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Timing is Everything

As we all know in Belgium, there’s the same designated times each weekend for the matches that week. There’s the Friday night, early Saturday evening, 2 Saturday night with a later Saturday night, then the 3 staggered throughout the day on Sunday. I thought as a talking point, although no doubt brought up in Belgium, I’d see how teams actually performed on those days and who played on which days. Also as you’ll see, I’m basing this on English time!

I’ll immediately start with Zulte Waregem who hasn’t won a single point on the 7pm Sunday night fixture at all, until last weekend. Six matches and 1 point on the Sunday late kick off. People in England make a big deal on how Europa League football can disrupt your season. Goes to show the same happens in Belgium. Anderlecht on the other hand have never had the last match of a weekend and get the early evening fixture. Not too bad in performance, but they’ve never lost on a Friday or Saturday compared to a Sunday.

You can kind of see who the ‘unfashionable’ sides are in a way because Sint-Truiden, Beveren, Lokeren and Eupen usually kick off at 7pm on Saturdays. They’ve all played 8 times or more at that time throughout the season, and to be honest, it hasn’t been kind to any of them. No day is particularly good for Lokeren or Eupen, with STVV gaining more points on a Sunday per match compared to Saturday. Also, Beveren hadn’t played a Friday match until this Friday night against Standard Liège.

And leading into Liège, they only play on Fridays or Sundays. Les Rouches have only played one Saturday match all season, and that was 2 weeks ago which was a draw. Unbelievable really. Funny how teams seem to only play certain days. Same applies to Club Brugge who have played on a Sunday 13 times and have just dropped 4 points on those days.

Saturday is a good day for Charleroi, and a Friday for that matter, either winning or drawing on those days. However, Genk hate Saturdays, winning 1 in 11 on a Saturday, with just one Friday match too, losing that. As you go down the league on a Friday, there is a contrast of wins at the top, to losses at the bottom. One win out of the eight clubs in the bottom half who have played on a Friday, with Eupen not gracing a Friday so far.

What I have noticed is that, like most European leagues, that Sunday’s are ‘Box Office’ as in the top half of the table is littered with Sunday matches. Adding to this, I’m a firm believer kick off times aid in where a title will end up come May. Club Brugge either add pressure to those around them with an early Sunday kick off, or, they already know what to do by seeing how Charleroi had already performed. You can’t say the same with the bottom clubs as they seem to always kick off at the same time.

I regretted starting the research for this post after match day 3, but I’m genuinely fascinated how it’s shown when teams are playing at what times on which day. The only team I’m not surprised at is Zulte Waregem because of Europe, but when the top 8 and bottom 8 seem to play on certain days, you kind of know when and what time they’ll play if your a fan, unless you’re playing Standard or Brugge, which will be either a Friday or Sunday respectively.

To cap everyone else off out of respect, Gent are mixed to be fair, Mouscron enjoy the 7 o’clock kick off on either day, Oostende are as scatty on either day, Mechelen hate Fridays and don’t like Sundays, Kortrijk love a Saturday 7pm kick off slot, gaining every win at that time this season. And that’s that!

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Football, Life and Love

Before I begin, this post is about football (of course) but not simply, solely about Belgian football. I had a brief discussion the other day with a work colleague about football, and she said she’d fallen out of love with the game ever so slightly. She doesn’t keep up to date with it anymore. She’s 18 and unfortunately a Chelsea fan.

Later on I spoke about Belgian football and how it isn’t as blasé. We spoke about Championship football and I spoke about how football really is the greatest. I have only dipped in my enthusiasm of football since becoming a ‘family man’ because of life getting in the way. I was obsessed with football, well still am, but not to the extent of when I was living at home. I’d surround myself with football constantly. It is a life of its own. A dream. A bubble.

I said to the young woman that football is so great, how comes every week and sometimes everyday, how can fans throw money at their team and give up their time and energy for something they have no say in. No way of helping towards the outcome of what you always want. Just a win. They say it’s ‘just a sport’ but it really just isn’t.

I am on my way to Southampton to watch my team try and win. I say try because times change and the team I love aren’t even a shadow of what they once were. I just watched a recent film too on the coach about a particular success 28 years ago and I became a blubbering mess on a coach full of people I don’t really like, mainly because I am a hate filled judgemental person in all honesty.

What upset me is the lack of passion you see in football now. Well, compared to before. The fans are either hardcore or Jonny come lately’s who don’t have a clue, but enjoy the ride. I usually make the comparison but on a lesser scale between English and Belgian football because the infrastructure is far superior here. Even bigger proof is Euro 2020 who have taken matches off of Brussels and passed them to Wembley.

