Tag: Rutten

The Vision of Erik ten Hag

We are at a turning point. Currently, in a vacuum. No team manager currently. The new technical director and the new coach are a question mark. The NT missed a second tournament in a row. And we only have two Dutch clubs in Europe, both seem to be thrown out of the competitions before the new year. A mighty low.

But it might be a good thing. We are forced to look at changing what we do. A changing of the guard as well. No more Van Gaal, Adriaanse, Van Hanegem, Advocaat, Ten Cate, Jol, but time for the next generation.

Erik ten Hag is seen as the Crown Prince among Dutch football coaches. Ten Hag started his career with FC Twente, the key club in the region where he was born. The centre back played for Twente in three periods of his career. and also donned the colours of De Graafschap, RKC Waalwijk and FC Utrecht. As a coach, he started as assistant to Fred Rutten at FC Twente, then went on to assist Rutten at PSV Eindhoven. His first head coach role was at Go Ahead Eagles where he got heads to turn. So much so that Bayern Munich signed him as the Bayern II coach, where he worked under Pep Guardiola for 2 years. He returned to Holland to coach FC Utrecht and has done so with great fanfare.

FC Utrecht, with their limited resources, had a super period with Ten Hag, reaching the cup finals and ending up fourth last season (the Best of the Rest), with sumptuous football at times.

But losing key players resulting in a renovated FC Utrecht and this season was a bit of a hit and miss for Ten Hag. Losing 1-7 at home vs PSV for instance. But also winning vs Ajax in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Is there a crisis this season at FC Utrecht?

“This is the story of facts and perception. If you only base our opinion on perception you could interpret our results as “Utrecht is in crisis” but I stick to the facts and these tell me a different story. Already before the Ajax victory. I try to stick to the facts.”

So, what are those facts?

“Well, success comes on foot but leaves on horseback. And I’m not using the following as an excuse, but I see these as facts. For instance, despite the defeats, we now have more points than we had last season. We had a different pre-season due to the European competition and we lost four key starters: Haller (VFB Stuttgart), Barazite (Turkey), Wout Brama (Australia) and Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord).  The year before we lost Boymans, Letschert and Bart Ramselaar. Something like that will start to have its effect. We do move on a tightrope. We did really well two years in a row, we finished 5th and 4th and reached the cup finals but we only have the 8th or 9th budget in the Eredivisie. Add to that the quality of our game, add to that the brilliant games we played against Zenit St Petersburg and before you know it people mention the word crisis when the results are a bit disappointing… Well, there’s not much wrong at FC Utrecht. But we became the victim of our own success. Now people tend to judge us as if we’re Feyenoord.”

Please go on

‘We played away vs Twente and AZ for the league and away to VVV for the cup and we were below par. There are no excuses for this. But we do play good more often than that we play bad. Especially taking into account that we needed to bring in 4 or 5 new players. And my role, is to confront the players with the facts. It’s about what’s in their mind. We shouldn’t panic or feel bad about ourselves. If we keep on doing what we do, it will come good. I think the victory vs Ajax was a big mental win for us and we laid the foundation for what will come next.”

Labayad scored the winner vs Ajax

The mind… Is there a lot to be gained in the mental aspects of the players?

‘Absolutely. See, we can play good football with Utrecht, we demonstrated this. But now, you need to deal with the dips, with the disappointments, with the fact that our solid centre forward Haller isn’t here anymore, with the fact we didn’t get into the Europa League. Now, the mentality needs to deal with the higher expectations. The men will have to step up. And I saw it vs Ajax, but I want to see it every week. And, this is not just our problem, we are talking about a key problem in Dutch football. It’s the combination of technical, tactical, physical and balanced with relations, conduct and emotion. These six aspects make the total athlete.”

How do you work with the players’ minds?

“It starts with understanding their personality. You need to know about the man behind the player. And I tell you what, I can read this from the way a player moves, the way he responds when losing the ball, when he concedes or gets fouled. I can make a picture – a broad stroke picture – of the man. And I can use this in my management. I choose a different approach per player. But thats’s only the start. You also need to look at the dynamics in the group. How they relate to one another. And I can see before the game, what kind of match we’re getting. Take AZ away, a terrible performance. I noticed in the dressing room, the tension wasn’t there. We weren’t front-foot. There was no real intensity. I could see in the way the players played the ball in the warming up, this will be a tough afternoon.”

How do you see this?

“Just, how they hit the ball. Not full. No conviction. No real idea. Just going through the motion. And I felt it back in the dressing room. And players showed tell signs of nervousness. Plucking at socks, hiding under a towel. I usually break those routines up. I don’t want it to be a nerotic thing. A “must-do” ritual. Because suddenly, if they didn’t sit under their towel, they can’t play well. It’s just creating an excuse to fail.”

So you also know when you will win?

“Not if we win, but I can see whether we will play a good match. Last season at home, also AZ. The finals of the play offs. I felt the instict, the urge to survive that match. I saw energy, intensity and we took the 3-0 defeat and turned it around, on penalties. That was the perfect example of the right mindset. I think it was the best or most impressive game I witnessed as a coach. Everyting worked: tactics, drive, mentality. And we won that match due to mental strength. AZ only had one shot on goal, in the 82nd minute! Just like the Ajax game two weeks ago, we wanted it more. I’m really proud of them in those situations.”

Pep and Ten Hag at Bayern

So, the logical question follows: why isn’t it possible to generate this more often?

