Tag: Advocaat

Oranje gets Big Dick

And it needs it! In order to really have a go and reach the World Cup, we need good potency. I always felt Advocaat is a big of a dick, with his greed-oriented behaviour. He disappointed so many clubs and nations (PSV, Australia, Belgium, Sunderland, KNVB) and all for a bigger pay-check.

But, he does get things done and we do not have many highly experienced and willing coaches left in Dick’s age-category. Van Gaal isn’t interested, Van Marwijk is happy in the sandbag, Van Hanegem and Jansen not willing, Stevens not willing, Michels is dead… Time for a new generation (Ten Hag, Bosz, Cocu, Gio, De Boer) but all these guys are happy to work with players on a day by day basis.

Big Dick will join the squad later, with assistant Ruud Gullit. Until he does, Fred Grim and Frans Hoek will keep the reigns and manage Oranje past the two upcoming friendlies… Morocco first. Ivory Coast on Sunday.

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The Dutch squad is becoming complete today. Wesley Sneijder traveled late from Turkey, directly to Agadir. Grim already stated that he’ll give the 32 year old captain playing time. Wes only needs two more games to topple Van der Sar as the most capped Dutch player ever. He’ll get that record, with two friendlies on the roster. The Ivory Coast game is actually on his 33rd birthday. What an accomplishment for the little playmaker!

Jesper Cillesen came late to the camp too, as he had to play (and win) the Spanish Copa Del Rey with Barca. A look at three players who had an exciting but not necessarily good first season at greener pastures…

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Nathan Ake – Chelsea:

“It’s fun to be part of the Dutch team for the first time. I’ve played in all Oranje rep teams as off under-15 and now it’s an honour to be part of the big Oranje. Marc Wilmots is the team manager of Ivory Coast, who called me as well. He wanted to know if I was happy to think about playing for the country where my dad is born. And I said, yes I will. But Holland is my first choice and I think Wilmots understood. I still have family in Ivory Coast, by the way, but I’ve never visited. My mum is Dutch, we’d go to Ivory Coast when I was 18 years old but I’m 22 years old now and it hasn’t happened. Should I get official playing time versus Luxembourg, the decision will be made. My parents support me fully.

This was a good and interesting year. I was loaned out to Bournemouth. I didn’t play a minute in the first months but I got my chance and took it. Coach Conte called me personally to say he wanted to get me back in the winter. I think I can now determine myself, what will happen. Next season, I will get my chance and I want to play as much as possible. I can play on several positions but my favorite spot is the left central position. But we’ll see whether Chelsea will offer me playing time… Time will tell.”

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Vincent Janssen – Spurs

“My first season at Tottenham is behind me now. I don’t think it was what I hoped for, in terms of playing time. That is quite clear I suppose. But I do notice I have grown as a player. Last year around this time we had an Oranje camp in Portugal as well, and I can feel I’m much stronger and quicker in my handling the ball. The last few months I was much more settled at Spurs but hey, we won 12 out of 13 games in the EPL and were in good form, so the coach didn’t have much reasons to give me more time. The team was doing so well. What will happen the next season? I am not sure. It’s not just me who determines this of course. The coach didn’t do a personal assessment with all the players, he basically just thanked the group. Individual talks is more a Dutch thing I suppose.

I hoped the KNVB would have gone on with Danny Blind. This is the first time in career I deal with the sacking of a coach. And I still owe a lot of gratitude to Danny Blind for his confidence. He allowed me my debut and he let me play ten international games. I spoke to him after he was let go. I haven’t spoken to Mr Advocaat yet, but i worked with him earlier, when he was assistant and he’s very present, dominant and had numerous tips for me.”


Jesper Cillesen – Barcelona

“I’m happy that I could finish the season with Barca winning a prize I actually contributed to. The cup tournament became my tournament. And I do like some more of that taste. It will be an interesting summer, you never know what to expect in the summer. Anything can happen now, with Valverde coming in as the new coach. It’s been really intense. The step from Ajax to Barcelona is quite big. On the pitch, but also off the pitch. In terms of tactics, mentally… I had times where I hit a wall.

But I have become a better goalie. I’m dealing with the best forwards on the planet. When I first started in practice, Messi would hit the target with a venom and precision I didn’t get at Ajax. In those first weeks I felt like I was in 2011, when I became part of the Dutch squad while still at NEC! But, I do stop shots by Neymar, Messi, Suarez on training. I am used to the pace now. I’m ambitious though, I want to become the #1 goalie here. Even though Ter Stegen has just renewed his contract, I’ll will go head to had with him. I feel good about it.”

oranje training lagos

Frans Hoek (right) amazed by Martins Indi’s haircut
Daley Blind, Davy Klaassen, Jeremain Lens, Arjen Robben, Kevin Strootman, Stefan de Vrij and Gini Wijnaldum also made it later to the squad due to obligations elsewhere.

In total, Oranje has 28 in the group to prepare for the friendlies. Dick Advocaat: “We decided on a bigger group as some players will come to the training camp later due to obligations. We don’t know how fit they will be. We need to prepare for the worst and at this stage it won’t be harmful to have a bigger group with some younger, fresher players as Oranje is in transition.”

By the way, Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) will not be part of the Moroccan squad. The playmaker who could be so potent for Oranje decided to go for Morocco but the relationship between him and the French coach of Morocco is troubled. Renard first ignored the former Heerenveen talent for the Africa Cup, now Ziyech decided to sit the NT out until Renard is removed…

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New boys Jens Toornstra and Sergio Padt (goalie Groningen)

Other “Dutchies” in the Moroccan squad: King Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Nordin Amrabat (Watford), Mimoun Mahi (FC Groningen), Sofyan Amrabat and Yassin Ayoub (both with FC Utrecht).

There is one player not selected who did make some headlines. Ryan Babel (ex-Ajax, ex-Liverpool) is now 30 years old and found his second wind, winning the title in Turkey (under Big Dick’s nose!) with Besiktas. The former Oranje winger tweeted: “Disappointed that Oranje doesn’t seem to need my services”. He said later: “Somehow in Holland people think my career is over. I’ve been under the radar too much probably, but I’m back at my best now. I think I am able to support Oranje in these crucial times.”

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Ryan Babel screams “Whyyyy Dick???”

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Oranje getting ready for World Cup 2018!

The first two games in the Eredivisie are behind us and the EPL has commenced while the more Southern nations will start their competitions shortly.

Too early to tell where we are, but that is international football these days. Some teams have been playing CL qualification games already and the national teams are gearing up to start their World Cup qualification games.

First, a friendly. And then Sweden awaits. Sans Zlatan of course.

Rafael van der Vaart of the Netherlands, center, is challenged by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ola Toivonen, and Pontus Wernbloom of Sweden during their Euro 2012 Group E qualifying soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday Oct. 12, 2010. The Dutch won the match with a 4-1 score. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Rafael van der Vaart, center, is challenged by Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The transfer window is still open and as long as that’s the case, all is still in flux. What’s going to happen with Janmaat? Memphis? Siem de Jong? To name a few. And Sneijder? Van Persie, how are these guys doing?

It is very positive to see some moves made by the young and up & coming. Vincent Janssen impressing on his EPL debut, almost scoring even. If not for man of the match Stelelenburg. Wijnaldum had a good second half versus Arsenal and an assist. But at the same time, no minutes for Clasie and an annoying hamstring injury for De Roon…

The news from the Eredivisie is not too depressing though. Feyenoord started well, with Vilhena, Elia and Berghuis impressing, while young left back Woudenberg presents himself as a potential mainstay for the club from Rotterdam.

Davy Propper is still making steps and might well be too good for Holland very soon. The move of Ramselaar to PSV is a good one, of course just like Siem de Jong reuniting with brother Luuk will make the Dutch competition more interesting.

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De Roon injured in his first EPL match

At Ajax, Riedewald is back at full fitness and playing well, while Klaassen and Bazoer can be seen as surefire Dutch internationals. Even Daley Sinkgraven, hugely talented but underwhelming in his first period at Ajax made the headlines.

