Life in Holland had gotten off to a flyer as we led Feyenoord to the top of Eredivisie with a healthy ten-point lead over PSV Eindhoven, who had a game in hand, moving into 2038.
However, the new year didn’t start well as star striker Gergo Benedek was ruled out for up to four weeks with a thigh strain. We also began 2038 with three straight away league games. And without Benedek we wasted a host of chances in draws at Willem II and Groningen then edged a 1-0 win at Fortuna Sittard on the same day PSV suffered a shock defeat at NAC Breda. And that put us six points clear after 23 games, with 11 remaining.
The struggles continued on Benedek’s return as we struggled to a 1-1 draw at home to Twente then beat ten-man NAC 1-0 thanks to midfield wonderkid Dani Lammers’ first-half screamer. Lammers was on the scoresheet again as we improved slightly to defeat ADO Den Haag 2-0.
The solid defensive efforts continued as we snuck a 1-0 win at fifth-placed AZ Alkmaar, which resulted in them sacking Leroy Sané. Then 18-year-old striker Gabriel Vinatoru came off the bench to score a 90th-minute winner for another 1-0 win at lowly Heracles.
Dutch Cup Final
We made it through to the TOTO KNVB Beker (aka Dutch Cup) semi-finals with a 2-0 win over NEC, which saw us set the record for goals scored in the competition with 18. We extended that record as we breezed past VVV Venlo 2-0 to reach the final.
We faced a surprise package in the final, up against Vitesse. And we made a great start as exciting left-winger Zsolt Papp ran through the middle of the pitch completely unchallenged and smashed home the opener. But goalkeeper Ilounga Post lost his brain to gift Vitesse a goal, assisted by my former Valencia loanee Naci Unuvar, who’s now 34. But we came out of the blocks flying after half-time and Popp swung in a free-kick for centre-back Mustafa Albayrak to head home the winner.
That sealed Feyenoord’s first Dutch Cup win since 2030 and just a second since 2018. It also saw us complete the board’s directive of winning silverware four years early! And that’s my 14th cup success so far in this save… not bad!
The streak of edgy league wins sent us six points clear of PSV heading into a game at home to our title rivals with six games remaining. And we got the perfect start in the big game as left-winger Peter Geerts turned home the rebound after Benedek’s shot was parried by the goalkeeper.
Then nothing happened for the rest of the first-half and very little happened in the second until their left-winger missed a decent late chance. But we held on for yet another 1-0 win to move 9 points clear at the top!
The goals flowed more freely as we beat Vitesse 3-1 with goals from Benedek, right-winger Olli Koskinen and a late settler from centre-half Adrie van de Sande. That took us to a record 30 games unbeaten in all competitions!
Our defence had been rock solid all season, conceding just 10 times in 30 games. But we somehow managed to go 2-0 down at home to Heerenveen, who scored with their first two shots. We’d also lost Koskinen to injury, but his replacement Souhail Benali scored with his first touch in first-half injury-time. And that provided the impetus for a phenomenal turnaround that saw the returning Papp score and Benedek bag a brace in a 5-2 win.
PSV also won, so we were a dormie nine points clear with three games remaining. The title was tantalisingly close! However, our next game was Ajax away and we had loads of injuries. Ajax dominated the first-half, only for Lammers to step up and do this in injury-time.
What a ridiculous goal! But unfortunately, the lads fell apart in the second half and we lost 3-1. However, PSV only drew 1-1 at home to AZ, which handed the title to us on a plate!
Feyenoord were champions of Holland for the first time since 2027!!
That wraps up my 13th league title in this save, with six in Portugal, two in Spain, three in Germany, one in England and now one in Holland. Plus, we won the Nations League and World Cup with England.
The season concluded with a Rotterdam derby at home to Sparta, who are managed by Virgil Van Dijk, and the two players that spearheaded our early season form teamed up to end the campaign on a high. Benedek scored after five minutes, Koskinen doubled the lead, before Albayrak wrapped things up in injury-time.
That saw us finish top on 81 points, seven clear of PSV and 15 ahead of Ajax. However, winning the league only earned us a pathetic £10.5 million – how I long for the £90 million of Bundesliga…
Champions League knockout stages
Then in the Champions League knockout rounds we were drawn with Bayern Munich. Yay. Beneker returned from injury to open the scoring in the home leg and we won 3-2 despite dominating them by 23 shots to 11. And he was the hero in the second leg in Munich, scoring an equaliser to send us through 4-3 on aggregate.
Heading into the quarter-finals, three of the other seven players were my former clubs, so inevitably we did draw one of them. And that team is Borussia Dortmund, who I left two years ago. And the quality of the side I’d built shone through as they ripped us apart and won 3-0 in Dortmund to effectively kill the tie off. A 1-0 defeat sent us out but the board was happy we made it to the quarter-finals.
My two previous teams went head-to-head in the semis and Man City beat Dortmund 4-2 on aggregate. While another former club Valencia knocked out Madrid. That saw my two old clubs face off in the final and City won it 1-0 in extra-time thanks to midfielder Jonathan Montagne. Do I regret leaving them? Not even one tiniest of an iota.
Join us next time as we look back on a great first season in Holland! I thought Feyenoord was going to be a massive challenge, but our three best players were enough to lead us to a huge league and cup domination!
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