‘And that is my challenge. And the challenge of the lads. Doing it better and more often all the time. PSV at home, we lost 1-7. But for an hour we are in the game. We were 1-2 behind at half time, and the lads walked into the dressing room asking themselves: how come we are behind? We should be 3-1 up! I told them: just keep going. We shouldn’t force the equaliser because PSV is lethal in the counter, but be patient. Do not open the gates. And what do we do, when PSV scores 1-3? We open the gate. We miss two major chances to get back to 3-3 and PSV beats us at a terrible moment. A throw in, we pressure forward, our back slips and Locadia is away and scores: 1-4. Then, something broke. Some players wanted to take responsibility all by themselves and do it alone, other players gave up. It all crashed down. We basically lost our minds, and PSV was able to punish us. But the next week, vs Heerenveen, we were back at it. It’s basically a matter of being on top of them constantly, demanding demanding demanding.”

So why is Bayern Munich capable of doing this week in week out, with much more talented players and Utrecht can’t do this. While the FC Utrecht players would have to work harder for it anyway?

‘Good question. I worked at Bayern and was often totally surprised by the mentality of players like Neuer, Robben and Lahm, for instance. They have accomplished so many great things, but when you see the intensity with which they train. Unreal. They constantly try and find the limits of their trade. Constantly, finding the limit and surpassing it. Again and again. Take Cristiano Ronaldo. His heading capabilities, his jump, his timing, that takes 1000s of hours of training and practice. Like with his free kicks and kicking technique. He’s so talented but he constantly demands the best out of himself. That is the difference with the subtop. But if we are subtop, we can distinguish ourselves from the level below us, by doing the same at our level.”

So how can you do this with Eredivisie players?

‘By confronting them constantly with the agreement you made with the player. I always try and find their motivation. What do you want to achieve and how will you do it? Quincy Promes, at Go Ahead Eagles. He knew exactly what he wanted and what he needed to do for it. Tremendously ambitious, that kid. And still, I had to battle with him every day.”

Is it a sign of the time?

‘Well yes. Different times, different players. I can still enjoy that video of a young Ruud van Nistelrooy, writing down his goals and achievements into a little notebook. That was all him. Nowadays, I make a POP with the players. a Personal Development Plan. These days, we facilitate these things. We facilitate everything for the youth. And we create players without the ability to find it within themselves. Whenever we played against an opponent with a different shape as expected, my players would look at the bench, confused. Coach, what do we do? Now, the players know how to deal with that. But that didn’t just happen. We had to work on that. These days, youth players get into a bus that brings them to the club. There they have study mentors, nutritional experts, etc etc.”

Yassin Ayoub, boss in midfield, sadly selected to play for Morocco

It used to be all better in the past?

‘Ha! No, it wasn’t. But it was different and we create more characters. Van Hanegem, Lerby, Jan Wouters, Mark van Bommel. They had to find that motivation themselves. But, if we don’t offer it and AZ or Vitesse or Sparta does, then these players will go there.”

And everything is becoming more invidualised?

‘I’d call it more ego-centric. But a football team needs to work together. How do you get all those egos to do that? I aim to have a good relationship with the players and I want my players to get along as a team. And I am not talking about joint holidays or playing paintball. I think teambuilding is done on the pitch. We do a lot of positioning games and I put the benchmark higher and higher. I want them to demand more and more from one another. I ask for focus, quality, the right weight on the ball, playing into the right foot, the right movement. We play 4 v 2 +1, we play 6 v 2, we play 4 v 4 + 3, I build it up from complex to even more complex. And if they’re not focused or aren’t with their head in the game, those practices fail. So you’ll see that players start to correct one another, coach one another and motivate one another. That is team building! I think you can gel a team together by the way you work, the demands you put on them and the practices you come up with. But it takes hard work. Every day you need to be sharp.”

Have you seen players change? In their personality, or attitude?

‘For sure, but you can’t blame this generation for being ego-centric. It’s a reflection of our society. In the olden days, in Twente, we had the so-called “neighbourship” Whenever a farmer had a cow that was ill, the other farmers would give him a healthy cow for the time being. And when the harvest needed to be done, they’d help each other. In the cities even, doors weren’t locked. Now, if you don’t lock your door, your furniture is for sale on Ebay. The world is different now. But I am not complaining about this generation of players. They’re not lazy. I know enough players who train individually, to work on their touch, their power, their ability to turn, the explosiveness on the first yards, etc. But they’ll need to do it within the club.”

Your training sessions are tough?

‘No not necessarily tough. I train long. I want the players to be at the club all day. But it depends on the program. Sometimes we train short but intensive. I work with my team and I’m never done. Every day, we can improve things. And where do you do that? On the pitch. You win trophies on the training pitch.”

Erik ten Hag and Jean Paul de Jong, team mates.

Fred Rutten claims we don’t train hard enough. We do less but expect more, he says. Peter Bosz thinks that is bull, and says you need to train differently.

‘It all depends per team and group. A team that plays Champions League and travels midweek needs a different approach. A team with only one match a week needs different things. A youth team needs a different approach. Players in their puberty can’t train with the same intensity as adults. You increase the risk of injuries. But when they are about 17 years old, you can practice with extreme intensity with these lads. This is the final stage of their physiological development. And you can make tremendous progress in their coordination. Their first tough, their turn, the way and timing of their sprints. I think 17 and 18 year olds need to train harder than older players. When you make the step to the first team, the level and intensity will be much higher. If you have the capacity to tag along, you can. If you haven’t invested enough, you might drop off.”

So they need to do more?

