“We need a win to get back on the right track”

Interview with Siebe Blondelle: “We need a win to get back on the right track”

 After losing against Waasland-Beveren, KAS Eupen slipped to the bottom of the Pro League table for the first time this season. “Anything but a comfortable situation”, said KAS full-back Siebe Blondelle. And the 30-year-old Fleming knows what he’s talking about – and what’s still possible: “At my last club, Waasland-Beveren, we were always fighting relegation, and each time we managed to get off the hook. This shows that it can be done, that we don’t have to be relegated”, said Siebe Blondelle in an interview with the AS Journal. His recipe for getting the team back on track: “We’ve got to put more emphasis on defending and we’ve all got to work hard as a team to win a match as soon as possible.” Why not the home tie against AA Ghent next Sunday evening?

 Losing 2:4 against Waasland-Beveren meant that KAS Eupen had lost its second duel against a relegation candidate. A thorn in the flesh?

 “We shouldn’t over-dramatize our situation. There aren’t many points separating the 6 teams at the end of the table. We just have to win one game and that’ll take us up a few places. That can all happen very quickly. But on the other hand, we’ve got to be aware that it’s going to be a battle, and that each and every one of us has got to give his utmost. Otherwise we’ll get relegated. I hope that the match against Waasland-Beveren has taught us all a lesson.”

Is it an advantage for your competitors, teams like Mouscron, Westerlo and Waasland, that they, in contrast to KAS Eupen, have experience in fighting against relegation?

 “Of course. In the last few years, these teams have always been fighting against relegation. By contrast, we were generally at the top of the 2nd Division, and often dominated our games. At the start of the season, we thought this was also going to work in the 1st Division, and in some cases it did work. But on the other hand, we’ve been making too many mistakes. In the 2nd Division, you’ve got a chance to correct your mistakes, but that’s hardly the case in the 1st Division. To succeed in the 1st Division, we’ve got to focus fully on gaining points. That’s the most important thing, and we’ve got to be constantly aware of it.

If we look at the 13:26 goal difference, it’s obvious where the problem is. Is it a problem with the KAS Eupen defence or of the whole team’s defensive behaviour?

It’s a bit of both. We’ve allowed too many mistakes to happen in our defence. Obviously, we’ve got to reduce these and wherever possible to eliminate them. In addition, in my opinion we’ve got to further develop our system, on the basis of a strong centre-field block made up of our mid-field players and two full-backs. We’ve got to focus more on our defence, on having a solid block centre-field. That’ll help prevent 1:1 situations in the penalty area, putting pressure on us and getting us to make mistakes. We’ve got to do everything to stop our opponents scoring. If we can manage that, then we’ll start winning again. We’ve no problem with our forwards. They’re always able to score, as we’ve been seeing in the last few games.

Have the defeats of the last few weeks had any effect on the team spirit, or is KAS Eupen still like a family that stays together through thick and thin?

No, the team still feels good. And we also feel like a team, a team in which everyone has his place. Nevertheless, we have to show this team spirit each and every week on the pitch, and not just in training.

Have you yourself gained experience in fighting relegation?

Sure. I played for Waasland-Beveren for three years, and there we were always fighting against relegation. Anyone who’s gone through that knows how tough it can be.  Though I must say that we were once very, very lucky. We drew our last game against Lokeren. We only just avoided the Play Offs 3. CS Bruges was in the lead against Mechelen, but Mechelen came back in extra time, scoring 2 goals. That saved our skin.

Do the squad’s experienced players have a special role to play in the current situation?

Obviously, I’m always trying to let our young players benefit from my experience. But then again, I can’t get inside their heads to tell them that they’ve got to play this way or that. Each and every one of them must be aware of how important it is for their careers to stay up in the 1st Division. And it’s not as if we haven’t got the means to do so.

 What’s your recipe to get out of this hole?

What we need is a success, a good game in which we win one of even three points. Like last year with our last-minute win against Heist. That was the turning point. It was the start of a series of wins with an unchanged team that lasted until the end of the season. We’ve got to repeat that. One win, and we’ll get back our self-confidence and start winning again.

Sunday’s home game is against AA Ghent, one of the Pro League’s top teams. What’s KAS Eupen aiming to achieve?

In our home ties against Anderlecht and Ostend, we put in a good performance. We should aim to do the same thing against Ghent, naturally with the support of our fans. We’ve got to forget our last few defeats and turn a new page, confronting AA Ghent with self-confidence and above all in a well-organised manner. If our defence can prevent Ghent scoring, then we’ll get at least one point. In my view, we could chalk that down as a success.

You’ve been living in Eupen for over a year now. How are you getting on?

Very good. I feel very much at home here. The club is very well organised, and everything is geared towards a permanent stay in the 1st Division. Speaking for myself, I hope to be with the team as long as possible. People here in Eupen are very friendly. When I shop at the butcher or the baker, I always get the feeling that everyone’s very interested in what’s going on at the AS. And that they’re all very well informed. I share my time between Eupen and my home town, Oostkamp near Bruges. That’s where my wife and our little daughter live. On weekends, the two drive over to Eupen to visit me, and when I’m not training, I drive over to Oostkamp. That works out very well.