Posted in Uncategorized

RIP Cheick Tiote

Over the past few minutes the news out of China has been awful with the passing of former Anderlecht midfielder Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian was an energetic, hustle and bustle sort of midfielder who put himself about to say the least. 

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Beginning his career in Brussels he had a successful spell in this region of Europe. Firstly at Anderlecht where he won 2 league titles, although he didn’t see much playing time unfortunately, but flourished in Holland and England. He took the route most African players seemed to take through Belgium and then onto pastures new, and even though, as stated, his playing time was limited, sometimes due to injury, the club must’ve given him a taste of what was to come in Europe before Twente and Newcastle United.

Heading north to Enschade, he was very successful winning a league and was runner up in the cup for a second time, previously whilst he was on loan at Roda JC. He was pivotal in what looks now a fantastic side that deservedly won the Eredivisie ahead of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. 

England was next with a short trip to Newcastle where again he was very successful as a key player, just not trophy wise. The Ivorian was key to all that was positive for the club, where he helped them reach 5th and earned his manager the LMA Manager of the Season. He was linked to the top sides in the country, including my club, but I don’t want to bring up off field problems at a time like this.

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Sadly, his last destination in his career was in Beijing. Only 30 years old, he still had plenty of time left in Europe and for the national side, where he helped them win the African Cup of Nations. A fine defensive midfielder who will be missed at all his previous clubs and by opposition too.

RIP Cheick Tiote…

Posted in Transfers

Brief JPL Transfer Roundup Part II

As May turns to June, football wise, a big week in Belgium ended as Oostende rounded off the season in a great way for them and a devastating way for Genk on the pitch. Off the pitch, not only did Yves Vanderhaeghe pen a new deal til 2020, the signings didn’t stop there at the Versluys Arena.

Ibrahima Bah and Logan Ndembe joined the journey the club hope to take abroad, signing on Saturday from Standard Liege and Mouscron respectively. The depth of their squad will have to pick up with European football, hoping to finish the season domestically again AND maybe going one step further in the Belgian Cup?

But the one signing which was pasted over my phone for a day was the return of Sven Kums to Anderlecht. Coming through the ranks at the Belgian champions, he has never worn the shirt in a competitive match for Les Mauves. Not just the fact he is Belgian, he isn’t a stranger to the Pro League or the clubs within it. As I’ve stated, he has never played for Anderlecht, but, has played for Lierse, Kortrijk, Zulte Waregem and Gent, and won the league whilst at Gent too!

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Like a fine wine he seems to be getting better with age. Signing officially from Watford, he never played for the Hornets, but was kept in the ‘family’ by going on loan to Udinese in Italy where he played 29 matches! Will he be a replacement for Tielemans? Maybe, but next season will be as tough as ever and will hope to come home, continuing the glory! 

The thing that hit me was that Genk’s week looked very good as Ruslan Malinovskiy signed permanently from Shakhtar Donetsk, but the reality that Mathew Ryan and Jean-Paul Boetius returned to their parent clubs. With just the league to occupy the club’s time next season, will others follow suit and leave the Luminus Arena? I hope not because the club’s performance picked up in 2017 and maybe one more season with the majority of this crop of players, plus some additions, could create a push for the title. I don’t think that’s totally unrealistic, but the worry their top players will want at least Europa League football is a worry.

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Other deals included Jordy Peffer signing a four year deal at Mechelen before going on loan to relegated Westerlo and Frenchman Thibault Peyre going to Union Saint Gilloise for an undisclosed fee, which I think will be a big boost for the First Div B club.

More deals I’m sure will continue, starting with today, but more will be confirmed throughout the week! 

Posted in Transfers

The New Henry Coming to Arsenal?

Exactly 2 weeks ago I was in Köln. Lovely evening with my friend after a loooong day of travelling to Eupen where we waited and got absolutely drenched in the humid conditions. There was an Eupen fan waiting with us with memorabilia, waiting for his heroes to come and sign books and merchandise. Then came a big white van with 6 players scrambling out.

First off was this young man who took his time to say hello and briefly chat, and I mean more than just pleasantries with this fan. And there’s me explaining to my friend that ‘that’s the top striker. He won’t be here long’ without being too loud, until out of nowhere, he welcomes us and introduces himself, shakes our hands and puts his arm round us, along with the other players in turn.

