Hello again. Or as we say in the Netherlands, Hallo. Did we mention we are an Eredivisie club now?
That’s right. It took us 3 seasons but we are now officially in the Eredivisie, the top tier of Dutch football in the Netherlands where will now be the smallest club with the lowest salaries and the worst stadium of the 18 clubs who compete at this level, which of course inlude the likes of Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar. We are a tiny fish in a very large pond – what can go wrong?
Promotion is very good for your health as a Manager though…
Yes, things have been going well – we finished 2nd last season to guarantee ourselves automatic promotion which means sh*t is very much getting real here in Haarlem. We had a decent squad but one still quite reliant on loans who have now returned during the summer along with a few elderly statesmen leaving the club, meaning with just 13 Senior Players on our books, we need to go out on somewhat of a shopping spree (albeit with a budget of €250k which we can probably stretch to €400k in total). Not a lot to go on but we are well used to scraping the barrel in this save, let’s see what miracles we can produce in the Summer 2025 transfer window 💸.
Alex Padilla will continue as our first choice keeper – the young Basque stopper has developed well (as you can see below) however we need backup/competition so we bring back a familiar face on loan whom we spoke a lot about in Phase 2; welcome back Charlie Setford 🔥.
Despite getting promoted in 2nd place last season, we conceded 47 goals in 38 games which was the worst in the Top 8 of the Eerste Divisie. Yes, we play Sexy Football which means we generally tend to just score more than our opponents but equally we need defensive reinforcements if we are to have any chance of surviving this level and avoiding relegation.
Enter Sepp Van Den Berg (Liverpool – Free Transfer) who can play at DC or RB, very happy with him as a defender with a bit of pedigree and definite Eredivisie-level quality. We also bring in 20-year-old Rainey Breinburg (Feyenoord – Loan) who should nail down the Left-Full Back spot, and Filip Brekalo (Dinamo Zagreb – Loan) who will hopefully provide him with some competition.
I am devastated to say that our star man of the last two seasons Luciano Valente (28 goals & 10 assists in 62 starts) returns to Groningen who refuse to loan him to us for a third season, understandable as we have made him a superstar in the CMA position. That leaves a huge creative hole in our midfield, so to combat this we bring in not one but two suitable replacements; versatile midfielder Fabio Markelic (€5k!) arrives from Austria Klagenfurt in the Austrian Bundesliga, while an old friend of mine arrives in the form of our captain from my FM21 save at Angers who signs for a cool €180k from the Real Madrid Castillo squad – WELCOME THEO ZIDANE ❤️.
Needless to say, goals will keep us in this division. While we of course have Marten Winkler and my boy Maurice Krattenmacher who between them scored 40 goals last season, it remains to be seen if they can crack it at this level so we decide to bring in at least a backup option to keep things fresh at that end of the pitch, with youngster Fabian Rust from Feyenoord on loan for the season..he’s not half bad either 🤞.
That brings our 13 man squad to 20 as we prepare for Season 4 and our first Eredivisie game against…you guessed it…PSV 🤦♂️.
HFC Haarlem vs PSV, Sunday 17th July 2025
By the time our opening game came around, a couple of our new signings hadn’t even landed yet so we lined up with a similar side to last season with the exception of our midfield duo whereby both Theo and Markelic make their HFC Haarlem debuts in our usual 4-3-3 formation, with new signings Sepp Van Den Berg and Fabian Rust on the bench. PSV on the other hand start with the likes of Noni Madueke and Mohammad Kudus up front having just sold Xavi Simons to Newcastle for the measly sum of €76m – safe to say we are not equals but anything can happen in 90 minutes right?
On 69 minutes, we were proven correct…
MAURICE F*CKING KRATTENMACHER STRIKES AGAIN!! Albeit with a lucky deflected cross but they all count, and we continue to look defensively solid as we see out the game and finish our first Eredivise game against Dutch giants PSV with a 1-0 victory…WE ARE F*CKING ELITE!!
That win sets us off on a 3-match unbeaten run as we pick up 7 points from a possible 9, conceding a late equaliser away to Heracles before beating Sparta Rotterdam 1-0 in their own back yard. It wasn’t meant to start like this…
Of course, things start to go slightly arwy from here. Firstly our star Centre-Back Gabriele Corbo (signed on a free from Bologna where we had him in my FM21 save) decided to kick-off wanting to move to a “bigger” club & threatening to run down his contract, and in the end we are forced to let him move to Monza for a nice €2 million profit. The only problem is that it is already Transfer Deadline Day when it happens, so we are forced to scramble in order to bring in a last minute replacement..
At the eleventh hour, Soumaïla Coulibaly becomes a Haarlem player as we secure a season-long loan from Dortmund. What is magnificent about this in addition to him being an absolute unit at the back is that he is a left-sided Ball Playing Defender, something I had wanted for a while and hopefully he can build up a solid partnership with right-sided Sepp Van Den Berg…6’3″ and 6’4″ respectively, I’ll take it.
DISCLAIMER: It may take two brand new Centre Backs a while to gel and get used to eachother in FM23…
Two months without a win sees us slip back to 12th place despite Krattenmacher’s best attempts to carry us through (if you haven’t already, check out my Wonderkid Watch piece on him over at 5StarPotential.com). The likes of Slory (who by the way we resigned on loan from Feyenoord after a cracking season last year), Winkler, Jack Byrne, Conor Noss and new boy Filip Markovic have all been disappointing so far but I have confidence that we have built a side capable of surviving and competing at this level once we have time to work on our tactical familiarity, squad dynamics, role cohesion etc..in fact, that’s exactly where we start – a training schedule designed exclusively to focus on increasing morale, cohesion and familirity within the squad.
Whether it worked or not, you never know – but we have a considerably better time in November and December, more than holding our own against the likes of AZ and Twente and narrowly losing to perennial champions Ajax. By the end of 2025 and halfway through our 4th season at Haarlem, we sit contently in 10th place in the Eredivisie and you know what, as the club predicted to finish bottom of this division in 5 months time, I’ll take it.
We enter January with thoughts of how we might go about spending that lovely €2m Corbo money, when suddenly this happens…
Haarlem we have a problem…more to follow soon, stay tuned and pray for us 🙏.
Thanks for reading 👌.
Enjoying this? Am I? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below..what should we do? How much would you accept for Krattenmacher? (view his profile here). You can also catch me every Monday on 5 Star Potential, the longest running weekly Football Manager podcast.