Tag: Hendrix

Oranje’s future: Steven Bergwijn

Last time Ronald Koeman called up Holland’s best players, Steven Bergwijn wasn’t part of it. The youngster was flabbergasted. But Koeman felt he was needed for Young Oranje, while the seniors had players like Promes, Babel and …eh… Vormer… Bergwijn didn’t say anything untoward, but ended up canceling his Jong Oranje match due to an “injury”.

I don’t think Koeman will make that mistake again.

Steven Bergwijn has demonstrated yet again, in the first matches of this season, that he is a talent to be reckoned with. Probably in the same category as Memphis Depay. PSV this season has a perfect score (not taking into account the thrashing vs Barca). But the attacking intentions of coach van Bommel are clear: 6 goals vs Willem II, 7 against ADO Den Haag, 3 against Ajax… PSV is on a roll!

Bergwijn: “There is a good and positive vibe in this squad. The technical staff is responsible for this. And everyone is happy with this coach. Van Bommel talks to all the players and all players feel they’re part of it. But Van Bommel is no softie, he can be very strict and clear in what he expects. They’re open but also very serious when they need to be.”

The Ajax game last week was a special one for Bergwijn (and for Pablo Rosario). Both players started their youth career in Amsterdam with Ajax and both were basically told they weren’t right for Ajax. “I am no longer concerned with that, it’s been a while now. I left Ajax behind me. Sure, it’s going to be a super to play agains them, as it was last season when we won the title against them, hahaha. But other than that, no hard feelings.”

“But Ajax, they will always be good, always have great players. But so do we. And you need to with all these matches in the different competitions. And we have a tough group with the CL right? But I’m cheering inside. I mean, you wanna play at the top of your game, well… Barca, Spurs, Inter… there you have it. You can’t complain man, it’s awesome. I think people see us as the underdog. Fine. We’ll show them on the pitch.”

The match vs Barca was special for Bergwijn. His big idol was on the pitch: Lionel Messi. Once, Bergwijn was on  holiday in Spain and happened to be going to a Barca match with his dad, his uncle and little brother. And they ended up in the same hotel as Barcelona. “Not only that, in those days to get some internet, the players had to rely on the business centre in those hotels. And I was there with my brother, when Messi and other Barca players walked in to check some stuff online. Ha, so I got my first picture with him, and now we’re in the same group in the Champions League. How cool!”

The youngster is already one of the key players in this PSV. Last season, he had to wait for Locadia to move on and for Lozano and De Jong to allow Steven a place in the sun. “Last season, I was playing in service of them, this season we’re all similar I suppose, in terms of hierarchy. And the expectations are higher now, sure. But that is cool, I want that. I need to defend more now, as we play more dominant and higher up the pitch, so I have a role to play when we lose possession. I defend more, but still, run less yards, as we are so high up.”

Usually, when a player like Bergwijn breaks into the first team, the bigger clubs in Europe start to circle. But Bergwijn won’t leave PSV for any amount under 20 Mio euros. Last season, Bordeaux had the check book out and this summer Arsenal, Tottenham and PSG have enquired about Steven’s contract status. “That’s nice, it gives me confidence but I haven’t thought about leaving, not one second. I want to stay here, I won’t go for the quick buck. When I keep on developing, the money will follow. I want to be important for PSV, score a lot of goals, play well in the CL and make my mark in Oranje. I can develop and grow here. I recently extended my deal until 2022 and that gives me peace and quiet in my head. I don’t think anyone expects me to stay until the end, to be honest, and I have a plan moving forward, but for now it’s all PSV. I want to make a move at some stage, but I want to enter a new club with some status. At PSV, I will make my minutes, play for trophies and play in Europe. So I am not in a hurry to leave now and end up on the bench. But yes, one day…Spain or England….”

