Roda JC Kerkrade: Limburg’s hope in dark footballing days
The year 2014 was a dark one for Limburg. After MVV’s relegation in 2000, Fortuna’s drop in 2002, VVV-Venlo’s demotion in 2013, 2014 singled the demise of the last Limburg Eredivisie bastion out there in Roda JC. Professional football in the 21st century had not been Limburg’s piece of cake. Financial problems in the mid 2000’s had led to the idea of merging MVV, Fortuna Sittard and Roda JC into one big club. The objective was to have at least one stable Limburg competitor in the top tier, but in 2009 those plans were cancelled. And so, after years of miraculous escapes, even the biggest of all collapsed and dropped down to the Jupiler League, making 2014/15 the first Eredivisie season without a club from the most southern of Dutch regions.
The desire to immediately come back up was desirable, but a necessity. Financial problems meant Roda would struggle to survive more than one season outside of the top tier. And so, more than ten thousand fans turned up every two weeks to chant De Koempels back up to the Eredivisie. As the season went on, the fans kept showing, the players more often than not didn’t. After a 6-0 defeat at Sparta in a streak of seven games with only two wins, manager René Trost was given the sack. The unthankful job for assistants Wiljan Plum and Regilio Vrede was to try and get the most out of what looked like a completely from trust deflated squad. A 7-0 win against Helmond Sport was a promising start, but with only one win from the remaining four fixtures Roda JC went on following the same path they had already trodden in the months previous. The Kerkraders finished the season not only 32 (!) points behind record breaking N.E.C., they also had to acknowledge FC Eindhoven (11 points ahead in 2nd) as their superior. They were resigned to promotion/relegation play-offs and did not look in the mood for that at all.
But in the decisive weeks, Roda JC managed to grind out the results needed. First, FC Emmen was dispatched with a win and a draw. Then NAC Breda was knocked out after extra time. Great news for Roda JC, but under new manager Darije Kalezic the challenge will be immense, especially as the club is still financially restrained.
The remains of the old relegated team are still there. Henk Dijkhuizen, Ard van Peppen and Bart Biemans mixed with new signings Gibril Sankoh, Arjan Swinkels and goalkeeper Bram Verbist will give Kalezic more experienced options in defence than many other sides in the top tier. The rest of the team, for now, seems a bit too light for Eredivisie football though, with talented Mitchell Paulissen, Hicham Faik and the 30 year old Marc Höcher as possible exceptions. Question marks surround new Mexican striker Santiago Palacios. The 24 year old impressed on amateur level last season and could well be the pleasant surprise Darije Kalezic is hoping for. Roda JC will be looking to add a little extra to the team over the next few weeks and it might be the extra push needed for Roda.
Player to watch: Mitchel Paulissen
In a season without any real star players (no player scored more than seven goals in the league for Roda), a boy from Kerkrade stepped up as a big promise. Mitchel Paulissen, a technically gifted attack minded central midfielder, was the driving force in the final push for promotion. With two goals in the four promotion games, Paulissen showed himself to the bigger audience, prompting Feyenoord legend Willem van Hanegem into tipping him as a player for the top 5 in the Eredivisie. At the moment, Paulissen is still very much a Roda player. But if he can manage to keep up the good form he showed at the end of last season, he will surely be an Eredivisie player by the 2016/17 season too. If that is in a Roda shirt is partly up to the lean midfielder himself.
BeNeFoot prediction: 16th