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I was shocked. Such manners without an air of arrogance about him after scoring a wonderful solo goal the night before against Mouscron. A journalist arrived to talk to him that day and I was so jealous if I’m honest. But the journalist was kept waiting as he showered and changed to then go back out and speak further to that same fan again.

And that was that. My focus was Diawandou Diagne until the train back to Köln where I said ‘I’d have him at Arsenal. Probably £5 million would get him’. I was wrong. Apparently £6.8 million will be enough. About five and a half match days at The Emirates Stadium will suffice. 

His done nothing wrong except keep his head down and do his job and before he has kicked a ball for Arsenal, if he ever actually does of course, I’ve seen people laugh at his expense on social media. A lot on the other hand haven’t and I thought the same thing. Look at Rob Holding. He has been fantastic at Arsenal and why not Henry Onyekuru? He has the ability to score all types of goals which is a fantastic trait to have. 

I genuinely think he has what it takes to succeed. The likelihood in my opinion is that he may be loaned out initially, but the only worry is that Arsene Wenger turns him into another Joel Campbell? I know this is a Belgium football blog, but my heart has overruled my head here. With players of quality around him he may do extremely well given the chance. Maybe, as well, because I personally like him, I’m looking at him more in hope instead of expectation. 

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If the deal has gone through, then my selfishness for my blog may say the real quality is leaving the Pro League. But to be someone who has been eager to write about him for a couple of months, then maybe this is my last opportunity. Ex Arsenal players are giving their thoughts through many different media outlets and the major sports channel in the UK have ‘broken’ the deal as completed. Until his holding the shirt and smiling at the training ground or has the blessing of Kanu, Im not stamping this one yet, but wherever he goes

Good luck Henry…

Posted in Uncategorized

KV Oostende Have Made It! 

In the final game of the season, KRC Genk travelled to KV Oostende in a match where winner takes all. A win meant Europa League football next season, which brings in better players and the possibility of more money! 

This match looked even to me on form. Even though Genk seemed unstoppable in their play off group, I tried not to be blinded by that and tried to think of it as being more even. The thing is…I was wrong. And not wrong in Genk’s favour. Oostende were very good and too good for De Smurfen in the end.

This was proven in the first half where Joseph Akpala opened the scoring with some help from Franck Berrier with an assist. And with that goal, Oostende saw blood and struck again through the experienced Czech David Rozenhal. With the score 2-0 I thought just defend and see the game out with 45 minutes between them and European football.

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However, Siebe Schrivers stroked home a penalty to halve the deficit just before the break, changing both managers team talks in the process and maybe, willing Genk back into the game! 

Stuivenberg decided to swap Malinovskiy for Heynan in a bid to go more attacking possibly? But just 6 minutes into the second half, sloppy play from Genk led to a breakaway by Oostende where Musona hit the bar! With the ball still in play, Oostende picked up the loose ball where a deflected cross led to a tap in for Andile Jali. It looked like 3-1…game over…

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The thing is thereafter, Oostende remained professional and looked likeliest to grab a fourth with plenty of time to play. And to be honest, the season the ‘seasiders’ have had with an heroic cup run AND finishing 4th, Europa League is well deserved over their 40+ game league season. And their fans deserve it too. The manager Yves Vanderhaeghe also extended his stay at the Versluys Arena til 2020 too so happy times for now on the east coast.

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Genk have to go away and lick their wounds. The worry that Samatta and Pozuelo may be wanting European football could be a concern, amongst others maybe moving on. That’s a concern for the manager, but if they strengthen appropriately, a real push for the top 6 is definitely a possibility with the club’s support and stature, making this season a small blip with many highlights on top.

Congratulations Oostende!

Posted in Matches in Brief

UEL Showdown! KV Oostende vs KRC Genk

Once again, not one of my finest titles for a blog post, but I’ll recover…one day! Anyway, to the business at hand. Genk travel all the way East to the Belgian coast to play Oostende who’ll hope a win may not only salvage their season of some disappointments, but maybe improve the smiles on fans faces. 

De Kustboys have all in all been very good this season. Finishing 4th in the play offs and finishing in the top 6 altogether is a fantastic achievement, especially with teams like Genk and Standard Liege finishing outside the top 6. And with the disappointment of losing on penalties to Zulte Waregem in the Croky Cup final, they’ll hope this final will go their way, especially as it’s at the Versluys Arena.

