NOTE: I apologise again for late post. This time, a site update didn’t go too well. Can’t do anything with pictures or fonts… :-(. Hopefully to be dealt with soon!
As you may remember, the Dutch professional magazine for football coaches “De Voetbal trainer” ended 2012 with a big LVG interview. Thanks to the donations by you to this site, we took a subscription on the publication and now herewith find part 1 of the interview.
Louis van Gaal is thrifty with his time. Not every medium gets to interview him at length. He doesn’t say it out loud, but it most likely has to do with him not having a very high opinion on most journalist.
Ex-colleague Sef Vergoossen ( retired professional football coach of several Dutch and Belgian clubs) interviewed him for De Voetbaltrainer and Van Gaal quipped “I will do this as the target group of this magazine are my colleagues. And who knows, maybe other journalists will read it and I will get more intelligent questions next time…”
What have you done to get a very down Dutch team back into winning ways and enjoying themselves visibly, in such a short term?
LVG: “Football and coaching are processes. It starts with a vision and you work from that vision. One of the first decisions I had to make was to establish a new staff. It is key that the right staff would be put together to support that vision. I didn’t focus on the players, but on the technical staff….”
But most coaches by then were already taken by the different clubs?
“It was not the ideal moment maybe and I told most of the people I worked with at Bayern to follow their own journey. Only Max Reckers – video analyst – and Jos van Dijk – physio- and keeper trainer Franks Hoek were available. Jonker and Bout already commenced new jobs. I only wanted to work at a real challenging environment. I had only spoken with Ajax and Liverpool. All other offers I had put aside. Until this came. What a great challenge! I think Bert van Marwijk did a marvellous job but something went awry between him and the group.”
Did you talk to Bert about that?
“No. I really thought about it. But I can not let the opinion of the ex-coach have an impact on the chemistry between me and the group. I didn’t want to put energy in what “was”. I heard stories already and decided not to go there. You come subjective if you don’t watch it. The people who were there were part of it. I heard some stories from Kees Jansma and Hans Jorritsma and I am only interested if something impacts the way ahead.”
The way ahead…
“The KNVB has given me a very ambitious goal. Finish in the top 4 of the World Cup. Achievable, sure…. But not very easy. You could easily debate whether it is realistic, even. But, it’s on the table so we will go for it. We have three objectives: 1) play recognisable “Dutch” football, 2) integrate the new generation of talent and 3) re-establish the relationship between Oranje and the supporters.
Looking at those objectives, I immediately called Danny Blind. Danny has won everything you can win bar the World Cup as a player and captain. He has worked in almost all roles in a football club and all of them successful. Technical director, assistant coach, head coach, Manager Youth Systems, scout… he’s seen it all. And there is no one in Holland with more insight in the talent base in Holland as him. We share a similar football vision, but he is not a Yes Man. He has his own opinion and he knows me well enough to be a worthy adversary in debates.”
And then you decide to select Patrick Kluivert. Not a surprise for me as I had him in my coaching class at the KNVB. He thought as a mature coach already four years ago…
“I know him very well of course. Worked with him at Ajax, Barcelona and Oranje. It was always quite predictable that players like De Boer and Blind would turn into good coaches. Patrick is more an intuitive player. These players normally don’t make great coaches, as they cannot really analyse why they do certain things or how a team should play. It’s not an anomaly that some of the biggest players out there (Maradona, Hagi, Zico, Van Basten, Zidane, Hoddle) never reached the same level as coach as they did as a player. There are exceptions, like Happel, Cruyff and recently Laudrup and hopefully Kluivert too. He did his practice at AZ when I was there and he was remarkably clear towards the players. And it’s interesting if you look at his coaching career. Because let’s face it: name three top strikers of Oranje of the last 50 years and you go 1- Cruyff, 2- Van Basten, 3- Kluivert, right? But instead of going the short route, like Van Basten did, he started at NEC. In the youth. And then he went to Twente. And he coaches the most difficult team: the C-youth.
