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Unfinished Business - Return To Belgium

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Unfinished Business - Return To Belgium

So with my Nancy-Lorraine save coming to an end after getting the chop midway through my second season, I needed something new to get stuck into. I toyed with the idea of a few different clubs in the second and third tiers of Spain, Italy and Germany, but I feel like I have unfinished business in Belgium. My last save of FM23 was managing Antwerp in the top tier of Belgian football, ending up there by chance after spinning a wheel with about 30 teams on it from all over Europe. It actually turned out to be one of my favourite saves I had done all year, working in a country/division that I never would have just chosen myself (had it not been down to the fate of the wheel). During that save, I spent 3 seasons with Antwerp, winning three league titles, 2 Belgian cups and 2 Belgian super cups. I made it to 3rd place on the Belgian hall of fame list and even took Antwerp to a Europa League Final (losing to Aston Villa). Following that, I moved to Udinese and then on to Ajax as well, but the save was never quite the same for me after I left Belgium and I think that's because I always felt like my work in the country wasn't complete.

So I am back in Belgium and this time, there will be no leaving for other countries. This time I'm here for the long term and want to complete everything I didn't last time round. I want to top not only the Belgian Hall of Game, but also become the greatest English manager and also a World Hall of Famer as well! In addition to that, I want to lead my Belgian side to European glory, first of all aiming at any European trophy before setting our sites on the big win...the Champions League itself. And this time round, I have decided to make the whole thing a little more challenging...there is no denying that when I took over Antwerp, they were already one of the best sides in the country and expected to compete at the top end of the top tier...backed up by the fact they won the Jupiler Pro League in real life last season as well. So who better to take over now than their local rivals, Antwerp based Beerschot, and let's be honest - any team with Beer in their name is good enough for me.

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Beerschot currently ply their trade in the second tier of Belgian football, so a promotion will be required before we can even think about setting up a local derby and then starting to challenge the biggest clubs in the country which include Antwerp themselves, Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Genk and Gent. Yep, that's one of the reasons I loved playing this league so much last year, because it is ultra competitive with about 5-6 teams that can realistically win the league each year. My plan is to stop that in the long term and make Beerschot the most dominant team in the country.


HISTORY


The club is classed as relatively new, formed as recently as 2013. However, their is a history that goes back a lot further than that. Another football team, Football Club Wilrijk (KFC Wilrijk) were founded in 1921 and joined the Belgian Football Association. Most of their early life was played in lower divisions of the Belgian football pyramid, without a huge amount of success. In 1993, the club merged with Olympia Wilrijk 72 and were renamed KFC Olympia Wilrijk. The merger seemed to spark some immediate success as they reached the 4th division in 1994 and found themselves playing national football for the first time in 45 years. They lasted in that division for 8 years before eventually being relegated again. The following years up until 2010 saw them yo-yo between divisions with multiple promotions and relegations, but never getting higher than the 4th tier.

Another football team entirely, Beerschot AC, went bankrupt in 2013 and KFCO Wilrijk made the decision to harbour their fans and then followed up by incorporating the club's name and colours into their own identity...They filed to become KFCO Beerschot Wilrijk and the club became an instant success with their opening game under their new identity bringing in 8,500 which was a record for the Belgian provincial division at the time. That record was then broke several more times up to attendances of 12,000 and in 2013/14 they were crowned division champions. Further success and back to back promotions followed and by 2017 they were playing their football in Belgian's second tier. Recently, they've even had a couple of seasons in the Jupiler Pro League, but finished bottom 2 years ago with just 4 wins all season and were releagted again to the Challenger Pro League. A 3rd place finish last year was decent, but promotion back to the promised land is the target and hopefully I'm the man to lead them there and on to their most successful years in the club's history.

In 2019, the club did officially change their name to Beerschot and with it came a logo change as well.


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As with my Nancy Lorraine save, I will be looking to implement a philosophy during my time at the club...

1. Retain a strong core of Belgian players throughout the squad throughout my time at the club, keeping foreign signings of non Belgian players to a minimum.
2. Focus on bringing players through the club's youth setup by promoting one prospect from the U19s into the first team every season.
3. Keep the average age of the squad down by prioritising younger players (under 25) in the transfer market.

All of the above will be even more important in Belgium as they league registration rules require each team to have a minimum of 8 players developed in the nation for 3 years before their 23rd birthday.

1. registration rules.JPG


As with most sides in Belgium, we have some decent youth facilities from the off to help us with this, although there is room for improvement.

1. facilities.JPG
 
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First day in the job and the first thing I notice when meeting the squad is that there is actually a much more diverse range of nationalities in the team than I expected. There are only 9 Belgian players in the first team squad which surprised me as I expected it to be a lot more with the registration rules being what they are. The squad is young with most of the players being under 23 years old and only two being over 30. In terms of ability, my assistant manager's star ratings seem to suggest that we have plenty across most positions, with a few stand out players across the team as well.