Anyway, I’ll spit it out. Football in England has gotten to the stage where arrogance has become normal and fans are customers (I must’ve said that before) and players don’t care about the fans in my opinion. Not all players of course, but a good 95% don’t care I reckon. But in Belgium it can hopefully be different. Hopefully it won’t be just a stepping stone and appreciate the love fans give you. From now on, I will ask players who I Interview, if I ever get another, if they really understand how loved and appreciated they really are? Go up to the fans at the end instead of just waving. Be humble. Be happy. If I were a footballer, and I was pretty close, I wonder how I’d have been and would I have been different?

Some fans can be scum, and I see it regularly at away games, but they are humans who love you and the club you play for and probably in Belgium, where the TV rights are nothing compared to England, the fans probably contribute to wages.

This has probably come across as a rant when it doesn’t mean to be, but interaction builds up love and harmony. I will always love certain players simply because they took time for a picture or an autograph.

Be remembered and not forgotten

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Who’s Up for the Cup?

I think in the entirety of my blog, I’ve only ever written about the cup once. Like I have said on numerous occasions, I like to solely write about the Pro League, but seeing as the last 16 has been a shoot out of top flight clubs, eight have now progressed towards reaching the final in March.

With a country so small and treated as a second rate league across Europe, with some big hitters, sometimes theres never a dull moment. I saw on the ‘Chicken Balti Chronicles’ on Facebook that somebody was there to witness the 1-1 draw between Mechelen and Genk. Yeah, so what?!? Well a penalty shoot out and 2 injured referees in the 2 hours made it a memorable night!

Then in Brussels, we see a halt to the match, antics on the touch line by a one Ricardo Sa Pinto and a singular goal to see the hosts…go out with Standard Liège progressing. I know right! But from one goal to 6 at the Guldensporen (yes I got it right this time) where I felt Kortrijk would be blown away by Antwerp if I’m honest. However, 4-0 up with 20 minutes left made me look more stupid than usual and saw De Kerels progress.

The rest of the matches seemed quite straightforward with Beveren, Gent, Charleroi and Oostende go through to the quarter finals. But the only team not mentioned is Club Brugge who needed extra time to beat a battling Zulte Waregem 3-2 for the second time in 5 days. Emmanuel Dennis Bonaventure proving to be the hero for the champions elect who look on for the double.

The draw has already been made and sees some interesting draws where frankly, anyone can win.

Oostende vs Standard Liège

Kortrijk vs Gent

Genk vs Beveren

And…

Club Brugge vs Charleroi

Tie of the round is definitely the last of the four which will take place in 2 weeks. But honestly I really think anyone can beat anyone here. I won’t even say anything about Kortrijk again because I’ll either look stupid again and KVK did only just draw recently against De Buffalos too. But all we know is, the holders are unfortunately out and there will be a different name on the Beker Van Belgie this season.

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Where Are They Now?

I was thinking about this quite recently and I actually decided to look up where are the managers, who were made unemployed at the beginning of the Pro League season, and where are those who have been let go so far?

As I’d finished the first paragraph I then realised this could be a briefer post than I thought, but never mind. I am starting with Čedomir Janevski who was let go by Beveren at the end of last season. The Macedonian is now with FK Vardar in his native land and is doing pretty well. In Europe they are bottom of a decent Europa League group without a point, so not so great there, but domestically Vardar are 2nd which isn’t too bad, 11 points off top and with 2 games in hand!

Michel Preud’homme seems to be taking some time out of the dugout. Linked with Glasgow Rangers and I think Saudi Arabia recently, I felt the job in Scotland could’ve been a huge opportunity, if the rumours were true. But maybe only he knows where he wants to live, stay and hopefully succeed next? Karim Belhocine, former Kortrijk boss, is at a big club. He is obviously now at Anderlecht, assistant to Hein Vanhaezebrouck. Not much else to say there really.

Then we have Rúnar Kristinsson. Sacked after 2 matches this season, the Icelander is now back where he started at KR Reykjavík. I’m sure he’ll look to kick on and maybe hope to venture back east into mainland Europe again or Scandinavia.

