We covered and congratulated Ajax on their title win. We will most definitely congratulate a WONDERFUL PEC Zwolle with their bashing of Ajax in De Kuip. It was 5-1 for PEC but it could have been 8-1.
This does link to the topic of today’s post, as Ronald Koeman as Feyenoord coach was opposed to PEC playing European football just by losing a cup final (he said that before the game of course). So, now Ronald can sleep soundly, as PEC deserved it!!
As you will know, the game was seriously disrupted by Ajax fans (!!) throwing fireworks onto the pitch. The theory now is that they did so to ruin Feyenoord’s impeccable pitch! As Ajax supporters have been banned from the Feyenoord temple for years, this was seen as their opportunity to inflict pain to Feyenoord. Well, it worked, as the Feyenoord groundsman was spotted crying when all this happened….
Louis van Gaal decided to wait with announcing his first practice prelim squad until Monday, so we will take the time to look at our Eredivisie Number 2’s coach (and ex player ) Ronald Koeman. No love lost between him and Louis, by the way.
In three years under Ronald Koeman, Feyenoord has made some good progress. Although as a fan and a football connaisseur I personally would not uncork the champagne after this season… But, Koeman is on his way out, and through the front door, as opposed to predecessors Been and Verbeek.
Feyenoord finished second, third and second in three years. The objective of Feyenoord was/is to win the title at least once every three seasons. And they didn’t. And this season should have been that season, of course. (We are a football nation of should haves).
Fred Rutten will now come and give it a go and Rutten is a very decent coach, so who knows. But the question will be: with whom will Rutten have to do this… It seems many international scouts are hovering around this Feyenoord. When the Rotterdam club played PSV in Eindhoven, scouts of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs, Man City, AS Roma, Napoli and several German and French clubs were spotted. Some PSV lads were on the short list, for sure, like Wijnaldum and Matavz but the crop was there for Clasie, Janmaat, Kongolo, Martins Indi, De Vrij, Vilhena, Boetius and Pelle.
Martins Indi apparently is still on the list for Everton, while Brendan Rodgers is a fan of De Vrij. Kongolo will definitely be on the Man City / Chelsea short list while Vilhena seems to be the real hot property. Clasie and Janmaat are linked with moves to Italy while Arsenal has shown interest in Janmaat earlier.
Pelle is getting on age wise and has the best options working on his retirement plan with a move to the Middle East or Turkey.
Tech Director Martin van Geel already stated that Feyenoord doesn’t need to sell players, per se, but De Vrij and Janmaat have already announced they won’t be renewing their deals with Feyenoord before the World Cup. Van Geel is quite positive about Feyenoord’s chances renewing Kongolo’s, Vilhena’s and Boetius’ contracts.
Koeman is a football hero in Holland. He played for all three big clubs and therefore can count on sympathy from most people in Holland ( and Groningen of course). And when he moved to Barca he made us proud with his Europa Cup 1 winning strike at Wembley. His role in Oranje made his a true hero with most Dutch fans secretly loving his “wipe the ass gesture” with Thon’s jersey in 1988.
As a coach, he didn’t seem to cut it. He did well with Vitesse and Ajax but his somewhat “cover your behind” antics (re: Van Gaal at Ajax) and his sudden exit at PSV made him suspicious. He got fired at Valencia and AZ and the jury seemed to be coming back with a negative verdict. Until Feyenoord.
A conversation with Ronald Koeman:
The 5-1 in De Kuip versus Cambuur was most likely your last home game in The Netherlands as coach?
“Well, that is quite rash. It will be for Feyenoord and it might be my last ever as club coach, but who knows… It will be a special game. I normally am not that sentimental about things but I did feel tingles during that game. It was in the back of my mind…. And we are closing somethings special here. I highly enjoyed my time at Feyenoord, my relationship with the lads. This is quite a unique club.”
What did Feyenoord bring you?