2.1 squad.JPG


Despite having a relatively strong side, none of my players are deemed good enough for the league's media dream 11 and the bookies only actually rate us for a 6th placed finish as well, so I have work to do. Zule Waregem were relegated from the top tier last season and are hot favourites to make a return to the Jupiler Pro League at the first time of asking.

2.2 preview.JPG


The top two go up automatically in this division and then there is a 3rd promotion spot up for grabs which is a long winded and difficult process to go up. 5th to 8th place will play matches to qualify to play the two sides that finished 3rd and 4th - then the winners of those game go into a final and the winner of that then plays a final playoff against one of the bottom sides from the Jupiler Pro League in a final playoff to go up. So essentially, if you don't finish 1st or 2nd, you could have another 4 opponents to overcome to get promoted.


2.3 placings.JPG


Turning our attention back to our squad though and let's look at my best player, 23 year old Belgian winger, Thibaud Verlinden. He really does stand out as head and shoulders above the rest of the squad and will easily be our most dangerous player going forward. He is an exciting player offering plenty of flair and I expect a fair amount of goals and assists from him!

2.4 verlinden.JPG


My biggest task is going to be trying to keep my star man at the club as a whole host of bigger sides from more reputable divisions are currently sniffing around him and it's likely that incoming bids for him are imminent.

2.5 interest.JPG


Another of my better players is left back, Mardochee Nzita. Without having any exceptional individual attributes, he does offer pretty solid ones across the board. Pacey, with a good work rate, ability to tackle, pass and cross the ball, he should be a solid player for us in both this league and the top tier if/when we get there.

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And the man that will sit just inside him at the heart of our central defence is also another of my best players. Herve Matthys looks like a very good centre back for this level and at 27 years old, he is one of my most experience players. There's a good chance he could end up being my captain for this season at least.

2.7 matthys.JPG


Finally, in terms of the squad, it's worth giving a shout out to my Nigerian duo. Ibrahim Alhassan and Ryan Sanusi will both have big roles to play at the club this season and the compatriots will hopefully link up well through our midfield and make their presence felt.

2.8 alhassan.JPG


2.8 sanusi.JPG


My first signing for the club was the loan deal for Mamadou Fofana from French side, Amiens. I have a lot of players that are more defensive minded central midfielders and Fofana will give us another attacking option through the middle where we are lacking. He's not much of a finisher, but he should be able to offer up plenty of creativity.

2.9 fofana deal.JPG


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My second signing was my first permanent one for the club as James Wilson comes in from Port Vale for £75k. Wilson doesn't exactly come with a flash goalscoring record, but does have some decent attributes and looks better than my other options up front. Hopefully, it will prove that English football was just a bit much for him and he'll take to Belgian football a lot better and find scoring goals a bit easier.

2.10 wilson deal.JPG


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Pre season saw us play no less than 7 friendlies as I wanted to tinker around with the formation and tactical setup until I was happy. On the whole, the results did get better as we went through as well which hopefully means I've tweaked for the better as I've gone along game by game and got us in a good position to kick off the season.

2.11 friendlies.JPG


And here is the tactic I have ended up on, to kick off the season. It looks very defensive, but actually with an attacking mentality and 6 players set to an attacking individual duty as well, it actually see's us in the opposition half more than it may initially look like it will allow. The idea is to dominate possession and press as a team together when we have the ball. As I have two winger roles on the flanks, I have asked the team to play very narrow in possession so that they don't get isolated out wide. Up front, the lone striker is a deep lying forward, to drop in and link the play with a midfield that will overlap him in numbers.

2.12 tactic.JPG


The final thing to do here before I sign off this update is announce my first and the club's new captain!

2.13 captain.JPG
 
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Loved the Nancy save, and I'm sure ill love this too mate. Best of luck
 
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Tuesday 5th September 2023

Just before the season starts, we are hit by injury to one of our key players. New loan signing, Mamadou Fofana is going to miss the first 6 weeks of the season after picking up a double hernia in training! Gutting and a blow before we even kick a competitive ball.

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We will have a really tough opener as well, away at the side that are second favourites to win this division this year. So it was to be expected that we would be outsiders for my first game in charge.

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Before we do kick things off, the board remind me of their expectations for the season ahead and in the league, the playoffs are expected as a bare minimum. The longer term plan is to see the club promoted to the top tier within the next couple of years, so if we can do it at the first time of asking then even better.

