Tag: Henk Fraser

Dutch devour Turkish Delight

What a night. We had early goals before (WC finals 1974 anyone?) and it hasn’t always resulted in greatness. This time, things seem different. An early goal. Another goal in the first 15 minutes and a very energetic and focused performance.

Things are taking a turn for the better in LVG’s third spell at the helm.

And what a quality goals they all were! Amazing to see how “question marks” like Berghuis, Klaassen, Dumfries and Bergwijn stepped up to the plate and played their key parts in this wonderful win.

The line up was logical. Van Gaal only put experienced Blind back in for Malacia and used Bergwijn in place of Gakpo on the left. He is clearly cementing his favourite eleven (or fifteen, rather) and slowly but surely his go-to guys are making their mark.

Justin Bijlow will be the new #1, hopefully for years to come. Stefan de Vrij was picked ahead of De Ligt and again he was one of the Men of the Match. De Vrij was solid on the ball, focused in his defending and overall Mr Cool at the back.

Frenkie showed his class as did Memphis again and the Oranje right flank, wanting versus Norway, impressed from the start with Dumfries and Berghuis demonstrating their connection.

But it helps, a goal in the first minute of course. And a quick second – also a beauty – helps even more. Oranje demonstrated their swagger without becoming arrogant.

The pace was good, the creativity was visible more and more and the workrate was just outstanding. If the Dutch can keep this mentality up, we are definitely back!

The criticasters on this blog will probably point out Dumfries “hard feet”, or Berghuis’ risky passing, or Blind’s one moment of lack of concentration (letting the ball slip), but overall, I think we can be happy with the step up Oranje made.

There was one moment in the 65th minute which will have made Van Gaal pissed off. Berghuis has the ball in midfield, there is no movement whatsoever. Dumfries is walking, no runs or options. The ball stays there in that zone. Koopmeiners comes to help, Van Dijk comes to help but between the three they suddenly lose the ball for no reason. We tidied it up, without a problem but that little moment must have angered the gaffer.

Being 4-0 up against 10 men, and then exchanging key players (Frenkie, Wijnaldum) never helps the flow of the game of course but these are little moments that need to be ruled out.

Two more goals (subs Til and Malen) and a horrific scare in the last seconds, when goalie Bijlow makes his only mistake in selling Van Dijk short, allowing Under to score a consolation goal, and an annoying knock for Captain Van Dijk. Van Gaal will not be happy (and neither will Klopp be).

The attacking play was excellent. False striker Memphis was everywhere again, Berghuis and Bergwijn played disciplined on the wings. Dumfries was marauding as per usual and Frenkie and Gini kept ticking things over.

A solid performance allround with some incredible moves and exciting play.

Captain Virgil was happy with the performance. It all seemed to fall into place: “This is what we wanted, and the early goal helps a lot of course. We played with intensity, with focus and it’s wonderful when it all clicks.”

Hattrick hero Memphis was less positive. “I think we did well but I think we have room to grow. And I am talking about myself more than anything. My first touches were poor and I feel there is more in us than we showed. And even though we score 6 and I score 3, we need to keep on focusing on improving because we want to do this against the top nations as well.”

Coach Louis van Gaal was beaming from ear to ear: “We have seen an outstanding performance. This group is so good and so great to work with. They have an opinion, they operate as a group, they welcome new players, it’s quite impressive. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with. And sure, I can see room for improvement. We lost the ball too often and we also didn’t play in a very high pace. Against 10 men you need to up the pace and find the free man, but overall we did play some good football and we scored some amazing goals!”

Van Gaal deserves the Man of the Match award, he clearly did everything right. But of the players on field, for me, Klaassen, De Vrij and Memphis (again) were the pick of the bunch.

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Oranje World Cup qualifiers: Bring it on!

After what can only be seen as the most electrifying transfer window ( Messi, Lukaku, C Ronaldo, Dumfries, Koopmeiners, Berghuis, Memphis, Luuk de Jong), the Dutch NT will commence their qualification journey for the World Cup 2022.

Louis van Gaal has only 1,5 days to prep the crucial match versus Norway, away, and had a pleasant training session with the squad (see video below). The only player missing from the group training was Memphis, who did an individual training inside. Van Gaal is convinced he will be ready for Norway.

Van Gaal was keeping the cards to his chest, not yet ready to share who will be the first goalie and what approach he will be taking for the Norway game. He did disclose the skipper (Virgil) and the two vice-captains (Wijnaldum and Daley Blind).

Van Gaal explained on the presser that he is grateful for the openness of the players in what they want, how they prefer to play and what their ambitions are. As he doesn’t have a lot of time, he needs to use what the players think, feel and want and he was pleased to see that the Dutch players have an opinion and a vision.

