Going Dutch with Sparta Rotterdam

With 6 games remaining to win the league and a 5 point cushion over Ajax, I hoped it would be a formality. But of course not.

We started off with a 0-0 draw against relegation threatened RKC Waalwijk.

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That rubbish result ironically marked a 60 game unbeaten run in the Eredivise for us.

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Both us and Ajax had a tricky run-in with 5 games to go. Our lead was now 3 points but Ajax’s superior goal difference meant that we could afford few slip-ups.

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Thankfully we were able to take our chances in our next match versus Heerenveen and 34 year old Quincy Promes scored a vital last-minute winner against Vitesse.

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Of course Ajax kept on winning too, so it meant the gap was still 3 points with 3 Eredivisie games remaining.

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But then they had a blip which opened things up for us. They drew away against PSV and also unexpectedly lost the cup final against AZ.

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A comfortable win over ADO Den Haag for us ensured that we were then 5 points ahead with just 2 games remaining.

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The title was in our sights and a win against rivals Feyenoord would seal it with a game to go. But we just can’t seem to be able to beat them

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What a time to lose our first Eredivisie match of the season! All of a sudden the pressure was on and we needed to win our last match at home against Utrecht as Ajax were at home to ADO Den Haag

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Utrecht had lost 4 of their last 5 league games because of their run in the Europa Conference League, surely we couldn’t bottle it from here?

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We have won the Eredivisie for the second successive season!

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It’s a brilliant achievement to do that with a 100% Dutch squad, especially given the strength of Ajax. The next step now is to do something meaningful in Europe.
nothing like a nerve wrecking end to a season but another great win and time to get Europe to bend to your will
nothing like a nerve wrecking end to a season but another great win and time to get Europe to bend to your will

Yeah hopefully we can get further than the last 16 of the Champions League next season, not going to be easy though!
The 2025/26 season ends with us as Eredivisie champions for the second successive season and our record of Won 27, Drawn 6 and Lost 1 is identical to last season! We’ve lost 2 league games in 2 years!

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We have the 5th highest salary in the league, which is amazing considering we’ve won it twice in a row.

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Abdou Harrouri was the best player in the Eredivisie and won the confusingly named Golden Boot. He’s been an ever-present in the squad since the start of the save and must be close to the national team

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Whereas our goal scoring won us the league last year, this time around it was our defensive work. Goalkeeper Rody de Boer kept 22 clean sheets in 33 games

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2 players we’re going to massively miss are Jayden Braaf and Nathan Ake, who will both return to Man City next season as they want to keep them in their first team. Braaf scored 19 goals in all competitions for us.

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Our young Dutch squad has now won 2 Eredivisie titles in a row despite only 2 of those players being regulars in the Dutch squad.

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3 of those were called up to the squad for the 2026 World Cup, including Maysonnave who recently got his first goal for Holland.

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It’s amazing we produced a player like him in our first youth intake and we also had another decent one this year.

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Our under 18 squad is very promising with the standout being 16-year-old Rayan Guennoun who I managed to poach from Vitesse last year.

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Our facilities are mostly world-class and we move into our new stadium in one years time.

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Financially we’re in a good place because of the Champions League money but we have a budget of £15m for next season.

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Holland is now 5th in the nation coefficients table and not far behind Germany in 4th


Most Dutch players that will improve our squad are at a minimum £30m so it’s going to be a very tough summer trying to improve our squad!
Over the summer, the 2026 World Cup took place where Sparta player Dominique Maysonnave scored twice in Holland’s first group stage game against Costa Rica.

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He then got injured in the next group stage game and was obviously missed by Holland as they were knocked out by Romania of all teams. The tournament was won by Mexico in the end… strange things happen when you only load one league at the start of the save.

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Firstly, the transfers out, and the sad news of the departure of club legend Deroy Duarte who we sold to Vitesse for £4m. With his contract up at the end of the season, it made sense to cash in and he leaves having won the Eredivisie twice and the cup once with us.

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We also managed to get £7.5m for Jairo Reidewald just one year after signing him for free!

