, why not use their players in this team? My right back will be Javier Martos, with Stergos Marinos just next to him. Solid so far in my opinion and with Penneteau behind them, a solid foundation so far.

Just in the back four is Nicolas Lombaerts. A wealth of experience and quality, he fits in nicely next to Marinos. And at left back, I’m adding ‘youth’ although there were so many left backs to choose from, I’d have to roll a dice rather than toss a coin. Olivier Deschacht gets the nod. Anderlecht haven’t been amazing but he is still so reliable. Originally I considered Pocognoli because of his performances in a poor side this season, but in the end, the 36 year old will slot in.

Going into midfield, I’m choosing 3 players to go into midfield. Other players may deserve it more but because of quality above everything, in a neat, tight central three we have Sébastien Siani, Faris Haroun and Steven De Petter. I’ve actually edited this because I put Kaya in originally, but I can’t miss out Haroun and where Antwerp are in the league.

Haroun, like many here, would be key with the amount of experience and leadership, and then Siani sitting and patrolling in there. Strong with quality. I couldn’t not pick De Petter because he has been ever present for STVV and they are in the best position in the table compared to the other two, meaning he must have influence in there for sure.

Up top I have one name immediately, and then another sprung up top for good reason. Actually, I’ve decided to pick someone else too who’ll have to do a job for me out wide of a front three. Attacking on the right, Teddy Chevalier. No brainer really if you ask me. Has been outstanding, especially recently.

The focal point has to be Mbaye Leye. Always been quality in the Pro League and has been since moving to Eupen, despite their position. Actually, changed my mind. I’m moving Thomas Buffel out wide left. Usually on the right, he’ll have to do a job on the left. Also had to be in because he is another leader and mentally strong as well as technically good!

Looking over that team, I’d be really happy if that was assembled. Quality with experience. I reckon they’d finish top 6 for sure!


Nicolas Penneteau


Javier Martos, Stergos Marinos, Nicolas Lombaerts, Olivier Deschacht (Right to Left)


Faris Haroun, Sébastien Siani, Steven De Petter (Rotating)


Teddy Chevalier, Mbaye Leye, Thomas Buffel (Right to Left)

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Team of the Season…So Far

I did one of these a few months ago and looking back I must’ve had writers block. But after 21 Pro League matches now (for some) and now that it’ll be the turn of the year in two days, why not give maybe a more accurate look of what I believe is the team of the year so far. I may have to play players out of position or have no balance whatsoever but I’ll see what you or anyone think if somebody stumbles across this.

Starting in goal. Why not ayyy? And I have 2 names that come to mind immediately and I’m sticking with them beyond the other shot stoppers in Belgium this season. The thing is who do I choose? The two names are Sinan Bolat and Thomas Kaminski. One has kept 9 clean sheets and the other has rescued Kortrijk more times than John McClain has rescued people in Die Hard. I will go for…Kaminski because although Bolat has been great, Kortrijk could be as good as gone if he wasn’t in goal for De Kerels, but instead they are on the edge of 6th place.

My defence will be a back 4 and I have players I respect as well as those who should be in here. It’s tough because league position does have to come into it. Along with that, you have to think if these players were to play as a team, would they keep a clean sheet? For example, Christian Luyindama is a beast, but would I trust him? I’m unsure. Some players have a great attitude and battling qualities, like Sandy Walsh, but he doesn’t make my team. To add to the ‘Oooo so close…’ list is Ari Freyr Skulason.

But the team I’ve picked are within teams who have kept clean sheets this season, and if I’m honest, one player is in there because I just feel he’ll move on to bigger and better things. I’ll start with him. I really rate Brian Hamalainen. Obviously people may disagree. I don’t see every minute Essevee play, but he just looks solid, can cross and shoot too. I rate him! Then the right back is Dion Cools. Has to be right? Top player who can only get better and won’t stay in Belgium forever surely.

The 2 centre halves for me are Brandon Mechele and Stefan Mitrovic. Two competent, footballing, defenders who are part of the two best defences in the Pro League this season. Ivan Leko clearly saw his qualities last season and the Brugge centre back has gone from strength to strength. Mitrovic is a player who I’d pick because of his desire and quality. Simple as that.