‘Yes absolutely. And you can justify it. Look at the Dutch youth teams. The Under 17s always compete with the top, but then the problems start. It’s partly the lack of competition intensity in Holland. Not enough resistance. That is not always to be helped, but the Eredivisie has been eroded in such a way, that top players leave at a young and younger age. Then there are the talent teams, the young Ajax, young Utrecht teams. We needed to have a competition for them, and from 2006 onwards we pleaded the KNVB for a good competition. But now we have that, we ruin it by not having relegation and promotion in this. The amateur clubs have vetoed this. This is not good for the quality of Dutch football. The top of the amateurs are happy to win titles, but they don’t want to be promoted because of the additional costs and infrastructure they’ll need. This needs to be resolved. This is one of the reasons why our quality has peaked and we’re getting behind countries like Belgium and Norway and Austria. In the first division, the Jupiler league, you couldn’t get relegated. So the clubs that were not able to win a trophy that season were just free-wheeling a bit. You need the opposite, you need players to want to better themselves daily. That doesn’t work when you can’t get relegated. Where is the challenge?’

Does it make sense for the talent teams of the pro clubs to play in the Jupiler league?

‘It does! Both AZ and Ajax were pretty good last season and look how the first teams now benefit from those youngsters? We had the option to get promoted into the Jupiler League with Young Utrecht and we didn’t. We couldn’t afford it. But we did it anyway and we are now reaping the rewards. Kerk, Venema are both from that team and they’ve been important for us already. They played with more resistance. I think the benefit for all is that players will ripen at a younger age.”

Erik ten Hag and JP De Jong now, coach and assistant

So, in reality, we have four talent teams in the Jupiler League and only one a division lower. The rest even lower than that.

‘Yes and that is the problem. So calculate with me: 15 players per club, which means 75 players playing with resistance every week. And all the rest is playing on a lower or even on no level… This means you can throw away a whole generation almost. Our development platform is way too narrow.”

What is the solution?

‘Well, we can’t turn back time, but ten years ago all the talent teams should have gone in that competition. But now, we do need a system of promotion and relegation, like in England. But people in Holland, in football at least, don’t like change. People think I say this for my own agenda, but what would that be? Why would I personally care? I’m talking about this because Dutch football needs it. We now have talents playing for pro clubs who don’t play weekly games at their level. That is such a waste!”

So how can you explain to outsiders that Feyenoord and Heerenveen don’t compete?

‘You can’t! There is no explanation. They probably didn’t see or didn’t care about the strategic impact for Dutch football. Their talents are getting hardly any resistance. I find it very hard to grasp and I find it disastrous.”

You were the coach of Bayern Munich II in an open competition set up

‘I saw how it worked there. Talking about resistance. We were playing away against Wurzburger Kickers. Big club in a big city with a rich sponsor. In those regional leagues, there’s big clubs. But then there’s Buchbach, a club in a rural town. A couple of former pro players with some locals, playing on a paddock of a pitch, with aggressive fans close on the pitch intimidating us. Try and win there. So you need to go full throttle, battle for every yard. As a youngster, this is how you build up character.”

This is a big challenge for the new technical director of the KNVB?

‘First the KNVB needs to tackle this. The Federation’s structure isn’t helping. You can’t change anything. I used to be head of development and I dealt with the KNVB. Everything is done via committees and boards and staff. The Netherlands is a country of compromises. The KNVB is the federation of compromises. In football, you can’t get forward with this. And now the KNVB is coming up with the weirdest brainfarts. Now there is no referee anymore at the youngest youth level. How does that work? Talents need to learn to accept authority and need to deal with decisions a ref makes. I also hear that they stopped keeping score at that age, because “kids might get demotivated if they lose big”. Add it all together: a competition set up based on the Olympic philosophy, no referees, no more scores. Who comes up with this? How can you create a top sport mentality? We are going far to far into the social aspect of it all. We want it to be social and fun and “gezellig”. This is not how you create a new Mark van Bommel or Frank de Boer! And you see it in society as well. Playing football, even at amateur level, is like life. You get educated there, you learn social behaviour, you want to achieve things, you win together, you lose together, you explore boundaries, you learn discipline. And if you are formed in the wrong way, you’re lost. We have hammered the winners mentality out of our football. It’s time to start at the top now, and change things internally at the KNVB. Change the structure and the way decisions are being made. Develop a football vision and roll this out, create acceptance with the clubs. The clubs need to support this and endorse the people who will do this job.”

Quincy Promes at Go Ahead with Ten Hag

Who would you like to see do this?

‘I think Louis van Gaal is the ideal man for the job and I think he’ll do it, but only if he gets carte blanche. Now, he knows there is not much he can do. So put him in the job, and give him free reign and change. I think Dutch football can be leading again in the future.”

What to do with that report: Winners of Tomorrow?

‘There are some good elements in there. The conclusion was: we need to do things differently, mentally and physically. And the next decision they make is to stop keeping score at youth games. I can’t understand this. I don’t see a strategy. It’s all loose sand as we say. I would love someone to explain it to me. We need a strong TD at KNVB level who can put his foot down when someone comes up with an idea like this in a meeting.”

How about you?

‘Nope, I’m still too much of a coach and trainer. And I have my hands full here at FC Utrecht. But, I do feel a joint responsibility for the state of football in The Netherlands and I feel responsible enough to be part of a discussion.”

AC Milan, with Zlatan, Nesta, Bommel, Seedorf and Urby

Former Ajax midfielder and Oranje international Urby Emanuelson is back in the Netherlands playing for FC Utrecht. His adventures took him to Italy, to England, but he’s happy in Holland, despite less money on the pay-check. He’s quite positive about Erik ten Hag.