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But Genk have been steamrolling all those in front of them. Their only disappointment over the past 3 months was their​ elimination from the Europa League to Celta Vigo. I’ve actually been quite bored talking up Racing this year when it comes to their league form as they have been unbelievably impressive. Their play off group in comparison to Oostende, well, there’s no comparison as it was so easy, but then again, would Oostende have destroyed all those in front of them just like Genk did?

Saturday was probably Genk’s toughest test since the regular season, with De Limburg​ derby against Sint Truiden, which yet again, they eased to a 3-0 home win. But Genk have been so good they are joint top on points won this calendar year in the regular season with champions Anderlecht. What if they had that form from July-December it may be ‘Champions Genk’? 

With tonight’s opponents however, Genk haven’t won away at Oostende since 2004. De Kustboys were a different team completely then, not just because it’s thirteen years later, but in terms of stature and setup too. Oostende battered Genk 6-0 last time they met in the league, and Oostende also defeated Genk in the semi final of the cup this season too, which could prove a good omen for the hosts, even though De Smurfen just seem impregnable right now in every situation.

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The thing which may hinder chances for Oostende is that Nany Dimata could be out injured for the match. The youngster has been superb and won the best young player of the season. Along with him missing, the team haven’t played for 9 days, with their last match being away at Anderlecht in a 3-2 defeat. They’ve had to stew on that for a while with no opportunities to bounce back. But the rest may have been needed in the build up to a match which may make this season an historic one!

A long season in Belgium with nearly a full year of football is no good for players in my opinion as quality and enthusiasm may drop. But with it leading up to this match for these two, one more push is all that is needed to play in Europe’s second competition, and with this season, it shows that the possibility of success could happen with the luck of the draw!

Posted in Transfers

Brief Transfer Roundup in the JPL

Not that I have nothing to write about. I rarely talk about transfers unless they’re done. I’ve only ever written one transfer blog and that was because, at that time, even though the season was in full flow, I was short on ideas! But now the season is more or less over, everyday at some point I was seeing transfer deals completed all over the place. The one that threw me off was Samy Kehli to Lokeren from Roeselare, when they were due to meet each other 2 days later!

And speaking of Lokeren, they have been one of the busier sides. Finishing the season in the play offs rather well, maybe Rùnar Kristinsson has the belief that they can do better in the league, in the play offs or in the cup. Already signing the aforementioned Kehli, he has also brought in Luciano Slagveer and Robin Söder. Looks like depth in all positions are needed at the Daknamstadion!

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But reason I originally thought about this blog was because of the departure of Michel Preud’homme. I thought his race had run when Anderlecht won 2-0 against Brugge about 6 weeks ago (give or take) and I was proved right. Managers know when they’ve gone as far as they can go and where others are staying, deservedly so at STVV and unsurely at Mouscron, Club Brugge are without a manager.

With Frank de Boer linked, amongst others I take it, Preud’homme has been making signings already before he left. What if these aren’t in the plans of the next manager? What if the players themselves joined because of Michel Preud’homme? Three players have been signed so far and with the Belgian league tending to start just that bit earlier, the clock is ticking for the Blauw-Zwart with a Champions League qualifier to decide as well before September 1st.

Anderlecht have been very impressive in the market under René Weiler. He secured deals before the end of the season, either re-signing Isaac Kiese Thelin for another season on loan, but permanently signing Teodorczyk and Spajic before they’d even won the title! The only problem was holding onto Youri Tielemans. It was inevitable that he’d leave but I had Arsenal and Roma as the main options, by Monaco splashed the cash and the French champions are well suited for the outstanding youngster.

Another youngster potentially on his way, and massively linked with Arsenal, again, is Henry Onyekuru. When I saw him at the Diagne interview, he was the first to introduce himself to me! Not the other way round. And as I am a Gooner (incase you didn’t know) I’m gutted I never got a picture with him. Speculation of a £6.8 million fee is nothing to a Premier League club and I think we’ll with the punt. Another out of Eupen is Mamadou Sylla, who went to Gent via Espanol, his parent club.

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Other deals announced this week were Nicolas Rajsel, who I knew would stay in the Pro League after being outstanding for USG in the play offs, and Henrik Dalsgaard to Championship side Brentford. I thought the impressive Danish full back was off to Genk, with Sandy Walsh going to Zulte Waregem, but with the Dane choosing to go to England, he may feel a second tier side scrapping for a play off place in England compared to either Europa League with Zulte, it possible European football with Genk was a better option? 