As it stands, against Sweden – not too difficult one might say – I think we should be able to get the result we need, even without Sneijder and Robben.

I won’t go into systems so much, but if we actually want to play to our strengths, I think we need to field Promes and Janssen up front. Elia might have been a sure bet but he’s out with a shoulder injury, while Memphis is most likely not match fit (and lacking form).

Both Janssen and Promes like to drift and Promes should play from the right, as you right back options (Tete, Veltman) are not the natural channel runners. Dijks is an option of course but he hasn’t really played a string of games at his new club so this game might be a tad too early for him.

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Elia, here with his broken finger, out with shoulder injury

In midfield, Strootman is a fixed starter on the left, with Bazoer sitting deep in the holding role. I’d play Propper on the right with Wijnaldum in the #10 position behind Janssen. Their link up play should be enough for us to transform the 4-4-2 into a 3-4-3.

As I would field Willems any day, he can use the open left flank for his rushes forward. Bruma, Bazoer (as holding mid) and Tete can cover defense while center back Blind can move into midfield Danny-style to support the build up play. Bruma and Tete and Willems have the speed to cover the space behind us and with players like Blind, Bazoer, Propper and Strootman our passing capabilities should be more than enough. I have faith in Janssen and Wijnaldum and Promes to be on the receiving end of those balls, to put a couple away. That’s how I would do it. 3-0 win over Sweden. Thank you. Next.

I do believe there will be a place for Sneijder and most certainly Robben in the team, given that they do become fit. Robben for Promes of course. Sneijder might have to get used to a bench role, with a more prominent part for him in games where we will have to sit a bit deeper and play more compact. His legs won’t allow him to play in our new modern style but versus France or strong opponents at the WC2018, he might still have a role to play.

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Impressive center back Riedewald

Huntelaar, for me, is a good option on the bench (if he can handle it).

Vilhena is a good understudy for Strootman. Good duellng power, great legs and magic in that left foot. Klaassen can play in the Wijnaldum role, Ramselaar can play in the Bazoer role (as can Clasie of course) and Berghuis can also sub Propper in midfield or Promes on the flank.

Not bad. De Vrij will make his comeback at some stage and even Vlaar will be in the picture with me. As is Van Dijk and even Feyenoord’s Van Beek and Ajax’ Riedewald.

propper scores

Propper, only scoring beauties

With players like Hendrix, Karsdorp, De Roon, El Ghazi, Sinkgraven, Kongolo, Toornstra, Van Ginkel in the mix, the future looks bright, even if we don’t seem to have world class players right now. But like I said before: many people didn’t see it in Strootman, in Nigel de Jong or even Robben when they were younger… Time will tell.

Leicester and Atletico Madrid have shown us that you don’t need a team full of big name players. Spain disappointed at the Euros and so did England. While Wales won hearts and they basically had three great players, with 8 mediocre ones. But they had a team! As did Leicester City. Vardy, Mahrez and Kante being top notch, the rest all decent but not special.


Ramselaar off to PSV (with club legend Willy van der Kuylen)

I can see Robben, Propper, Strootman and Blind as our big name players, with the rest simply doing their job. And who knows, the likes of Memphis and Berghuis might still end up becoming world class. Stranger things have happened. Vardy demonstrated that one is never too old to make it to the big stage.

In terms of goal keepers, we’re still spoiled. Cillesen (on his way to Barca?), Stekelenburg, Vermeer (now injured), Zoet and Krul (still injured) are top goalies. Hahn of Feyenoord is on his way too.

There is no reason to get depressed.

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - JULY 30: Jan Olde Riekerink, head coach of Galatasaray and Wesley Sneijder of Galatasaray during the pre-season Friendly between Manchester United and Galatasaray at Ullevi on July 30, 2016 in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello via Getty Images)
Jan Olde Riekerink, head coach of Galatasaray and Wesley Sneijder of Galatasaray 

What did get me depressed though, was the treason of Dick Advocaat. Who now wants to be called Dirk (when abroad) as he realises Dick is not a nice name to have. But his recent actions prove to me he is actually DICK. What was he thinking? He has a habit of abandoning teams he’s committed to, for a bigger pay-check. Dick is all about the money. Ask the Australian federation, the Belgium Federation and Sunderland. And now Oranje.

Three months ago, he told Blind he was ready to serve Dutch football and he wanted to get out of the limelight. He was presented to the media, he did his thing, the players loved to have him on board and guess what: the first club from some second rate football nation – where human rights are even less valuable than Dick’s signature under a contract – wiggles a bag of euros and The Dick runs to the exit. Shame on DICK!

Danny Blind and Marco van Basten do need a third coach to complement them. Someone with energy, with passion, warmth and experience.

Dick dick

Rene Meulensteen would have been a top option, but he decided to sign for a club (he was available three months ago). I would not know any other option to be honest….

Danny Blind responded hurt and annoyed when asked about Advo’s antics and KNVB technical director Hans van Breukelen was gobsmacked.

Anyway, the team managers have picked a decent prelim squad. The names you’d expect.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Daley Blind of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Manchester United at Vitality Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Daley Blind of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Manchester United 

I just hope that prior to September 1, we’ll see some movement in the transfers still. I particularly would like to see Daryl Janmaat make a move, while Bruno Martins Indi has also been put into a blind alley at Porto. Not that I believe we’ll need BMI in the future.

Good to see we keep on producing talent. Up to Danny and Marco to make them all play nicely as a team.

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Oranje polishes up its game with a win

The victory over Poland doesn’t get us to the Euros… It doesn’t get us three points. But it will lift the pressure of Danny Blind and his staff. It will boost confidence going forward. And it gives us all a good feeling.

Poland is not France or Germany, of course. And they are simply prepping for the Euros. But it is a good win still.

Holland played better than against Ireland. The dynamics Blind wants to see worked out better. Crisper passing, better mobility and more courageous balls forward.

Vincent Janssen showed how useful he can be when used right. Against Ireland, he moved well but was never found. Against Poland, he still moved well and was given opportunities to score a couple. He is the real deal. Played at second pro level last year for FC Almere. And seems to make the steps up without too much issues. A glorious left foot, great positioning awareness and cool as ice.

janssen berghuis

Poland didn’t play bad but failed to register some real opportunities for themselves. A slip in the back (Bruma, Tete) was the lead in to their opportunities. And a perfectly hit corner kick from Milik’s glorious left foot and Van Ginkel zoning out got them their goal.

One has to say: conceding from set pieces is a worry. Van Dijk vs Ireland not awake. Now Van Ginkel… But at least we don’t concede from open play, which is good (always focus on the good too!).

janssen poland

Steven Berghuis was a bit hot and cold but for a young player without rhythm, it wasn’t bad at all. You can see why Watford wanted him and why Blind relies on him. His type is rare. He’s fast, has a decent dribble and a tremendous left foot and vision.

We need all sorts of players. The power and brilliance of Memphis (when in form), the length and leadership of Luuk de Jong, the speed of Narsingh, the vision and passing of Berghuis, the aerial threat of Dost and hopefully soon the experience and skills of Van Persie and Sneijder. Add to that the world class talent of Robben and we can look hopeful towards the future.


Kevin Strootman looks strong and confident and it will be a matter of time before he will be his own self. Wijnaldum, Propper, Van Ginkel, Blind… all decent utility players and if we can cement our back four a bit better (Vlaar, De Vrij, Bruma, Van Dijk, Willems, Riedewald, Kongolo, Van Aanholt, Veltman, Janmaat), we should be able to sort ourselves out.

Danny Blind is keen to use this period to cement his ideal September line up. I don’t expect too many changes in the line up vs Austria. Blind: “I think Austria is the strongest of the three opponents. They had a tremendous qualifications campaign and with Janko and Arnautovic up front and a player like Alaba at the back, they could well be the surprise team this Euros.”