And that’s really it. Every other coach has either found work back in Belgium (Yves Vanderhaeghe and Hein Vanhaezebrouck) or are still unemployed, although some have only recently been let go in Yannis Anastasiou, Jordi Condom and Yannick Ferrara. Tintín Márquez is still unemployed unfortunately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Spain maybe, and René Weiler hasn’t found work yet, although the main rumours seem to be that he’ll pitch up back in Germany.

The thing is, we all know that football management can be the most rewarding, financially, if unsuccessful and you can find work somewhere, anywhere, if you’re willing to take the job. They’ll know doubt be ‘going to different matches and countries’ and ‘looking at players’ as they always apparently seem to be. But with some that I’ve mentioned, I’m sure the next job is just around the corner.

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Should You Ever Leave Early?

There has been a discussion this week over here about leaving early from a football match. I myself have only ever left early twice in my life. One out of disgust and one due to work and have missed a goal each time, luckily not actually altering the result whatsoever. The worst occasion was watching a lower league match about 15 years ago and turning up late, missing a goal, which happened to be the only goal scored in the 90 minutes!

But this season in Belgium, I’ve looked up who has scored the most and in the last 10 minutes and who has scored what in each half? Now, before I begin, I was sat with my son asleep on me, knowing I could do the ‘research’ yet I’ve somehow missed the odd match and have somehow got Standard Liège down as scoring just 12 goals this season, when they’ve actually scored 17.

Going back to that though, I’m sure it doesn’t affect the outcome of anything I came across. What I have found, if everything is basically correct, is that certain clubs do push on and grab a vast amount of goals in the second set of 45 minutes. Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Antwerp, Mouscron and Eupen for example aren’t one of those clubs, meaning they’re almost identical with first and second half goals, and they’re all in double figures in each half. Summing up, pretty much even in the amount they score in the first and second period of matches. The other thing revolving around those clubs is that four of those five have all scored 5-6 goals in the last 10 minutes, which isn’t bad, and also means do not leave early! Mouscron were the exception scoring just 3 in the last 10 minutes.

Some of the numbers I’ve come across are a bit skewed because if you’ve scored 15 goals for example, and 10 have come in the second half, then it looks like you score double in the second 45 minutes. For me, the question should be why have you only scored 15 goals in 16 matches? However, here are some teams where around 50% were in the second half, and it means something.

Charleroi have scored 19 second half goals. Sint Truiden is an unbelievable case, scoring 18 second half goals, but scoring just 3 first half goals! Extraordinary. They’re also second best at scoring in the last 10 minutes of matches too. Another team who are experts at scoring second half goals are Zulte Waregem, scoring 3 times the amount of second half goals than first half goals with 21!

The only team who have scored more first half goals than second half goals are Gent. I’m not sure if that’s weird in one way because the way Anderlecht blew Mechelen away this season being 4-1 up at half time is the way you should play. Quick fire goals, blowing teams away and professionally seeing out the second half, even though Mechelen and Eupen tried their best to scupper anything for Les Mauves at the time.

To end, Beveren have the best tally of goals in the last 10 minutes, scoring 9, which is decent. Nine out of a total of 31 goals altogether shows how much they fight to the end. But an even impressive stat is that Kortrijk have scored 16 goals all season, a goal a game, but none of them in the last 10 minutes. That can be the difference between no points and 1, or even 1 point or all 3!

The moral of this is to not watch Standard, Kortrijk or Gent in the second half of matches, unless they’re playing Beveren, STVV, Zulte Waregem or Club Brugge!

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My Day (so far) in Frankfurt?

I am currently drunk in Frankfurt. I know, leaving it late for Arsenal, and adding to that my correct spelling (thank you predictive text) I am doing just fine.

I decided to have a coffee with my mum in a gelateria and they have no waffles or crepes! I am disgusted as I am slightly lactose intolerant and can’t simply eat ice cream, nor can I have milk with my coffee. Forgetting all that, I am now finally enjoying myself.

My mum loves her football. She is more of an ardent Arsenal fan than I am nowadays as I have a family and I honestly care more about the Pro League. I have always said I enjoy Belgian football more now, regardless of my 6 Arsenal tattoos. But anyway, I am upset in that the ‘research’ I had lined up for a blog yesterday was found on the back of my settee.

Today seems to be a good diary with pictures, although I haven’t stuffed my face, but just been an eating/drinking session of my third trip abroad this month and of course, all have a link to football.

With my Belgian link, I felt terribly for Anderlecht last night, and even I made excuses for Łukasz Teodorczyk where it could’ve been 6-2 to Les Mauves. Tonight Zulte Waregem fly the flag, and hopefully they do Belgium proud as they have done to be fair. Revenge is needed after the drubbing Nice gave them back in September.