“Happiness. I lost my happiness as a coach. Being fired so unceremoniously at AZ was a big deal for me. I sort of took a hit and then my wife got very ill and I really didn’t wanna go to another country. Feyenoord was perfect for me. I had very good memories of my time here as a player and the moment I got in the club was ideal. I once had to replace Van Gaal at Ajax after he won a title and I had to replace Hiddink at PSV after he won a title so that follow up season is always tough. At Feyenoord, getting some quick wins in the beginning was not that hard and very essential.”
What did you bring Feyenoord?
“I hope that I taught them that they’re not talents anymore. They need to be killers, they needed that mentality. That and some old fashioned bringing up you know. Some values. When I came here, the players were allowed to have lunch at home. And they sometimes trained at 1 pm and the players were free in the morning! Well not with me… I made them come to the club earlier, we’d eat together… I have so many young players and when you let them come at 1 pm, God knows what they do with their morning… Sleep in? Have a pizza? Play games? I needed to bring them in. I needed them to have a decent lunch before training. I also made a clear statement. “Age is not an issue for me. The best man plays. But…if you do play, even if you’re only 18, I expect you to deliver. No hiding behind “but I am still young” arguments.” As a coach of young players, you have to sometimes act as their dad…”
Not all players enjoyed that!
“That is sadly also the case with your children. But when they get older, they’ll understand. I had my fair share of clashes with Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Ibrahimovic as well but they all said since that they learned a lot under my reign.”
Was this Feyenoord group tough?
“Not really and most things we were able to keep indoors. There were some unpleasant situations. I had to strip De Vrij of his band and later Pelle. I had to tell Vilhena off with a penalty, those sorts of things. Can’t keep that indoors, hahaha. But otherwise we did well. I never understood why players have to go out and talk to the media about things they don’t get or don’t like. It’s easy to knock on my door and simply discuss it with me… But that is youth, I guess.”
Vitesse, Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Which club will be your best memory…
“Oooh, that is a difficult one. And a dangerous one to answer as well. I have had so many good memories. Winning the title on the last playing day with PSV, with Ajax I won two titles and we did well in the CL… With Feyenoord though, we had to make do with limited means and although we didn’t win anything, we did win the respect of Rotterdam and we brought pride back to De Kuip. That is probably worth more than silverware, if I think about it…. The Feyenoord feeling goes deeper than anything else. This is the biggest club in Holland. Reaching second spot is not worthy of a celebration but we do feel like a party. And I can understand why.”
When you took over from Mario Been in 2011, it didn’t look too good….
“It didn’t. They had finished 10th. Which is really really bad for Feyenoord. There was not a lot of confidence. Fer and Wijnaldum had just left. But we did alright, we started well and when Guidetti and Bakkal joined us we suddenly had a team that clicked. Some players even made it to the National Team. That season we ended second. Amazing. The next season we lost the complete axes of the team: Vlaar, El Ahmadi, Bakkal and Guidetti gone. What now? But we got Pelle and we reached the third spot. This season, we kept the squad together while Ajax, Twente and PSV had some changes. So I figured: this is the title year. But we ended up not being consistent enough. We conceded too many late goals and we had a horrific start with zero out of three. This gave us a bit of a stressed out attitude from the start. All in all, not winning the title is a disappointment.”
So what is more dominant: the pride of being number 2 and potentially gaining access to the CL or the idea that the title was lost?
“Both I’m sure. Both. This season, we scored more goals than Ajax. That doesn’t happen often. Normally Ajax reaches 100 goals. There is a shift in hierarchy coming. But we forgot to kill off the small games (Den Haag, NEC, RKC, Cambuur, PEC Zwolle) and that has cost us the title.”
So you actually did go for the title?
“Of course! The start of the second season half, we started great against Utrecht. We had to go to Ajax and then Den Haag. We lost without a hope against Ajax and then we lost against ADO too. 6 points in 4 days. I knew, that if we would survive these two games, for instance a draw at Ajax and a win at ADO we would have had our tails up. But, every coach can look back like this. If if if…. But I can’t shake the feeling we could have won it.”
The last 8 games you started to rotate more and play 5-3-2 and you won almost all the games. Why didn’t you start like this?