Keving Strootman will come in again to start, as skipper, after his 20 mins sub turn vs Poland. This might go at the expense of Van Ginkel. “I don’t want to change too much anymore. We need to start solidify a team.”

kevin aus

Dick Advocaat spent his first week with this Oranje. It is not hard to see what kind of coach he is. The perfect field trainer. Like Blind he has a whistle around his neck, like Blind, but unlike Van Basten. The first days he observed. “That is key. Take a step back and watch them do their thing. Some of them had a disappointing season, some are not 100% fit, some are worried about their future… It was a long season.” When the players do an 11 v 11 game, Dick coaches one team, San Marco the other. Marco coaches with his normal voice. Talks a lot. Dick is more quiet but when he does say something, he uses the deep and hoarse yelling voice. “Bazoer! They’re moving away from you behind you. Pay attention!” or “Bruma, if you tackle, do it for a full 100%!!”.

Dick Advocaat took over from Van Gaal in 2002. The former Man U coach wasn’t able to coach Oranje to the World Cup and Dick needed to mend things. Jeffrey Bruma: “Yes, we spoke about that. We need this to happen again. Immediately back to the big stage.” Advocaat was given the job back then on the advice of the failing Van Gaal. “Louis felt I was the right man to take the older players and get them to perform again. We needed to squeeze all out of them and I did it. Back then, people wrote that that generation was done for. Like they do now. But I will never write off any player. They usually do that themselves by not performing. If a player is good enough at 18 or 38 years old, all fine by me.”

dick marco

You sometimes need an old sly fox to come up with a tactical decision that can change things. Like Van Gaal demonstrated at the World Cup when he brought Krul for Cillesen at penalty time vs Costa Rica. Some people think Oranje should use the PSV core, as they have the dynamics in place already. Put another player for Arias, another defender for Moreno and Strootman in place of Guardado and Robben for Narsingh. Dick: “Really? So Bazoer and and Memphis and Janssen? That would be a shame.”

Dick Advocaat likes to taunt his players and the vibe in the group has changed with the former FC Den Haag icon. Van Aanholt worked with him at Sunderland. During the training game, Advocaat yells at Patrick: “Hey Van Aanholt, you’re up against Promes. Peace of cake, yes?” Danny Blind: “It is important to have someone like him in the group. I think Marco and I are more detached. We keep our distance a bit. Dick really is very open and warm with the players.” Jeffrey Bruma: “Dick is a very warm and friendly guy with great anecdotes, but watch out: he is also very direct and tough.”

memphis dick

Memphis is doing sprint training. Advocaat observes. Memphis steals a yard the first time. And the second time. And the third time. It’s not rare. Rafael van der Vaart used to do this. Willem van Hanegem and Johan Cruyff would hide in the bushes during running training to smoke a quick cigarette. Advocaat: “I see it. But I don’t say anything in the group. I walk over to Memphis after training and say “I saw you making short cuts. Fine with me. But show me in the match that you deserve it.”

Advocaat: “Normally, a group selects itself. Perform at club level, work hard during Oranje sessions and deliver. Usually, the right options present themselves. But this is a very hungry group. They love being here and we have some guys who love to laugh and we also have some odd types… I like that. There is a mix. I want them to give everything for themselves. And I leave them space to do so in their own way. But, it is quite simple: if you don’t perform, you’re out.”



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Captain Robben addresses Oranje!

Arjen Robben has been there too. Top talent in the Groningen youth. Made his debut at 16 years old. Was on the hitlist of many top teams at a young age. Decided to stay in Bedum with his parents while signing for PSV. He played one more year for Groningen, so he could finish his high school. Dad was in education and Arjen was always a serious lad. Ajax and PSV had the best papers. Both clubs sent their reps North to discuss with the Robben family. Ajax came across arrogant. PSV wanted what’s best for Robben. Frank Arnesen (technical manager of PSV): “We would always beat Ajax in those days. We actually cared about what was best for Arjen. It was a very positive experience, the Robben family had their wits with them.”

Arjen wanted to finish his high school, because “you never know if that football dream would pan out.” Robben spent three years at PSV under Hiddink. He had some weaknesses. He didn’t do anything but stand on his right leg. And he was a whiner. A sissy. When he was young, everyone in Holland thought he was to weak, to soft, to become a big player.

And look at him now. World class. In the same category as Zlatan, C Ronaldo, Messi and Rooney.

robben back


Captain Robben was sorely missed during the Euro campaign. To say we didn’t qualify because of this is a bit strong. But fact is, that he carried us during the WC2014 campaign. And he is still not fit. But he definitely is at the Oranje camp right now. Not to train, or to play. But to inspire. So there was suddenly a hint of world class in the Oranje camp. At last. “Passion, professionalism, mentality, this will have to come from the players themselves, for 90%” Danny Blind asked Robben to drop in and the captain was happy to oblige. “Not because of guilt or anything, but we are in front of a big big year. I made it work with my recovery program, so here I am.”

What are you going to say to the group?

“For starters, don’t blow this thing up out of proportion ok? I am not here to tell everyone how it’s done. I don’t have a list of players I want to talk to or something. We have four professional coaches here with massive experience and the role of leaders starts on the pitch. I’m now a captain on the side of the water (beste stuurlui staan aan wal, Dutch expression). I am not even training with them so let’s not overdo it. But I do know this: if you start thinking about the away game vs Sweden in September, you’re too late. We are not starting against Andorra or Malta. It’s Sweden away. We don’t yet have a firm line up so we need to start the work now. Today.”

robben young old


How did you experience the away game vs Ireland?

“I heard from the coach that the boys trained really well last week and that it was a bit strange that they couldn’t make it happen in the first hour. It was sloppy. That is not good. And also not after a disappointing season or right before the holidays. How can I explain… Everyone is happy to go on a break, sure. And one player got relegated, another player missed the title on the last day of the competition and another player had a disappointing season… It’s all influences, sure. But it can’t be the excuse. You have to a be a 100% pro. No matter how bad you feel, you need to find the will to play a top game. And Wednesday against Poland and Saturday vs Austria. I hear people are complaining about the coaches but that is bullshit. It’s the players. If you need a coach to motivate you, you don’t belong at this level.”



Asked about his own career, Robben said his mental strength was key. “Sure, I am talented. But I played with lads who were as talented as me, in the youth. And in the Oranje rep teams. And where are these lads? You need to be balanced and you need to really want it. It takes more than talent to reach the top. When I was 18 years old I went with Louis van Gaal to the youth World Cup in Argentina. We had good talents there, players like Stekelenburg, Huntelaar, Theo Janssen, Van der Vaart… Van Gaal was so different, so intense. He was constantly on our backs. I remember most players having great difficulties with this. Theo Janssen would go nuts! I loved it… Every day I would challenge him and he would challenge me. He wanted to make me better and I wanted to become better. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I played my best football at Bayern when I reunited with him, after Real Madrid. That is what players need to learn, to invest in themselves, all the time.”

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Danny Blind said in a press conference, that he rates Poland higher than Ireland. “Sure, Ireland is tough, they play physical, they’re a real team. But Poland is shrewd, they’re like East Germany in the olden days. Tactically strong, agile and with two pretty decent strikers (Milik of Ajax and Lewandowski of Bayern). It will be a real test.” Asked about the line up: “I will make changes. But not because of disappointment in players or so. But because I want to see different players perform. I will probably make a change in every line of the team.”

Asked about Memphis’ antics off the pitch. “I won’t discuss players individual in terms of their off pitch behaviour. Not relevant for me to discuss publically. Memphis is working hard in his own way. He is not in his best form but he’s young. He has a lot of talent and he will get back at his usual level. I am not worried.”

daley poland


Danny’s son Daley will not play for Oranje at all this trip. The calf injury he ended the Cup Final with, is too hefty and might result in an early summer break for the Man United defender. Marco Asensio Willemsen will make his debut in the National Team of Spain. The son of a Spanish father and Dutch mother will make his debut because Spain will be without the internationals of Atletico and Real Madrid. Asensio is not selected for the Euros. In October, Danny Blind approached the midfielder for Oranje, but the kid felt he was more Spanish than Dutch and wants to go for his chances with Spain. He did leave the door open for Oranje. Should the Spain national team not be interested, he might still pick our colours. The 20 year old player is on the pay-roll of Real Madrid but plays on loan for Espanyol, where he had 4 goals and 10 assists. If he does play this friendly, he can still decide for Oranje, until Del Bosque actually uses him in an official Spain game.


