The second tier of the Netherlands was already an interesting competition to witness, but received international exposure on the third Christmas day of 2016 when Sunday Oliseh signed as head coach of Fortuna Sittard. To put his rather surprising appointment in perspective. There are roughly 90 thousands citizens in Sittard, which is still 70 thousand less than the amount of Twitter followers Sunday Oliseh has. Not putting much weight on those numbers, but it illustrates the “popularity” of the 43-year old Nigerian manager. He came to Fortuna Sittard after a rocky seven-months-during-stint as head manager of Nigeria, but has performed magnificently for his new employer – already broke a longstanding clubrecord.
Some background information on Fortuna Sittard – which is necessary I think. The club finally closed the door on financial troubles in 2016 after balancing on the edge for many years. “FSC” almost lost their professional license back in March 2016. A temporary way out was found, but making ends meet had been an troublesome experience for years. Their saviour came in Turkish investor Isitan Gün, who bought 85% of the shares in July 2016. The new owner opted for calmness, meaning Ben van Dael – the head coach then – could remain on his post. Unfortunately, the results were disappointing and Van Deael was relieved from his duties in December. That’s where Sunday Oliseh comes in – who handed in his resignation as Nigeria’ head coach in February 2016 and therefore was a free manager since then. With four days to go in 2016, Oliseh signed a deal until the summer of 2018.
Fortuna Sittard only had Achilles ’29 below them when Oliseh had his first game in 2017. His goal and obligation was simple: don’t relegate. After a short winter break, the campaign resumed for Fortuna Sittard with game 20 of the season – which coincidently was against Achilles ’29. Oliseh came out victorious in his debut, letting his side winning 0-1 at the number last of the league. The Nigerian only lost once in his first nine games (4 wins, 4 draws). Included was an run of six games remaining undefeated, the best streak of Fortuna Sittard since August 2014 (7 games then).
Mainly due to this streak – Oliseh was convincing in his first task and FSC remained an Jupiler League-club for at least one season. The bricks for a new Fortuna home were provided by owner Gün and Oliseh made it a home. Their achievements in this project heavily correlates with each other. Because of their cooperation, Oliseh broke a longstanding club record by consecutively winning seven home games in the domestic league. A streak which is still ongoing – their next home game is this Friday (vs Jong AZ).
The new campaign is five games underway and only MVV Maastricht (11) and Jong Ajax (13) obtained more points than Fortuna Sittard (10). Not many thought that Fortuna Sittard could have a real shot at an promotion play-off ticket, but they are proofing everyone wrong.
A rather difficult system in place, but the Jupiler League is divided in four “periods” – with the first two games of the season not counting. The winner of a period get an promotion play-off ticket. Fortuna Sittard obtained seven points in the last three games – no team has more points. There are six games left in this period.
Not to worry, Fortuna Sittard can also qualify themselves for the play-offs by winning the second, third, fourth period or ending in the top-5 of the regular rankings.
Sunday Oliseh is proofing to be a magnificent manager. Since his appointment at the start of 2017, only Jong PSV (45), SC Cambuur (48) and Jong Ajax (50) collected more points than his Fortuna Sittard (40). Which is absolutely incredible – especially when looking at the table of previous season. Fortuna Sittard were 17th but Jong PSV, Jong Ajax and Cambuur were respectively fourth, third and second.
As seen in the mentioned stats above, provided by OptaJohan, Fortuna Sittard are flourishing under Sunday Oliseh and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.