However, as I am in Germany I’ll be drinking, eating and supporting Essevee more than my club as I know Arsenal are already through! #ForcaZulte

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I’ve Been Quiet

Everyday I pick up my phone or tablet and I am desperate to write something. I yearn to write, especially about Belgian football, but maybe I am asking too much of myself. What I mean is that maybe I want a ‘scoop’ on any news, but unless I have unlimited funds I can’t hang around these clubs like a bad smell and get any information that they’re willing to give.

I do have ideas of course. I also have a full time job too where I have occasionally written a piece instead of working. I just vent and miraculously hope somebody will read my drivel. This isn’t one of my usual pieces where I write to let people know that I am alive or that I have thought about giving this up (again). This is more an apology to any regular readers or to anyone who may stumble across this, even though it isn’t strictly football related.

If you want me to bring this back to football, I went to West Ham United u23s vs Benfica B last night in Billericay and the Portuguese won 2-0. Random yes but for a fiver, why not? If anyone else wants to know, Benfica were very good. To add to that I’m off to Köln vs Arsenal tomorrow and then Burnley on Sunday, so in essence, I have brought this back to football, just not Belgian football.

In other news, I’m honestly thinking of going to Belgium on Boxing Day, but the airlines and Eurostar are trying their best to price me out. I’m desperate to monthly go to Belgium to either watch a match or interview, and luckily, Antwerp finally responded to a possible interview very soon! I have looked at southern Belgium, honest, but in terms of price and other things, it’s easier to get into the north and east than the south and west!

But anyway, I’ll leave this pitiful effort for today and I’ll crack on soon.

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Who Will Go Down This Season? 

Eupen… Only joking… Erm… Anyway, I do think they will unfortunately unless Glen de Boeck gets Kortrijk’s act together, but if we split the league up into percentages, the bottom four are separated by a single point and we’re almost 50% into the season. Every club in the bottom 6 have all changed their manager this season and one way or another it has helped with the club’s former thereafter.

Gent were just awful until Vanhaezebrouck left. Lokeren lost their first 2 meaning they were within their rights to sack Kristinsson. Oostende were the worst club in the league when Vanderhaeghe left so that was understandable. Mechelen then became the worst team in the league so, again, understandable. Kortrijk were beaten by Mechelen, the worst team in the league, and no win in 2 months meant bye bye to Anastasiou. And of course, Makelele has been hired by Eupen. Bottom of the league, but, for me have done extremely well despite their position.

Looking over the past 10 years its tough to get a gage of how many points you need to stay in the division. Last season Westerlo were relegated on 23 points, meaning the bottom four need just 4 wins to stay up, apart from Eupen who would go down. But me typing that is easier said than done. If we look at the bottom 4, they all have their down points. Eupen can score but can’t keep a clean sheet. Kortrijk can keep a clean sheet or at least keep the score down, but can’t score. Same goes for Mechelen as their strikers have a combined goal tally of… 2, IF it wasn’t for Boureima Bande. And Oostende will most likely just have a disappointing season this year with a half decent team, too good to go down. Beyond these 4, there’ll have to be a total collapse from the other 12 teams.

If we also look at the fixtures, schedules can make a difference too. If one club kick off on a Friday night and win, that’s pressure on the others. If they kick off on a Sunday night and results went against them, they can be unbearable. This weekend only Mechelen have a head start but with a tough away game at Charleroi. The week after, it’s Kortrijk who need to react as every other club plays on the Saturday, including a 6 pointer! Then Eupen have the pressure match in 3 weeks. I could go on but you can look it up.

At the end of it all, I do unfortunately feel Eupen will go down, and if they stay up, I do feel it’ll be Kortrijk. I’ve been wrong countless times, but each club other than those 2 have either saved themselves already with a tremendous start, or are ‘too good to go down’. The problem with going down is that the second tier does have good teams in it. Players will be snapped up (just ask Westerlo with Acolatse and Ganvoula) and with quality at Eupen and Kortrijk, for example, the players will be gone.

As I have always, ALWAYS said, I have no allegiances to any club and hope there’s simply good football, but I can still have an opinion and I can’t help but think that it’s a 2 horse race for relegation.
Pictures courtesy of Getty Images

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Am I Being Harsh Here? 