3.3 expectations.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 1

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Not the start I wanted, but we didn't deserve to lose this game. Beveren have their keeper to thank as he pulled off a wonderful double save on 72 minutes to keep the scores level.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 2

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Well that isn't ideal as we kick off our season with back to back defeats and this was an awful performance as well.

It's not often that I would ditch a tactic after just two games, but that's exactly what I'm doing here as I can't afford to be getting our season off to any worse a start than we already have. It's a risky move, but I've worked on something different and am changing over to this!

3.6 tactic.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 3

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The change in tactic brings about a much better and much more dominant performance, but we still don't win the game and based on the stats I have no idea how!!

I mean just look at the XG history and the shots for both sides! How the **** did we only take a point from this game!

3.8 stats.JPG


To play that attacking playmaker role effectively, I will need more cover in the position, so again I turn to the loan market to bring in a new player. It's the second Englishman I have brought to the club as Sonny Carey joins us for the season from Blackpool. He should be good enough to add both goals and assists at this level.

3.9 carey signing.JPG


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But not for a little while though as he is injured in his very first training session for 4 weeks! FFS! That's two attacking midfielders I have at the club on loan and both are out with injury without kicking a competitive football for us!

3.10 carey injury.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 4

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We finally get our first win on the board, although we did our best to try and throw it away as we let a 2-0 lead slip! Thankfully, we continued the sustained pressure we had put on Lommel all game and scored a couple more late on the eventually seal the points.

Challenger Pro League
League Table


We can't deny it's been a poor start and we sit 11th after the opening 4 games. However, just 3 points seperate us and 2nd place so it's no time to panic just yet!

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I started with beerschot as well, currently sitting 3rd in season 5 after winning the league previous season, got uel quarters 2 seasons ago after winning the cup
 
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Monday 30th October 2023

Unbelievable! Andi Koshi is not a natural attacking midfielder but he has been filling in because of the injuries we have in the squad and even scored 2 and got man of the match in our last game. But now he is out as well...for 3 ******* months!!!

4.1 koshi injury.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 5

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A solid display of attacking football results in a 3-0 victory and we make it back to back wins as we might just be getting our act together!

But the victory did come at the cost of yet another injury and this time it is my best player who will be out for a few weeks!

4.3 injury.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 6

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We very much held our own away at the hot title favourites. And we even thought we'd won the game when James Wilson had the ball in the back of the net in the 94th minute, only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 7

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We only have ourselves to blame for not winning this game. Our strikers are awful and Ayouba Kosiah and James Wilson don't have a single goal between them this season and they both missed clear cut chances in this one. We dominated and with better forwards probably win this by 2 or 3!

I knew we had to improve our options up front after that game and an immediate dip into the transfer market was going to be required. However, I forgot that the transfer window was now closed so although I have found a striker that I think can improve our ratio of chances created to taken, he can't join us until January. We'll have to deal with that we have for the next 3 months before Mexx Meerdink joins us on loan from AZ.

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Croky Cup
Fifth Round

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Both my strikers finally scored their first goals of the season, taking advantage of lower league opposition in the cup! Can they use it as a confidence booster to start finding the net in the league though, that's the question!

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 8

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******* livid! Absolutely ******* livid!

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 9

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I dropped the defensive line for this one from much higher to standard and it seemed to sure us up at the back a little better. It may have also had something to do with the fact I changed the goalkeeper and one of my centre backs in the starting lineup as well. Either way, it's a much needed victory and I am much happier!

It's all well and good winning the odd game though, but if we want to start moving back up the division, we need to start beating the teams above us and that would start with 3rd placed Royal Francs in our next game.


Challenger Pro League

Matchday 10

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We got the win I so badly desired and the performance to go with it was easily the best of the season so far. Our opponents have started the season really well, so to not allow them a single shot at goal in the whole game and to smash 4 goals past them is incredible!

Challenger Pro League
League Table

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Back to back 4-0 league wins have propelled us back up to mid table and we are just 3 points behind 3rd place, so we're in touch with most of the sides above us. The top 2 are pulling away at the moment, but there is still a long way to go yet and we do finally seem to be getting our **** together.
 
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Saturday 16th December 2023

Challenger Pro League

Matchday 11

5.1 lierse.JPG


It was another dominant display of football from us, but we had to rely on a goal from the penalty spot to get us over the line after some poor finishing nearly cost us the points.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 12

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All of a sudden we are looking like a different proposition and playing like one of the best teams in the league. James Wilson played the game of his season so far here and it was his brace that saw us take the 3 points, although keeper Bill Lathouwers deserves a mention for his penalty save on the half hour mark.

Since I switched keepers and have been playing our backup, Bill Lathouwers, our form has been a lot better. And the goalkeeper is certainly doing his bit, with an impressive average rating so far. So it's a real kick in the teeth to lose him for 6 weeks!