Bergwijn is seen as a new super talent and experts and analysts all are in agreement, this lad will go far. He’s got the skills but also the power. He’s explosive, doesn’t shun the hard work and is a beast on the training pitch. “This summer I had two weeks of nothing and I got bored senseless. I called my uncles and decided to start training. I won’t do a lot of weights though, I don’t want to bulk up, that is not good. But core stability training and a lot of boxing.”

All is going well for Steven, but there is a dark spot on his heart and he is keen to talk about it when he can. Abdelhak Nouri, the Ajax talent who sadly ended up in coma after his heart malfunction last year, was Steven’s best buddy. “We met at Ajax when we were little kids. And we were so close. And we still are. Life is quite hard since that dreadful day. I still talk to his brother every day. I guess I can handle it better now, but it’s still super tough. His parents tell me he is slowly improving. I pray every day, and believe in the power of the Lord. Appie always wanted for me what was best for me, and he is now also a silent motivator for me, I need to get everything out of my career, for him as well.”

Bergwijn has always been compared to Memphis. Not a fair comparison of course, but a logical one. Both are explosive, good dribblers, unpredictable and playing from the wing. Now, Memphis has had a fair share of developments (lessons) already, while Bergwijn only now seems to have the status of a key player for PSV.

His strengths…

Ball skills. Bergwijn has amazing ball skills, the ball is always on a string with him. There are not many players who are capable of taking a man on and leaving him behind to create a man more situation (like Arjen Robben can). This is a quality that is worth millions in football. It mostly makes the difference. And this is why Messi, C Ronaldo, Mo Salah and Eden Hazard are paid the big bucks. And why Memphis is currently the key man up front for Oranje. Bergwijn’s dribbles are testament to the fact he might well be our next key man up front!

Shooting qualities. Memphis was only 17 years old when Holland witnessed that sensational weapon that is his right foot. Memphis can place them, curl them, hit a rocket or hit a swirling ball. Bergwijn needs to work on his shooting technique. The stats show that Bergwijn is making good progress. In 2016/2017, he had a return of 5% (shots vs goals). In 2017/2018, that % went up to 11% and in this current season, he is already at 24%. So every fourth goal attempt is a goal. Only Klaas Jan Huntelaar does better ( 46%!!) while Bergwijn is in the same league as top players like Tadic, Van Persie and Lozano.

Tactical smarts. Players like Messi, Hazard and Griezmann are adept in finding the space in between the lines or in the half spaces. This is a skills Bergwijn still needs to work on. But he is developing well in that respect. A big plus for Bergwijn, he is happy to run in behind and get the ball in front of him, while most forwards in Oranje (but in general too) want the ball in their feet: Berghuis, Promes, Babel, Memphis… Kluivert and Bergwijn both love running without the ball, a very hard to defend weapon.

Eye for his team mates. Bergwijn is not an egotistical player but he can still improve here. Steven Berghuis for instance, created 22 chances for team mates, Robin van Persie 10. Tadic of Ajax, 17. Bergwijn is stuck at 7, one less than Luuk de Jong.

Mentality. Bergwijn is a young player who will make tactical mistakes, but lack of work ethics is not one of them. He was instrumental vs Ajax to keep Frenkie de Jong quiet for instance. Koeman will have enjoyed his game, and will have seen that Stevie is capable of fitting in the defensive shape and playing with his head, not just his feet.

It is highly likely that Bergwijn will be part of Koeman’s definitive squad this time around and make minutes for the senior Oranje, as Van der Looi already announced to select younger player for Young Oranje moving forward.


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Congrats to PSV and Feyenoord

Lots of developments again in Dutch football! Apologies for the late post again, just busy busy busy, but also lots of football to follow…

Can I say a big thank you first, to all of you contributing to this blog? I wish to thank all of you for keeping the discussion alive and lively but I also want to thank all the ones who have donated to the blog, to help me keep it in the air!! You know who you are (always seem to be the same ones by the way) and it’s very much appreciated… Very much!!