“Ten Hag thinks more international than many a Dutch coach. It’s so clear that he worked in Germany, with Bayern and with Pep Guardiola. In Holland, adapting the 4-3-3 system is almost blasphemy, but Ten Hag uses different systems as a weapon. He is doing what Pep is doing. He changes things, he challenges beliefs and wants players to be flexible. And Barcelona and Man City and Bayern, they all do it. They play 3 or 4 different systems, sometimes in one match.”

Is Ten Hag one of the best coaches you worked with?

“For sure. He is, he is always involved and genuinely interested in you. And he’s working individually with players, very intense. And he’s a super human being as well. That to me is very important too. But I was lucky in my career. Henk ten Cate was super, Maxi Allegri at AC Milan was a genius. But the best coach I ever worked with: Marco van Basten, no doubt. I had my best time with him. His ideas about football, his vision, the way he had the team play in 2008. But, there is no one as critical of himself as Marco and when he quit just like that, I thought: yep, typical Van Basten…”

Would Ten Hag be a good national team manager?

“100%. He has the guts to do things differently. We seem to have made 4-3-3 holy for some reason, but it’s about the results and Erik is capable of finding a playing style that fits the players and will get results. I am convinced he can do what he does with Utrecht at a higher level.”

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Another KNVB/Breukelen screw up!

Will it ever end. When will someone step up and deal with this. And don’t forget: the KNVB is not owned by the clowns in management, or even the non-existing board… It’s the members! It’s a association and the club – amateurs and pro clubs – are the final authority. So even if we have this part time marketing guy formally now as the main man, and Technical Director Hans van Breukelen being able to keep on screwing things up and blundering like an elephant through the crystal shop (Dutch expression I think).

So here is the story.

Hans van Breukelen as the main man in technical areas took it upon himself to find the new team manager. Their profile for it is non-existent. They talked about making a profile but based on the people he spoke with, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency. He went from Frank de Boer to Louis van Gaal. He also went to talk to the key Oranje players (Strootman, Robben, Sneijder) and discussed names with them. Unsure which ones, but one name in particular was NOT discussed. Not by Hans and not by the players. The name of Dick Advocaat.

breuk suf

Henk ten Cate was discussed and most if not all people with anything to say about it (players, ex-coaches, ex-captains, analysts, media) were positive about Henk. He’s got experience. He loves attacking football. He’s a tough task master. He worked internationally. He has a lot of experience.

Henk was happy to go with Ruud Gullit and Fred Rutten as his assistants.

So, Hans van Breukelen flew to Dubai (where Henk lives now) and discuss the situation with Henk. They didn’t really have a relationship and didn’t know each other too well. But Henk and Hans hit it off. Their 1,5 meeting went to 4 hours, in the daytime. Discussing football, tactics, vision, short term needs, assistants, etc etc. Hans was very positive and said to Henk: “I have not had an intense and good discussion with someone I really don’t know well for a long time!”. So Henk invited Hans for dinner that evening in a top notch restaurant. They spend another 4 hours. But this time, they discussed more than football. It was about life, love, family and probably good wines. They fell in love with each other. They hugged when they went their separate ways.

Hans said: “I have a very good feeling about this. I will call you tomorrow for next steps.”

The next day, Hans called Ten Cate. “Congratulations! You’re the team manager. We’ll make it work. I’ll go and talk to Fred Rutten and we’ll go for it.”


Van Breukelen even sent a number of text messages to confirm the appointment and more.

Hans called Fred Rutten to let him know he was in. And that he wanted Fred to come in. Fred would wait for Hans’ call. Ruud Gullit’s appointment would be harder. Ruud and Hans had a major falling out and Ruud pinpointed some lies and untruths and told the media Hans van Breukelen was “a liar and untrustworthy”.

So, it might well be Van Breukelen’s ego keeping Gullit out of the team now. Which in itself would be terrible. Gullit, one of the most recognisable Dutch sports heroes (probably second behind Cruyff). Two times European player of the year, one time world player of the year.

Apparently, Louis van Gaal plays a part in the background as well. He does not have any official role within the KNVB and has said NO to the coaching job, but is the power behind the throne. Apparently, Van Breukelen and the marketing dude (don’t even remember his name) seem to turn to Louis at every single turn for advice. Also, very strange indeed. Not that Louis is a fool. He’d make a very good technical director, probably. But now, the KNVB is not doing the transparant thing, letting their ear hang to someone who might decide not to get involved.

louis zonnekoning

Louis The Sunking?

Anyway, back to Henk and Hans.

Hans informed his family and some of the players were given word that Henk would be their new coach.

The next day, however. Henk received another call from Hans. “Henk, I’m sorry. I am going to need some more time”. Because Fred Rutten apparently decided not to go for the assistant role. And that was the strange reason Hans gave Henk, why they wanted to re-consider.

“Reconsider??” Henk ten Cate said? “What do you mean? You congratulated me? You told me I was the man?”. Hans started to mumble something about “some people in the KNVB having second thoughts, and give me a week to sort it out and then I’ll get back to you.” Henk said: “Hans, this is stupid. Unprofessional. You shook my hand, you sent me text messages to confirm. And now this? I won’t do it if people are doubting. If there is no consensus to sign me, forget it. I’m pulling out!”.

And this is where Hans said: “No! Don’t pull out! I can fix it. Give me some time.”

To which Henk got even more irrate and said: “Hans, this is it. It’s done. I’m not doing it. Good luck!”

Which prompted Hans van Breukelen and his ship of fools to immediately try and sign Advocaat.