Van Gaal also emphasized that for him, the individual quality is always secondary to the team quality. Which is why he believes Norway is a dangerous opponent.

Asked about how to stop Haaland: “We need to stop and block the pass to Haaland. We also have pretty decent defenders, by the way, but making sure Haaland doesn’t get good service is key.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk was happy to be back and explained that he wasn’t feeling weaker or insecure due to his heavy injury. “I just need matches to get more rhythm.”

Gini Wijnaldum was asked about the Euro defeat: “We were devastated and we analysed what happened. I think looking back that we missed the team element against the Czechs. We wanted to solve the problem individually, but that wasn’t working. We forgot to play as a team. But we also need to be reasonable, we only had 10 days to get a masterclass in 5-3-2 and we did ok, but it’s only normal that we haven’t executed the system perfectly.”

Louis knows exactly how he wants to play versus Norway, but won’t divulge anything: “I am not going to make my colleague of Norway smarter than he is, already.” The players who play know it already. “I believe in clarity, I want the starters to be able to visualise the game, this will help them. And I want the non-players to be in a position to support the eleven starters.”

Asked about how this squad is different from the 2014 squad: “Not much different. These players are joyful, they enjoy what they do, they are very serious and ambitious and they are not shy to share their ideas. That is what every coach wants.”

I believe Oranje will win the game but only just: 1-2. Goals by Berghuis and Wijnaldum.

I expect a cagey and nervous match with lots of battling in midfield.

This is the line up I expect:


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Frank de Boer, Holland's finest….

Over the years, Holland produced a number of fine coaches. Wiel Coerver should most likely be named as the first one to establish a real method to the madness, even if Michels, Cruyff, Van Gaal and Hiddink are the best known names amongst the Dutch coaches. We had a number of so-called “school teachers” as coaches ( the more analytical of the bunch, such as Van Gaal and Adriaanse, although both had a long career as players in The Netherlands) and the so-called practice coaches…. The ones who applied their trade as a result of being top players. Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Rijkaard and Frank de Boer come to mind. There is also quite a large category of Dutch coach who work more anonymously than the former… Wim Koevermans, in India. John van ‘t Schip in Australia, Jos Luhukai in Berlin and Rene Meulensteen (ex Man United) are typical examples.

Every couple of years, a new “crown prince” emerges. Some stay on top, some vanish as a result of disappointing results ( Alex Pastoor, Robert Maaskant, Fred Rutten) and some simply choose to work in the background (Jan Wouters, Rob Alflen, Jean Paul van Gastel).

This season, in the Eredivisie, we saw a number of good stories emerge. Edwin van der Looij at Groningen, Marco van Basten’s resurrection at Heerenveen, Peter Bosz at title contender Vitesse, Ron Jans at PEC Zwolle and even much criticised Phillip Cocu at PSV has reasons to be proud.


Future coach of AZ Alkmaar?

Dick Advocaat did very well with AZ, particular in Europe, while Erwin Koeman might have had the best season performance at RKC with very limited resources. Little brother Ronald Koeman really should have snatched up the title this season with Feyenoord but failed at crucial times.

A name that has been mentioned a lot in recent weeks is that of Henk Fraser. The former Feyenoord and Oranje defender made his way to the top as a player via Sparta, FC Utrecht and Roda JC. The lanky player started as a striker but was quickly transformed to central defender. The shy and soft spoken player was a ruthless and hardworking defender. His killer mentality on pitch and his shyness off pitch earned him the nickname “the ghost” by Marco van Basten, who played with Fraser in Oranje at the ill-fated World Cup 1990 in Italy. Fraser played 6 caps for Oranje and scored once. The defender played nine successful seasons for Feyenoord winning the title, several national cups and reaching the semis of the Europa Cup II in 91/92.

Fraser took over at ADO Den Haag, 10 games ago, when the club was in serious trouble of being relegated. Under Fraser, they didn’t lose nine until they met Ajax last weekend.


Future coach of Feyenoord?

It looked like Den Haag, playing with typical Fraser grit, would be able to get a draw in the Arena but Ajax stepped on the gas in time to win the game 3-2.

And with Ajax, we have mentioned the club with the Coach of the Season, yet again. 43 year old Frank de Boer will win the title for a record fourth time in a row and will most likely also win the National Cup, this coming weekend versus PEC Zwolle.

Only 6 months ago, De Boer claimed he’d like to stay at Ajax for years to come, but only a couple of weeks a go he said he would entertain offers of “really interesting clubs”. And I think it would be a safe bet to say that Barcelona is most likely “a really interesting club”.

After four years Ajax, with good results, are you losing motivation?