PSV and Phillip Cocu

I need to start with my least favorite team of the Top 3 in The Netherlands. I hardly ever do posts on PSV, but they deserve one now. They snatched up the title again and they were impressive this season. Not in terms of the beautiful game, but definitely in terms of winning games!

I am not a fan of PSV, but I am a big fan of Phillip Cocu. And it’s his title more than anything.

They lost a couple of key players (Guardado, Willems, Moreno, Propper and later on Locadia) and they started the season terribly, with the exit in Europe. But PSV kept their cool and allowed Cocu to fix it. And he did. He switched the system up, with a change in the midfield set-up (Guardado was the lone holding mid, now PSV has two midfielder sitting in the holding role) and allowed his mercurial forwards Lozano and Bergwijn to do the job. Typical for a title winning team, the main striker Luuk de Jong re-discovered his mojo and was again important to the team.

Key players this season: Jeroen Zoet, Marco van Ginkel, Lozano, Bergwijn, Arias and De Jong, with a good supporting role for Hendrix.

Mark van Bommel on Phillip Cocu: “We shared a lot, Phillip and I. We played together at PSV and Oranje and we both played at Barcelona. I also did my apprentice training job with Phillip and I am totally impressed. As a player, you can learn from training set ups and from coaching decisions taken by your coach, and I have worked with some of the best of course. But you’re never in the room when the staff actually makes the decisions and how they come to these. In my apprentice role, I got that opportunity and I learned a lot from Cocu.”

Van Bommel on Cocu’s style. “We all know how he was as a player. He’s the thinking man’s guy isn’t he? Always smart, always in control and as a coach he’s also very analytical. He is more patient and controlled than me, but the key thing is: he’s always himself. Never impulsive, never in panic mode.”

Cocu has picked up his coaching career like he did his playing career: step by step. He started as a creative left winger at AZ, moved to Vitesse and at PSV was transformed into a leading midfielder. A big move to Barca was the result, where he played for 7 seasons, even earning the captain’s band. As a coach, he started as an assistant at Oranje and as youth coach with PSV.

Frank de Boer is probably Phillip’s best mate. The both of them worked together as assistants with Van Marwijk’s Oranje, in South Africa 2010. De Boer: “As a player, I was more vocal I think. And as a coach, I guess that hasn’t changed. Phillip is more the observer. But we think the exact same way about football and make no mistake: Phillip is a tough guy. He has the image of being “nice” but he’s a winner. As a player, he could hack you to the grass with a smile on his face. And as a coach, he’s no softie either. And he is strong in his confidence. I believe he has a broad football vision about how clubs should be run and he will go a long way, I’m sure.”

In five years with PSV, Cocu won 3 titles. No mean feat. His start wasn’t too great and in his first season he asked Hiddink to mentor him. Some people felt it was a sign of weakness. Now we know, it’s a sign of strength. He is stoic, can handle pressure really well and doesn’t get upset when the position on the table is not in sync with his expectations. He simply analyses the situation and deals with it.

De Boer: “Cocu has seen it all. He’s played World Cups, he played in full stadiums in Spain, he doesn’t get all nervous when things turn south. Like Gio van Bronckhorst and myself, we might have been inexperienced as coaches, but we’re independent and have all been through all the ups and downs. And we hate losing.”

PSV has had criticism for the lack of quality and entertainment. The midfield lacks the creativity of – say  – Ajax and AZ. Still, De Boer thinks Cocu gets the maximum out of his team. “You need to be realistic. If you don’t have the creative lads, you need to set up your team in such a way that the ones who are creative can get on the ball. Look at Liverpool, their most creative players are the forwards. So their midfield plays in service of those up front. It’s the same with PSV.”

PSV takes the second spot this season in terms of chances created, way in front of the much praised AZ team. Last season, when Feyenoord won the title, PSV had 64 attempts on goal more than the champs.

Cocu has ways to make sure his approach stays fresh, by introducing new approaches and keeping the squad fresh. Recently, young players like Paal, Schwaab and Bergwijn made their mark and several youngsters (Lammers, Mauro) are brought in to lighten things up, with Cocu working with mental coaches and yoga practices to shake things up.