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And the final major transfer out of the club was that of Khalid Haddadi. He was once rated a 4-star player when he was 18 but has been sold to AZ for £2.5m to make way for the emerging talent at the club.

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In terms of transfers in, this is where the challenge of signing only Dutch players gets difficult.

Gravenbach from Juventus was available but didn’t want to join and various youngsters from Eredivisie clubs are just far too expensive. Our best player last season, Jayden Braaf, joined Dortmund permanently for £37.5m which is money we simply do not have.

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So instead, we’ve made some decent loan signings. The first is Donny van de Beek who was out of favour at Man United and has a lot to offer still at the age of 29.

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We also managed to get Memphis Depay on loan from Man United as well. He’s not as good as Braaf but still adds quality to the squad.

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That’s all our dealings… so far.

So we start the season with relatively the same squad minus Emanuel Emegha, who is injured for the next month or so.

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Despite that, we had no trouble in beating AZ in the Johan Cruijff Shield thanks to 2 goals from Mo Sankoh.

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Our small squad is predicted to finish 2nd in the league, which is actually the highest ever position we’ve been predicted.

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The aim is to improve on last season, which would mean retaining the Eredivisie for the 3rd year in a row and getting further than the last 16 of the Champions League… both of those might prove to be difficult!
With a squad that was probably weaker than the one we had last season and with money to spend, my sights were set on Nathan Ake after his successful loan spell at the club… he decided to join Fiorentina instead.

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And I had a tough decision to make when a £8.5m bid came in for Giovanni Troupee from Al-Shabab. Ultimately, I decided to accept the offer with Ki-Jana Hoever now the first choice right back at the club.

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Troupee has honestly been one of the best signings of the save at just £650,000 and leaves Sparta after winning the Eredivisie twice as our first choice right back.

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His replacement is Hans Hateboer, who was available for £1.6m, so I thought it made sense to bring him in as right-back cover. It was just 3 years ago that Ajax paid £25m for him and he only wanted a 2-year deal at the club.

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Our season has started in familiar fashion despite injuries to strikers Emegha and Sankoh. We’ve won 4 out of 4 including a 6-0 win over Groningen in which Depay scored his first goals for the club.

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Joeri Bresser is the man who has replaced Ake as first choice starter at centre back this season and already has two goals. He’s still only 20 years old and might not be too far away from the Dutch squad.

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In the Champions League group stage, we have been drawn with Man United, Celtic and Olympiakos. We should be getting through the group and I hope to improve on last season where we were knocked out in the last 16 by Juventus.

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After realising that I’m not going to be able to pluck the best Dutch players from other teams, I decided a few seasons ago to go on an extensive hunt for young, Dutch players. This is what our youth team looks like.

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As you can see, we’ve got extremely talented youngsters at the club and most of those in the screenshot were signed for less than £1m from other Dutch clubs shortly after they had their youth intake.

It means we have lots of players in the Dutch youth teams, 18 were called up in total in the upcoming international break including 4 to the senior side where Sepp van den Berg has the opportunity to earn his first cap.

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After that international break, the season truly starts. I’m looking forward to seeing how we play against Man United in the Champions League.
After losing just one match in each of the last two seasons, I was quietly hoping that an unbeaten season could be on the cards… until we lost 2-1 away to PSV in September.

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Since that result we’ve won all of our games including wins over Olympiakos and Celtic in the Champions League. We beat the Greek side 2-1 but it honestly should’ve been 10-1.

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Celtic actually beat Man United so it means that our group is far from over but we should have enough to get through.

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And the loss to PSV means we are on the back foot in the league already as Ajax are looking unstoppable and have won 8 out of 8.

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We were also hit with the unfortunate news that winger Aurelio Oehlers was ruled out for 3 months.

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But Dillion Hoogwerf has deputised for him perfectly so far and has 4 goals and 4 assists in his last 4 matches.

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There was also a bit of transfer news too. Davy Klaassen has left for Saudi Arabia in a £2.9m deal.

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In his 2 years at the club he won 2 league titles so he more than did his job. Plus we made a profit on a declining 33 year old whose contract was expiring at the end of the season.