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Challenger Pro League
Matchday 13

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Jong Genk can't get promoted as they can't play in the top division with their parent club, but they are still having a stormer so far and sat 3rd here at kick off. However, a complete meltdown of their own making, with two first half sending offs almost handed us an easy win.

We'd be back in Croky Cup action next and a tough tie against top tier side, Gent, awaits us. We've certainly been improving through the league campaign but taking on a side that sits 4th in the Jupiler Pro League would give a real indication of where we are at.

5.5 gent position.JPG


Croky Cup
Sixth Round

5.6 gent cup.JPG


GET IN! What a result! The two goals may have come from the penalty spot, but we were good value for our win and fully deserved the result. We were dominated on possession, but a solid defensive display ensured we limited our opponents to minimal half chances throughout.

It sets up a massive local derby against our bitterest rivals in the next round! I didn't expect to be playing them this season so this was an unexpected but welcome surprise.

5.7 cup draw.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 14

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An entertaining game for the fans but unfortunately one we come off on the wrong end of. Deinze are the league leaders though so I guess we shouldn't be too disheartened by this defeat.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 15

5.8 oostende.JPG


We followed up our game against the league leaders, with another against the team just behind them in 2nd. This time we didn't lose, but we probably should have won on the balance of play and it's disappointing to only come away with a point.

Holding Oostende to a draw would allow Seraing to go above them in the league into 2nd and they would be our next opponents as our really tough run of fixtures continues. This could prove to be the toughest of them all right now as Seraing come into the match off the back of 8 straight wins in the league.

5.9 seraing form.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 16

5.10 seraing.JPG


Our finishing is nowhere near clinical enough and that was the difference here. Seraing didn't need the number or the quality of the chances we had to put the ball in the back of the net twice, where as we missed a number of golden opportunities to score!

Challenger Pro League
League Table

5.11 league.JPG


As we head into the Winter break, we sit in the exact position we were predicted for in pre season. However, we have played a game more than most and we are miles off the top two!

The youth intake preview for this season seems to suggest a potential golden generation, but I am not quite sure how when none of the positions have a rating above a B! Not convinced this will be as good as my HoYD seems to think it might be but we will see.

5.12 youth.JPG
 
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Sunday 4th February 2024

Our first game of the year 2024 would be our massive cup tie against local rivals, Antwerp! A game that would pit us against the side currently top of the Jupiler Pro League and putting themselves in prime position to retain their title.

6.1 antwerp top.JPG


And we will be without a key player for the game too as one of my most consistent players this season, left back Mardochee Nzita is now going to miss up to 7 weeks of action.

6.2 nzita injury.JPG


6.2 nzita.JPG


On a more positive note, striker Mexx Meerdink can finally join the club! Let's hope he can bring a bit more ruthless finishing to the side!

6.3 meerdink.JPG


Croky Cup

Seventh Round

6.4 antwerp.JPG


A brave enough effort (until we collapsed in the last 10 mins) and we were 2-1 going into the 80th minute, but in the end the best team in the country right now (as much as it pains me to say it) get the better of us on this occasion. Our cup run comes to an end and our sole focus will now be on the league for the rest of the season.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 17

6.5 beveren.JPG


I needed a reaction from the lads after getting hammered in the cup and I got exactly that. I was keen to see a solid defensive display and got it as we keep our first clean sheet in 5 games. Great to see Mexx Meerdink make it 2 goals from 2 games in a Beerschot shirt as well.

And that brings up 20 games in management for me and the main focus for the media is my preference for attacking football with my Beerschot team are averaging more than 2 goals a game since I took over.

6.6 20 games in.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 18

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I'm not gonna lie, we were poor here, but were massively let off the hook with the softest of pens in the very last minute of the game. Maybe the referee is a Beerschot fan?!

We've not had the greatest luck this season in terms of injuries that's for sure. And now we have another! In addition to having my first choice left back out for weeks, I've now lost my first choice right back for over a month as well!

6.8 injury.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 19

6.9 lommel.JPG


Another late, late goal earns us a point and it was the least we deserved from the game! Mexx Meerdink now has 4 goals in 4 games and is looking like a really good loan signing.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 20

6.10 zulte.JPG


A big, big win as Mexx Meerdink continues to shine with his first brace for the club.

Challenger Pro League
League Table

6.11 league.JPG


We're up to 5th in the table and with 10 games of the season to go, the top 7 have started to pull away from all of the chasing pack. We remain 8 points behind the top 3 in the league, so it will be tough to close them down, but we haven't given up hope yet and the games against those sides above us will be of huge importance.
 
