Tag: Heerenveen

Road to Qatar: Andries Noppert

The 28 year old is born in Joure, Friesland. Pronounced “Jower”, so his nickname is: The Tower of Joure. Yes!

I had prepped Road to Qatar posts for Flekken and Cillesen, considering these two would make the cut. But they didn’t.

This tall, lanky, somewhat lacklustre goalie who played only 51 Eredivisie games for Go Ahead Eagles and SC Heerenveen and never one single match in a rep team for Oranje ended up surpassing the two experienced goalies and made it to Oranje #1.

What a story. If Noppert learned one thing, it is that nothing is impossible.

It’s 2020, and dad Noppert asks his son to come round for a chat. His deal at 2nd tier club FC Dordrecht is coming to an end. Due to injuries, the tall goalie didn’t make an impression. Andries’ dad Fokko suggested that his son probably should start thinking about another career. Police officer maybe? But Andries didn’t want to hear it. He invested in another rehabilitiation session and with his resilience, his patience and a bit of luck, he ended up becoming the most amazing keeper story in the history of Dutch goalkeeping. Because today, Van Gaal decided that Noppert is the best goalkeeper of the Nation.

And Noppert goes from surprise to surprise. He’s now in a hotel room in Qatar so big he needs directions to find the toilet (his words) and had to call reception to find out how he could close the drapes at night. Oh, we do this via a remote control, electronically, Mr Noppert. They don’t have those hotels in Heerenveen, it seems.

In Joure, Noppert started to play football as a outfield player. “He was a rough player, like a tank. So much energy. He would simply go for the ball, no matter what.” This mentality meant that the youth coaches felt he would be great as a keeper. “He was tall already and fearless,” says his dad, who is also 2 meters tall.

When he is 10 years old, SC Heerenveen comes along and the youth coaches saw something interesting. “He was the only kid who wasn’t impressed to be here, or who wasn’t nervours. He came across as a sponge, was keen to learn about everything.”

“He also was active as a gymnast and despite his lengthy frame, he was very agile and lightfooted. Usually, tall guys can have coordination issues, but not Andries. He was very good with his footwork and movement.”

When keepers trainer Van der Sleen moves to Breda to work at NAC, Noppert wants to go too. Heerenveen offers the youngster a contract but Noppert is keen on an adventure with his coach. The goalie would not make a mark in Breda and NAC gets relegated.

In the 2nd tier, Noppert doesn’t make a name for himself as a goalie, but as a practical joker. One of his fave tricks was to park cars of team mates on very tough spots in the surrounding nature. “There was this hill, it was not easy to get your car on there, or off, and we would take someone’s keys and take his car and park it up there. If they came back from the physio or whatever, we would say “hey mate, isn’t that your car up there? How did it get there? Hahahaha”.

More typical football dressing room humor ensues. The worst one: not flushing the toilets. The coach would be driven to madness and Noppert and his mates would be having more than a casual laugh.

It’s 2017 and Italian side Foggia is looking for another goalie. Somehow, Noppert is their man. He’s 23 years old wen he moves to the South of Italy. Breda wasn’t good to him, but Italy was worse. Different coaches, no playing time, a lot of criticism and threats from fans and dealing with the local mafia. At one point, his car was stolen and offered back to him to buy. His dad: “Andries doesn’t speak Italian and didn’t speak English too well and then you end up there. Madness, things happened there you would never see in The Netherlands. But, I think it made him stronger.”

Noppert returns to Holland after two seasons. His girlfriend Sarena is grateful. Life in Foggia wasn’t too good for her. The 24 year old can sign a deal with FC Dordrecht. Coach Claudio Braga offers him a starting berth and he plays a very strong game against NEC, the first match of the season. At training, the goalie gets a heavy knee injury. Another major set back. Due to Covid, Noppert can’t travel to his physio and builds a home gym to deal with his recovery. But his Dordrecht contract expires and the tower is going to have another tough conversation with his dad and wife, who try to convince him to stop dreaming. Noppert refuses to give up.

It would take six months since his recovery for another club to contact him. Go Ahead Eagles just lost two goalies due to injuries and need a back up. Warner Hahn is also brought in and the tall Frysian loses out against the former Feyenoord talent. His Go Ahead coach Van Wonderen: “Lets just say that Andries didn’t make it hard for me to pick Hahn.”