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There is also the ongoing transfer saga of Dominique Maysonnave, who is being linked with Man City for £92m.

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We promised we’d let him go at the end of this season and I have a feeling we’re not going to be able to keep him…

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He is our best player by miles and we need him to lead us to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 2nd successive season.
After winning the Eredivisie twice in a row with a squad that was predicted to finish 6th, our bubble finally seems to have burst. We’re probably on our worst run of form since the start of the save.

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It started when, out of absolutely nowhere, we lost 2-0 at home to PEC Zwolle. It was our first home loss in the Eredivisie for more than 2 years and a freak result that has not happened in the last few years.

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We did respond with a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the Champions League thanks to a goal from ex-United player Hoogwerf

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And in the reverse fixture Van de Beek scored against the club that are paying 60% of his wages. But his goal didn’t matter in the end as we lost the match 3-2.

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Those results against United mean that the group is delicately poised with 2 games remaining. We should beat Olympiakos so it looks like everything rests on our final game with Celtic.

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But, as previously mentioned, our form has not been good and culminated in a 4-1 loss to Ajax in the Eredivisie

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They’re an incredibly strong side, with world-class players like striker Joel Sarpoing and recently beat Real Madrid in the Champions League so it’s not really a massive, shock result.

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The problem is that it’s the type of result that we have avoided in the past 2 seasons. It also means we are 9 points behind them in the league so it looks very unlikely that we’ll retain our title.

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So we have an interesting few months ahead of us... The form needs to improve immediately or we could see ourselves slide down the league table.

My start-of-season optimism has well and truly gone!
With us level on points with Man United and Celtic, our Champions League group was delicately poised as we headed into our 5th game against group whipping boys Olympiakos.

They had just one point, so the last thing I expected was a 2-1 defeat!

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It was ridiculous that we lost the game after having 32 shots, but more ridiculous that only 4 of them were on target!

It meant that our fate rested on our final group stage game against Celtic, but first we had 3 Eredivisie matches before that to try and halt our slump in form.

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Underperforming loan signings van de Beek and Depay both scored in a crucial derby win over Feyenoord as we comfortably won those 3 games, keeping 3 clean sheets in the process.

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All we needed from the trip to Celtic Park was a draw to put us into the Knockout Round… but we were deservedly beaten.

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For some reason, we just can’t win away games in Europe. So despite being top of the group after 4 games, we end up finishing in 3rd and are into the Europa League knockout stages!

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I’ll be honest... I am more than happy with being in the Europa League.

We got to the semi-finals a few seasons ago and so I see it as a real opportunity for silverware especially as we will face Union Berlin in the 1st Knockout Round. They’re 7th in the Bundesliga so I expect us to go through.

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The irony is that despite the poor showing in Europe, domestically we cannot stop winning and our backup side even beat PSV in the cup.

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It means we are firmly in 2nd position in the Eredivisie but I don’t see us beating Ajax to the title.

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After a relatively poor season last year, Emanuel Emegha is back to his usual self this campaign. He has 20 goals in all competitions and is averaging a goal every 78 minutes in the Eredivisie.

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This will be the first season where we haven’t significantly improved on the previous one, but I am hoping 2027 is a year we can do serious damage in the Europa League!
For the past year, Man City have reportedly been interested in our star player Dominique Maysonnave but have never put a bid in.

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That was until the January transfer window… when they bid £120m for him.

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It was a ridiculous bid but I wanted to test how serious they were, so asked for £140m… which they accepted!

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I simply couldn’t turn that down, even though we have no replacement lined up.

So that was it. After coming through our first ever youth intake Maysonnave has left the club for £140m and is getting paid a modest £250,000 a week...

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We’ve also moved on Aurelio Oehlers for £30m…. His goal and assist return has been poor since he’s joined us so when a bid of £30m came in, I decided to get rid as it was too good to turn down.

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It means we have £182m in the bank and £149m to spend on transfers

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This January transfer window is going to be crazy…
That's double what Chelsea bid just a year ago. What a player. Didn't kick up much of a fuss too by the looks of it.