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Friday 29th March 2024

Challenger Pro League

Matchday 21

7.1 rsca.JPG


We lost to Anderlecht's second team earlier in the season by a tight 1-0 scoreline despite being the better side, so it was nice to get some revenge for that here! Mexx Meerdink with another brace as he takes his tally to 8 goals in 6 games! What a signing he is turning out to be!

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 22

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Mexx Meerdink the machine gets his first hat trick for the club as we beat the bottom side with relative ease.

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 23

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A tightly contested game but we come out on top again which stretches our winning streak to 4 games and we're now unbeaten in 7!

Our good form has moved us into 3rd, but because Jong Genk can't get promoted, it's actually an automaic promotion place. We may have played an extra game to those around us, but we have worked our way into the title race with 7 games remaining.

7.4 into 3rd.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 24

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RFC Liege have struggled all season, so it was no surprise to see us win here. It was probably more surprising that we scored 6 goals and Meerdink didn't get any of them!

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 25

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Solid...really solid. Brilliant defensively and played some beautiful football going forward and some lovely goals too. Really happy with this one!

Challenger Pro League
Matchday 26

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After giving up a 2-0 lead, we recovered and went on to score a couple more in a frantic first half that saw the two sides share 6 goals. The second period wasn't so eventful but we grind out another win.

Challenger Pro League
League Table

7.8 league.JPG


Just 4 games of the season remain and we have no guaranteed ourselves a playoff spot. Sitting 2nd in the table means that the advantage lies with us at the moment to grab the second automatic promotion spot behind Oostende who look primed to win the title.

However, it won't be easy to secure 2nd as our last four games will see us take on all sides from the top 7, including 3 of the top 5! Out of all those in the title race, ours is easily the toughest run in.

7.9 fixtures.JPG
 
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Sunday 21st April 2024

This year's youth intake isn't amazing, but there are a couple of prospects who could make it one day.

8.1 youth intake.JPG


Left winger, Giuseppe Giordano certainly looks like the most exciting player for the future and with a level headed mentality, combined with determination of 20/20 he could just have the right attitude which will see him one day be good enough to play in the first team for us.

8.2 giordano.JPG


Maybe one day we will be able to product youngsters good enough to make this list! For now, it is Brighton's young striker, Evan Ferguson, that is considered the best wonderkid in world football.

8.3 wonderkids.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 27

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It was 7th vs 2nd in the league table here, but 3rd vs 1st in the form table, so we expected an incredibly tough game in all honesty. But in fact, we made quite light work of our opponents on our way to an 8th straight win!

The only thing was that all those around us also won! Jong Genk up next in the first of three massive games!

8.5 top 5.JPG


We would need to keep up our high goalscoring record if we are to get anything from these three matches, having just broke the team record.

8.6 record.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 28

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We did, indeed, keep up our free scoring form as we smashed 4 past Genk's second side.

Oostende, Seraing and Deinze all won as well! Our game against Deinze next could well decide who goes up or not!

8.8 league.JPG


Unforunately, we won't have one of our players of the season for that one or any other games this year for that matter. Simion Michez has 9 goals and 10 assists in all comps this season, but now finds himself on the sidelines.

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8.9 michez.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 29

8.10 deinze.JPG


Well, well, I wasn't expecting that! If we deserve automatic promotion after a win like this then I don't know who does! Fantastic performance, fantastic result!

Meanwhile, Oostende won their game which means they seal the league title. However, more importantly for us, Seraing lost to Royal Francs Borains, which means we have a 3 point lead over them going into our final match of the season (against the champions).

8.11 league.JPG


It should mean that we get promoted no matter what happens really. The league sorting rules are initially based on games won, so even if we lose and Seraing win, we will both finish on 19 wins. The it comes down to goal difference and ours is far superior to theirs.

8.12 sorting rules.JPG


Challenger Pro League
Matchday 30

8.13 oostende.JPG


Great to not have to rely on the rules though and earn our automatic promotion outright. Also, a fantastic way to end the season by beating the champions on their own turf.

8.13 promotion.JPG


Challenger Pro League
League Table

8.14 league.JPG
 
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END OF SEASON 2023/24 REVIEW

Jupiler Pro League = Club Brugge
Challenger Pro League = Oostende
Nationale 1 = RAAL La Louviere
Croky Cup = Antwerp
Pro League Supercup = Antwerp

UEFA Champions League = Real Madrid
UEFA Europa League = Bayern Munich

UEFA Europa Conference League = Aston Villa

For a long time this season, promotion looked to be out of reach or our best hopes would at least be the playoffs. But putting together an unbeaten run of 14 games at the end of the season, which included 13 wins, saw us shoot up to claim 2nd and we'll be in the top tier next year!

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A couple of wins in the cup, which included a massive result over Gent and it was a good achievement to knock out one of the best teams in the competition.

