What a depressing summer we had… In hindsight (always the best sight), our top players disappointed (Sneijder, Robben injured, Van Persie), our top talents didn’t shine (Memphis, Berghuis), Van Gaal got the boot and ManU and our semi Dutch EPL team Newcastle ( Janmaat, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Krul, Anita) gort relegated while Oranje was disgracefully absent at the Euros.
In the meantime, Dutch website Kaassoldaat was taken off the air (they showed Eredivisie highlights, the immensely popular satirical football show Voetbal Inside and other fun sports docos) and in Australia Foxtel lost the EPL rights to mobile bully Optus.
I can’t stomach all that transfer bullshit too well and definitely don’t want to write about all that rumour stuff.
Now, the dust is slowly settling and I’m starting to become a little bit more positive about it all again. Strootman is back! Tonny Vilhena stays with Feyenoord! Quite a coupe by the Rotterdam club and although he’s technically not a new signing it is the biggest transfer of the summer for me, for the Dutch. The way the youngster is developing, he might well be one of our beacons into the future. Second big signing is the Berghuis return to the Eredivisie, a title he must share with Vincent Janssen going to Spurs. How happy was I to be in Melbourne while the Spurs were there for their pre-season games and I happen to bump into them on George Street, when they were just leaving their hotel.
Blind and Memphis (for now) staying at Man United is also a good thing, while De Roon to the EPL and De Boer to Serie A are also interesting moves. I do know that the transfer window is still wide open and Propper, Bazoer or even Depay could still chance clubs but as it is, I’m quite happy. Wijnaldum at Liverpool might work out well for the midfielder, as much as Janssen will make big steps training day in day out with the likes of Eriksen and Dembele.
First signs from White Heart Lane about the former Feyenoord striker are very positive, with Dele Alli in particular developing a good partnership with him.
Ajax under Peter Bosz has promise. Every club he coached played offensive football and the likes of Klaassen and Sinkgraven will find it fun to play under him. Today, the news broke that Traore will return to Holland, from Chelsea on loan, to be reunited with Bosz, after having had a great season at Vitesse two seasons back.
PSV hasn’t weakened either, with targets like Willems and Propper still in Eindoven – for now – but Marco van Ginkel is not returning, as it seems. The knee needs work and Chelsea has decided to allow the midfielder to go with it.
Feyenoord has done really well too, with only question mark Nelom leaving while Vilhena remained on board, Swedish striker Jorgensen joined and Steven Berghuis came from Watford on loan. But most importantly, Eljero Elia has had a decent warm up. Last season he came unfit and injured, late in the game and never seemed 100% in last season’s campaign. In the opening game of the Eredivisie last weekend, Elia showed what he’s capable of when fighting fit: one assist, three goals and a horrific sitter missed which would have been the cherry on the hattrick. He’s the one to watch for me!
With Smalling injured, Blind has made a lot of minutes and is doing well. Wijnaldum played his games for Liverpool and now we need to wait and see how the Big Three will start. Rafa van der Vaart signed for Danish upstarts Middjeland (no idea how to spell that) as a result of his new relationship with a Danish handball player (female) and he does seem fit and hungry. I’m not writing anyone off. Even Nigel de Jong declared from LA that he’ll be ready should Danny Blind need him.
I want to use a piece from the AD newspaper now as a season starter on the blog. Henk ten Cate, former coach of Sparta, Go Ahead Eagles, Barcelona and Ajax – currently at Al Jazira – who shines his light on football development in Holland. The tough talking Amsterdam born – buddy buddy with Frank Rijkaard and co responsible for allowing a tiny lad from Argentina to make his debut in the Camp Nou.
Ten Cate is in Holland to work with his team in pleasant conditions, away from the desert, and has a thing or two to say: “I was a little shocked to be honest, returning to Holland. There is simply not enough intention to play the ball forward….”
Use the term “Sandpit” and Ten Cate sighs loudly. This term is used a lot to depict clubs from the Middle East. “We need to stop using that term,” says the 61 year old. “People look down on the Middle Eastern clubs, but the way it’s going, I think clubs in this region have started to become as technically adept as Dutch clubs.”
His club beat Ten Cate’s old flame Go Ahead Eagles 1-3 last weekend. “I saw quite a number of games from the Eredivisie in the last months and I’m shocked with what I saw. The base technique, the speed of execution, the positioning play…these are all aspects that are going downhill fast!”
Ten Cate’s football soul was in a split, last Friday. He was happy with the victorie over the Eaglesm but on the inside he shed a tear or two. He’s still a shareholder of Go Ahead and very passionately involved. Two years ago, he wrote the football academy plan for the Eagles, driven by his football philosophy and that of Go Ahead: neat football, build up from the back, with a lot of technical skill. “I didn’t think we’d have such an easy game. Go Ahead has the same potential as PEC Zwollen and Heracles (both sub top in the Eredivisie) but if I have to base my judgments on the game we played, I’m not a happy man. And it’s overall in Holland. Most teams simply don’t have the intention to play the ball forward. This needs to the core instinct of a club and a player. Move the ball to the danger area. Not blind, but with a plan.”
Ten Cate is not blind for the difference in budget between the two clubs. Go Ahead works with a 3 mio euros budget, while Ten Cate gets to spend 25 mio euros. But he says “No matter what the money can buy, it’s still about the intent, the approach of the game.”
When Hans van Breukelen was appointed as the new technical director of the KNVB, he came to the conclusion that Dutch players have short comings in the mental and physical aspect of the game. Ten Cate: “Listen, it’s a good thing that this role was created and it’s great that an ex player with his experience was selected”. But, Ten Cate continues: “I don’t think it’s the mental and physical aspect at all. It is the technical side of things. Football is being played in tighter spaces and most players are physically much better already. The perfect pitches we have today also screams for better technique. You need to control the ball. If you can control the ball better in a small space than the other guy, you are likely to keep possession. It’s about skills and handling speed. Keep the ball close. Sure, Messi has a great mentality, like Iniesta and Zlatan and Eriksen but their biggest asset is their ball control. And that is trainable. Repeat repeat repeat. The youth academies in Holland are much to generic in their approach.” Still, Ten Cate thinks we are on the right track. “I don’t see it on a weekly basis but with the limited resources, people like Harry Decheiver and Bart Voortman are doing a tremendous job. But, the clubs need to invest more into the youth academies.”
“I also think it is silly to say that youth teams and youth players need to win. Why? What does it matter. The only thing you’ll see is that coaches will base their tactical plan on not losing. You want the focus to be on the players and how they play. Give him enough technical skills so he can move up in the academy and get time playing in the first team. There, he’ll learn what it takes. Not in the Under16s. Those teams exist purely to allow a player to become the best player he can be. You don’t want a 15 year old player repeatedly kicking the ball in the stands, because “we needed to keep the 1-0″. Stupid. Develop their confidence and skills so they try to outplay the winger. And let him do it wrong many times. He’ll learn.”