In midfield, this is tough in some ways because do I have a holding midfielder? Unlike naming who could of got in, I’ll just tell you who’s in there. Ruud Vormer is a dead certainty. No brainer and I don’t have to expand on why. Out left I have Ryota Morioka. Same reasons as Vormer. A player who won’t be in Belgium for long unfortunately as he is just a magnificent player who may well shine at the World Cup, not just in the Pro League.

Now, out right I have to put Hans Vanaken. A mainstay in the Club Brugge side and is as vital as Vormer in some ways. Can score and assist and can float about in a good way for this team and the Blauw-Zwart. But in the centre I’m really fucking torn. Trebel? Govea? It’s between those 2 for me. Trebel because even though I was critical of his persistent fouling, he didn’t look out of place in the Champions League this season. However, Govea has become the life and soul of a team I thought would be fighting off relegation right now.

If this team had to play a ‘Best of…’ from another league, I have to go for Trebel. His has the engine, close control and battling qualities I love. Without sounding arrogant, he reminds me of me but dirtier. Unassuming in some ways but 100% reliable and puts his stamp on a game. Actually…I’ve gone for Govea. I said of This Season and he has been great. Anderlecht have underwhelmed whereas Mouscron have overachieved. If I were to go for Trebel I might as well pick Pozuelo because I love that man.

And up front I’m not picking Isaac Kiese Thelin. He has done well at Beveren but not consistently. I’m not picking Henry Onyekuru either because his more on the wing now, although he is one of the better players at Anderlecht this season. Kaveh Rezaei is a definite for me. First season in European football and settled quicker than snow. He is reliable and I really like him.

His partner in crime will be…you know what, I don’t know because certain players don’t deserve it. Zinho has fallen away. Chevalier has only just come good since De Boeck come in. So I’m adding a defender and playing Vanaken and Morioka further up and slipping Dorian Dessoleil in at the back. Am I mad? Maybe. So what it’s my team! I did think Nana Asare going in at the back too but I’ve gone for Dessoleil. So a change of mind, change of formation and so on…I hope you enjoy 😊!

Goalkeeper < em>Thomas Kaminski < strong>Defenders< em>Dion Cools, Brandon Mechele, Stefan Mitrovic, Dorian Dessoleil, Brian Hamalainen (with Cools and Hamalainen as wing backs)

Midfield < em>Ruud Vormer and Omar Govea< strong>Attack< em>Hans Vanaken, Ryota Morioka And Kaveh Rezaei

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Merry Christmas 🙂

It is currently 23:22pm English time (of course) on Christmas Eve. I’m watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and I thought I’d write something for Christmas Day. I’ll be shocked if anybody reads this but then again, I share that pessimism with every post entry I write. This year I’ll be having dinner around my mum’s for the first time in 3 years so saves me cooking!

I’m just thinking of ideas of what to write and I’ve got plenty in mind to get me through the month of January! A life without football can be a life not worth living. Over the top? I dare you to go a season without looking at a result anywhere! I just read that back and it seemed aggressive which it wasn’t meant to be. I’m thinking of doing a grading system for each club. You can join in with your opinion and I’m going to be as level headed as possible.

The Pro League so far has been outstanding. Every Thursday and Sunday I try and get my thoughts on radio to BIG European football experts. From Andy Brassell (Ligue 1/Primeira Liga) who actually acknowledges me and tries to get my points on there regarding Belgian football, to Rob Daly (Bundesliga) and Gab Marcotti (Serie A) amongst others because we all know how underrated the league is.

The same league where 2 of the best 3 or 4 players in England come from Belgium, where Leon Bailey is touted to progress and of course was at Genk a year ago, and so on. A league full of stars in the making and who get discovered by Belgian clubs (Kaveh Rezaei and Ryota Morioka) and may well move on next summer unfortunately.

What’s upsetting is that there is only 10 regular season matches left. I get hyped up about these matches but not the playoffs. Unless they’re competitive they are just say…eight teams playing out the season. Obviously the championship playoffs are different but the quality shines through there.

Anyway. This was a brief effort. If anyone has read this for the first time things are better than this. I do talk more in depth. Not fully but enough to get my point across. The other positive for me is that I am able to see plenty of action this week before I go Selhurst Park on Thursday. Sometimes I do think about flying to Belgium and just hanging around a training ground getting sound bites and photos. I’ve wasted better time before so it doesn’t bother me.

Joyeux Noël. Vrolijk Kerstfeest. Merry Christmas 🎄