“I did! Against Zwolle I played with Vormer and Goossens. I wanted more resistance for the others. But we lost three in a row and I needed my strongest team to pick up points. Once we did, I wanted to let that line up settle for a while.”
You wanted competition in the squad?
“It’s all about taking responsibility. Players need to be 100% committed to their job. I’ll give you example. I asked goalie Mulder at a certain point “Twente is our next target, how many points do we need to take them?”. And Mulder, and most of the players, didn’t know! They didn’t know… How is it possible that you don’t know this? So I had to discuss this with them and make them aware.”
Guus Hiddink will be the new team manager of Oranje, but many polls said that the Dutch people wanted you.
“Yeah, but the one guy who decides didn’t think so… Ideal for me. Staying in Holland, working with the best players, visiting and watching football all over Europe. But I’m done with it. The KNVB called me last year to ask if I was able to do it. Now they take Hiddink and needed an assistant who would take over from Hiddink. And I was willing to do this. Why not? I have no ego in this, I would love to have done the field coaching and Guus can do the press, hahaha. But they never called and Guus, whom I consider to be a good friend, never ever called me either. Which is something I will check with him. A simple call and a cup coffee would have made all the difference.”
Oranje has dropped significantly, to the 15th spot on the FIFA ranking. Disturbing?
“Oh yes, the signals are there. There is always generations and quality differences in those… I don’t see the quality of Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie, Van der Vaart, with all do respect. And our development is focused on technical and tactical while in England, Spain and Italy is the focus more on mental strength and physical strength. I saw Oranje Under 21 last summer against Italy Under 21 and it was boys vs men…. I personally believe that young talent can only develop well in the bigger competitions. I am sorry to say so, as it would mean the big talents will leave Holland but our development is too limited. They have to play against better opponents.”
You have a number of great talents in your squad. Which one of these do you see becoming important for Oranje?
“Hmmm…it is always hard to say. I think all the players we have, have demonstrated to be of great value as club players in Holland. Period. That is what we know for sure. Whether they can make the step up remains to be seen. One never knows. I played with tremendous young players in my time who never made it. And others who did make it big were not always the ones who excelled in the youth system. I believe someone like Jan Wouters never even played for rep teams in his youth! Or Jaap Stam! Like I said, they all have the basic skills. The foundation is there. The technical skill of some of these guys is phenomenal, but they need a balance in all their skills. So, mentality, tactical smarts, coaching, reading the game, etc. I think Clasie, Boetius, Vilhena, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Kongolo have all this and will need to further develop, week in week out. Clasie needs to be able to read the game better and become more dominant. He will need some of Sneijder’s venom. De Vrij and Martins Indi need to become tougher and shrewder. Meaner, maybe even! Boetius is still young and somewhat naive. But he will probably keep on developing. Vilhena can be a bit unchoachable at times…. I think Janmaat has shown over the years to be ready for a next step. He is very consistent. But, to take the right step is very important. Club culture, what coach will you work with….what is the vision of the club, what players do they have… Etc.”
But all in all, this World Cup, Oranje won’t be highly successful in your view?
I didn’t say that. I think we have potential. We don’t have to lose against Spain. And we need to be smart in the group. Draw against Spain is a good result, for instance, but we’ll be dependent on what Spain does vs Chile. Or Australia for that matter. It will be a bit of a lottery, sadly. I think Van Gaal is smart enough to have the lads peak at the right moment but I do think he needs to fix the Strootman absence. That is not just a matter of putting another name on the team sheet. I think Sneijder’s lack of fitness and Strootman’s absence calls for another, more conservative, approach. Once we survive the group, anything is possible. At the end of the day, two teams reach the finals and a lucky draw can mean that some of the big contenders get beaten by other nations… We’ll see. I won’t place a lot of money on Holland, though, hahahaha.”
Do you miss the ex-players in the KNVB development programs?
“These guys all work in at their former clubs. The KNVB has teachers on the payroll, not coaches or ex players.”
So, what is the next step for you?
“I am intrigued to take on a higher level. I would love to work in the Premier League, for instance, but I won’t be rigid about this. I’ll entertain the options. We have some requests here and there and we’ll start talking after the competition is over.”