I left you with Sparta Rotterdam at the top of the table during the winter break with one big question; would we win the league?
Yes, yes we would. I still can’t believe it. This is probably one of my biggest achievements in FM. We became Holland’s very own Leicester by winning the league in our first season after promotion, and I’m bloody delighted. I can’t praise the team enough, even though they tried to throw it all away in the last 5/6 games.
Losing to both Ajax and PSV meant they quickly closed the gap we had created in the first half of the season, but the real drama came in our last five games. The win away to Heerenveen, who dropped off considerably following the winter break, was massive. Two goals in the last ten minutes saved our skin. The two losses that followed were really disappointing as we needed Ajax to mess up as well to ensure we didn’t drop behind them. Luckily they did and we enough chances to fall across the finish line. Willem Tiburg are quickly becoming my bogey team and they and Vitesse both only just finished above the relegation playoffs, so to lose to them was really bad on our part. The game against ADO Den Haag was a must-win, and we were 2-0 down after 15 minutes. De Sa got us back on level terms before Nazario De Fretes scored a scrappy winner from a corner. This left us needing to equal Ajax’s result on the final day to win the league. We did just that with top scorer Rusnak winning us the league.
The team were the real stars of the show this year.
Eight of these players were part of the Sparta Rotterdam squad I inherited on the first day of the job. Dogan couldn’t get into the team last year but controlled games with ease this season. Dumfries still can’t tackle but was our best defender. Kortsmit is an average keeper but saved around 79% of shots. Brogno can’t dribble but is an insane winger. This team is a real example of a group of players who were better than the sum of their parts.
The fan’s player of the season is predictable at this stage as Brogno is one of their favourites. I can’t argue with any other award, and the stats are impressive but here are my own awards:
DEFENDER OF THE YEARHe still refuses to improve and has most likely hit his peak, but Dumfries defied all the odds and was our most consistent defender all year. He reminds me of Jamie Carragher due to the amount of last ditch tackles and wonderful defensive headers he makes.
MIDFIELDER OF THE YEARDogan only started around half of our games, but made a huge impact on me whenever he was on the pitch. He was one of the catalysts in our early season form and popped up with two important goals. His passing was always crisp and he excelled at breaking through defensive lines.
FORWARD OF THE YEARWe bought him last season for only £120K. Now worth £2M, Gudmundsson is one of our most reliable players. He makes up for his average vision with brilliant work rate and teamwork. He acts a bit like Roberto Firmino does for Klopp’s Liverpool, winning the ball back high up the pitch and initiating counter attacks. I might start employing him further back due to other players coming into the team, but I’ll always have a place for him in the team.
PLAYER OF THE YEARLike many FM players, I love finding a bargain. The Moneyball approach to transfers is somewhat romantic and Rusnak has really captured my heart this year. His goalscoring record is amazing, although 7 of those were penalties. I can’t imagine what we would’ve been like this year without this capture, one I wasn’t sure about making in the first place. I’m glad I did though as he became our talisman.
So we won the league, what’s next? Due to poor performances from Dutch teams in previous seasons, we will have to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. I hope we can, but the minimum aim is Europa League. In the league I am looking for a top 3 finish again. I think we will find it difficult to retain the league and compete in Europe, but hey, we have surprised ourselves so far so maybe we can continue to do so.
Thanks for reading!