The use-by-date of Cocu hasn’t been reached it seems, but the ambitious coach might look at making a move this summer. His successor is being groomed for the big job. Former team mate Mark van Bommel seems to be the man.

Feyenoord and AZ: Gio vs John van de Brom

The Dutch Cup Final was supposed to be an interesting affair. AZ Alkmaar received most compliments this season for the quality of their football and the rise of several young players (Til, Koopmeiners, Stengs) and the terrific progress of Weghorst and Jahanbaksh (Iran’s Salah). But, compliments are not trophies. And AZ failed to win against a top 3 team for yonks. In this cup final, many were convinced, AZ would play Feyenoord of the pitch. AZ’s form and confidence were sky-high while Feyenoord struggled to the finish line, this season. Sure, injuries, new players and a tough CL group will not have helped, but finishing 4th in the Eredivisie means Feyenoord’s season was a disappointment.

And what happened? Well, the game disappointed. Tough to watch. And this time the fault lies with AZ. Feyenoord doesn’t swing this season, but knows how to play big games and has players (Van Persie, Vilhena, El Ahmadi, Jorgensen) who can rise above their average based on their grit and pure class. AZ however, started the game already 0-1 behind. Coach Van de Brom decided to abandon his winning tactics and swagger by going 5-3-2. Mercurial signing Idrissi (developed at Feyenoord) was left out of the team and Ricardo van Rhijn was brought in as the 5th defender. AZ was scared. Cautious. And decided to adapt to the – this season – weaker Stadium club. AZ never controlled the game, allowed Feyenoord the initiative, and Feyenoord scored first. When the 2-0 was on the board (Van Persie super goal), Van de Brom decided to go back to 4-3-3. Too little too late. Van de Brom confirmed why he’s not top coach material and AZ left the pitch with a 3-0 defeat. Another Cup Final gone for AZ. And with Weghorst, Jahanbaksh and potentially more players leaving this summer, it seems AZ needs to rebuild again.

Elsewhere, Memphis Depay is making the headlines in his new striker role in the 4-4-2 of Lyon, while Van Dijk and Wijnaldum might be on their way to the CL Finals and Cillesen dazzled with a pre-assist in the Spanish cup final for Barca.

Slowly the new Oranje can be seen developing, with De Ligt, De Vrij and Van Dijk more and more established as European top defenders. Throw in full backs like Hateboer, Karsdorp, Tete, Van Aanholt and Willems, and forwards like Memphis, Berghuis/wijn, and Promes and a midfield with Van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Wijnaldum and Blind and our future is looking better and better. And partly, thanks to Van de Brom too… With prospects like Til, Stengs and Koopmeiners knocking on Koeman’s door as well.


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Dutch football debacles continue: Ajax out of CL!

It has been quite a disappointing week – again – for Dutch football. Not a good way to start a Dutch Football Blog. Our disappointing Euro summer was even compounded with disgraceful antics at the Olympics in Rio. Not so much athletes being drunk, or orgies at the Olympic village or coaches groping young boys… But the Dutch mission chief; first sending gymnastics gold medal candidate Yuri van Gelder home after he decided to spend a night on the town with his girlfriend and missing a training session…as if this athlete (world champion) doesn’t know what he’s doing… And then this moron sent all the “losing” athletes home prior to the closing event, on what he deemed “the loser flight”. Taking away their once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the Olympics Closing Ceremony. People who train four years or more for their big event, who already were disappointed with missing any trophy. To put insult to injury, “our” Chief decided to punish them further by sending them home, like little kids! The Dutch sports fans are irate (as I am) and nothing is done about it of course.


We also saw money grabbing Dick Advocaat leaving the Oranje camp, for some extra euros in Turkey and when the KNVB approached Ruud Gullit to take Dick’s place in the backroom staff, he happily said “he would love to be of support to the Oranje team”. But only a couple of days later, he returned the invite to the KNVB’s technical director Hans van Breukelen, saying he was insulted with the package offered to him.

