Wim Jansen: coach with principles (part 2)

Johan Cruyff famously said: “There are four people on the planet I will listen to if it’s about football. Wim Jansen is one of them.”

He was head coach for only a brief spell, but he made a big impression in that role. Just google how Celtic honoured him after his passing to understand the impact he made there.

In Rotterdam, there are stands named after Willem van Hanegem and even after club masseur Gerard Meijer. There is a statue for Coen Moulijn, but there isn’t even a toilet named after Wim Jansen, the man who gave everything for the club as player and coach.

He wa honoured recently with a biography, called “Mastermind”. This was not a title Wim Jansen would have picked. He did collect a lot of football intel, but always simply to share it with whoever wanted to listen. And people did listen to him. Where other grandmasters of the game, such as Cruyff and Van Hanegem, enjoyed the spotlights, Jansen decided to limit his knowledge transfer to the insiders, the youth coaches, the interested clubs and football developers. He didn’t need to be on TV or leading first teams as a coach, per se.

Two football professors…

Jansen doesn’t like the limelight and when something doesn’t work for him, he’ll grab his coat and leaves. He won’t raise his voice, or start an argument. At Feyenoord and Celtic, he decided to leave it all behind. His wife Coby didn’t even ask about how that would work out financially. Wim Jansen always took mental independence over financial independence (but don’t worry, Jansen was able to invest himself to riches with shares).

When you look at his career, it’s a bit of a hotchpotch. Started at Lokeren in Belgium as head coach. Then SVV. Made his way to Feyenoord obviously, spent six weeks in Saudi Arabia, a few years in Japan and 10 months Celtic. And some 10 years or so, he wouldn’t do much. Just walking about at the youth academy of Feyenoord, where he’d mentor youth coaches and scout talents.

Rinus Israel, the concrete defender who won the European Cup and World Cup with Jansen, asked him as assistant in 1986 at Feyenoord. “I knew all about Wim’s loyalty and about his books full of know-how. I only had to tell him briefly what I needed for a practice session and Wim would grab sheets of paper from his files and work out amazing practices.”

Wim Jansen and assistant Geert (not Gerard) Meijer at Feyenoord

Wim Jansen takes the reins after Pim Verbeek almost kills the club. Legend Jozsef Kiprich – cult hero #1 in Holland – plays his first match in 1989 and has to run for his life when angry supporters took the field. That season would result in a terrible 0-6 loss versus PSV. Only 1,5 years later, Feyenoord is heading towards relegation. Wim Jansen takes over from Verbeek and coaches Feyenoord to a 0-1 win in Eindhoven for the national cup. They’d win the cup that season. Jansen always compared his work with the work of a builder. You got to start with a solid foundation. And with John de Wolf, Ed de Goey, Henk Fraser and John Metgod there definitely is a foundation. With strongholders Peter Bosz and Rob Witschge in midfield and the mercurial forwards like Taument, Regi Blinker and Jozsef Kiprich.

Jansen introduces a 5-2-3 system and turns the team into a winning team. Ulrich van Gobbel: “It was all about football. All his practices were with a ball. Under Verbeek, it was a lot of running. Jansen didn’t care how much you slept, how many beers you drank or how often you had sex. All these things control freak Verbeek wanted to know about.”

Gaston Taument: “A famous saying about coaches is “you are as good as the material you have”, well… Bengtson and Verbeek had the same squad and didn’t get anywhere. Jansen made a difference. He was the man of the details. I remember I was often with my back to the opponent’s goal. The first thing he did was telling me to be side on, so I could see more and I was able to spin easier and go forward. It sounds like a detail, but it changed everything for me.”

Jansen takes the club from the 16th position to the 4th in the table and wins the Cup. He wants to step back, take the Technical Director role and selects Hans Dorjee as the new coach. In March, Dorjee has to step back due to health issues and Jansen comes back in. And again Wim Jansen wins the National Cup with Feyenoord. Another season later, he selects his friend and former team mate Willem van Hanegem as head coach. Jansen will focus on the Feyenoord Academy.

Van Hanegem and Jansen visiting their mentor Ernst Happel for the last time…

Jansen works at Feyenoord on a handshake. He’s not a man for contracts. “That is how I like it. If I don’t want the job anymore, or if Feyenoord doesn’t want me, it’s easier to walk away.” The interview had as headline: “I could be gone in two seasons”. Nonsense, of course. Wim Jansen would be with Feyenoord for life. Or would he….

In 1993, Van Hanegem wins the title with Feyenoord again, at long last. With a squad composed by his neighbour and friend Wimpie. But there is something brewing. Jansen is a highly disciplined man and football coach. Willem van Hanegem is an intuitive and unfathomable man and coach. The reins are loose. Willem doesn’t require discipline in his squad. Jansen wants to discuss it. Willem doesn’t get it. Chairman Van de Herik refuses to join in the discussion and Wim Jansen knows enough. He shakes hands, grabs his coat and is off. He has been feeling agitated for months and can’t handle it any longer.

