Welcome to the last blog post tracking my journey on Football Manager 2021. After spending three years in Germany. I decided to accept the challenge of taking the managers job at relegated Dutch club Willem II Tilburg where I wanted to implement my Velvet Revolution philosophy in the hope that we could gain promotion back to the Eredivise.
Dutch Cup 2023-2024 🏆
The Dutch Cup was never my priority however after a few good results I was 100% looking to go all the way to the Final in Rotterdam with the journey starting at the end of October with a 1st round tie away at Excelsior were we came away with a resounding 7-1 victory that saw youngsters Rodney Pinas and Marlon Scholten both grab a brace.
The 2nd round draw through up a very testing challenge against Eredivisie club Feyenoord which we really turned on the style with a superb 5-0 victory that saw Erik Thijssen round off a superb display with two goals of the highest quality. Calvin Twigt, András Németh and Jullio Villalba all added to the Rotterdam clubs woes.
The 3rd round took us to Volendam were we triumphed with another free scoring performance that ended with us winning 4-1 with goals from Marion Scholten, Calvin Twigt ×2 and Erik Thijssen setting up a Quarter Final tie against Sparta.
So our last eight game against Sparta Rotterdam turned out to be another good night for us with another big victory this time a 5-1 win that saw five different goalscorers in Yannick Leliendal, András Németh, Junior van der Velden, Mika de Jong and Rodney Pines all hitting the back of the net. We have taken to this cup run and now we are in touching distance I am really hoping for a final appearance.
The Semi Final draw was made and although we got drawn away to NAC Breda we have avoided the big two Ajax and PSV Eindoven who will play out the other Semi Final.
We lined up against NAC Breda with a strong 11 and like every round before we go goal crazy with a 6-4 win that saw two players grab an hat-trick with Erik Thijssen getting his 3 goals in an 8 minute period. Bradley de Nooijer grabbed himself an hat-trick after a fine display on the left flank.
Dutch Cup Final
We went head to head with Ajax at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam and it would have been easy for us to go on the defensive and try and grab a victory however its not our style so we will be playing our way whatever the outcome.
The first half was dominated by the team from Amsterdam who led 1-0 at the interval which could have been 2-0 had it not been for Var ruling out a second Ajax goal. I told the boys at the break that “I was not happy with their performance and I expected a better showing in the 2nd half”.
The half time kick up the arse did the trick and only 1 minute after the restart we were level thanks to a nice finish from András Németh 1-1. The second half was a much better half for us with us now playing the game our way but the game was on a knife edge until a moment of genius from Erik Thijssen when in the 82nd minute he latched on to a flick on and finished in style with a delightful chip in to the Ajax goal…….. what a finish 2-1 come on. We had one hand on the trophy and when András Németh grabbed the opportunity to score his 2nd goal of the Final to put us 3-1 up we had both hands on the trophy and were crowned Dutch Cup Champions which also got us a place in next season’s Europa League playoff round.
Eerste Divisie 2023-2024🏆
A 30 game unbeaten run gave us the promotion back to the Eredivise what the board wanted and then we went on to complete a fantastic League and Cup double after being crowned Champions 15 points ahead of 2nd place.
You can see from our results below that we had a superb second half to the season dropping just 7 points with a loss against Hercules and two draws against Almere City and ADO Den Haag.
We were scoring goals for fun with Erik Thijssen leading the way with 32 goals ahead of András Németh who got 23 followed by both Rodney Pinas and Marlon Scholten who got 16 goals.
After 3 seasons at München 1860 I wanted a different challenge and my move to Willem II Tilburg as been nothing short of fantastic. I am just one year in to a 2 year contract and now I am preparing for our second year together which will be in the top tier of the Dutch pyramid after winning the Eerste Divisie title. We will also be competing in Europe after our Dutch Cup win against favourites Ajax in Rotterdam in April. The biggest and most satisfying thing for me is that we let most of our so called star players leave the club after they had managed to get the club relegated and then wanted to leave the sinking ship. With this it opened up opportunities for players in both our reserve and youth squads to step up and show the World what they can do. I signed Forward András Németh who I had worked with at 1860 and built the Velvet Revolution system around him. The football that we are playing is some of the best that I have witnessed on any FM release. The reason I believe for the good football is a combination of implementing a system of play that allows our players to express themselves along with a training system that is designed to mould players in to our system that not only targets a players strengths but adds a new dimension to their game.
Our scouting system is set up to identify players up to the age of 23 that we can bring in to the club under the right conditions based on the players attributes, attitude and financial restrictions. Over the last season we have built a backroom staff that is up there with the best in Holland 🇳🇱 in all departments. The Velvet Revolution is influenced by Johan Cruyff’s philosophy of playing entertaining football that allows the player to express themselves whilst adding a number of ideals that Ariggo Sacchi brought to Italian Football with Milan. Sacchi was also a disciple of the Dutch totaal Voetbal philosophy.
I have been offered interviews at a number of clubs both from the Premier League and The Championship in England which at this moment in time I have declined because I want to have at least one more season with Willem II. I won’t rule out a move in the future but for now I am concentrating on the job in Tilburg.
The board are expecting nothing less than a mid table finish ahead of the new season and have made available around £6.5m in the transfer budget and around £180,000 per week wage budget to aid us achieve our goals. I think we are spending something around the £100,000 mark in terms of wages so we have plenty in reserve. The board are also spending around £4m on upgrading both the Youth and first team training facilities which is very welcome in my opinion.
I am very interested to see how our young side adapt to the dizzy heights of both European and Dutch top tier football in the forthcoming season. We have a number of standout players including Erik Thijssen, András Németh, Rodney Pinas, Marlon Scholten, Stanley Nuijten and Calvin Twigt.
I have already had Erik Thijssen knocking on my door asking for a move to a big club because he feels he as already outgrown the club at 18 years of age. To be honest though I do think the young forward with the leather left foot does have the ability to be a future Ballon D’or winner. The young forward who netted 32 times in his first season in the 1st team squad reminds me of a young Marco Van Basten. Funnily enough I have a very similar trio to the 3 famous Dutchmen at Milan (Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard) in Thijssen, Pinas and Scholten.
To complete the season for the club both the Reserves and Youth team squads won their respective Leagues using the same system that the first team are using. I think the club have a good future ahead of them.
Thank you for reading and hope you are keeping safe.