Anyway, with other transfers happening everyday, I’ll settle for these on this roundup. I’ll probably keep tabs and either tweet what I see or you’ll read it here on a regular basis, that’s if anyone does read this, and I’ll give my opinion in the aftermath. Enjoy! 

Posted in Matches in Brief

Genk Control De Limburg Derby!

Before the match I wrote a piece that hopefully made the match, on paper, look a whole lot more competitive than it’d be on grass. But unfortunately for Sint Truiden, football isn’t played on paper, and along with that, Genk played De Kanaries off the pitch!

I was at my own huge game yesterday where the best team won, and across to North West Belgium, the​ best team also won. I really did believe a fight, in a good way, would be put up by the visitors, but Genk’s superiority really shined through. Lucas Pirard was rushed off his feet to be honest and his gloves were more than warm. After a short drinks break, the breakthrough finally happened, in what looked like the simplest fashion with a tap in from Thomas Buffel 6 yards out. Ten minutes later, Jean-Paul Boetius switched from provider to scorer. After a free flowing move, he swept home a finish, once again unmarked.

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Albert Stuivenberg’s team were just a class above and Mbwana Samatta sealed the win on the 55th minute looping the ball over the hapless keeper, once again unchallenged. Only resorting STVV to half chances, the scoreline flattered Sint Truiden who after such a fantastic play offs, deserved more in the end, and their fans certainly did. Genk just have the upper hand right now in Limburg and along with that, showed why they could just be better suited to the Europa League. The only question I want to ask is how did they finish 8th in the regular season?

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But onto Wednesday, a huge game will take place on the coast at Oostende, where rest may be crucial to Oostende in the end, but with a red hot Genk right now, I wouldn’t want to guess a potential score! 

Posted in Matches in Brief

De Limburg Derby Day!

In Belgium, it’s unofficial cup final day! Well, not totally because the prize after this is just to play Oostende. That’s the real ‘final’. But tonight, Genk host Sint Truiden where the whole Provence will be glued to the outcome of these two rivals. 

Genk hold the upper hand. They have players who have played in big matches, they’re at home, they cruised to top in PO2B, meaning they had the luxury to rest players and they’re at home. Some may say they’d prefer them in the Europa League come next season due to their fine performance this season. 

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But I think one thing goes against them. STVV have been switched on throughout the entire play offs, playing against arguably tough opposition and have players right on form in Gerkens, Vetokele and Ceballos. All 3 have been outstanding, with the other 8 around them like Stef Peeters and maybe even an in form Kurt Abrahams might be the match winner. 

With all those who could stand out, of course Genk have real quality of their own, from Mathew Ryan in goal, through to Samatta up top, with Trossard and Scrijvers and Pozuelo andyou catch my drift. Not only is this a fantastic match, if the Luminus Arena really does light up, there could be fireworks and maybe even an upset. This is the one off of all one off matches in a derby situation! The cream always rises to the top, but matches in Belgium aren’t always settled by moments of real quality. One loose ball ceased upon, one slip in defence or one costly missed chance could be the deal breaker in what I feel will be a tight affair compared to say…the 3-0 away win from Genk a few months ago. Not only was real quality on show, but a quick fire treble sealed the win for De Smurfen just before half time.

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That of course could be replicated, but I think De Kanaries have strengthened mentally since then and may spring a surprise if they’re as battle hardened as they have been, demolishing Mechelen last time out and romping to the top of PO2A! I just think, even if this wasn’t a derby, It’d still be a fantastic match due to their form going into the match. Goals have to be scored tonight regardless, but I wouldn’t be surprised if goals are guaranteed by both in the fight for Europe, or at least, the next phase in their quest! 

Exciting!!!

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: RSC Anderlecht 1946/47

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.

With this club winning their 34th Belgian Pro League title this season, I thought I’d go all the way back to their very first title win. This issue of Back in Time sort of commemorates the 70th anniversary, and let’s just say, Les Mauves haven’t looked back since. The difference between this season here and this season now is that the league has ended today, but back then the league wasn’t settled til the very last match of the season, which took place in late June! 

Yes, late June. Luckily there wasn’t an international tournament that season! The Emile Versé stadium was the destination where Anderlecht became the 4th different team from the capital to win a top flight league title. Did the second world war help? Who knows, well, I’m sure somebody will know, but teams like Union Saint Gilloise and Germinal Beerschot who were prior champions leading up to World War 2 just weren’t the same, whereas Anderlecht dominated Belgian league football for the rest of the forties, the fifties AND the sixties!