Danny Blind is working on a new hierarchy, with question marks behind names like Huntelaar, Van Persie and Sneijder. In the Ireland game, he had seven players with ages between 24 and 29 years.

Advocaat: “Some people say we need to build this Oranje around the PSV core in the squad. But when you have players like Bazoer, you won’t go there, right? He’s one of our brightest talents.”

Blind is happy to confirm, that at least seven or eight players out of this current squad will need to become firm starters for the WC qualification. “We need a fixed framework for the September game.” Coach Blind: “Strootman is important for us, not per se as a player, but his personality is that of a leader. He is a born skipper. He has very high standards, applies them for himself and his colleagues. And he expresses that loud and clear. This is an area where Daley and Wijnaldum need to make steps quickly.”

Strootman was pleased with the skippers band but also said: “This captain’s band was given to me before the knee injury. I am now post injury. I will need to earn my stripes again.”

Blind uses Advocaat’s opinion after every session. A quick word, a quick glance… Blind: “Advocaat has done all this before. He observes sharply and sees things I might miss, and vice versa. So we always have a quick chat after a certain practice. We need to work towards a new team and hierarchy and personality is important.”

van dijk janssen

As for Danny Blind and his job, a question was asked about the selection process…. Well, the answer is simple. Danny Blind is national team manager. He is end responsible for all decisions re: the first team. To even think a “panel” would be selecting players is a bit silly. As if Hiddink, Van Gaal, Van Marwijk etc would EVER accept this :-). You are being sacked because some panel decides to bring in a player you don’t want? No….

But, there is an advisory panel. It’s called the assistant coaching back room staff. People like Mourinho, Van Gaal and Hiddink would not want dominant people in there. So these coaches pick you ex-players with good insights but also happy to learn and take the second fiddle as we say. Less experienced coaches, like Gio van Bronckhorst, Frank de Boer, Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard usually pick experienced coaches as assistant. De Boer > Spijkerman, Gio > Jan Wouters, Frank Rijkaard > Henk ten Cate and now Danny is picking Dick Advocaat.

So, there’s probably not more than 30 players abroad of any substance. The Oranje youth scouts will have lists of young talents coming through. And there is the club coaches who are consulted. The Oranje staff will have around 60 players they follow on a week by week basis. Reports, footage etc. Once you’re “in” the system, the players communicate with Blind and co. via email on their fitness, nutrition, etc. And based on their performance and the feedback from coaches / scouts, Blind makes his decisions. Every Monday/Tuesday the coaches meet and discuss the performances of all players. They keep track of their findings and know exactly what stats are relevant to the players. Tackles, passes, forward passes, back passes, mistakes, etc.

oranje training poland


Blind picking Memphis for Oranje despite his lack of game time has everything to do with his status. He already is an Oranje player, he demonstrated before that he can perform (WC2014) and they probably feel there are no real rivals to Memphis on the left flank. Elia? Maybe. Locadia? Not really a left winger. Afellay? Not a left winger and not always effective in that role? Etc etc… Same with Van der Wiel. Janmaat not available? Tete not tested yet? Van der Wiel didn’t have a lot of game time with PSG when he was selected for the Iceland home game, but at least he has played big games for Ajax, PSG and Oranje and he’s fit. So why not use him instead of Karsdorp. Who never played big European games and mainly deals with left wingers of Groningen, NEC and Heracles….

In hindsight, it’s easy to criticise. But as Robben says above: desire and passion need to come from the players. Not the coach… It is like Rooney said it in the Cup Final post match interview: “I am grateful for the coach helping us to win this game.”

rooney lvg

Last word is for Van Gaal. It seems club icons like Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs are not happy with Mourinho coming in. These people all believed in the reason to bring in Sir Louis. To get Man U to play more exciting, to work on the youth academy and football philosophy. I think they all agreed that this Manchester United season was not great, but with 1) less injuries next season (Jones, Shaw, Schweini, Valencia) and 2) better players coming in for next season, all were convinced the club would go on the up and up. Sure, replacing Van Gaal is not necessarily a bad move, but replacing him Mourinho….? According to insiders, the corporate money men in the club want trophies, whereas the football people in the club want performances. Ronald Koeman, like many other Dutch icons like Blind, Frank de Boer and Van Hanegem, believe the way Van Gaal was sacked and left hanging for months was ManU-unworthy. “A disgrace, really. To read rumours for months, being left dealing with the media without support or honesty from the board is really bad conduct. No one deserves this, and most certainly not a seasoned coach like Van Gaal.”

Post Ireland presser by Danny Blind (in Dutch). Very funny, because at a certain point, the wall behind Blind collapses which results in the interviewer to say “Wow, the most exciting event of the evening!” 🙂

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Oranje in Irish Stew

A young and not so experienced Oranje – missing Sneijder, Vlaar, Van Persie, Huntelaar, Robben and Daley Blind – but with Kevin Strootman back as captain played their first friendly in pre-Euros warm up games vs the Republic of Ireland. With Ireland going to the Euros and Holland simply as sparring partner. In case you forgot :-).

Danny Blind playing a simple 4-3-3, with Strootman as holding mid, Bazoer on the right and Wijnaldum on the left of midfield.

Oranje started ok. Good passing, good possession and composure on the ball. Ireland allowed Holland the ball and was playing their counter game, with the quick Shane Long up front, probably how they envision they should play at the Euros.

blind ier cover


“There is the goal we need to play towards!!”

But, it has to be said, with all the possession, Holland didn’t create a lot. Or anything, really. There was lots of confidence on the ball and in particular Janssen had some good movement without the ball but the problem for Holland was the lack of pace in passing. Too many touches, and not enough depth on the wings. Jetro Willems had some good crosses from the left and was our most threatening player in the first half, with Promes dropping deep and Veltman not overlapping enough on the right. But the passes didn’t come quick enough. Janssen was available a lot, albeit market but Strootman and Bazoer had trouble finding Wijnaldum and the AZ striker while Depay was not offered a lot of space to work his magic.

In the last 15 minutes of the first half, Ireland came better into the game and they got their goal from a dangerous set piece. Van Dijk had lost O Shea and Long responded quickest after a half hearted clearance of Janssen and Cillesen, 1-0.


“Welcome back to the game, Kevin…”

In the final stages of the first half, Ireland could have had a second one from a setplay and the Irish started their second half strong, as Oranje started to look lethargic. Some good crosses from Memphis, and good battling in midfield by Strootman but no danger from the lions. Around the 65th minute Holland started to up the pace and some crisp passing resulted in some good pressure but no real chances. Actually, not a single shot on goal. Blind brough Berghuis for Memphis who added some direct play to the team, using his left foot to open up the game but this short spell of pressure ended after 15 minutes. Dost and later Luuk de Jong would come on (for Janssen and the invisible Wijnaldum) while the tired Strootman was subbed for Marco van Ginkel. But despite the fresh legs, Oranje didn’t create much. The best opportunity was a deep cross from Willems on Janssen at the far post who wanted to head it across the goal to the incoming Oranje players but the ball got blocked.

bruma ier

Bruma was skipper when Strootman was subbed

It seemed to end up a bloodless loss but with Luuk de Jong and Dost in a 4-4-2, with lots of aerial threat, the key for Oranje was to get the ball wide and cross the ball in. Berghuis cross from the right ended up with Promes in the 84th minute who allowed Willems to use his golden left foot. As Jetro has done so many times for PSV and Luuk de Jong, a measured curve ball into the box found the unmarked Luuk de Jong who didn’t give the Irish goalie a chance. One chance, one goal.