Gullit wanted to be a full blown staff member and was keen to be able to scout the Dutch players in his preparation for his job. The KNVB felt it wasn’t needed. Gullit was not required at meetings, would not get a travel budget to see games. Might have been a way to simply let him decline the job, for PR reasons (the KNVB is under a lot of pressure) and as Gullit also demanded a clause in his contract allowing him to jump ship when a better deal would come by. Not a strong thing to demand, if Dick Advocaat just used this clause to find the exit. Gullit, allegedly, also demanded to be promoted when either Danny or Marco decided to leave… Another clause Van Breukelen wouldn’t agree to. So, two days after the news got out that the former AC Milan and Oranje legend would join the team, he did not…


All in all, frowns were visible on the foreheads of many analysts in The Netherlands. Danny Blind, team manager, simply does not have a lot of experience as a club coach. He coached Ajax in total for 14 months or so. Marco van Basten had one year at Ajax and some seasons at a lower level, only to conclude that “head coach wasn’t this thing”. As an Oranje team manager, he didn’t do so badly, by the way.

So the KNVB decided to pick a seasoned, experienced coach to support Blind and Bassie. And Advocaat fits that bill. With the Dick leaving again, suddenly Ruud Gullit was seen as the perfect replacement. Say what? The last time Gullit was club coach was 10 years ago, and his work at clubs like Newcastle, Feyenoord and LA Galaxy can not be summarized as “successful”. How on Earth does that KNVB work…. Anyway, Gullit is out and now Blind and co will get their second assistant after the Greek friendly.


Hans Jorritsma, key in all organisational aspects of Oranje

On top of all that, the KNVB has decided that Hans Jorritsma will have to make way. The team manager and former hockey coach (winning gold and world titles) worked for the KNVB for 20 years. He reaches retirement age but was definitely not unwilling to stay on. Danny Blind was keen to have the man on board. “Jorritsma is one of the best organisers I know and with Russia 2018 on the horizon, his experience could be vital. I was not heard in this decision and I am not happy. I will let the federation know.”

Jorritsma has been hailed by former coaches (Van Gaal, Van Marwijk) but was allegedly “used” by the KNVB to help sack Guus Hiddink (technically, his boss), which helped Blind into the job, of course.

More to come I’m sure.


The new technical director, Hans De Breuk Van Breukelen. Lost two assistants in the process already…

In the meantime, Danny Blind has to gel together a team to play the key first qualification game vs Sweden in a week and a bit. Robben still injured, Van Persie not really in great form, De Vrij not match fit, Memphis hardly used, Eljero Elia injured and many other regulars not in great shape (Janmaat, Martins Indi, Veltman). The transfer period is still open and the likes of Bas Dost and Jasper Cillesen are with their heads and hearts involved in relocation plans, finding homes, learning languages and other logistics.

We seem to do alright with goalies of course. Stekelenburg had two great games for the Toffees in the EPL while Jeroen Zoet is doing well after his quality progression last season. CF Barcelona’s new goalie Cillessen had a pretty shitty start this season but it still a good goalie of course. Blind might decide to start with Zoet or Stekelenburg to keep the new Barca keeper out of the wind a bit.

Cillessen barca


Defensively, Van Aanholt impresses again at Sunderland. Daryl Janmaat made his move back to the EPL (Watford) and might play himself into the limelight again. Daley Blind and Van Dijk perform well, as does Ron Vlaar but the Ajax defenders have been disappointing. Willems also hasn’t reached his level of before his injury and might also be trying to make a late transfer deal.

In midfield we see similar issues with the Ajax contingent playing below par. The PSV midfielders have impressed, and so much so that Tonny Vilhena is not part of the current squad. Jorrit Hendrix joins the squad after a good start with PSV, while Propper, Wijnaldum, Sneijder and Strootman seems to be mainstays by now for Oranje. I hope.