The Traitor

This in turn got the players all confused? They responded to the messages in the media by asking Van Breukelen how it was possible that Advocaat was never mentioned in any conversation, not by Hans, not by them… And now suddenly, he’s the man!?

Van Breukelen let on to the media now, that he hopes to present Dick on Tuesday coming week!

But Advocaat informally told his close friends, that he’s not sure yet and will discuss more with the KNVB next week Wednesday.


But wait for it!!! It gets even better….

Dick Advocaat will not start – if he starts in the job – before June 1. As Fener has a cup final on the 31st of May.

But Oranje’s new match cycle starts end of May, with a friendly vs Morocco. It would be odd to start this new cycle with the new NT manager coming in after that preparation game. I know, it’s only Luxembourg at home, so it probably wouldn’t matter too much, but it goes to show how unprofessional this federation currently is going about things.

And to top it all of: the KNVB and Hans van Breukelen came out with a press release, denying everything Ten Cate said. They claim Van Breukelen didn’t appoint Ten Cate. That it wasn’t decided at all. Typical.

What the KNVB did not know, was that when Ten Cate was informed by De Breuk that he was Da Man, Ten Cate was driving in his car with a Dutch sports journalist. Van Breukelen was on speaker phone. The reporter got it all. Not only that, Henk still has the text messages on his phone, with Van Breukelen congratulating Ten Cate.

euro 2012

So, again, the KNVB and Hans van Breukelen have been caught lying, outright. To cover their ass!

Ten Cate is livid, coz they are now basically saying Henk is lying. Whereas he has proof that he’s not.

And the reporter has already wrote a very damaging piece in the biggest football magazine in Holland, exposing the lies.

Fred Rutten, even though he will not take the assistant role, has also publicly stated that when he was called by Van Breukelen for the role of assistant, Hans told him flat out: Henk ten Cate is our new coach. Do you want to talk with us re: assistant role? Rutten oozes integrity. He does not have a reason to lie about this.

So the net is closing in on Van Breukelen. He should go. ASAP. He’s a lightweight. A nitwit. Blundering his way through life. He was a decent goalie. Once upon a time.

The big question is also: who within the KNVB doesn’t want to work with Henk ten Cate? And why? The marketing dude (Decossier or whatever his name is) won’t be the one. He always claims to not get involved in football matters. So could it be that Louis van Gaal made it hard for Hans? If so, why didn’t Hans check with Louis beforehand if Louis the boss? Who else could it be?

And why?

So it now seems we get the Money Grabbing Traitor back as NT manager. Stepping up after the first friendly.

Or…if that doesn’t happen… maybe Hans van Breukelen will appoint himself? As long as he doesn’t lie to himself as well and pulls out the next day…


gullit advo94

Interesting pic from 1994. Prior to the US World Cup, Gullit pulled out of the squad over differences of opinion with coach Advocaat. Ruud realised the heat in Florida would impact the matches and had tactical suggestions for Dick to consider. The little Napoleon ignored it and Ruud decided to pull out. He was right. The heat and humidity resulted in a poor group performance of Oranje. We ended up exiting early vs Brazil which prompted Dick to conclude they “had a very successfull campaign and Oranje is in the top 16 of the world!” WTF!!

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Ronald Koeman, hero in Rotterdam

We covered and congratulated Ajax on their title win. We will most definitely congratulate a WONDERFUL PEC Zwolle with their bashing of Ajax in De Kuip. It was 5-1 for PEC but it could have been 8-1.

This does link to the topic of today’s post, as Ronald Koeman as Feyenoord coach was opposed to PEC playing European football just by losing a cup final (he said that before the game of course). So, now Ronald can sleep soundly, as PEC deserved it!!

As you will know, the game was seriously disrupted by Ajax fans (!!) throwing fireworks onto the pitch. The theory now is that they did so to ruin Feyenoord’s impeccable pitch! As Ajax supporters have been banned from the Feyenoord temple for years, this was seen as their opportunity to inflict pain to Feyenoord. Well, it worked, as the Feyenoord groundsman was spotted crying when all this happened….

Louis van Gaal decided to wait with announcing his first practice prelim squad until Monday, so we will take the time to look at our Eredivisie Number 2’s coach (and ex player ) Ronald Koeman. No love lost between him and Louis, by the way.

In three years under Ronald Koeman, Feyenoord has made some good progress. Although as a fan and a football connaisseur I personally would not uncork the champagne after this season… But, Koeman is on his way out, and through the front door, as opposed to predecessors Been and Verbeek.

Feyenoord finished second, third and second in three years. The objective of Feyenoord was/is to win the title at least once every three seasons. And they didn’t. And this season should have been that season, of course. (We are a football nation of should haves).

Fred Rutten will now come and give it a go and Rutten is a very decent coach, so who knows. But the question will be: with whom will Rutten have to do this… It seems many international scouts are hovering around this Feyenoord. When the Rotterdam club played PSV in Eindhoven, scouts of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs, Man City, AS Roma, Napoli and several German and French clubs were spotted. Some PSV lads were on the short list, for sure, like Wijnaldum and Matavz but the crop was there for Clasie, Janmaat, Kongolo, Martins Indi, De Vrij, Vilhena, Boetius and Pelle.

Martins Indi apparently is still on the list for Everton, while Brendan Rodgers is a fan of De Vrij. Kongolo will definitely be on the Man City / Chelsea short list while Vilhena seems to be the real hot property. Clasie and Janmaat are linked with moves to Italy while Arsenal has shown interest in Janmaat earlier.

Pelle is getting on age wise and has the best options working on his retirement plan with a move to the Middle East or Turkey.