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Overall Squad Stats

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The New Arrivals

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What a January signing Mexx Meerdink turned out to be!!

The Best 11

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Club Awards

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League Awards

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We almost doubled our social media followers this season, which is great to see the profile of the club growing. Only a small shift in the hardcore to the core supporter profile, whilst the fans are enjoying the attacking, entertaining brand of football and wish for that to continue.

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In terms of the board, the new 5 year plan is simply to do everything we can to stay in the top tier. In the next couple of seasons, they would like the financial damage to be repaired at the club which will hopefully be helped by playing in the highest division in the country and more opportunities for revenue coming our way.

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The Commercials

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Finances & Debt

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Even with the financial situation being what it is, the board have still managed to find £2 million to install under soil heating at the stadium! Although they didn't really have a choice as it is a requirement of the Jupiler Pro League.

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The budgets for next season are pretty poor due to the club's dire financial situation. There is a hefty rise to the wage budget of £25k per week but there will be no money for transfers.

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Despite getting promotion this season, I did have to contend with the fact 3 of my best players came to me for crunch talks about their futures with all three saying they wanted to join a bigger club. I have had to agree to accept bids of minimum values for all three to keep them happy to stay here at least on a temporary basis. I'll just have to hope these minimums don't get met this Summer as I'd love to hold on to all three players.

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What an end to the season for you and a great promotion it’s just a shame about the finances though
 
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Thursday 25th July 2024

We released a fair few players from the club this Summer, but luckily none of them were part of the first team squad so for now at least, I have managed to retain most of the squad.


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One player that I did unfortunately lose though, is centre back Luca Meisl. He had a pre arranged deal in place with to move back to his native Austria at the end of his contract and one of my key centre backs from last year will need replacing.

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I really wanted to keep Mexx Meerdink at the club this year, but was unable to renew his loan deal, so instead I have turned to Adama Bojang who joins us for the season ahead from Reims. The 20 year old striker does immediately become our best option up front and hopefully he can score the goals to keep us up this year.

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My first permanent signing of the Summer is that of Dutch attacking midfielder, Desley Ubbink. He isn't exactly in line with my philosophy of younger or Belgian players, but this season I can't exactly be too picky with who I sign as funds are at a real low and the squad must be improved at all costs if we are to stay up. Ubbink is a player that definitely improves us.

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Talking of philosophy, one of the things I committed to was promoted a player from the youth teams to the first team every year. This year I'm actually moving two players up. A central midfielder and a backup keeper.

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Then came my signing that could prove to be the most important one of the season. Dedryck Boyata was released by Club Brugge at the end of last season after playing 28 times for them on their way to winning the Jupiler Pro League. I managed to snap him up and despite him now being 33 years old, he can play an extremely important role for us! What a coup!

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One of the only positions that left me without strong cover was at left back, but that was quickly rectified with the free transfer signing of Abner Felipe. Felipe becomes the first Brazilian player in the squad and I'll be hoping he brings some of that South American flair down our left wing!

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So this is how the squad looks as we head into the new season.

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The Jupiler Pro League seems to start quite early, so we only had time to fit in 5 pre season friendlies and it all pretty much went to plan.

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Can't wait to get started in the top tier for the first time in the club's history, but it looks like it will be a long hard season for us with the bookies tipping us to finish bottom of the table. Club Brugge are the favourites to retain their title with three of their players named in the media dream 11, where unsurprisingly we have none.

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At least our first game of the season will be one of the few where we are given a chance of winning. RWDM are expected to struggle this season as well and we could have been handed a much tougher fixture for the opening day.

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Sunday 1st September 2024

Jupiler Pro League

Matchday 1

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We put our first point on the board in the very first game. A very even game and the teams sharing the points is the fairest result on a day when neither outplayed the other enough to deserve to win the game.

Good to see season ticket sales are up by about 1,600 this year following promotion. To have over 9,000 season ticket holders when our ground only holds just over 12,000 is actually very impressive.

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In fact, only 7 sides have more season ticket holders than us, showing how good our support really is!

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 2

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Our first home game of the season in front of the Beerschot faithful ends in victory! OH Leuven did help us along the way with the first half sending off but we still needed to get the job done and we did that well.

On the pitch, we've made a good start to life in the top division, whilst off the field of play, there has been a takeover at the club and I have a new boss.