Enough of positives in this game for Blind, with Willems back to his old self. Although he’s only 21 years old of course. He played disciplined, never got in trouble and had a number of excellent balls in. Virgil van Dijk was a rock mostly, and Veltman found a new career as right back, although I rate Janmaat higher in an attacking sense and Tete in a defensive sense. Strootman, although rusty, showed his typical grit. Vincent Janssen, although hardly given any service, had great movement and desire. The jury is still not out on Memphis, Berghuis, Promes and Bazoer for me. Great talents but not decisive yet in their actions .I felt Bruma was not playing his best football, seemed to be outfoxed too easily in setpieces and looked too complacent at times. Luuk de Jong and Dost did what they had to do, as did Cillesen. Nothing spectacular from these players and Cillesen maybe should have done better on that O’Shea header that led to the goal.

stroot ier

Ireland impressed me. Good work rate, smart tactics, grit and desire. Players like Long, Arter, Whelan and Coleman are above average and if Leicester can upset the EPL maybe Ireland can surprise the bigger teams with their smart counter football. Who knows…

As for Oranje’s future, we need Memphis, Berghuis and Janssen to get some games under their belt on a higher level. I would also like to see Van Ginkel back in the EPL to further hone his craft. Give them time, give Strootman some time and let us hope Vlaar, Daley Blind, Janmaat, Robben and Sneijder will come back to the team in fighting fit form soon. With those players (and potentially De Vrij, Propper, Van Persie) we will be able to gel a good side together for the World Cup 2018 campaign….

luuk ierl

Skipper Strootman was happy and sad…. “Happy to have played. I felt good and my body didn’t experience a set back. But, I’n not happy because we didn’t play our best game. We worked hard in Portugal for certain patterns but we couldn’t get our game going. It was too slow and as a result the spaces were tight and we couldn’t reach each other. This needs to improve. At least we manage to score.”

Danny Blind was not satisfied. This was a disappointing game. We have so much football in our squad but we didn’t manage to get it going. I do wonder what the cause is. We worked well in training but we played under par. Too much loss of possession, even easy passes at times went astray. You need to pass crisp if you want to put pressure on. We will analyse and discuss this. We had players dribbling too long, we didn’t have enough surprises on the wings, it was too predictable..” Blind subbed Memphis after an hour. Again, the big promise was not delivered. “Well, he had a tough season. And you can tell from his game. He’s rusty, he doesn’t have the confidence… when you get in this situation, you need to play simple. I feel that Memphis is trying too hard. Wants to do special things when it’s not needed. But, he has so much qualities, I’m sure if will turn around for him. He is very talented and once his confidence returns and things start to work for him again, you’ll see him return to form.”

Asked if Blind was going to make big changes. “Well not big changes. We’ll play the football we want to play but we will change some personnel here and there, but that’s what this is for. I’ll definitely try some fresh legs.”

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World Cup 1994 USA and Oranje: success or disappointment?

Only 35 days to go!! And to warm us all up, some more venturing down memory lane. We’ve arrived at 1994. The US World Cup. That disappointing tournament. We were knocked out in the quarter finals and only Advocaat thought that to be a decent result.

What a deception this was, in particular for me ( most fans thought it was alright I guess). But this sort of got me off football for a while…

As a kid, I had to process losing as the Best Team in 1974 and losing because the powers-that-be wanted Argentina to win in 1978. In 1988 we finally won something only to screw it up massively in 1990.

In 1992, we regained some respect ( the Germany game, anyone?) in the EC Sweden and the World Cup in 1994 was supposed to be ours.


Because after the drama that was 1990 – in which megalomanic Michels picked Bully Beenhakker instead of JC – it seemed totally outrageous that the KNVB would ignore our Number 14 again!

So, we would go to the USA, with Johan as the coach, Tonny Bruins Slot as his scout and most likely Ron Spelbos and Wim Jansen as assistant coaches.

But no, the Federation determined. Cruyff is too high maintenance. He doesn’t accept KNVB assistant Bert van Lingen as his right hand man. He wants to pick his own physios. He claims a lot of money. Fook ‘m.

Let’s pick Dick Advocaat. Hey… Advocaat…? Wasn’t he the assistant to Michels in 1992. Wow, what a coincidence, eh?

But wasn’t Advocaat lacking in the interpersonal skills? Isn’t choosing between Cruyff and Advocaat chosing between a 32 course dinner at El Buli in Rosas, Spain vs Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tallahassee? Didn’t Advocaat go for defensive football, whereas Jopie wants to attack, score goals and teach the world how to play soccer….eh….football?


Dick Advocaat got the job. Ruud Gullit walked. Not so much because of the Cruyff/Advocaat thing, but because Ruud felt Dickie wasn’t preparing correctly for the hot hot summer in the US ( Holland would play in Florida…) and because he felt he wasn’t used well. The big star and leader Gullit wasn’t treated the way he felt he should be and he saw the signs on the wall.

advo gullit

Press conference where Gullit announces to leave the Oranje camp

Holland would land in the US and had to play its games at not the best of times, temperature wise. The hydration was a problem and Holland played horrible group games. The first was against Saudi Arabia in Washington DC.

Advocaat used these players:

Ed de Goey
Ulrich van Gobbel   Frank Rijkaard    Ronald Koeman   Frank de Boer
Jan Wouters  Wim Jonk  Ronald de Boer
Marc Overmars (58″  Taument)  Dennis Bergkamp  Bryan Roy (81′  van Vossen)

Saudi Arabia scored the first goal after 18 minutes and the sluggish Oranje had severe trouble finding openings. Wim Jonk scored the equalizer after 50 minutes and sub Gaston Taument found the net with his head 4 minutes before the end of the game after a goalkeeper mistake.

For the second game, we played our big rivals Belgium. And it was quite a strong Belgium too with Preud’Homme (who would coach FC Twente later on), Staelens, Degryse, Scifo and Grun. Oranje lost that game, 1-0 thanks to an Albert goal. Holland got 5 yellows and the fact that Bergkamp and Witschge were on the receiving end says enough. Van Gobbel was replaced by Stan Valckx and goal scorer Taument got a starting position at the expense of Overmars.

So Holland lost one and won one. The last game was against Morocco in Orlando. Holland had to win. And did.

Dennis Bergkamp and Bryan Roy made sure of it, but it was still close: 2-1. This time around, Van Vossen and Overmars started with Roy and Taument being subs. Van Vossen’s dribble on the left allowed Bergkamp to score while the Menace did the same later for Roy. But what a dreadful game again…

But…we progressed and played Ireland in the 16th Round. Ireland had Bonner, Whelan, Keane, Townsend and McGrath. Advocaat played Overmars and Van Vossen again, while Wim Jonk was increasingly becoming the leader on the pitch. Ed de Goey had impressed in the group stages and was key in keeping Holland in the competition against Morocco and Belgium. In the hot American summer, Wouters and Koeman clearly struggled to keep their mojo going. Bergkamp and Jonk both scored in Orlando and the nation hoped the tournament would now really start.

A good first half and a nail biting second half with pressure but not tremendously good football from Ireland.

Oranje started to find some traction and got ready for the quarter finals against Brazil, the surefire fave of this World Cup with former PSV striker Romario, Deportivo striker Bebeto, Dunga and former AC Milan star and coach Leonardo… And a bloke called Branco.

Up to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas:

So, Oranje reached the quarters and plays what would become a classic World Cup match. It would also be Ed de Goey’s last. Whether it has to do with Brazil’s third goal or with his club form, legend Edwin van der Sar would get the nod after this World Cup.

The fans at home were disappointed. Losing against Brazil can always happen, but the quality of Holland’s games was poor. A better result at group stages could have meant we would meet Brazil later. Dick Advocaat played and plays defensive football and never demonstrates the bravado and gung-ho we all like to see from a Dutch coach.

When he returned at Schiphol he was proud that his team was among the best 16 teams in the world, and that was enough for most fans to change channels disgustedly…

This USA World Cup would go into the history books of the only World Cup of which the qualification games were more exciting than the actual World Cup matches (bar the Brazil game).

Qualification on Wembley, 1993: England – Oranje, 2-2

At home in De Kuip: Oranje – England: 2-0

Another factoid: The World Cup 1994 is the start of Bergkamp’s fear of flying…. But that is a story for later…

I wasn’t happy to be exited vs Brazil but at the WC 2014, we might get the same result. If we get through the group, we actually might face Brazil again…

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The Big Ruud Gullit Interview (Pt 2)

Gullit current girlfiend

Ruud happy now with his current Mexican girlfriend

And we pick it up with Ruud, talking about the 1996 Euro in England. Another tournament where Holland seem to implode due to infighting.