Wimpie and Willem in better days

Leo Beenhakker is Saudi Arabia NT coach, for the WC 1994 in the US. He decides to call Jansen: “Would you know a good assistant for me?” And to his surprise, Jansen says “I want to come!”. But things pan out differently. The draw puts Oranje with Dick Advocaat in the same group as Beenhakker’s Saudi Arabia and when the two coaches have a somewhat comedic tv interview about it, the Saudi Arabia football federation wants to make some changes. Beenhakker: “We were at trainings camp somewhere and we’re playing cards in the evening. Some assistant of the prince enters the room and wants our attention. Wimpie actually had a great hand, and turns half to say “hang on mate, I have a great hand, we want to play this game first.” And the guy shouts “You are all fired!” We did finish the game, of course.

Jansen missed his opportunity to coach at a World Cup but he does decide to leave his old stomping ground to go to Japan. When Celtic needs a new head coach, somehow Johan Cruyff is asked for advice. Without a blinking he mentions Jansen’s name. The Scottish media believe Arthur Jorge will be the new coach. The ex manager of Porto, Benfica, PSG and the NTs of Switzerland and Portugal is a marquee name. But when the new coach – Wim Jansen – is presented in Scotland, the media are puzzled. “Wim who??”. Only a handful realise that this is the goal scores in the 1970s semi finals which would put Feyenoord opposite Celtic in the Finals. One of the newspapers describe the new coach as “a man with the charisma of a shy librarian who is absent mindedly trying to find his pen.”

Some of the media are ruthless and shameful, saying things like “The worst thing to hit Hiroshima since the atom bomb”, a reference to Jansen’s Japanese employer Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

High point in his short Celtic career

Jansen realises Celtic hasn’t got any money and a squad in need to refreshing. He is able to bring Henke Larsson to Scotland, up until today he is the best Celtic signing ever. And after a breathtaking competition, Jansen wins the title after 9 straight Rangers’ wins in the last game of the season. Skipper Tommy Boyd would say: “Wim Jansen is the father, the architect and inspiration of this title. We need some time to get used to him, but what he does works. May he stay here with us for a long time!”

People buy green-white curly whigs, shirts with “10 in a row” with a strike-through the zero and in the last weeks, the fans sing a Wim Jansen song. “There is only one Wim Jansen, one Wim Jansen, One Wim Jansen… he’s got curly hair, but we don’t care, walking in a Jansen Wonderland”.

Two days later, Jansen decides to leave the club. Usually, you need to stay for many years at a club to become a legend. Jansen manages it in one season. When he visits Scotland in 2017 and happens to drive past the Celtic stadium, he’s surprised to see a huge banner with his face on it.

His last coaching job, as assistant at Feyenoord

In 2005, he would return to Feyenoord in the role of technical advisor. His work in the background is shelved when he decides to assist Gert Jan Verbeek for the 2008/09 season. The head coach is fired seven months in and in typical fashion, Wim Jansen remains loyal and leaves as well.

But he never really left. He simply went across to the Youth Academy, to watch the talents and to chat about football. Back to basics, where it all started. Wimpie will always be simply Wimpie.

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  1. Thanks Jan….As a people like me in india will always have struggles to get these kind of details on Jansen and real football artist..Here everything is messy and ronaldo ….As an oranje fan i new Jansen and the clubs he played for…..

    1. You’re welcome. He was highly respected. Always about the game. Never with the Hollywood aspect of the likes of Sneijder, Cruyff, Gullit… just a serious football professor who has seen it all. Every football fan in Holland mourns this special man!

  2. Thanks Jan, that was a wonderful piece from the first sentence of part 1 to the last of part 2…I lived in Glasgow for awhile, they don’t suffer fools. So for him to be that highly regarded among that fan base speaks to how genuine he must have been…and you captured that beautifully. A real treat to read this.

    1. Thanks man. I am also quite surprised how much his passing did in Holland. He was reserved, introverted and never went for the spotlights or cameras but I guess the football world in Holland is highly aware of his contributions over time. From his trophy winning days at Feyenoord, the mentoring of the youngsters at Ajax, the Academy work he did for Feyenoord and the informal advisory role he had towards many young coaches. A true gem.

  3. Watched PSV vs AZ. PSV started with 352 with Doan and Gakpo upfront. While AZ were mostly playing on the flanks stretching the game, PSV were more compact given both gakpo and Doan were cutting in from the flanks even though playing as strikers.Doan, though he possess some degree of technical ability ( cutting inside) He is a very one dimensional player and Schmidt has really failured to pick this up even from the Ajax game last week. He is so predictable as he can’t go outside and has to cut in and then playing him as a striker was just a horrendous decision . Gakpo was the brightest spark but again in situations where he was sucked on the flanks or tracked back in the middle , Doan and Gotze did not make any effort to move up into the box to provide an outlet for him. When the gakpo had the ball on his flank, Doan would still be on his flank, and Gotze further behind in the middle.

    In midst of this veerman and sangare ended up playing shot passes in build up phase and get the ball up in dangerous areas. I also would say sangare was better than veerman , particularly in the duals but he did lose poesession in most of duals when trying to break through. The wingbacks also did not help them in this situation as both Mauro junior and Mwene played low attacking line.

