You can read all about the history of the club at their Wiki page but here are the basic highlights:
- founded in 1905
- based in, surprisingly, The Hague in The Netherlands
- play in the 15000 capacity Kyocera Stadion
- won the title twice in the 1940s
- won the cup twice, most recently in 1975
We / they are pretty much a mid-table Dutch side who don’t have much in the way of success in their history.
This, then, will be a brief introduction to the club, why I chose them, what I hope to achieve and, most importantly, some interesting restrictions which I’ll be putting on the save to provide some additional challenge and make it a little different from my time in Italy.
So why Den Haag? Partly it is because I work in the area a lot and know a fair few Den Haag supporters from my time in Holland.
Partly it is because they were Ernst Happel’s first management position. The legendary Austrian played over 200 times for Rapid Wien before going into management. He is one of only four managers to have won domestic league championships in four countries along with José Mourinho, Giovanni Trapattoni and Tomislav Ivić; and won the European Cup with two different clubs – Feyenoord and Hamburg. A man worth following.
However, the biggest catalyst for choosing Den Haag was the inspiration I received from reading a save game story at The Dugout. Ben’s Vitória Setubal career is a fantastic read and I would highly recommend that you take the time to check it out.
The youth development, the focus on squad management, taking on some domestic giants that have dominated the league, a second rate league… the ingredients are all very similar to what I hope will be a similarly successful story at Den Haag.
Inspired by the domestic youth focus that Ben started with and some other aspects of his game, I’ve started a new save with a database that includes the leagues from former Dutch colonies Curacao, Surinam, Tobago and Aruba; as well as South Africa and Belgium with their obvious Dutch influences.
The general idea is that I’m going to try and play a fairly realistic game so will look to bring in players from common Dutch markets – those countries listed above and comparatively minor South American leagues such as Uruguay.
In a similar vein, I’ve imposed the following restrictions on myself (all stolen from elsewhere, I haven’t invented anything new):
- I cannot use the ‘Player Search’ screen to find players
- I can only sign players that I find via realistic means, such as:
- teams we play against
- agent touting
- player recommendations
- coach recommendations
- media reports
- stats tables for competitions (I figure most coaches will have access to these through ProZone etc these days)
This also applies to staff positions. I can only source staff by using the job centre or bringing in retiring players from my team or shortlist.
Not content with that, I’m also applying what is for me an unprecedented tactical approach.
Usually, I take what I would class to be the ‘proper’ approach to tactics – moulding a tactic to suit my team and developing it over time as we get better and can afford better players. However, I already had something different in mind but when my board demanded this of me, my mind was made up:
Instead of trying to implement a historically accurate version of Totalvoetball, I decided to try and implement the concepts of it whilst including some tactical tweaks that I have a personal preference for including a nod at Matthias Sindelar and the Danubian Whirl.
So basically I’m looking at an adventurous, fluid tactic that uses attack as the best form of defence, prioritises possession in dangerous areas, using high pressing and a high defensive line; and, in homage to Sindelar, uses a ‘false 9’ type player as the fulcrum of the attack.
It’s something which I’d already considered during my last season with Feralpi and so the 3-4-1-2 I developed there was my starting point.
From there I’ve made a few tweaks to suit my final intended target, such as giving the AMC absolute creative license to do whatever the hell he wants.
And this is where I differ from my usual game. Because this system doesn’t really suit the players currently at my disposal. Usually, this would be the idea I have in my head and that which I want to mould the squad into in a few years. Not this time. I’m going to force my team into playing this system even to the detriment of early performances.
Partly for the challenge. I wanted to see how difficult it would be. I’ve made one concession to logic by using a flat back 3 rather than the libero that I eventually want to use simply because there isn’t a single sweeper in our squad so that would be suicide.
The board have demanded attacking football and this should satisfy that at least. Finally, it’s a system that I really enjoyed playing at Feralpi and, if nothing else, this should be fun 😀
To go with the footballing philosophy, I already have a ‘dossier’ of requirements that I see as vital to ensuring that the above works in the long term – attributes that will be required of future signings, PPM’s and tweaks against alternative opposition formations. See?
That’s some of my scribbling which eventually turned into this tactic and this save.
Essentially, as I’m looking to implement a high-intensity, high-pressing game with a quick tempo I’ll be looking for players with high attributes in stamina, work rate, teamwork, decisions, technique and first touch. There will be specific requirements for specific roles, such as pace for the advanced forward, but those are common squad-wide attributes that I’d like to see.
The starting squad at Den Haag doesn’t really satisfy these requirements, with a lot of low teens apparent in these areas.