Tech Director Martin van Geel already stated that Feyenoord doesn’t need to sell players, per se, but De Vrij and Janmaat have already announced they won’t be renewing their deals with Feyenoord before the World Cup. Van Geel is quite positive about Feyenoord’s chances renewing Kongolo’s, Vilhena’s and Boetius’ contracts.

Koeman is a football hero in Holland. He played for all three big clubs and therefore can count on sympathy from most people in Holland ( and Groningen of course). And when he moved to Barca he made us proud with his Europa Cup 1 winning strike at Wembley. His role in Oranje made his a true hero with most Dutch fans secretly loving his “wipe the ass gesture” with Thon’s jersey in 1988.

Koeman R thon

As a coach, he didn’t seem to cut it. He did well with Vitesse and Ajax but his somewhat “cover your behind” antics (re: Van Gaal at Ajax) and his sudden exit at PSV made him suspicious. He got fired at Valencia and AZ and the jury seemed to be coming back with a negative verdict. Until Feyenoord.

A conversation with Ronald Koeman:

The 5-1 in De Kuip versus Cambuur was most likely your last home game in The Netherlands as coach?

“Well, that is quite rash. It will be for Feyenoord and it might be my last ever as club coach, but who knows… It will be a special game. I normally am not that sentimental about things but I did feel tingles during that game. It was in the back of my mind…. And we are closing somethings special here. I highly enjoyed my time at Feyenoord, my relationship with the lads. This is quite a unique club.”

What did Feyenoord bring you?

“Happiness. I lost my happiness as a coach. Being fired so unceremoniously at AZ was a big deal for me. I sort of took a hit and then my wife got very ill and I really didn’t wanna go to another country. Feyenoord was perfect for me. I had very good memories of my time here as a player and the moment I got in the club was ideal. I once had to replace Van Gaal at Ajax after he won a title and I had to replace Hiddink at PSV after he won a title so that follow up season is always tough. At Feyenoord, getting some quick wins in the beginning was not that hard and very essential.”

What did you bring Feyenoord?

“I hope that I taught them that they’re not talents anymore. They need to be killers, they needed that mentality. That and some old fashioned bringing up you know. Some values. When I came here, the players were allowed to have lunch at home. And they sometimes trained at 1 pm and the players were free in the morning! Well not with me… I made them come to the club earlier, we’d eat together… I have so many young players and when you let them come at 1 pm, God knows what they do with their morning… Sleep in? Have a pizza? Play games? I needed to bring them in. I needed them to have a decent lunch before training. I also made a clear statement. “Age is not an issue for me. The best man plays. But…if you do play, even if you’re only 18, I expect you to deliver. No hiding behind “but I am still young” arguments.” As a coach of young players, you have to sometimes act as their dad…”

Not all players enjoyed that!

“That is sadly also the case with your children. But when they get older, they’ll understand. I had my fair share of clashes with Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Ibrahimovic as well but they all said since that they learned a lot under my reign.”

Was this Feyenoord group tough?

“Not really and most things we were able to keep indoors. There were some unpleasant situations. I had to strip De Vrij of his band and later Pelle. I had to tell Vilhena off with a penalty, those sorts of things. Can’t keep that indoors, hahaha. But otherwise we did well. I never understood why players have to go out and talk to the media about things they don’t get or don’t like. It’s easy to knock on my door and simply discuss it with me… But that is youth, I guess.”

koeman LVG

Vitesse, Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Which club will be your best memory…

“Oooh, that is a difficult one. And a dangerous one to answer as well. I have had so many good memories. Winning the title on the last playing day with PSV, with Ajax I won two titles and we did well in the CL… With Feyenoord though, we had to make do with limited means and although we didn’t win anything, we did win the respect of Rotterdam and we brought pride back to De Kuip. That is probably worth more than silverware, if I think about it…. The Feyenoord feeling goes deeper than anything else. This is the biggest club in Holland. Reaching second spot is not worthy of a celebration but we do feel like a party. And I can understand why.”

When you took over from Mario Been in 2011, it didn’t look too good….

“It didn’t. They had finished 10th. Which is really really bad for Feyenoord. There was not a lot of confidence. Fer and Wijnaldum had just left. But we did alright, we started well and when Guidetti and Bakkal joined us we suddenly had a team that clicked. Some players even made it to the National Team. That season we ended second. Amazing. The next season we lost the complete axes of the team: Vlaar, El Ahmadi, Bakkal and Guidetti gone. What now? But we got Pelle and we reached the third spot. This season, we kept the squad together while Ajax, Twente and PSV had some changes. So I figured: this is the title year. But we ended up not being consistent enough. We conceded too many late goals and we had a horrific start with zero out of three. This gave us a bit of a stressed out attitude from the start. All in all, not winning the title is a disappointment.”

So what is more dominant: the pride of being number 2 and potentially gaining access to the CL or the idea that the title was lost?

“Both I’m sure. Both. This season, we scored more goals than Ajax. That doesn’t happen often. Normally Ajax reaches 100 goals. There is a shift in hierarchy coming. But we forgot to kill off the small games (Den Haag, NEC, RKC, Cambuur, PEC Zwolle) and that has cost us the title.”

So you actually did go for the title?

“Of course! The start of the second season half, we started great against Utrecht. We had to go to Ajax and then Den Haag. We lost without a hope against Ajax and then we lost against ADO too. 6 points in 4 days. I knew, that if we would survive these two games, for instance a draw at Ajax and a win at ADO we would have had our tails up. But, every coach can look back like this. If if if…. But I can’t shake the feeling we could have won it.”