As we all know, these past two weeks have been so dull. Well, not for some individuals or even nations for that matter, but this week has given me a thought, whether it right or wrong, and I can only compare with England as a football nation. This week, Belgium played out a 3-3 draw against Mexico and face Japan tonight. I rarely ever write about the Belgian Red Devils, and because I have been extremely lazy recently in regards to picking up my tablet and letting my thumbs do the talking, I’m almost certain not one of my blog posts has been about international football, mainly because I like to keep this strictly Pro League, unless I rant about something and vent about football personally.

Anyway, after that minor venting session, I do have a point to this, well, short post. I say short because I haven’t thought it fully through, and as you can tell, I’m rambling on rather than getting to my point. So here goes….is the country of Belgium, as football fans, one big supporter of second rate football? Now my title makes sense. Allow me to explain. In England the Premier League is not only supported in England. It is a global league which generates BILLIONS of pounds season in, season out. I’ve written about the potential Facebook and Amazon deal worth £15 billion a season (I think I’ve written about it) but in a country where I will always pick club over country, if anyone does read this, and especially outside England, you will see the cross of St George scattered around stadiums across the world when England arrive, but they display lower league clubs or non league clubs.

England have amazing fans who follow their nation everywhere and they are mainly supporters of second, third, fourth tier (and lower) clubs, because they never get to see those players on a regular basis. This is where my Belgium comparison kicks in. The stars of today that pull on the Belgian shirt turn out at Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Napoli and elsewhere, but not in Belgium. England rarely sell out now at Wembley, although they may do against Brazil. But I’m sure there’s packed houses when those superstars arrive back in their native land for Belgium. Obviously I haven’t surveyed a single fan that will rock up to see Belgium vs Japan, but I wonder how many support the 16 clubs in the Pro League.

I suggest a fair few might because these players no longer play there, or haven’t even played there at all in Eden Hazard’s case. And that’s why I wonder if you can compare the Pro League as a lower league in England because of the lack of star names that play. I see the Pro League as it is. A hard fought league with hidden gems, loads of potential and some real quality. Every match can be a battle due to the lack of funds and I love it, so please don’t get me wrong. But can you see what I mean when you make similarities between fans and players?

Belgium are now a pull in European football. I always remember Belgium being average if I’m honest, although I’m only 28, so I don’t need reminding of Mexico 86 or anything. I just remember France 98 and bowing out of their own tournament in 2000. I’m sure back then more Club Brugge and Anderlecht players turned out back then. Now Dendoncker is the first, and really, only name that springs to mind, although I can’t remember the full squad.

To cap off, I hope this hasn’t been too unfair. I’m just asking because none of the real big Belgian stars ply their trade in their native country, do people turn out regularly because of the lack of stature in terms of player pull or is it simply due to their patriotism? Only the fans will know and be totally honest with themselves….

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I Mean Why Not

Because I have time on my hands the title says it all. What I mean by that is throw something out there that I’ve written. I dive right in and love writing in general and I have grown a love of writing about Belgian football. A league so underrated by European football experts. Many out there spiel about the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and so on and that is understandable . Huge leagues who many may say had their day and we long for those days back, or, they’re the flavour of the decade and beyond. Winning World Cups and continental honours have no doubt aided but their leagues are the same. One or two teams consistently dominate and there may be the odd scalp of the bigger clubs but that’s it. 

Of course the Pro League is largely dominated by 2 or 3 clubs on a regular season and one of those clubs will win the league this season. But this season is different and is, as I’ve constantly said, unpredictable, but over here in England at least, nobody gives it the time of day. Even if we stay within Belgium, when I look at stadiums and there is an entire stand closed, the league is even underrated by its own fans. Not everyone loves football or has the time or finances I get that, but stadiums are built to those capacities for a reason because even the clubs know that’s what they’d like to sell out matches. I have no favourite club in Belgium so I can’t speak on behalf of any 1 club but…I don’t know (as I type that partially exasperated). 

I guess I have to praise those hardcore fans who watch their team in all weathers all season across a small country compared to the already mentioned nations spoken about. Football is the workers getaway. The reason we allow ourselves to rant about our week without actually saying how we feel, so we aim our expletives at opposition fans and players and I for one love that. Beyond that, even in Brussels to Liege and back to Oostende, it is the soap opera that may never end. The cliche that pundits say “football doesn’t surprise me anymore” will no doubt spring up with another cliffhanger. 

My punctuation, formatting, paragraphing and all other words regarding how poorly spread out this specific (and probably other) blog has been written is more about getting my point across about how I feel rather than hoping my senior editor likes what I’ve written and how I’ve written it…