In 1996, Edgar Davids was sent home by Guus Hiddink. What do you think was the core of the problem?

Ruud Gullit: “I was in England in 1996, but I haven’t seen it from the inside of course. It was an Ajax thing that seeped into Oranje. It wasn’t even between coloured and white lads, but between young and old. But the media turned it into a racist thing, as all the youngsters were coloured lads. And sure, the chef of Oranje didn’t know how to make Suriname food and all that but they key was that lads like Reiziger, Seedorf, Davids got paid way less than Blind, De Boer and other older Ajax players. The gap between young and old was huge. And Ajax had told the youngsters they should be proud to be playing for Ajax. That really hurt them. And I think they were also hurt that their skipper and other players didn’t support them. And they carried it with them and took it into Oranje.”

We don’t seem to learn from this?

“Yep, it’s a Dutch thing. We can’t help ourselves and we want to give our opinion all the time. I remember in Italy people having enormous trouble with that. Hierarchy is a big thing there. In Italy, players listened to the coach. And suddenly, there were three Dutchies asking Sacchi all the time “Why?”. He told us to come to his office if we had something to discuss. They simply don’t like that. They call us the professors of football in other countries. Because we are so hardheaded and know-it-alls. In England they told me: “You believe you invented football”. And I always say “But we did!”. Hahaha, look at those faces… But that mentality has given us a lot in the world. In sports, in business, in engineering… But we do forget that in other countries they think we are too direct, too blunt… But you see it in the way we want to play football. A bit naive, too attacking and too open. But our reputation abroad is superb. Look at how that trip to China and Indonesia went. Amazing. And Glenn Hoddle called me up recently. He is doing radio shows at the BBC now. Wanted to talk how Dutch youth development could help English football. That is a huge compliment.”

gullit chelsea

 Gullit winning the FA Cup at Chelsea with Di Matteo


How do you see the current Oranje squad?

“I like what Van Gaal is doing. It’s fun to watch Oranje again. I like it how the experienced lads need to fight for a spot. That is good. This mix of young and old is good for Oranje. Van Gaal has seen it well. But, with beautiful football alone you can’t win prizes. Ask Arsene Wenger.”

According to Van Gaal, there are eight other nations with more chances to win the World Cup than Holland. Do you agree?

“It’s a smart move by him. He’s covering himself a bit against huge expectations. And It’s probably realistic. Lots of players in the squad lack international experience. Playing against the opponents we had in the qualification series is not the same as playing Portugal, Columbia, Argentina or Italy. I don’t think we are without chances, but i don’t think we are amongst the faves. But Louis is an expert and he knows how to get the maximum from a group. And in 1988, we were not that seasoned. I just had one season in Italy, like Marco. Frank had a weird season. Koeman and Wouters were still in Holland, so was Vanenburg.”

Only the Koeman bros, Wouters and Van Basten are active as head coach. Why so few?

“I think most of them tried. Van Tiggelen, Vanenburg… I think Muhren always wanted to work with youth and Van Aerle never had the ambition but everyone has his own story. I mean Wouters… Come on… Great story. I always knew he would be a great coach. But that first job at Ajax was simply bad timing. He was revered at Rangers and seemed to be a good assistant more than head coach. But look at him now. Koeman is doing well at Feyenoord, after some difficult stints. You need some luck sometimes.”

When did you feel acknowledged as a good coach?

“Whoa, that was way back with Chelsea. We won the FA Cup. A big thing in England. I narrowly missed the cup final with Newcastle and with Feyenoord. People forget that. People tend to remember the last thing you did.”

Grozny… Not a great memory?

“Well, I do like to do left field, unexpected things, you know. People criticised my move to Grozny but I couldn’t care less. I am my own man. And it was quite a wonderful experience.”

Gullit Galaxy

Gullit with Becks at LA Galaxy



Do clubs find you with offers?

“Well, it’s a bit quiet, to be honest. I haven’t done great as a coach. I know this. And in all honesty, I don’t really profile myself as a coach, these days. I do have a score to settle with myself on that count. If a good club would come for me, I’d certainly consider it. But it’s not a must. I don’t need to prove myself to the outside world or anything. The key criterion is: will I enjoy doing this and is it a challenge. Because I love my life as it is now too.”

So what does an average week for Ruud Gullit look like?

“It doesn’t exist, haha. I travel a lot. My girlfriend lives abroad. I do analysis work for Sky Sports in England and Germany and I have several commercial gigs all over the place. My whole life I am offered interesting jobs, I enjoy that.”

Last year, the public saw you as an alternative to Louis van Gaal. National team manager. How did you experience that?

“I was very happy with that lobby. And it was the public, but also some influential media people (Johan Derksen, for one). It was a change from the way people approach me normally. People are highly critical of my career as a coach, as discussed, but still they could see my potential value as national coach. I was ridiculed for my work with Grozny and my private life was a mess ( Estelle Cruyff, Ruud’s wife had a public affair with a fighting champ and left Gullit). And then this candidate thing happened. It really touched me deeply. I have no idea where that suddenly came from. People did care about me and what I do. And then, I was asked to become the ambassador for the Rijksmuseum. I can still feel the emotions coming up thinking about those days. Those are big things for me.”

You need that acknowledgement?

“Maybe yes. The national team manager job is the highest job in football in Holland. And the Rijksmuseum is a key player in the cultural and historical realm of Holland. I am proud and grateful. When I told about all this in the tv program “De Wereld Draait Door” I could see later how I beamed with glee. That is something I hadn’t seen for years. For years, I couldn’t watch myself on tv. I found myself annoying. I didn’t see a happy man. Now, all is different.”

gullit married

Ruud marrying Johan’s niece Estelle. Didn’t end good.


But you appear to be so detached and relaxed?

“Well, I do feel the criticism. And now I feel like I can have some worth again. I remember that first official event for the museum. Queen Beatrix was there and suddenly someone comes up to me asking me if I had time for a talk with the Queen!! I was on Cloud Nine. I can’t remember a single word I uttered to her. I was so overwhelmed.”

If you look back…things you would have done differently? Any coaching activities you regret?

“No, none of that. I enjoyed all of them in a funny way. The criticism I received was always political. At Newcastle, they said I was shopping in Amsterdam. I have been working like this for many years. When I was successful at Chelsea, no one cared. At Newcastle, others made it into a problem to serve their agenda. I worked 4 days a week. That was my deal. I had field trainers and we worked well together. At Feyenoord, I may have relied too much on certain people in the organisation who were not too effective. In LA, well… It’s another culture. Football in the US… the travel, the sponsors… It’s hard to remain true to yourself. No my biggest regret in my career is not a coaching one, but was the World Cup 1994. I mean, we sadly missed 1986, then we had that horrific 1990 one. The 1994 World Cup was my last chance. And I really really really wanted to perform there. But yet again, the KNVB had bypassed Cruyff. For reasons we now only laugh about. Today, team managers are being paid top dollar. Back in the 90s, Cruyff wanted a decent salary. He was at Barca back then and demanded a similar sort of deal, for those two months.. And he wanted to pick his own staff. Of course!! He wouldn’t work with people who didn’t share his vision. Anyway, KNVB stifles it, picks Advocaat. Now, I don’t have anything against Dick. But when they didn’t get the message about the heat in Florida… The medical staff at Samp and Milan (Ruud was at Samdoria and returned to AC Milan that summer) were adamant about how to prepare for this. I discussed this with the staff and Dick and they sort of ridiculed it. Dick was also flippant about my role in the team. Said I had to prove myself. Was I still fast enough as a winger… I felt disrespected. I couldn’t get excited. I felt vulnerable. And I couldn’t face another debacle. Looking back at that World Cup campaign, with a bit more power, we could have won it. Brazil was not that great a team. Neither was Italy. We had exciting young lads in Bergkamp, Winter, Taument… I also should not have returned to AC Milan that summer. Another regret. But, making mistakes is not bad. It always brings you new things. Not doing anything, that is not good. But I am grateful that I always took risks…”

Gullit 94


Advocaat and Gullit at press conference where Gullit announces to leave the World Cup 1994 squad

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Ajax dominates, PSV and Feyenoord choke….