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The biggest impact from the new owner at this stage is the fact that he has cleared £15 million of the club's debt and brought us into a positive bank balance. We still have two loans to pay off, but the financial situation at the club all of a sudden looks much more positive.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 3

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We taste defeat for the first time this season and we only have ourselves to blame for not taking something from this one. Our opponents again gave us an opportunity with a player getting sent off inside the opening half hour of the game, but we couldn't capitalize despite going on to have multiple chances to score.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 4

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It's another point and based on the stats, the draw is probably fair. However, it's gutting from our point of view to have led 3 times and been pegged back on all three occasions.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 5

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Fantastic result in a game that we had to see as a must win. Oostende came up with us last year and are the other favourites to go straight back down with us, so to get the win over them is huge.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 6

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I consider there to be a big 5 in Belgium, with that being Club Brugge, Genk, Gent, Anderlecht and Antwerp (more recently), and this was our first time playing one of them! And what a result it was...not only do we beat the most decorated club in Belgian football, but we fully deserved it too!

Jupiler Pro League
League Table

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Life in the Jupiler Pro League has started well for us and in the early stages, we don't look out of depth in the slightest! Winning 3 of our opening 6 matches was more than I could have possibly hoped for and gives us bundles of confidence going forward!
 
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You are smashing it mate! Lovely little signing of Boyata too, looking forward to the progression your gonna make this season!
 
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You are smashing it mate! Lovely little signing of Boyata too, looking forward to the progression your gonna make this season!
Cheers mate. Yea I was surprised we got him to be fair, although I did have to make him the highest player at the club and he takes up about 9% of the whole wage bill. Just hope he proves worth it!
 
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Friday 1st November 2024

On transfer deadline day, there was only one position I needed another player for. I'm happy with my first choice centre backs, but I only have 3 and 4 is the minimum really. I needed someone on loan that wouldn't cost me any wages as I am already over my wage budget. What I didn't expect to find was a young Scot playing at Bayern Munich, but that's where we turn and Liam Morrison joins us for the season ahead.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 7

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Really poor result. We dominated the entire game and they only had 3 shots, scoring twice in the last 8 mins to steal the points!

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 8

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Bill Lathouwers made some big saves for us here and he can take a large amount of credit for a well earned point.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 9

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Neither team showcased their best defending here and the game could have swung in either direction. Today, it didn't swing ours.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 10

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A very good point away from home against the league leaders.

Apart from a couple of minor local ones, we only really have one fierce rivalry and we contest that in the Antwerp Derby! I have faced them once already when they knocked us out of the cup last year, but this fixture will become the pivotal match in our domestic calendar for years to come now that we play alongside them in the top tier.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 11

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For the first half an hour, we were terrible and not in the game and our rivals could have had 4 or 5 goals. As it stood, just the two was enough to do the damage before we actually started to play football and we couldn't find a way back into the game. We did find the net late on through Charly Keita but his strike was ruled out for offside and should it have stood it would have made for an interesting last few minutes.

That does leave us on a run of 5 games without a win now and the reality of the difficulty of the Jupiler Pro League is starting to set in. And it won't get any easier as we face off against Genk in our next match.

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Our task to get anything from the next game and from any game for the next 3 months just got even tougher as well, as we lose main centre back, Dedryck Boyata to injury!

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 12

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Without a doubt the best result of my career so far! The greatest 3 points we will probably earn this season so we will enjoy this one!

Jupiler Pro League
League Table

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The win over Genk leaves us pretty much bang in mid table after 12 games. At this stage, the league table is starting to take form, with the top 6 establishing themselves, it all being very tight between the middle clubs and the bottom 2 really struggling to keep up.
 
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Thursday 19th December 2024

Jupiler Pro League

Matchday 13

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We massively got away with one here as we were pretty poor for most of the game and then Eupen handed us a penalty to take the points. We'll take it though as every single point will be precious to us this season in order to stay up.

Despite a decent enough first 13 games under our belt, avoiding relegation is still the primary focus for this season and in a league of just 16 teams, we need to avoid the bottom 4 as those are the clubs that will contest the relegation group after the initial 30 games are played.

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Once it narrows down to that relegation group, everyone plays each other twice and the top team will remain in the Jupiler Pro League whilst the bottom two go down. The side that finishes 2nd will play a playoff game against a side from the league below with one final opportunity to remain in the top tier.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 14

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Another big and impressive victory, which extends our run of straight wins to 3! Adama Bojang seems to be finding his feet for us and has now scored 6 times in his last 6 games.

The biggest underachievers so far this season are actually the current champions! They sit 3 places and 6 points behind us in 11th in the table and are closer to bottom than top! An incredible fall from grace after winning the title last year. However, we are under no illusions that they will still prove to be formidable opponents in our next game.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 15

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We pile on the pressure for Brugge as we absolutely batter them! We had two goals disallowed as well! What a performance!

Croky Cup
Sixth Round

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Our first venture into the cup this year results in an easy win against a side from the division below. Beveren were simply no match for us and we made very light work of them, even with a rotated side and all three of our goalscorers were players brought in to rest some of the first team.