One player with decent attributes in these areas, and not coincidentally our most important player, is Danny Holla:
Danny is easily our best player and it’ll be a priority to keep him at the club for the foreseeable future. I had considered turning him into a libero but would prefer someone with better defensive, and particularly aerial, ability if I was being picky… which I am.
The board gave me a little under £300k in transfer funds and a little over £4k wiggle room with the wage budget. To go with that, I’ve sold Charlton Vicento (winger) and Gábor Horváth (centre back) for £1.4m combined. Not only did these players clearly not fit into the new approach at Den Haag, they were also in the last year of their contracts so I decided to cash in.
Incomings have been limited to two loan moves for two reasons – firstly I want to give players an opportunity before I punt them and secondly my scouting system isn’t up to scratch yet – given the restrictions I’ve assigned in the game, this means my options are VERY limited.
One area that the team were very limited in was the targetman role that I wish to use up top. Asking my assistant to provide loan recommendations, he came up with a beauty in the shape of Sven Schipplock. He’ll cost me around £180k over the season in loan contributions and wages but when he scored 4 in 4 during the friendlies then twice in his competitive debut I thought I was on to a winner. FM had other ideas and put him out injured for 2 months 😦
At least the assistant recommendation system worked… speaking of staff, the set-up when I joined was a joke. 19 youth coaches and not one with a coaching attribute in double figures. Mutual terminations all round, with a new Director of Football and Assistant Manager to boot.
The board have limited me to just 4 coaches but were less stingy when I asked for a new feeder club (Boavista) and to improve the junior coaching (now good).
So that’s the new club, really. The media expect us to finish 12th and the board have asked for a mid-table finish (18 teams). Personally, I anticipate a difficult first season. Having assessed the squad, played the friendlies and then a few competitive games I really think that, had I not imposed the squad restrictions, I would have made some serious transfer moves to strengthen the team.
As it is, I think the squad is weak in certain key areas, lacks depth and doesn’t particularly suit my overall philosophy. But meh, I’ve made my bed so I’m going to lie in it – even it that means getting sacked.
If I can survive for at least the first season then I foresee next summer being the key moment in terms of transfers. I have asked the board for additional scouts (now 7) and will be making full use of that. First priority is to scout Holland and the former colonies before moving on to some Europe wide scouting.
Given the financial constraints, my transfer policy is going to revolve around finding young players to develop and keeping an eye out for the odd 29+ bargain. The attributes I listed above will be prioritised and I’ll be trying to maintain a strong domestic bias. Hence my second loan signing:
I like the look of Bos. A first season newgen at Groningen, he’s got strong attributes in many of the “common” areas that I identified – technique, first touch, anticipation, work rate. He may be lacking in stamina, teamwork and more-so decisions but that should come with time. I’ve brought him in on loan to take a look at him. His contract expires next summer so I’m hoping to be able to snap up a real bargain.
I have him in mind for the advanced forward role. Although I’d prefer someone who is two-footed, his finishing, off the ball and pace and bang on the money. To me, he represents what I’m looking for – someone who has potential, who I can develop and then sell on for a profit.
These are the early fixtures including the friendlies which were a lot more difficult than they really needed to be. The 4-1 loss to non-league Belgian side Heist was particularly worrying. Indeed, I’ve had two main problems since taking over:
As you can see, we’ve kept one clean sheet – a fantastic one against a strong AZ Alkmaar side and the stats show that it was no fluke. We shut them out, created plenty of chances and secured a solid 2-0 victory against a side with an outside chance of a title challenge. Great.
AZ, though, play a narrow 4-3-1-2 and we’ve stuggled against any side that plays with width.
I’ve never been particularly good with teamtalks but I had it sorted at Feralpi, nearly always getting the best out of my players. Now though, I’ve created my new manager with the “automatic” reputation to make the game as realistic as possible.
My players, though, don’t really respect me and I’m getting the “struggles to motivate himself to play for you” message nearly every game. The players tend to “switch off” during teamtalks and it’s really proving to be a difficult learning curve for me as I have to re-assess my approach to motivation.
But both of those things just add to the challenge and that’s what I was after.
I hope I’ve not made it too difficult for myself. I don’t remember ever being sacked in Championship / Football Manager and I’d hate for it to happen now when I couldn’t just keep it a secret and avoid the shame!
And that, ladies and gents, is ADO Den Haag and my slightly strange plans for my new save.
I hope that this story proves to be as popular as the Feralpi Salò one. If you have any questions about any aspect of the game – the youth development, why those attributes, the stupid tactic, why am I being a bit AVB at Chelsea about it all…., anything – then please feel free to contact me on Twitter or leave a comment below.
As always, thanks for reading. (I realise that I write a lot longer articles than most people so I appreciate the patience).
Forza Fe… oops… erm, I don’t know the Dutch version of that!