“Certainly not. I am very intense in my approach to work. Fanatical almost and pretty demanding. But I am not blind. It’s not like I don’t see what is really valuable in life. Family and health are really key. Football is a very important hobby. But I am not an easy to guy to be with. I have daughters in their teens now and I want to make sure they live by the right values. Treat older people with respect, introduce yourself properly, thanking people when appropriate. I can be pretty tough on them, in that sense.”

Do you see a similar role towards players?

“I do expect normal conduct, in that sense, of course. I believe in dependability and accountability. On the pitch, but also off the pitch. Towards supporters, sponsors, stewards, etc… And on the pitch, dependability is key. You need to be able to rely on one another. Ninety minutes long. We make agreements, on how we play and we all need to be part of that game plan. We have strict rules regarding regaining possession. This only works when all players engage. I speak about this a lot with young players coming into the fold of Ajax 1. Recently, I spent a lot of time with Riedewald on this. All these lads know how to work the ball, to control the ball or to score a goal. No problem. But this aspect of taking your responsibility, that is something they need to learn around their 17th or 18th year…”


Is this why Davy Klaassen made such an easy entrance into Ajax 1.

“Yes. I had him in the B Junior group and you could see that he saw it all and that he had those leadership skills. He is not just a top talent, he is also a player who can read the game and take responsibility. And I am cool with young players making mistakes. A wrong through ball or a failed dribble. Players need to take risks and make mistakes to get better. But once they lose possession, they do need to turn around and try and win the ball back. Davy did not need any motivation to do this. He had that naturally in him.”

Klaassen has had some serious injuries and you decided to bring him slowly.

“I believed that to be best for him and for Ajax. We wanted Davy to be ready to be valuable in a big way for the team, as he is capable of doing. He needed time to regain his ball feeling and his strength. He played a lot of games for Young Ajax and when we needed Davy to be ready, due to Siem de Jong’s injury, he was ready.”

In this season, the big turnaround came when you moved Daley Blind to the midfielder’s role. This happened with Vurnon Anita as well, two seasons ago. That shift got Ajax the title then. Is it important for Ajax to have a real football player on that spot?

“It is a position which demands a lot from a player. First and foremost, you need to be capable of defending and of reading the game. So you need to be able to look over the ball, see what is going on around you and make the right decisions accordingly. You need to be able to defend and to make that first build up action. You need to be able to make the pace in the team and to play that essential deep ball. Daley is capable of all this. And he is still getting used to the role but he has so much football in him. More than he can display as defender. His strong suit as defender is his ability to forward press. He can do this in his current role as well. Serero is also a good example of a player who came with lots of individual skills but who needed to learn to be dependable for the team. He took some time getting adjusted, from the life in South Africa to living and playing in The Netherlands and he has really made great progress. I had to explain to him many times that as a player he will only have the ball for two or three minutes max. It’s what you do with the other 88 minutes that determine your value for the team.”

The right winger role is a difficult one for Ajax now. I guess you really wanted Narsingh? He would have been ideal.

“Well, he didn’t come. He went to PSV and we are now doing it our own way. I tried to get Eljero Elia as well. I worked with him with Oranje in 2010 and I think he is great. He will not have forgotten how to play and I thought I could get him to perform well again. Elia is having some good moments now at Bremen again. He is a on his way back. Ola John was also on my list. A real winger. But Lasse Schone is doing it his way and he has a lot of value for the team.”

staf ajax

Spijkerman, De Boer, Bergkamp

Co Adriaanse wonders why Ajax can’t deliver good wingers and strikers anymore?

“I get that comment of course, but hardly any big club in Europe uses wingers in the traditional sense. At Munchen, Ribery on the left and Robben on the right… Neymar is playing from the left at Barca. And the list goes on and on. It’s all about their contribution. I rather have a Robben style winger who comes inside then a classic winger who hugs the line. That is too limiting in today’s game. Marc Overmars could play both roles, he could come inside and he could go on the overlap outside. But those players are rare.”

Ajax wanted to do better in the CL this year but again, a tough draw made it hard this season. Again.

“You know what, I didn’t think our draw was that hard. To be honest, AC Milan is not the Milan we know of the 1980s and 90s. And Celtic is truly not as good as Ajax. I believe we should have finished second in the group. We dominated five games of the six we played. And we should be proud of that! We played to bad halves. Once against Barca and once against 10 men of Milan. That was hugely disappointing but we shot ourselves in the foot. The draw against Milan at home was unnecessary and we should have beaten Celtic twice. Simple. And we cannot play like Milan does. It’s not in our DNA. I don’t blame Balotelli for what he did. He is a pro, he wants to win. Fine. The referee determines where the line is drawn. We should not be drawn into all that drama. I believe we have the best chances if we play our own style of football. Combination play, pass and move, putting forward pressure on the opponent. We won three titles in a row with this and most likely a fourth.”

