Well, Ronald Koeman doesn’t need a lot of introduction here. FG Groningen, rocket shots (mostly over the goal), Ajax, PSV, Barcelona, Feyenoord… Thon’s jersey. Wembley. Assistant to Van Gaal and colleague of Mourinho. Vitesse. Ajax. PSV. AZ. Feyenoord. England. Highs. Lows.
He selected two assistants, along with Patrick Lodewijks, the former goalie and current keepers trainer he met at Feyenoord and took along to England.
Kees van Wonderen was part of Bert van Marwijk’s EUFA Cup winning side in 2002. An elegant, football playing centre back (originally a midfielder) developed according to the philosophy of Wiel Coerver.
Dwight Lodeweges, most recently assistant to John van ‘t Schip at the surprise of the Eredivisie season PEC Zwolle, is maybe not so well known.
PEC Zwolle assistant Dwight Lodeweges with Van ‘t Schip
Lodeweges was the former head coach at NEC, Heerenveen and SC Cambuur. His current management really endorse this big step up for the assistant, but also emphasise he is key in Zwolle’s current success. He’s not just an assistant. He started as high performance coach at Zwolle in 2015. The Canadian born was also responsible for the development of the Zwolle talents. When Ron Jans decided to move on from PEC Zwolle last year, the Zwolle board immediately asked Dwight to step up as head coach, but the 61 year old declined. He didn’t feel like a role as the figure head and scape goat. So Zwolle went on to look for the new coach, with Dwight Lodeweges as a committee member. He was in the interview with John van ‘t Schip and every candidate coach was told: you will have Dwight as your right hand man. Van ‘t Schip as the manager, Dwight as the field coach, like they do it in England.
Dwight on the right, playing in the US (or is it Canada?)
Lodeweges loves working in the shade, in the background. Working with talents, moulding new systems and game plans. The kudos for PEC all go to Schippie, and Dwight is totally ok with that.
In 2016, Lodeweges took a second job, as the Under20 coach of Oranje, at the KNVB. He worked actually, with young talents like Van de Beek, Guus Til (AZ) and Fosu-Mensah (Man United), which is more than Koeman can say. At the KNVB, they were impressed with his skills and know-how and were disappointed when he decided to leave after one year. He couldn’t combine the role he had with the KNVB with the job assisting Van ‘t Schip. The former Go Ahead player is known to be a workaholic, working 70 hours a week easily and his big ambition was always to work with the top team of the Netherlands: Oranje. With PEC Zwolle on course to play the play-offs in the Eredivisie, it is fair to expect him to perform the two jobs simultaneously until the end of the season.
For the job of Director Top Sports (Technical Director), the KNVB originally wanted Louis van Gaal, but he declined. Fred Rutten was the next on the list. In every way, Rutten was the ideal guy. In terms of age, experience (as a player and top coach) and with a background in football development. Rutten is known to be a walking encyclopedia on football and a work-aholic. But he demanded a coaching role with a rep team, as Rutten is keen to remain in touch with grass. The KNVB didn’t see this, so Rutten declined and accepted a good paying job with Maccabi Haifa, as head coach. So Nico-Jan Hoogma was next up in line.
Koeman and Hoogma some years back
Adding Nico-Jan Hoogma to the list of new faces and it is clear we will have a no-nonsense management team in Zeist (with Koeman the master pragmatist). So, what does it say when Justin Hoogma, a talent at Heracles Almelo, gets an offer for 4 years from Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, and dad Hoogma tells his son to take the offer. “You’ll learn more in Germany than you will here”, were his words. And Hoogma knows. He was there, playing for HSV Hamburg and exactly in the period when the German federation decided to overturn the whole German youth development system. Hoogma will take the Dutch development and training books and re-write them. As Wijnaldum and Hateboer recently explained, players from the Netherlands starting abroad are all confronted with much tougher training-regimes. Hoogma can confirm. When he left Holland for Germany, he experienced the exact same.
Famously, Hoogma already introduced longer days and more training intensity when still at Heracles some years back. The defensive rock also found that heading a ball was not a normal skill anymore, so he organised the so-called heading gallows (used in the 1960s for heading training) to the club. Hoogma also widened the field of interest for the players, by keeping them longer at the club and work on their nutrition, video analysis, mental coaching and individual training. It’s no wonder that Heracles selected coaches like Verbeek, Peter Bosz and John Stegeman, people who are highly interested in the “total human being”, as Van Gaal calls it.