You have to motivate players who were not yet selected for the A-team and you have to work with established players who are focused on getting fit for the A-team. And still, he wins the title with Twente! He deserves much more kudos for this than he got. The current generation has seen him play, and that is also important for an Oranje staff. Someone they can relate to. Patrick listen to the same style of music, knows the same street slang as they use. Patrick is the one who will communicate with the group most. He is our translator, you could say. I also added Piet Bon to the staff. Physical Doctor, but also a great guy. A personality. Most players trust him, like him and confide into him if there is an issue outside of football. A good mental coach, in other words.”
Speaking of doctors, you did say you will only select fit players, correct?
“Of course. I have selected a broad medical staff. We have added doctor Edwin Goedhart, who works intensely with a very good online platform for players management at medical and nutritional level. I worked with him already before, and he was head of medical at Ajax. We have an orthopedic in Rien Heijboer of the Rotterdam Erasmum University and we have the same team of physios as Van Marwijk used. But speaking of fitness, I do not only mean physical, but also mental. With national teams, you can not select players to support them or to give them confidence. At club level: yes. Not at national level. You play one key game every time and it needs to be 100%. We do not support players who are recovering from injury or anything like that. Can’t do it. And players who have distractions in their private life, whether it’s marital issues or transfer issues, will not be selected either. Too much risk for both.”
And then there Hans Jorritsma and Kees Jansma…
“And Kees’ PR staff. We kept them all on. Hans is team manager since 1996 and is doing a perfect job. If Hans organises something it is 100% done. Always. I also added Edward Metgod to the scouting team. Ron Spelbos is in charge and he has a certain style of working, which is great. Edward works a lot with an international scouting system – Scout7 – and every weekend 1600 games are uploaded. The system has info on 100,000 players from 126 different competitions! We can watch these games via livestream on our computers. On top of that, the system offers a variety of statistics on the players so every weekend we can compare the performance of our national team players. You can see patterns, and progression and all of that. You can see if a player loses possession more in certain situations, or what combination of players work better…. I can use these stats and combine these with our own video analysis and email it to the players and have them work with it or focus on it without having to see them….”
That is intriguing. So what do you do with all that data?
“That is always the key question. Bert van Marwijk left us his list of 50 players who are top drawer for Oranje. We used this list as a starting point. We changed our system from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 (with a defensive or offensive central midfielder) or even 3-4-3 and we applied the role descriptions of these positions to the list. So we have the data from scout7, we have scouts and the staff watching games live or on tv and we collate what we see on Monday. Danny Blind, Jos van Dijk, Frans Hoek and Edward Metgod sift through the initial data and prepare a report which I discuss with them on Tuesday. We basically re-shuffle the top 50 every week. To determine what the ideal starting eleven would be based on the results of that particular weekend. In our Tuesday meeting, they have to convince me to change a certain player, for instance. The closer we get to a game, the more the specific qualities of the opponent are taken into account. We try not to use “coincidences” in our approach.”
How many games do you still see live?
“Less and less. I I go and watch a game, it takes a lot of time. Geting there, spending time at the venue, going home… I can watch three games at home, in that timespan and with all due respect: I can see it better. More angles, more cameras, more slo-mos… I try and see 75% of all the players in a given weekend and I can do so by watching on tv. We do go to see the internationals live. Scouts, the assistants, I do it too at times… Because personal contact is key too.”
So your staff has quite some people with an Ajax and/or AZ background…
“Well, you can also say a Barcelona or Sparta background… We tried to get Gio van Bronckhorst. Perfect guy for the role. Ex skipper of Oranje. Also a Barcelona background… But his two jobs at Feyenoord didn’t allow for him to join. Pity.”
How are the tasks divided within the staff? Who does what?
“I will face the whole group when we discuss team tactics. I coach the starting eleven when we prepare for a game. And Patrick is my assistant. Danny works as coach with the “opponent” and instructs them to play like our opponent plays. Danny Blind also does the opponent scouting and instructs our team about their strengths, weaknesses, etc… Frans Hoek does the set-pieces and dead-ball moments. We do line meetings on the match day. It’s interesting, the defence is always a longer meeting than the forwards meeting… Defenders seem to be able to soak up more info on their opponents and can concentrate well. The forwards are less interested. More intuitive I guess. I do these meetings, with Pat supporting me with the forwards and Danny with the midfielders and defenders. I also do individual talks and normally Pat or Danny is with me, depending on the position of the player…”
Stay tunes for more, in Pt 2….