    Now when Veerman and Doan was subbed off, PSV reverted back to 433 and the game changed instantly. From compact, they started playing wide with gakpo and vertessen on the flanks and Zahavi in the middle. This is when the game opened up and PSV looked more dangerous. Unfortunately the blunder by the GK decided the game.

    Veerman though, he was in the mix, he really didn’t have much option given the formation and how compact PSV were playing. Vs Ajax game last week , he was really in the thick of things in more free flowing formation. Even when they reverted back 433, Boscagli who moved up to his position was more lively than him but it was because of how the game opened up and the the space it created. Mainly due to the gakpo and vertessen who started stretching the defense from the flanks and with Zahavi further in middle attracking AZ CMs to cover up as well. It has to be noted with Veerman, there needs to be an outlet as an players in open spaces or typical in one two linking up situation. In this game, he didn’t have much options picking out anybody upfront. He was just linking up laterally with wingbacks, and with sangare and Gotze in the middle.

    I liked Boscagli’s game. He started in the middle of the 3 man backline and was rovering back and forth and then when he moved up in 433, was lively as well. Teze and obispo also looks like good defenders in the making and really played well in defense. The decision by Schmidt to bench Drommel also backfired and cameras were quick to focus on Drommel after the Mvogo made the blunder and then onto Schmidt with a cold face. Madueke has been big loss for PSV and I don’t think Doan and Bruma is up to his level. Vertessen is looks good but as an impact player. PSV needs to invest in some quality forwards if they want to aim higher. Backline and midfield have good depth. If gakpo departs in summer, they need to have back up of his quality.

    With this loss Ajax have run away with the title.

  4. Have been keeping tabs on bundasliga 2. Ludvoit Reis, Hamburg and Thomas Ouwejan, schalke have been doing good and are now starting for their respective teams. Both teams are aiming to gain promotion next season. Might remember Ouwejan was at AZ and feature promintely for JO at LB.

  5. I loved how smartly AZ played against PSV: every line worked with almost 100% efficiency. I am happy that Jansen was able to stabilize AZ even with this set of fairly mediocre players. There are still problems with central duo which makes things more difficult during standard set ups. With resect to Mvogo’s blunder, even if this did not happen AZ still would have found a hole in PSV defense. I hope AZ will continue this series of lossless games and play a little more determined with the weaker teams. The last draw with Cambuur was disappointing.

  6. Watched Bayern Leverkusen and Dortmund and without Haaland Dortmund looked stingless. Malen in his absence was simply not up to it and neither he is his idle replacement when he departs. He had few shots on goal but otherwise Jonathan Tah completely shut him out.its only when he drifted out, that he managed to link up and had few shots on goal.

    Leverkusen, like I have said previously , they have a good contingent and are always joyful to watch as they play free flow style soccer. Florian Wirtz will be the next break out start for the germans and has been a key player for them

    For the dutch contingent, both Frimpong and Bakker started the games, frimpong started with an own goal while trying to clear off free kick from Brandt. The ball hit his head and flew at the back of the net. Didnt have much penetrating runs as usually as his flank was very active and he had to defensively stand his ground alot. Did get an assist on Diaby’s goal after a clean break.

    Bakker also had few nervy momemts in the early stages but then was job as ususlly. One thing to note about him you will hardly see players going outside of him and this is how he keeps his flank quiet. He is quite robust in tackles or duals and often comes out on top. Meunier had a torrid time on his flank and there wasnt much threat from his side as well.

    Like I said Leverkusen has a good contingent and players around bakker and vice visa have a good understanding and they click very well. Players like Diaby, Wirtz, they work in triangles providing outlet for him in build up phases. I dont see this happening in NT and for this reason he could struggle in NT but then you have to start some where and this is why he should be called up for the friendlys because like at BL, the more he plays, the more he will build up on confidence level. The same I would say for Frimpong.

    Fosu Mensah also came on in the closing stages of the game to replace frimpong. Didnt see much ball.

  7. Also watched the second half of Villareal and Betis. Danjuma came of the bench around 66 minute.was very cautious and didnt look 100% either. Got one clear chance to make it 3-0 but couldnt bury it. The GK blocked it off. Emery is building a good team there. They also have brought in serge Aurier and Giovanni Lo celso from Tottenham. The CL fixture with Juventus will be intresting.

  8. Caught the highlights of PSG and Lille. 4-1 thrashing by PSG with Botman in limelight at both ends of the goal. Scored one and then gave away one for free. Couldnt have done much on other goals. He is surely going to be on a hot persuit in the summer transfer market

    1. In eredivisie Jizz Hornkamp scored on debut for Willem 11. As I mentioned earlier Keep a eye on this guy. Very good finisher. Hope his trajectory lifts off from here.

  9. The Overmars news is devastating. Him and van der Sar had really built a good thing there, and he was being linked with other top clubs which would have only helped Dutch players.

    Obviously he was in the wrong, but still devastating news.

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