History repeats itself, although this time FC Den Bosch will hope for a better result at the end of the season, than that which they had in 2006/7. Then they won the Jupiler League First Period Championship, but in the end of season play-offs lost to VVV Venlo who went on to gain promotion to the exclusive Eredivisie (Premier Division).
The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) operate a unique system in the Eerste Divisie (First Division) whereby after every 6 games a "Period Champion" is declared. The team with the best record over the 6 games wins the crown. These teams all qualify to play in the end of season play-offs, and have the opportunity to advance to the top division. 'It keeps the interest alive right until the last round of games. A team which is bottom at Christmas still has a chance to be involved in the play-offs" said Max van der Pol, a football writer for the Brabants Dagblad newspaper. A year ago Den Bosch clinched the First Period Championship, against all the odds, winning 2-1 in Leeuwarden against Cambuur, in the 6th and final game of the Period. Their small but enthusiastic band of supporters who had traveled all the way to Leeuwarden had an enjoyable drive back home that night. This season the 'Blue Devils' enjoyed a remarkable opening sequence, winning their first 5 games and clinching the First Period Championship after just 5 games, as their 15 points put them in an unassailable and uncatchable position. The second placed team Helmond Sport had 10 points and promotion favourites RKC Waalwijk were a point further back on 9. In the compact De Vliert stadium in Den Bosch, 4,000 fans celebrated as their team came from a goal down to beat Cambuur – again – but this time by 4 goals to 2. It was nerve-wracking experience for the supporters, as Mboua put the visitors ahead in the 42'. Team coach Theo Bos obviously had strong words with his players at half-time and within a few minutes of the restart Van Der Biezen fired in a long range effort which sailed past the Cambuur goalkeeper. 7' later central defender Arjan Ebbinge was nicely placed to bundle the ball over the line following a corner kick. In the 62' minute the game looked safe for the home team as Paul Beekmans converted a penalty, after Van Der Biezen had been brought down in the penalty area. Cambuur defender Hooiboer received a red card for his clumsy challenge. FC Den Bosch seem to enjoy making things tough for themselves, and some slack marking, following the award of a free kick to Cambuur, allowed Heide to climb above the defenders and head past goalkeeper Maenpaa and bring the score back to 3-2. The excitement continued as 2' later Den Bosch again opened up a 2 goals advantage. Wau and Rossen broke clear after Cambuur players were caught upfield and it was the impressive blonde haired Rossen who cleverly steered the ball just inside the post to make it 4-2, which was the final score. The FC Den Bosch players had to wait for several minutes, on the field, for the final results of the other games to come through before their position as 'Period Champions" was confirmed. They celebrated with their faithful fans who stayed behind to enjoy the occasion, engaging in several 'swan-like' dives across the pitch, much to the delight of the blue and white army. Coach Theo Bos admitted later "that he had not expected to clinch the Period Championship after just 5 games. We had no strikers when the season began but we have scored 13 goals so far. We took the right moments to score tonight but now I have to motivate the players for next weeks game against Zwolle", said the coach. He also spoke of anticipated challenges from last seasons relegated teams RKC Waalwijk and ADO Den Haag. "They will be very strong for sure, so we have to just keep playing well and picking up points", said Bos. The team which is top at the end of the season in April, automatically gets promoted to the Eredivisie. Probably the most impressive victory of the season to date for FC Den Bosch came in Roosendaal when they beat RBC by 1-0, in a game of high quality. RBC are another team fancied to push for promotion this season, but they found the Den Bosch defence in an uncompromising mood, and determined to hang on to a 1-0 lead courtesy of a goal by top scorer Koen Van Der Biezen. Finnish goal-keeper Niki Maenpaa made several excellent saves to frustrate the RBC strikers, while midfielder Ivo Rossen defended superbly, but also found time to make several excellent runs into the opposing half of the field. The opening game of the season saw FC Den Bosch edge pass AGOVV by 1-0 in Apeldoorn. They followed this with an impressive 4-1 thrashing of FC Omniworld in the De Vliert stadium, and made it three wins from 3 games after beating Harlem 3-1. However they gave the visitors an early goal when Roel de Graff scored after 20'. Nyron Wau equalized with a curving shot from the edge of the penalty area which totally deceived the experienced visiting goalkeeper Rene Ponk. In the first minute of the second half, 17 year old Barry Muguire put the 'Blue Devils' ahead with a thunderous strike from 30 yards, and Arturo Ten Heuvel wrapped up the proceedings when he ran through the Harlem defence and fired in a shot from all of 20 yards. FC Den Bosch are the 'yo-yo' team of Dutch football, regularly winning promotion but then dropping back to the lower division the following season. In 1998/9 they won the Erste Divisie but found teams like Ajax, PSV and Feneyoord too strong, and were relegated. Champions once again in the 2000/1, but back down again the following season. They were again crowned Champions in 2003/4, but once more, to the disappointment of their fans they could not keep pace with the Premier Division teams and found themselves at the bottom of the table when the season ended. Last season FC Den Bosch had to endure the heartbreak of winning a 'Period Championship' but missing out on promotion to the Eredivisie. This season the players and their loyal supporters will be hoping that come the last game of the season on 18 April, they will not have to enter the dreaded play-offs but will qualify for the higher division as overall Champions. Patrick Watts, Den Bosch - MercoPress