Is Ajax maybe too sweet, too kind for international success? Aren’t the current Ajax players more like the ideal son-in-law?

“I don’t think so. My number one priority is the football qualities of a player. Their personality is key too but not in the sense of screwing over an opponent or diving. I do miss some verbal aggression in the team. The coaching and the wake up calls, if you want. I need to hear that, even in a full Arena. And I don’t. We played a dreadful game against Cambuur and I couldn’t hear one single player having a go. I used to be different and more recently Luis Suarez was good at it too. He would be in your face if you were weak in the challenges.”

Is this why you are so pro-actively coaching all the time?

“Yes indeed! I feel like I still need to be coaching actively. Telling them if there is time or whether there is a player in their back.I want players to make it their second nature. Some lads try it but it is as if they’re whispering… I need to hear it loud and clear.”

bert frank

How far reaching is your influence, as a coach?

“We can offer our players a lot. But it doesn’t mean they all process it in the same way. I believe the player himself has the most influence on his career. When I was young, I would practice free kicks every practice session. Day and night almost. My dad told me to do this and I took it on. A coach can help with details, but the mentality of the player is key. And the way a coach approaches a player or motivates a player is probably also something one has to learn by doing. Typical example, Stefano Denswil was unlucky last season as I had to leave him out of the match squad often. He would train really well and he is a tremendous talent but he had to take a seat in the stands a lot. I needed a second left back as I had good central defender options already. So he was the sacrificial lamb so to speak. I never explained this to him. I expected him to see that. So after a while, he came to me and quite distraught asked me why he wasn’t given a seat on the bench. I learned from Denswil because I should have explained this and kept him motivated, instead of making him doubt himself.”

Your good friend Phillip Cocu is going through a lot at PSV. How do you see him?

“Phillip… I wish him all the best, except for the title with PSV, hahaha. Knowing him, he will simply work on the basis of his vision and he will definitely come good. They played really really well those first weeks. The whole nation was saying oh and ah. It’s hard for him, to have to handle this all in his first season, but with a young squad this is what you can get. But I am sure he will come out of this much stronger. Don’t worry about him….”

Guus Hiddink will be Van Gaal’s successor. Didn’t the KNVB call you?

“No, and I am happy that they didn’t. One day, sure… I want to do it. It’s a great honour. But I am happy here. I have much work to do still. I took over from Martin Jol and since Jol only Siem de Jong and Ken Vermeer are the only players left from those days. I say this to explain how dynamic the work is at Ajax. I have said it before, if a really really interesting club would come….who knows. But if I would have to work here another ten years I would be grateful as I am working with utmost pleasure.”



“Hahaha, I will not go into those questions. There is someone working as a coach now at Barca and it is simply not done to talk about someone else’s job, I think. But it will be quite clear for everyone that obviously Barcelona is my second club. I had a great time there and it would be the biggest job in club football, I think. For anyone.”

Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart might want to return to Ajax. Could you use them?

“I don’t know you know…. I have all the respect for both. They are outstanding players and two of the best Ajax has ever produced. But I have seen players return to Ajax… Total legends… Litmanen, Winter, Witschge and it is hard. Everyone remembers the fit, young player. But you always return in your autumn days…. And it almost always ends up being a disappointment. Look at Van Bommel even. He didn’t have a bad season, so much,  but it also was not a great success. I am sure he will agree with me. So, can I use Wes and Raf as midfielders? I am not sure? Will they be able to pull it off? I can see Raf as shadow striker or even striker. And I can see Sneijder as a false winger, as Mancini uses him now. But I would be careful in asking them back, to be honest. I think only Cruyff, Rijkaard and Cocu had a good return to their old club…”

And lastly…the World Cup 2014… You were assistant in 2010 and you worked intensely with Van Gaal. What do you see?

“Hard to say. It’s still a way to go for Van Gaal. A couple of question marks I suppose. But Louis is smart enough to play to the strength of the team. Which means, typical Dutch style football, with flair and offensive intentions. Van Gaal will probably come up with one or two smart ideas and maybe pick some players which will surprise the general public. But all in all, it is not very likely we will have an easy road to the finals. Our group is tough and we do have some inexperienced players in our squad now. If Sneijder or Van der Vaart are fit and Robben and Van Persie can hold form, I think Holland can surprise. Spain is not that good anymore so there are chances. A World Cup is always special. There is always that outsider that does well and there are always favourites that disappoint and are sent home early. But I’m glad Louis has to make the decision instead of me, hahaha.”

sneijd raf

Potential return?

What is your ideal Oranje Eleven?

“No. I won’t go there. Won’t sit on Louis’ chair. We have a number of good goalies. We have a number of good, but young defenders. We have good midfielders and we might need to take a risk there as Strootman is out and we have pretty good forwards… I am sure Louis will come up with a solid team.”


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