Over the past few seasons, Sint-Truiden have been known as a defensive side that are hardly easy on the eye. Bernd Hollerbach built a solid squad that was difficult to break down, but then found it equally difficult to break anyone else down. They were hard to watch at times, effective yes, but rarely one to get fans off their seats. The Stayen, as it was formerly known, was barely full as fans did not flock to watch the team when the going wasn’t great.
However, a large amount of that squad left with Hollerbach in the summer. Thorsten Fink has come in, and now his Finkball revolution is getting the fans returning to the Daiao Wasabi Stayen. Under the German, the side have one of the youngest starting XI, and with that has come an energetic attacking style of play. The contrast, even just three games in, between Finkball and Hollerbach ball is incredibly stark.
For example, in terms of accurate passes per match, under Hollerbach the side were 15th out of 18 teams with 285.8 average passes per match at an accuracy of 74.2%. After three games this campaign, Finkball has the side third in the league, with 471.7 passes per 90 at a success rate of 84.9%. They sit just behind Genk and Club Brugge, although their success rate is higher than the formers.
Fink also has the Canaries using the ball a lot more this season. They have averaged 56.2% possession over their first three games, the fifth highest in the league. The only sides who have averaged more all finished in the top four last season. Under Hollerbach, the side were again in 15th out of the then 18 teams with 44%. That was less than now relegated Zulte Waregem, who outscored the Canaries by 50 goals to 37.
However, those 37 goals were mainly down to the scoring ability of Gianni Bruno. With Bruno having only been a rental and now in Turkey, the side are crying out for a striker with similar qualities. Current starting forward Fatih Kaya works hard, but he has only scored one goal in 19 games since joining from FC Ingolstadt last summer. In Germany, his record was 94 games played with 14 goals.
This season, Sint-Truiden are averaging four shots on target per match, again up from the 3.6 per 90 they averaged last season. The 2022/2023 number was the second worst in the league, with only relegated RFC Seraing having less. The conversion rate was 7.2%, while this season they are at 3.7%. Yes it’s early days, but anyone who has watched the side over their opening three games can tell that with a more clinical striker they would have won more than 1-0 in their opening two games, and would probably have beaten Anderlecht rather than losing 1-0.
Adding a serviceable forward could take Sint-Truiden from a predicted bottom four to a play-off two finish. This would mean the side avoid relegation, which would have been the pre season target giving the high turnover of players and the relatively small budget available to replace them. Young academy players, such as Matte Smets, Rein Van Helden and Mathias Delorge have stepped into the gaps, something that the fans have been calling for in recent years. There appears to be a connection between players and fans this season, and it would be a shame if that all comes to nothing because the side lacked upfront.
All in all, the Finkball revolution is underway at Sint-Truiden, and it is certainly proving to be worth the watch.