The Eredivisie has been called the Mickey Mouse competition since before Walt Disney got the inspiration to draw the black mouse, it seems… But the so-called Big Leagues have lost some of its glory this season for me.

Bayern Munich, Man United and Barca were surefire champions on Boxing Day already, it seemed. While two weeks ago, five clubs in Holland were still battling for the title.

Sadly, however, Ajax has shown it’s men against boys in Holland. In the last weeks of the competition, the business end, Ajax demonstrates it wants it. Badly. While Feyenoord succumbed under pressure (physically and mentally) while PSV disgracefully disappoints. So much so that Mark van Bommel considers throwing in the towel and retiring.

What is going well in Amsterdam can clearly be summarized in three words: Frank de Boer. Sure, his assistants Dennis Bergkamp and Hennie Spijkerman (and Carlo L’Ami) will have an impact, just like Overmars and Van der Sar do great things in their suits and the Ajax scouting is able to find the talent, etc etc.

But to take all these great ingredients and to mix it all up into a winning team for three seasons in a row is quite a feat. And all that in non-matching clothes to boot! All Ajax staff wears the formal Ajax costume, bar head coach Frank de Boer who has his own personal fashion sponsor…. Something for Dick Advocaat to consider. He was still wearing his Russia National Team jacket in the PSV dug out….

Back to the field.

PSV – Ajax was a match between a team that really wanted it and a team that felt it merely deserved it.

PSV has spent millions on attacking talent in the last seasons. Matavz, Mertens, Narsingh, Lens, Wijnaldum and with Strootman and Van Bommel in midfield it seemed PSV would have all the ingredients to start winning titles again.

But someone in Eindhoven forgot you do need good defenders too. Scoring a lot is not a problem for the PSV team. But conceding a lot is doing them in.

Seasoned coach Dick Advocaat couldn’t find the right tone with his team. Where Ajax, Feyenoord and Vitesse are working with a coach that can relate to the 20 year olds, PSV decided to go for the veteran coach who is renowned for his “gun for hire” mentality. In a recent interview, he said “don’t expect me to go and check out a PSV youth team. Can’t be bothered…”. No wonder the spark was gone after a while.

Some old PSV icons, who are still involved at the club formally or informally (like Hans van Breukelen, Wim Kieft and others) are moving towards a coup in Eindhoven. Maybe not JC style so much, but the ex-players believe general manager Tiny Sanders is to blame.

Most pundits expect a different PSV next season anyway. Dries Mertens, Kevin Strootman, Ola Toivonen and Jermaine Lens will have moved on, while new coach Phillip Cocu will most likely replace a number of average players wearing the PSV jersey ( Hutchinson, De Rijck).

That will most likely improve the situation in PSV a bit, as the vibe in the dressing room has deteriorated. As Willem van Hanegem said in his column, he had heard from well-informed sources that most players were busy checking the American NBA results after their defeat against Ajax. He also heard that Mark van Bommel was most keen to put his studs not in an Ajax leg, but in Hutchinson’s for his continuous mistakes.

And Advocaat was heard muttering about Pieters’ mistake till late in the night. “What can I do, if an international defender like Pieters allows Boerrigter an open road to goal like this???”.

Van Hanegem went on to criticise Feyenoord too. He did not see a Feyenoord fighting for its last chance, against RKC. “Where is club love?” he muttered. “Should these guys fight till they can’t get up anymore, even if just for the fans who pay their high salaries?”. A often heard complaint by the Feyenoord legend. Ronald Koeman could only agree. “I still get tears in my eyes when I think how Duits was allowed to steam up into our defence. No one responded!”

The Feyenoord coach believes the selection of some of his youngsters this season for Oranje has not helped his quest.

All in all, Ajax is simply the best (again) this season.

Frank de Boer must be complimented for his work and Ajax fans will lose sleep this summer, as many European clubs will vie for his services, without a doubt. De Boer said “no” to Liverpool last season but what will he say if AC Milan, Barcelona or Manchester City comes to chat?

He earlier on said, he’d want an Alex Ferguson career at Ajax, so maybe it will all be well after all.

The man who helped Vermeer, Siem de Jong and Blind into Oranje and has made Christian Eriksen into one of Europe’s hottest midfielders will most likely see Dennis Bergkamp move to Arsenal. His successor is known already, what with Jaap Stam coming to the Arena, while Fons Groenendijk is also a highly respected coach in Amsterdam.

Ajax Godfather Johan Cruyff was pleased to see Ajax’ progress. “The performance can still be improved. It wasn’t great all the time. But the mentality was great. And Ajax has moved from “it’s nice to play good” to “we have to play good”. Frank de Boer is the right coach for Ajax. He made three changes and all three changes were aimed at winning the game. He didn’t make them because of PSV’s actions. It was not reactive, but pro-active. Things are looking up. Financially, the club is doing ok and winning the title this year again will help tremendously.”

Frank de Boer is one of the few players of a golden generation who is capable of transcending his passion as a player into his coaching. It took Jan Wouters a long while to find his mojo, while Rijkaard, Van Basten and Koeman had a hot-cold career so far.

It’s officially too early to congratulate the Sons of Gods, but their demonstration of will in the PSV-Ajax game clearly makes them the only club deserving of the title this season. And with a bit more luck in the draw next season (and Adam Maher for Christian Eriksen who will most likely move away from Amsterdam), the Champions League might prove to be a good platform for Ajax anyway…

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Year of Truth for PSV

PSV seemed to join the ranks of Dutch behemoths Ajax and Feyenoord over the last 15 years with a huge string of titles. The last years, however, PSV had to allow two non-Top-Three clubs (Twente and AZ) to snatch the title while Ajax won it twice in a row now.

Fred Rutten had to make way, just like 95% of the squad was renewed over the last two years. The designer behind this renovation is Marcel Brands. With Martin van Geel (ex Willem II, ex AZ, ex Ajax and currently Feyenoord) the most “visible” of technical managers in the Dutch Eredivisie. And like Van Geel, he has a history as a player in the Feyenoord jersey (Van Geel also played for Ajax).

Brands succeeded Van Geel when the latter left AZ for Ajax and PSV was happy to snatch the former Feyenoord and RKC midfielder to reconstruct the PSV squad.

You used to be able to find cheap players with a lot of potential, but at PSV it is as if you are throwing big money to young and coming talent?

Marcel Brands: “That has to do with the club where you work. At AZ, we had less means. We had to buy smart. PSV has a higher yard stick. We want to win titles and play along in the CL. This means you have the buy quality. And quality costs more money. At PSV, we need players who can immediately settle in. We used to get players for the future, like Stef Nijland, but that doesn’t work here. Jetro Willems is an exception. He was signed for the C team and immediately made his way in. But players like Narsignh and Wijnaldum are players who are expected to deliver immediately.”

Narsingh was also on Ajax’ hit list. Did you outbid them?

MB: “No. He could make more in Amsterdam. He simply wanted to play for PSV. That is a strong factor, which is often overlooked. We wanted to sign Sighthorsson as well, last year but he picked Ajax. Not because we didn’t offer enough. But because he always dreamed of playing for Ajax. You can’t fight that.”

Don’t you fear that clubs will make use of the fact that PSV is willing to pay top dollar?

MB: “But we aren’t. We set the norm for players. If a club doesn’t want to negotiate, we walk away. We wanted Moisander from AZ, last year. They over-asked and we walked. Same with Jorgensen from Kopenhagen. We are prudent, even though out budget is bigger than other clubs.”

Proof that Brands played for Feyenoord ( standing in the mid row, next to Martin van Geel)

So you changed the squad and technical staff over two seasons. Is this the Year of Reckoning for PSV?