PSV prospect Jorrit Hendrix

Up front, Huntelaar and Memphis have been dropped. New Spurs strong man Janssen will lead the line with Luuk de Jong and Bas Dost as pinch hitters and Promes, Berghuis and Narsingh vying for the winger roles.

Blind: “I spoke with Huntelaar and told him Vincent would lead the line and he agreed with me that he is not the ideal pinchhitter. I have Dost and De Jong for this and we decided to not work together at this stage. It was a pleasant conversation. Klaas-Jan was ok with it.”

The team manager also spoke with Van Persie: “He still is not in great shape. He is fit, but not match fit. Now Advocaat is his new coach he might well get more minutes. Last weekend he played 70 minutes as a starter, so who knows. I have not written him off.”


Stefan de Vrij is also not yet part of Blind’s plans: “He was out of contention for a long time. He just made his return at Lazio. I told him I need him to focus on getting rhythm back and once he has established that at Lazio, it’s a new situation.”

Memphis Depay simply hasn’t played enough. “I spoke to Memphis too. He was disappointed of course, but he only played 1 minute, I believe. I think his main concern should be to get into the 18 player squad for Mourinho. Then he will get more minutes and once he is back in regular game time, we will assess him again.”

We are all nicely focused on Oranje of course, but you will all be aware of Ajax’ failure – again! – to reach the CL group stages by beating an opponent in the qualification stages… This time, Rostov seemed to strong. I can’t remember all the other teams that blocked Ajax in reaching the millionaire’s ball, but it was teams like Salzburg or Augsburg or Prague or something like that… Not Juventus, or Chelsea. Rostov… Don’t have words for it, really.

Blind presser

Ajax is not Ajax anymore. They got their asses handed to them and suffered their biggest European defeat since…. 1732?

I think Frank de Boer, heavily criticised for his conservative and boring game plans despite his titles, was aware of the lack of brilliance, class and leadership in his squad. This is why Ajax played un-Ajax football in the last seasons. He covered it well. They won 4 consecutive titles in the 6 seasons he was there. And in the earlier seasons at the helm, he even had Vertonghen, Eriksen and the likes at his disposal.

With Peter Bosz as coach, Ajax wanted to play like Ajax again. Bosz seems the right coach for this job. His teams always played adventurous, ballsy and at times almost suicidal… With Hendrie Kruzen (former 1988 Oranje squad member and Euros winner) as assistant, he made an impression at Heracles, Vitesse and recently at Tel Aviv. The former Feyenoord skipper failed as technical director at Feyenoord but seems to be more at home as coach. But Ajax’ Eredivisie start is horrendous, with Feyenoord already 5 points ahead of their rivals. The CL campaign could have fixed the early pressure but with the dressing down of the Sons of Gods, the pressure is on!

bosz kruzen

Ajax assistant Hendrie Kruzen with head coach Peter Bosz

A quick analysis of Ajax tells you that 1) they lack leadership and build up qualities at the back (Viergever is not Blind, Sanchez is not De Boer, Riedewald is not (yet) Rijkaard, 2) too many similar players in midfield (Bazoer, Gudelj are not playmakers) and Klaassen is the man who needs to play the killer pass and be on the other receiving end of it, 3) forwards lack class (El Ghazi is not Finidi or Van ‘t Schip, Younes is no Overmars or Roy and the center forwards are no Van Basten or Kieft).

Ajax has close to 150 mio euros sitting in the bank account, after Milik’s and Cillessen’s departures (32 Mio + 14 Mio). That money is getting close to 3% interest without a doubt, but Berghuis is now at Feyenoord, Ziyech is still at Twente and Haps is still at AZ…

hakim ajax

Latest news of course, is now that Ajax got done by Rostov, Mark Overmars is frantically renegotiating with FC Twente and Ziyech’s manager to get the winger/playmaker to play for Ajax. A bit late. But very much needed…

We’ll see how things will develop…

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