Players that season were phenomenal. For example, you wouldn’t mind having this as a classic 5 aside. With Henri ‘Rie’ Meert in goal, winning 8 titles in 18 years at the club, he was consistent for both club and country. Then you had Jean Valet defending who won 5 titles in 15 years. François de Wael and Victor Erroelen in midfield with the exceptional Joseph Mermans up front. If he was around now, with his goalscoring record, he’d be worth a fair bit of money with an unbelievable record for Anderlecht and with his total finishing at 39 goals in 34 matches this title winning season!

There were other superb players around these five, arranged by Frenchman Georges Perino, but the great thing is that through recruitment and tactics, Anderlecht kicked on and this was the imputus. As a fair few of these players were at the club before the second world war, meaning the fruits of their labour were finally awarded, along with their fantastic loyalty to the club.

Going back to the league, Anderlecht finished 2 points above R. Olympic CC in the league with a better win record and a fantastic goal difference. With 112 goals scored by the club, that works out over 3 goals scored per match! And there were plenty of derbies too, with 5 clubs representing Brussels as well this season. The biggest win that season was a 7-0 home win over Sint Niklaassche SK, who were one of five teams who were relegated in this 19 team league, with Club Brugge (R FC Brugeois) finishing bottom of the pile!

With this league title being so vital for the club, and I say vital because in the 70 years in between, Les Mauves have won 34. If my maths is correct, although it isn’t difficult, that’s a squeak under a title every 2 seasons since. To achieve that is an unbelievable achievement. Teams have come and stayed like Club Brugge, but others have come and gone, like Mechelen and Standard Liege who look like they want to continue a challenge at various points, but it’s never sustained, and now you have Gent and Genk in the present day who want to try and create their own dynasty, which will need a hell of a lot of building!

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: René Weiler

The season has ended. Well…not officially. But for one club in Belgium it certainly has, and on a major high too. Anderlecht put a run together that saw them crowned this season’s Belgian Pro League champions, and deservedly so, and one man at the helm of this historic and huge club in the capital is a modest and unassuming manager, René Weiler.

The Swiss took over in the summer, leaving Nürnberg and replacing Besnik Hasi who moved to Legia Warsaw. With Anderlecht not winning the league for a short time, it would probably be considered a drought for a club this successful in recent years, so a plan would have been needed by somebody who spent his entire football career playing in Switzerland. Looking at the summer transfers in and out, some inspired signings were brought in, like Spajic, Hanni and Teodorczyk who not only proved a huge success, but also sured up the spine of the team. He also appointed Tielemans as a club captain as well as Sofiane Hanni which was a good move in itself.

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After a reasonable start, remaining unbeaten until late September, when a huge upset where relegated Westerlo beat Les Mauves at the Constant Vanden Stock, his plans were going along nicely, and for his sake, very well until the end of the season. Looking at his results and the club, he looked​ to have made the team more assured, knowing how good Anderlecht were in this division and showing how he trusted his players as squad rotation did come into play. He also proved how much faith he had in his players as he took that into the Europa League and heroically only lost to Manchester United through an extra time winning for the English side.

Averaging just over 2 goals per game in the regular season and the play offs (scoring 82 goals), that’s a fantastic goal return, knowing that his players had the capability to score anywhere if needed. They also conceded just under a goal a game, which isn’t too bad conceding 36 goals all season. One thing is for sure, you were bound for entertainment watching this season’s champions in action, week in, week out.

This was groundbreaking for Weiler too. This was his first title as a player or manager. To win your first trophy is huge, no matter what it is, and to do it at a club which may have felt that they needed new, fresh ideas and to see such a positive turnaround so quickly, not only repaid the faith in the board, but proved them right too.

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Winning only breeds winning and I’m sure this club will continue to remain hungry for progression. This also puts the manager into good stead as he can now know what it takes to see out a title win. The only problem for the club is that keeping hold of their players will always be an issue, and if there’s continuous glory, holding onto the gaffer will always be a problem too incase he moves to France, or a bigger Bundesliga side, or even go back home but with Basel this time?

I don’t intend to turn a huge positive into a negative, but the reality is that this league discovers and churns out such names in world football, whether that be on the pitch or on the bench. This won’t happen soon of course, and hopefully for Anderlecht’s sake, he may build something big in Brussels, but in the back of every supporter, journalist and players head, they know that success sees progression, and that means new explorations for everyone involved, unless you just love Belgium or the club you play for.