MB: “You can name it what you want, haha. The point is that we have certain expectations. And sometimes, the media share this opinion and then they proclaim us to be the title favorites. But you can only know if this is reasonable when you’re a couple of weeks into the new season. Players need to settle, tactics need to fit, etc. Once it’s August 31, the market closes and it’s up to the coach to work with the material.”

The current squad has three PSV talents (Depay, Locadia and van Ooijen) in it. Is that satisfactory?

MB: “We are starting to see talents. I am satisfied about the progression. We can also see it in the Oranje youth teams. We didn’t have starters in those youth teams. We have more and more starters now. We have some huge talents in Eindhoven.”

Were you shocked by the level of the PSV Academy when you came here in 2010?

MB: “The density of talents in Eindhoven is less than Amsterdam or Rotterdam. That is fact. Plus, our competitors spend much more than we do on their Academy. Viktor Fischer of Ajax, has cost them 1,4 Mio euros! We have never paid a fee like that for a youth player! We only invested 700k euros per year on the whole academy! So, the low return is not that strange, considering those facts.”

PSV had a tremendous number of Belgian talents in the youth academy. None of them ever made it through?

MB: “I know. Belgium is part of our service area. It’s only 30 car minutes and you’re in Belgium. But we have now deployed the rule that the further a talent lives, the better he needs to be. We have three quality levels (A, B, C) and players who live further away, like in Belgium, need to be A-level players. We now have a Belgium player in our midst, 16 year old Bakkali, who is definitely A-team quality.”

It was quite a battle to keep him in Eindhoven, right?

MB: “Yes it was. That is today’s football world. Someone from Anderlecht simply stood at the door of Bakkali, to try and get him to sign. And one day before we would sign our contract with him, some unlicensed agent invited him to come and see a Manchester City match. Man City!! The lad is only just 16. Luckily he was strong enough to ignore these people. But there is only so much you can do. We hope to be able to keep a good relationship with the kids’ parents. They are the ones that can be counted on, to take the wellbeing of the kid into account. But, we lost Perreira, who went to Man United. He was 16 years old and it was his dad who forced this move…so…”

Jetro Willems

And now, PSV sold two players to the two Sevilla clubs and is owed 5 Mio euros. Which are not forthcoming…

MB: “this happened before my time. I don’t know all the facts. It’s the Spanish federation that is at fault. In Holland, Germany or England this would never happen. When at AZ, I sold Medunjanin to Valladolid. For 450k. We’d get half in cash at signing and half a year later. That second half was never paid, but Valladolid sold him on to Tel Aviv for 600k and still AZ didn’t get paid. That is just crazy… Only in Spain.”

Remarkable, Dick Advocaat had allowed you to cut away a full time equivalent in his staff? He only works for Ernest Faber and sometimes Cocu as assistant?

MB: “That is result of Dick’s philosophy. He doesn’t want to work with line-coaches. One for attack, one for midfield and one for defence. He rather has one assistant for the whole week, than 3 assistants for 2 days in the week. We also want to invest more in youth academy coaches.”

When is PSV able to invest in a serious way in youth?

MB: “That has to do with our CL qualifications. Once we get acces to the CL, the income stream will increase and we can make some delayed investments. We are still making investments. Narsingh is one example. But we also invested in a heated practice pitch, we renovated the the first floor of the main stands…we do what we can.”

Dickie, always happy to save PSV some money…

PSV also wanted to decrease wages cost in the A-squad. Did that happen?

MB: “Yes, we have a salary cap. 1 million euros gross and no one is paid beyond. When I started here, we had 7 players above that level.”

And suddenly we here in Eindhoven that the title must be won. Must?

MB: “Yes, that is Dick Advocaat for ya. He is the one articulating the objectives loud and clear. THis is also the difference between Rutten and Advocaat. Advocaat is not happy when he doesn’t win anything. Our squad is ready, we have experience and talent in all lines. We are ready.

In the first weeks of the Dutch competition, the hand of Advocaat is not yet too visible.

He has had his run ins with big name players such as Mertens and Wijnaldum and he has also put Matavz and Narsingh on the shame bench. Matavz was too heavy and Narsingh didn’t deliver enough.

Advocaat means business, but he still needs to rule out the lack of consistency of his team.

Dickie: “So I said to De Kromme… I have ball this big! I will demonstrate it to you. In the second half, I’ll sub Robben!”

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Let's take Europe seriously!

This midweek saw our top clubs – sans Ajax of course, as they are qualified to play CL – compete for a spot in the Europa League group stages.

And bar PSV, they all disappointed.

Heerenveen played away against Molde in Denmark and lost 2-0, playing tremendously lacklustre. Coach Van Basten was furious after the game and needs to make sure his team starts to respond to his coaching.

FC Twente, so successful in the EL in recent years, lost away against Bursaspor with 3-1 despite being 0-1 up at half time. AZ, impressive last season, lost in Moscow to Hiddink’s Anzhi.

PSV had no problems “owning” Montenegro’s Zeta, winning 0-5 away. A record score for PSV in Europe, but hardliner Dick Advocaat was not impressed: “If you look at the chances we had, we should have won this 0-8, at least. We are too easily satisfied.”

Feyenoord played Sparta Prague, a strong opponent, and the visitors were 0-2 up at half time after an insecure and spineless first half of the hosts. Playmaker Jordy Clasie was man marked during the game and it took center half Martins Indi – yet again – to lead the comeback of the Rotterdam team in the second half, with Nelom scoring with a distance strike and sub Anass Achahbar scoring in the dying seconds with a sweet backheel flick. The Kuip stadium exploded, with Feyenoord at least having a chance to progress.

And Feyenoord is the last team in Holland to win a European cup. Led by Bert van Marwijk and skippered by Paul Bosvelt. Feyenoord beat PSV, Glasgow Rangers, Freiburg and Inter Milan until defeating Borussia Dortmund in the finals.

But it appears that the Europa League doesn’t hold any priority for PSV, AZ, Feyenoord and Twente, who will all rest certain players for the Eredivisie games, as these clubs focus on a position in the top 2 ( giving them a chance to play CL football). Paul Bosvelt has difficulty stomaching this position.

“Last year, with Twente vs Schalke 04, Mc Claren rested 5 starters for this game. Twente was focused on winning the title and didn’t want to give it all for the EL. Unbelievable. This strategy led to nothing. I never understood this “resting” tactics.”

“I think it’s naive, to do that. We are the only nationality to think in those terms. You need to be able to focus on more than one goal. It’s not “either or” but “and and”. This is how the big teams and the big players think. I never wanted to rest. I wanted to play! Players need to be fit, so they can play 50 games. If you play European games midweek, train less. And give it your all. If you fail, too bad. There’s always next year. But you have to go for it. You have to believe in it.”

Bosvelt was the last skipper to hold up a European cup for a Dutch club. “We didn’t start out that season thinking we’d win it. Of course not. Our group was fairly strong. When we came out we knew we had to play at least 4 massive opponents. But Rangers was doable. PSV always is doable. And Inter Milan is normally too strong for us, but once in a series of 10 games, you can win it. And you need to make sure you play that one unique game. And if you reach the finals, anything goes…”

Do you believe Feyenoord didn’t have the faith against Kiev. “I didn’t like the mentality I saw. They played as if Kiev was Barcelona or Chelsea. All that respect. Why? They didn’t need to lose against Kiev. But they want to be the underdog in Rotterdam. Always moaning about lack of funds or needing a striker. If you talk like that, lack of confidence will enter the picture. And you saw it: two players free before the goalie and they miss. It’s a mental thing. You need to be able to be 100% in the game, in Europe. We seem to lose games on mental grounds. You saw it at the Euros too. It’s part of our game. Twente lost many games in the last minutes. That is not a coincidence. This is where we need to work on.”


“By realising it. By discussing it. By using these examples and making them debatable. And by adapting to the rhythm. If you play on Wednesday, you simply train less but you use the top name players. You need to take the European competition seriously. Sometimes it seems like we are too weak, too junior. If Feyenoord plays Kiev, we have a lad like De Vrij in the back four, they have four night club bouncers. I don’t think money is an issue. I think preparation, mental coaching, focus, those things are key. Wanting it more than the others.”

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