More relevant aspects: Hoogma and current KNVB chairman Jan Smit were responsible for the promotion of Heracles to the Eredivisie and the fact that the club is one of the most healthy, financially. Every week, 11,000 fans in the new stadium… the only negative is that Heracles, under Smit and Hoogma opted to go for an artificial turf. Interesting aspect: PEC Zwolle recently announced they will stop playing on artificial and will move back to playing on grass (albeit hybrid) within a couple of years.
Nico-Jan Hoogma at HSV
Hoogma is also an outspoken opponent of the current KNVB football pyramid as they call it, the overall competition, from amateurs to semi pros all the way to the Eredivisie. The licensing model, in other words. Hoogma wants to make the Eredivisie and the Jupiler league smaller, less clubs, and wants to introduce a specific competition for the youth teams of the Eredivisie clubs.
Hoogma will also appoint the new Football Development manager, someone Hoogma will work closely together with, to further innovate the coaching training. Hoogma, born in Friesland, is known to be a hard worker, a pragmatist, someone happy with a role in the background, but also known to call a spade a spade…
Ronald Koeman, another pragmatist, is known to dabble with different systems. At Ajax, where 4-3-3 is sacred, he butted heads with the 5th column about this and at Feyenoord the winning streak started with a 5-3-2 away against PSV Eindhoven (and winning).
Koeman is happy to let go of sacred cows as long as it brings results. King Karim El Ahmadi remembers it well. The first Ajax-Feyenoord under Ronald Koeman. The Feyenoord players didn’t like going away to Ajax. Only months before they conceded 10 goals against PSV, a huge humiliation. When the Johan Cruyff Arena came into view, the Feyenoord players got more silent. The bus stopped on the big parking deck with camera teams and reporters ready to cover the arrival of the Rotterdam team. The players looked at one another: who will go first? Ronald Koeman got up, flung his jacked over his shoulder, puts his chest out and with a confident smile stepped out of the bus. El Ahmadi: “We saw him do it, and it took the fear away. We got confidence from that. We ended up playing 1-1 while we were the better team. That sums up Koeman.”
With Koeman, the KNVB has the perfect ambassador. He’s been around, winning trophies in Spain, at Wembley, in Germany with Oranje and of course in Holland. A cosmopolitan, a man who opens doors and has the respect from the players. At Feyenoord, Graziano Pelle and John Guidetti were club cult heroes, but they only had one question after their games – despite the number of goals they scored: “What did Koeman say?”. Guidetti: “He’s a tough task master, he only needed a couple of words to get you sharp… My first four goals were all penalties. I was proud of my stats. But he said: how’ bout you score a field goal or two as well at some stage? That sort of stimuli, you know?”
El Ahmadi: “I think there is a pre and post Koeman era at Feyenoord. Winning the title started with Koeman. The vibe just changed when he came in. Under Mario Been, the vibe was loose. Mario was happy for us to call him Mario. When Koeman came he was quite adamant: you call me coach. We all looked up to him. He said: my door is always open. If you don’t like something or wanna talk about things, come on in. Well, I don’t think anyone ever went in to do that… He taught us to win.”
A week before his exit at Everton, he was already pondering how he would go about things with Oranje. “I hear people talking about things we lack. The Robben factor. Sneijder’s class. Etc… but hey… look at what we do have. We have amazing attacking full backs, we have good central defenders, and I did see Promes score a couple of goals in the Champions League, right? And Depay is above average and when you have players like Wijnaldum and Daley Blind at top clubs in England, you can’t complain. And then we see those young talents coming through at Ajax and AZ? There is more than enough to hold on to.”
Everton played Atalanta Bergamo for the EL and Koeman witnessed how Dutchies De Roon and Hateboer were excellent. Koeman: “If you can hold your own in the Serie A, you can hold your own in Oranje.” Hateboer and Koeman even chatted before the EL match. Hateboer: “Well, we’re both from Groningen, so yeah… My friends and family are most occupied with the Oranje topic than me. I mean, there’ a couple of others who are not too bad right? Tete, Karsdorp, Janmaat, Fosu-Mensah, Veltman. That’s five players, so I guess I might be a candidate when Koeman wants to play five at the back? We’ll see.”
Koeman changed the system at Feyenoord in his last season and managed to secure the 2nd spot behind champions Ajax, with only a 4 point gap. The PSV away game was the game that got Van Gaal intrigued. The then NT manager was in the Eindhoven stadium with skipper Robin van Persie. And seeing Feyenoord in the 5-3-2 got Van Gaal to implement that system for the WC2014. Basically, Koeman was co-responsible for the success of Oranje in Brazil. Not that Van Gaal would give Ronald that credit of course…