The last 8 games you started to rotate more and play 5-3-2 and you won almost all the games. Why didn’t you start like this?

“I did! Against Zwolle I played with Vormer and Goossens. I wanted more resistance for the others. But we lost three in a row and I needed my strongest team to pick up points. Once we did, I wanted to let that line up settle for a while.”

You wanted competition in the squad?

“It’s all about taking responsibility. Players need to be 100% committed to their job. I’ll give you example. I asked goalie Mulder at a certain point “Twente is our next target, how many points do we need to take them?”. And Mulder, and most of the players, didn’t know! They didn’t know… How is it possible that you don’t know this? So I had to discuss this with them and make them aware.”

kooeman wembley

Guus Hiddink will be the new team manager of Oranje, but many polls said that the Dutch people wanted you.

“Yeah, but the one guy who decides didn’t think so… Ideal for me. Staying in Holland, working with the best players, visiting and watching football all over Europe. But I’m done with it. The KNVB called me last year to ask if I was able to do it. Now they take Hiddink and needed an assistant who would take over from Hiddink. And I was willing to do this. Why not? I have no ego in this, I would love to have done the field coaching and Guus can do the press, hahaha. But they never called and Guus, whom I consider to be a good friend, never ever called me either. Which is something I will check with him. A simple call and a cup coffee would have made all the difference.”

Oranje has dropped significantly, to the 15th spot on the FIFA ranking. Disturbing?

“Oh yes, the signals are there. There is always generations and quality differences in those… I don’t see the quality of Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie, Van der Vaart, with all do respect. And our development is focused on technical and tactical while in England, Spain and Italy is the focus more on mental strength and physical strength. I saw Oranje Under 21 last summer against Italy Under 21 and it was boys vs men…. I personally believe that young talent can only develop well in the bigger competitions. I am sorry to say so, as it would mean the big talents will leave Holland but our development is too limited. They have to play against better opponents.”

You have a number of great talents in your squad. Which one of these do you see becoming important for Oranje?

“Hmmm…it is always hard to say. I think all the players we have, have demonstrated to be of great value as club players in Holland. Period. That is what we know for sure. Whether they can make the step up remains to be seen. One never knows. I played with tremendous young players in my time who never made it. And others who did make it big were not always the ones who excelled in the youth system. I believe someone like Jan Wouters never even played for rep teams in his youth! Or Jaap Stam! Like I said, they all have the basic skills. The foundation is there. The technical skill of some of these guys is phenomenal, but they need a balance in all their skills. So, mentality, tactical smarts, coaching, reading the game, etc. I think Clasie, Boetius, Vilhena, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Kongolo have all this and will need to further develop, week in week out. Clasie needs to be able to read the game better and become more dominant. He will need some of Sneijder’s venom. De Vrij and Martins Indi need to become tougher and shrewder. Meaner, maybe even! Boetius is still young and somewhat naive. But he will probably keep on developing. Vilhena can be a bit unchoachable at times…. I think Janmaat has shown over the years to be ready for a next step. He is very consistent. But, to take the right step is very important. Club culture, what coach will you work with….what is the vision of the club, what players do they have… Etc.”

But all in all, this World Cup, Oranje won’t be highly successful in your view?

I didn’t say that. I think we have potential. We don’t have to lose against Spain. And we need to be smart in the group. Draw against Spain is a good result, for instance, but we’ll be dependent on what Spain does vs Chile. Or Australia for that matter. It will be a bit of a lottery, sadly. I think Van Gaal is smart enough to have the lads peak at the right moment but I do think he needs to fix the Strootman absence. That is not just a matter of putting another name on the team sheet. I think Sneijder’s lack of fitness and Strootman’s absence calls for another, more conservative, approach. Once we survive the group, anything is possible. At the end of the day, two teams reach the finals and a lucky draw can mean that some of the big contenders get beaten by other nations… We’ll see. I won’t place a lot of money on Holland, though, hahahaha.”

Do you miss the ex-players in the KNVB development programs?

“These guys all work in at their former clubs. The KNVB has teachers on the payroll, not coaches or ex players.”

So, what is the next step for you?

“I am intrigued to take on a higher level. I would love to work in the Premier League, for instance, but I won’t be rigid about this. I’ll entertain the options. We have some requests here and there and we’ll start talking after the competition is over.”

ronald koeman en guus hiddink

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How do the Dutch coaches do?

In a week in which I had some pleasant Dutch football surprises and some Dutch football shocks, I think it is time to look at the future of Dutch football. Yet again :-).

But this time from the coaching angle.

But lets first pick up the little tidbits of the week.

In which Alexander Buttner impressed (last week), Arjen Robben started in the 9-2 HSV whipping and came on quick against Juve for Kroos. And Wes Sneijder underwhelmed vs Real Madrid and got subbed. While Van der Wiel didn’t even play (for PSG vs Barca).

Alex Buttner is seen as a “fresh” player, by Sir Alex, in the business end of the season. And the way he played last week makes it clear that Evra can rest assured he can be missed. Strong in defence, working hard, and always a factor going forward. Buttner even showed he had a good right foot as well.

A high. And Arjen Robben was impressive too. Although not always for the right reasons. He works hard, he is keen to show Heynckes he belongs in the starting line up and against HSV he clearly did.

Against Juve though, he could have two goals in the first half of the game, but the CL curse keeps on bugging the former PSV winger, as he two shots were not well placed. With Kroos injured, Robben might see more action this season but one does wonder whether he needs to use that to play himself in the picture for a lesser team (Galatasaray? Inter Milan?).

Wes Sneijder looked forward to meeting his old chums in the Bernabeu but was sadly subbed after a mediocre first half.

