This Journeyman save has certainly been an interesting adventure. Having started out as a mission to rebuild Sporting Lisbon that immediately delivered massive success, we then went on to rebuild Valencia, fail at Cagliari, bring glory back to Dortmund and Man City. Not to mention international excitement with United States, Denmark and England.
But my latest posting with City was by far my least favourite. I failed to put my dislike for City behind me and was really frustrated by the massive wages their players were on and, as a result, the stupid wage demands that new signings had. So, I did the right thing and resigned in the summer of 2037, to set about a challenge that was more along the rebuilding lines I was initially aiming for.
And that opportunity came up immediately as the Feyenoord Rotterdam job was available, I applied, and was offered the job. And swiftly accepted! I don’t think I’ve managed in Holland on Football Manager, except maybe the quick attempt at starting a save with Ajax. So this is an exciting new challenge.
Feyenoord in 2037
Feyenoord have had some success during this save, winning Eredivisie three consecutive times in the 2020s, but have gone ten years without a title. And they came third behind PSV and Ajax in 2036/37.
They had been managed by Joao Nuno Fonseca, who starts as a data analyst at Benfica, who left to go and manage PSV.
The best players at the club were academy product 20-year-old Hungarian left-winger Zsolt Papp, 27-year-old attacking midfielder Ramón Campi and 20-year-old centre-back Adrie Van De Sande.
We also have several more exciting young prospects in 17-year-old Romanian striker Gabriel Vinatoru, right-winger Souhail Benali and defensive midfielder / striker Kevin Baas.
One thing I really like about Feyenoord is that more than half of ou first-team squad is aged 21 or under. And here’s how we’re looking at lining up in a new 4-4-1-1 formation:
Straight into Eredivisie
My first match in Holland came two days after my appointment, as Eredivisie kicked off on 1 August. It was at PEC Zwolle, and we got off to a decent start as 30-year-old Finnish right-winger Olli Koskinen curled in a delicious right-footed shot. Then Papp crossed for Koskinen to double his tally. We absolutely dominated but missed loads of chances, then gave away a penalty that made things interesting but held on for a 2-1 win after 38 shots to 9.
We also wasted a host of chances before French midfielder Narcisse Nouagovi slammed home a late penalty to beat Willem II 1-0 in our first home league game.
Champions League qualification
That got us off to a nice start and the league was intersected with Champions League qualification process. It began with Dijon, who must have become a decent side as they’ve finished third in France for the last three seasons.
However, we scored early in the first leg through Hungarian striker Gergo Benedek then ran riot to thump Dijon 5-0. Then thrashed them 4-1 away with Benadek and Koskinen both bagging braces.
We then took on Genk, which I also expected to be fairly tough. But it again proved not very much not be the case, as we put seven past Genk! The in-form Koskinen scored a hat-trick, including a sensational run and finish for the opener, midfielder Dani Lammers scored an equally good goal and Papp claimed three assists. And a 1-1 draw away sent us through to the group stages.
Early Eredivisie challenges
Our third game in Holland took us to champions PSV Eindhoven, in which I trialled the defensive version of our new 4411 formation. And it worked exactly as I was hoping it would as we saw off everything they threw at us to seal a 0-0 draw – and could have nicked it as Benedek missed two late chances.
And that was immediately followed by hosting Ajax. We switched to the more attacking formation and it again worked a treat as we came out flying, racking up nine shots in the first 20 minutes. Benedek had a goal disallowed early on, but put the disappointment behind him by scoring on 23 minutes. Ajax equalised in the final minute of the half as a free-kick was well saved by rebounded out to their forward. But we immediately went down the other end and Papp again created another goal for Benedek. And we hung on through a quiet second half to seal a huge win!
We followed that up by losing our first game as Feyenoord boss at Heerenveen. Koskinen turned villain as he got sent off in the first half, and we were unlucky to lose 2-1. We backed that up with a 3-0 win at home to Heracles, but our injuries mounted up we lost our only left-back Leon Brookhuis, his replacement Jurgen Pirschel – who we signed on loan from Dortmund – and best player Papp to long-term absences.
Koskinen and Benedek on fire
Koskinen was back in my good books as his double sealed a 2-0 home win over NAC Breda, which took him to 10 goals in 11 starts. And that prompted a nice little run of three narrow wins over average teams, in which Benedek continued his fantastic start to the season by scoring in all of them.
That teed us up for a clash with the only unbeaten team in Eredivisie as we welcomed AZ Alkmaar, who are managed by Leroy Sané. But we put a dent in their record as another Benedek goal edged a tight affair 1-0. That took him 17 goals in 17 games, which is already equal his best goal tally in his 15-year career!
He then picked up an injury, as did Koskinen with Papp still sidelined, and we struggled to a 0-0 draw at Vitesse. But swiftly bounced back with three straight wins, culminating in a brilliant 5-0 thumping of fourth-placed VVV Venlo thanks to the returning Koskinen scoring and twice and Benedek.
Our good form saw us set a new Feyenoord record for most consecutive matches unbeaten with 15, including a 1-0 win at city rivals Sparta Rotterdam. We finished 2037 with a 4-1 thrashing of PEC Zwolle, in which Koskinen scored his 14th goal and Benedek bagged his career-best 20th. And that great form had us sitting pretty at the top of Eredivisie.
Champions League group
Our reward for getting through to the group stages was a draw against PSG, Schalke and my former club Cagliari – who’d just finished third in Serie A!
We went to PSG first and were really unlucky to only lost to a late massively deflected goal. Then welcomed old clb Cagliari and started brilliantly to go 2-0 up, only for old striker Thomas De Lucia – who was fantastic for us at Cagliari – to score twice to equalise. But we nicked it with a late Benedek penalty.
We then lost at home to Schalke but did well to claim a 0-0 draw at their place. Then a massive result saw us defeat PSG 2-1 at home, which has to be one of the best European results we’ve had in this save. And that put us level with PSG going into the final game at our former stomping ground of Cagliari.
And that final game turned out to be another classic. We took the lead just before the hour mark then a flurry of three goals in four minutes saw the score swiftly become 2-2. And we looked to be heading for a draw that would have taken us into the Europa League, only for 21-year-old left-winger Peter Geerts to score an injury-time winner that sealed qualification for the knockout stages!
Join us next time as we move into 2038 in this exciting new role with Feyenoord Rotterdam!