On a personal level, I am able to celebrate our cup win with the award of a new contract from the board.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 16

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Our excellent form continues as we win again in the league! A close game that could have gone either way, but we have a player in the form of his life at the moment in Thibaud Verlinden and he made the difference here.

However, our best player did limp off in that game and we will now be without him for the next 5 weeks.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 17

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What a boring game of football. Both teams mustered up 7 shots between them and half the stadium was asleep by the time the full time whistle was blown.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 18

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Back to winning ways and good to get the victory over Sint-Truiden who beat us early in the season. Based on the stats we probably should have won by a slightly bigger margin than we did, but hey it's another 3 points and that's all that matters.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 19

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I was expecting to be on the receiving end of thumpings like this a few times this year, but in fact it's been a rarity, so I don't want to lay in to the boys too much. Plus, our opponents are second in the league and genuine title challengers so the result can be forgiven.

Jupiler Pro League
League Table

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After 19 games, I never expected to be 6th in the table! What a season we are having as we continue to prove all our doubters wrong. It's fair to say that unless we go on a very unlikely run of losing our next 10 games, we should be well clear of the relegation battle this season and cement our place in the division! Never thought I'd be saying that before Christmas!
 
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Tuesday 4th February 2025

This year's youth intake looks to be extremely promising if the preview is anything to go by!

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 20

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After getting thrashed by Union, I wanted a reaction here and I got one. We were brilliant for 85 minutes and Oostende didn't know what hit them! Then we kinda fell asleep for the last few minutes and very nearly gave away our win! Such a shame we had to come up last year as 2nd place and not champions, but we've certainly proven our worth this year and complete a double over our fellow promotion team.

Croky Cup
Seventh Round

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One thing I do love about the Belgian Cup is that literally any team could win this competition, but each year there are of course 2-3 favourites and Genk are certainly one of those this year. They just proved a little too strong for us on this occasion, but this is a trophy I'm keen to lift in the not too distant future.

Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 21

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We had beaten Anderlecht at home earlier in the season, but I always felt it was a bit of a freak result and that was confirmed here as they gain revenge over us on their own turf.

Thibaud Verlinden scored his last goal for the club in that game as he has now left us to join Slovan Bratislava. Our best player had become disillusioned with life at the club after deciding his future would lie with a supposedly bigger club and he had agreed to join the Slovakian club at the end of the season on a free. Based on the fact he was becoming a disruptive influence in the dressing room and I wanted to get at least something for him, I chose to invoke the sell now option on him and Slovan Bratislava have paid £250k to make the move happen right away.

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Even though it was a cut down price, the sale was still a record transfer fee received for the club.

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Jupiler Pro League

Matchday 22

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We lose again and that's the first time this season we have suffered back to back defeats. However, if you'd have said it would take 22 games of the season for that to happen at the start of the campaign, I'd have never believed it!

Young goalkeeper, Emile Doucoure, was promoted to the first team from the youth side at the start of the campaign and after playing backup all year, I gave the 18 year old a start in our last game. It makes him the club's youngest ever player.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 23

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There's not been many times this season when I will lay into my team and tell them they were simply not good enough, but this was one of those occasions. A poor performance against a side battling relegation!

Transfer deadline day came and another departure from the club. Ryan Sanusi is 33 years old and has been pretty poor for us this season, so I was happy to move him on and get his £3,500 per week off the wage bill. He has returned to Nigeria to join Remo Stars for a fee of £21.5k.

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Freeing up the wages we have done this month with the two major departures, allows me to bring in some new players on loan for the rest of the season. 23 year old Serbian midfielder is a direct replacement for Sanusi and on paper, he looks like an upgrade too...let's hope that proves to be the case.

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Next in was the loan deal for Ajax's Spanish winger, Jofre Carreras, who will prove important for us for the rest of the campaign. His ability to play down both wings was one of the reasons I brought him here and the 23 year old is another who should stand out as one of the better players in the team.

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Another winger is brought in to bolster my attacking options for the rest of the season. It's another loan deal as 22 year old Yoann Cathline joins us from Lorient and again should be good enough to have an impact in Belgium.

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Jupiler Pro League
Matchday 24

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All three of my new signings went straight into the starting lineup and it was Ivezic that gave us the lead when his low powerful effort hit the back of the net from just inside the box. However, that was about as good as it got for us as we go on to endure another defeat!

We've now lost 4 games in a row and our form is the worst it's ever been under my management. And to make things worse, I now lose our best striker for a month at least!

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Jupiler Pro League
League Table

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Taking just 3 points from our last available 18 has seen us start to slide down the table. Luckily, there is a big enough gap between us and the bottom 4 and our position in this division should be safe this year, but it would be nice to reach a 40 point mark that would be impressive for us this season!
 
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