Truth be told, I don’t think Sneijder played that bad. I watched him intensely and he does a lot of good without the ball. He is constantly available for the quick pass. Which would allow him to turn and find space for the forwards. But the rest of the team isn’t equipped to play like that. The Altintops of Gala are all keen to run with the ball themselves, till the cows come home and then they look up. Leaving a sad sack figure – Sneijder – in midfield. Chance gone.

I am not sure if it is just the team or also the coach who don’t see how to utilise Sneijder. I do know that if Galatasaray wants some yield from the former Ajax midfielder, they will need to play the ball to him early and they need runners who will explore the space for the through ball.

I have yet to watch Benfica play Newcastle so I will refrain from commenting on John and Anita (if they played), but I did see Feyenoord this morning with their clumsy and doubtful win over a fresh VVV.

Koeman used some harsh words after the game (Pelle wasn’t working hard enough and Boetius was subbed “because he was rubbish”… When the interviewer asked him what Boetius said about it, Koeman bit: “Nothing of course! An 18 year old is supposed to keep his mouth shut against the coach…”…. Well, well, well….

So lets look at our coaches. We do know by now that in terms of playing talent, we need not worry.

But in terms of coaches, we do have a category of top coaches, but they are all getting on age-wise.

Cruyff and Van Hanegem don’t coach anymore. Co Adriaanse is also in semi-retirement. I can’t see him moving down the Austrian mountain for just any club. Guus Hiddink is most likely working on his last gig, while Louis van Gaal might have the ambition for one more big gig after the Dutch team.

I don’t rate Dick Advocaat, as you might know, but he does belong in some list of coaches, but he will not be active too much longer either. Martin Jol doesn’t “have” it either, while Henk ten Cate is also back at the Jupiler level of Sparta Rotterdam.

The 1988 generation has a couple of active coaches left. Van Tiggelen, Muhren, Witschge, Vanenburg all seem to work at youth level and enjoying it.

Van ‘t Schip had his adventures in Australia and Mexico and is currently in between jobs.

We won’t mention Ruud Gullit, I guess…

Marco van Basten is impressing with Heerenveen, this second season half, but the jury is still out on him, I guess. He had a good spell with Oranje – despite some personnel issues with RVN and MVB – but a not so good experience at Ajax.

Frank Rijkaard won the CL with Barca but is now relatively anonymous in the Middle East.

It leaves Jan Wouters (Utrecht), Ronald Koeman (Feyenoord) and non-1988 Oranje player Fred Rutten (FC Twente) at the (sub)top of the Eredivisie.

Rutten was an exciting up and coming coach at Twente, but he didn’t deliver at Schalke 04 and didn’t win big trophies at PSV either. He is making an impression as Vitesse coach though.

Jan Wouters, a similar trajectory. Was hailed as the next big thing. Took on Ajax in a dreadful period. His demise there was documented in the Ajax documentary “Daar hoorden zij Engelen zingen…” ( “And hark the angels sang…” ). He left Holland for a spell and went to work for Glasgow Rangers, as the assistant coach. And the players and staff at Rangers couldn’t say enough great things about him, just like his mentors Cruyff and Van Hanegem did. After 5 years in Scotland, he returned to work as assistant coach at PSV, before returning to his first club FC Utrecht. First as assistant, and from 2011 onwards as head coach.

And Wouters is doing exceptionally well at the moment.

Ronald Koeman likes to see himself as the crown prince of coaches, but after somewhat questionable tenures at Ajax (clash with Van Gaal), PSV (exit during the season to hop on the Valencia train), Valencia (fired after abysmal results and clashes with key players) and an explicable early exit at AZ (“I still don’t know what happened…”) he is back in the limelight.

Koeman is leading a young Feyenoord potentially to the first title in 14 years. And as he likes to say “One day Oranje, one day Barcelona…”.

But, in all honesty, Feyenoord is waivering the last weeks. Playing with fear. Playing slow. No confidence and certainly not enough goals…

In this stage of the competition, it is key to see how the coach is able to keep the team together, motivate and take pressure off players and make sure they keep playing football.

After the VVV win, yesterday, he said “I don’t get it. They play as if they afraid.”

Well Ronald, this is the problem. This is something you should get. It’s your job. In this particular stage, to take your team by the hand. To keep the pressure away. To talk to them. To understand what is going on… Saying “I don’t get it” sums it for me. Koeman is not of the same level as Van Gaal or Hiddink.

Then there is the 1998 generation.

The man who shines brighter than anyone else, is currently Frank de Boer. Cool, calm and collected. Passionate on the byline, like he was on the pitch. Always in control. Always there for his team. And non withstanding the pressure of an Ajax organisation out of control, he won the title twice now, and is likely to be the first Ajax coach to win it three times in a row!

Young coaches to watch, are Jaap Stam (assistant at Zwolle, but joining the Ajax staff next season), Phillip Cocu (most likely taking the reigns at PSV next season), Alex Pastoor ( now at NEC, most likely the new man at AZ next season), Patrick Kluivert (asisstant coach to Louis van Gaal), Ajax youth coach Alphons Groenendijk and John van de Brom (Anderlecht).

Alfred Schreuder has been named as potential top coach but he has yet to prove at Twente that he is actually better than the man he replaced ( McLaren).

Another name that comes up is Nebo Gudelj, the Bosnian ex-NAC player who currently is guiding NAC out of the danger zone.

Enough options for the Dutch, I suppose. With JP van Gastel at Feyenoord even, ready to take control once Koeman moves to Barcelona.

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