Is he a club icon? Surely the game recognises what he's done...
What a sale, that should be enough to tempt some of the Dutch players back to the country hopefully
That's double what Chelsea bid just a year ago. What a player. Didn't kick up much of a fuss too by the looks of it.

Is he a club icon? Surely the game recognises what he's done...

What a sale, that should be enough to tempt some of the Dutch players back to the country hopefully

£140 million!!!! :oops::oops::oops: BOOM!!!

I agreed to sell him if the right bid came in and I suppose £140m will do... it's almost too much money to know what to do with!

The only frustrating thing is that I still can't tempt the best Dutch players to the club even though we now have all this money, so I'm just going all out on youth...
You think selling a player for £140m would be enough? Not for me!

We’ve also sold another player, Million Manhoef, who has joined Guangzhou Evergrande for £10.75m

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He was a great player for us but we made a good profit on him and a better Dutch left-back became affordable with the eye-watering money we now have.

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And that was Tyrell Malacia who we have signed for a club-record £19.5m from city rivals Feyenoord.

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He’s only rated 3 stars by my assistant but is clearly a better player than Manhoef, which is why I decided to bring him in.

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But then it got difficult.

The quality Dutch players that would improve our squad either don’t want to join (there’s no way that Dutch players are going to leave clubs like Barcelona, Bayern or Juventus) or are being outpriced by their clubs (literally asking for £120m).

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This meant that I went a bit crazy spending money on unproven youngsters...

First up, we spent £16m on 17-year-old Anwar van Kesteren from PSV

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Next up was Berry Van Es for £9.5m, again from Feyenoord. He’s not made a senior appearance and needs to improve his passing but is just 17 and I see him being an important player in the future.

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Last of all was Sep Berck Beelenkamp from AZ for £6m. He’s only just turned 16 and I think £6m might end up being a bargain for him.

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Those transfers mean our youth squads are now stacked with Dutch talent but, admittedly, we’ve not really improved the first-team squad in this transfer window.

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We may be struggling to compete in the Champions League for now, but surely these youngsters will be leading us to glory in 3 or 4 years?
With Maysonnave gone, the stage is set for Bram van den Berg to fill his shoes. He’s done ok so far and has 5 goals and 5 assists in the Eredivisie this season.

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Results-wise, 2027 started off very well especially given the sudden changes to the squad. But we then had a terrible 3 game run in February.

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A 1-1 draw at home to Ajax was not enough, especially as they played most of the game with 10 men.

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I wasn’t too bothered about a defeat to AZ in the Dutch cup quarter final, but I was bothered about getting thrashed by Feyenoord away from home again.

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It means there will be no 3rd Eredivisie title in a row for us. With 9 games remaining we’re in a fight for 2nd place, which would still mean qualification for the Champions League group stage.

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Those results also meant that I was very nervous going into the Europa League 1st Knockout Round with Union Berlin. But it turns out I had no need to be.

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A rotated side did their best to completely bottle it in the second leg but we managed to get through to the next round by winning 7-5 on aggregate.

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We will play Russian side Akhmat Grozny in the 2nd Knockout Round. I’d like to believe that I have decent football knowledge, but I have honestly never heard of them before.

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A top 2 finish would be great to guarantee Champions League football next season but my main priority, for now, is the Europa League.
We really could not have asked for a better opponent in the Europa League Second Knockout Round. Akhmat were 6th in the Russian League, and I’d honestly be embarrassed if we didn't get through to the quarter-finals

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They had just one shot in the first leg but the result was still a joke - I’ve never felt such disappointment in winning!

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It was made worse by us following that up with a 4-1 loss at home to PSV in the Eredivisie. It was such an infuriating result given that we weren’t even that bad and typified our performances in the league this season.

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We also drew 2-2 at home to AZ after squandering the lead twice, which put us down to 4th in the table. With just 5 games remaining, the race for 2nd place is really hotting up.

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Due to a very strong coefficient, a 4th placed finish would still mean we got to the Europa League group stage but Champions League football has to be the aim for us, especially as we’ve won the Eredivisie in the last 2 seasons!

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It felt like the season was crumbling before my very eyes but thankfully, we managed to get the job done in the second leg against Akhmat.

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As a result, we will face Real Sociedad in the Europa League quarter final.

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It’s a significant tie because they were the side that knocked us out of the Europa League semi finals 2 seasons ago.

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Revenge is very much on the cards!
The quest to produce another player we can sell to Man City for £140m continues and our latest youth intake was not too bad

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Eugene Bennett looks quality and given that he came through our academy, I think we can ignore the fact he is from Aruba

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Going into the Europa League encounter, our opponents Real Sociedad sat 6th in La Liga

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But they had a number of quality players in their squad who were on a lot of money compared to our squad.

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Yet 2 goals from striker Emanuel Emegha put us in the driving seat going into the second leg.

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All we needed was a solid defensive performance in the second leg, and we would reach the Europa league semi-final for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

So conceding after 2 minutes wasn’t the plan...

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Mikel Oyarzábal did his best to single handedly take Sociedad through with two late goals, but thankfully we managed to get through on away goals to enact our revenge on the Basque side.

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So once again we are in the Europa League semi-final and this time around we will face Spurs. If I’m being honest, I can’t see us getting past them.

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Just like 2 seasons ago both us and city rivals Feyenoord are in the semi-final of the Europa League. They actually went on to win the competition 2 years ago and could end up doing the same this time around!

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We’ve only played 2 Eredivisie matches since the last post but we are back up to 2nd after both AZ and PSV dropped points. Despite losing their first league match of the season, Ajax have already wrapped up the title.

Talking of Ajax, they beat Man City in both legs of their Champions League quarter final. Maysonnave, who we sold to City for £140m in January, scored the consolation goal in the second leg.

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It means they’ll face PSG in the semi-final. Surely they couldn’t go on to win it… could they?

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The entire nation of Holland is rapidly improving so much so that the Eredivisie is becoming one of the top leagues in Europe!
Our Europa League semi final opponents were 5th in the Premier League (with Sheffield Wednesday in 6th!) but had a squad that was much better than Real Sociedad, who we struggled to get past in the last round.

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There are too many quality players to mention but 33-year-old Harry Kane leading the line gives an idea of how strong they were.

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So I was expecting a really tough first leg away from home - but came away from the match thinking we should’ve won it!

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We were much the better side and should have taken advantage of the chances we created.

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A rotated side then beat ADO Den Haag in our penultimate league game, which guaranteed 2nd place in the Eredivisie and direct passage to the Champions League group stage next season after both AZ and PSV dropped points in consecutive matches.

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But the focus was on the second leg against Spurs. We were going to undo all the good work done in the first leg?

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No bottle job here! Sparta Rotterdam are into the Europa League final!

It was thoroughly deserved over the 2 legs and we managed to keep 2 clean sheets against a quality Premier League side

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Our opponents in the Europa League final will be Sassuolo. They beat our city rivals Feyenoord in the semi-final, which I’m actually a bit gutted about as an all-Rotterdam Europa League final would have been crazy!

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But it means we’re facing a side who are 8th in Serie A, we’re not going to have a better chance of winning the Europa League are we?

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I just hope that we are able to handle the pressure of being favourites
Even though we’ve won the Eredivisie twice, the 2027 Europa League Final was undoubtedly our biggest game yet,

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We went into the game virtually full-strength and our 100% Dutch XI contained just 2 regens despite being this far into the save (Bresser and Kacar).

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In that lineup were Emanuel Emegha and Abdou Harrouri, both of whom have been at the club since the start of this save. 7 seasons in, they now had a chance to lead us to Europa League glory

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Unfortunately, the scoring was opened by Sassuolo, who got a goal with their first shot on target - a back-post header from a freekick - and the score remained 1-0 at half time.

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We created all the chances in the second half…

...but just could not score

And so, in our biggest game of the save and biggest opportunity to win a European trophy, we completely bottled it.

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They had one shot on target all game and their goalkeeper was man of the match, it was honestly the stuff of nightmares.

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I’ve never been closer to saving and reloading the game.

I cannot believe we have lost that match.