Van Wonderen: “He made mistakes, but he also had the most miraculous saves! I noticed he was at peace with being second keeper. He lacked sharpness and hunger. I made him aware. I triggered him. And when Hahn was going through a bad spell, I gave Andries his chance. He took it.”

He had an impressive half season and now suddenly clubs were queueing up for him. FC Utrecht, Heracles, Cambuur, they all wanted him now, but Andries’ heart went out to his first love, SC Heerenveen.

He wanted to be closer to his family, now Noppert and wife have a child, and he is finally able to play football in front of his old mates, who usually go and watch Heerenveen play.

At Go Ahead Eagles, the fans started to chant “Noppert in Oranje!!” and it was seen as a silly joke. No one knew that only a year later the injury-prone towering goalie would actually be on Van Gaal’s radar.

When he got the first invite for Oranje, he received a phone call from his old youth coach. In typical Noppert style, he told his old coach: “Can you believe it? They all fell for it!”

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The Dream of Andries Noppert

While the likes of Messi, Neymar, Van Dijk, Thiago, Benzema and Lewandowski will get the headlines this midweek, with the CL in full force, this time a story about a guy who will most likely never play a Champions League match in his career.

But he might play a game at the World Cup!

Andries Noppert. Sent away from FC Dordrecht in the second tier only two years ago. In two weeks, he might make his debut in Oranje.

Coach Kees van Wonderen took the gamble and signed Noppert as reserve goalie for Go Ahead Eagles. Today, Van Wonderen is head coach at Heerenveen and Noppert followed him there. Asked whether he could see the potential in the tall goalie, he said: “No. No one did. Not even Noppert himself. But it was as if he exploded!”

Van Wonderen: “He is a quaint goalie. I saw him at training, where he stopped unbelievable balls only to fumble tremendously in matches. It seemed like he accepted the fact he was not top.”

And yes, everywhere he played Noppert was told he was not good enough. He started at Heerenveen in the youth. They didn’t think he’d make it. He went to NAC in Breda, and was the reserve goalie there. He took a trip to Foggia, in the Serie B in Italy and he warmed the bench there too. Even in the bottom of the Dutch 2nd tier, he didn’t get a game. FC Dordrecht thanked him and sent him home. He was without a club for 6 months until Eagles in Deventer needed a reserve goalie. He spent 12 months on the bench, until he got his chance. The rest is history.

Most of his career, he looked like this… This is at Dordrecht

Ever since, there is a fun chant in the Go Ahead Eagles stadium: “Noppert in Oranje!” and it sounded like a joke. Not something you’ll hear in the Ajax or Feyenoord stadiums, as it is quite logical that the key players of these teams end up in the orange jersey.

These are the anti-heroes, or cult heroes. The players who could have ended up as postman instead, or truckdriver. Noppert is popular, because the average football fan might think: this could have been me!

The friendly giant in the Heerenveen goal, 27 years old now, is suddenly a fan favorite, with chants to his name and fans whereever he goes.

The football world seems addicted to stats, these days, but sometimes something happens that is not easy to explain. Suddenly, Leicester City wins the Premier League, or Iceland goes to the Euros or Greece wins it. And now, this lanky clumsy goalie has the chance to present himself at a World Cup!

Today, coach Van Wonderen sends his goalie into the match with the words: “Show them why Van Gaal loves you!”

Or he looked like this…

His invitation to Oranje seems a surprise, but based on stats, it’s actually logical. Take this stat:

xG on target tegen = Expected goals against

Goals Tegen = Actual Goals against

Verschil = Difference

The savings percentage of Noppert is way above the percentages of the other goalies. He stopped eleven attempts of Feyenoord in the second match this season and won a point for his club.

There is no reason whatsoever for Van Gaal not to select this goalie. We know Van Gaal also looks at the football capabilities of the keepers. Their kicking abilities, their coaching and their eye for tactics and organisation. Bijlow, Cillesen and Pasveer are all three quite comfortable on the ball, this is not Noppert’s strength. Only Twente goalie Unnerstall is worse in his kicking than the tall Heerenveen lad. Only 58% of his passes actually end up at the target.

Noppert will not become the next Manuel Neuer anytime soon. Van Gaal will have picked Noppert for that other reason: his amazing reach and reflexes on the line. Louis wants a penalty killer, to help the team in situations where penalty kicks need to bring the decision. This used to be Tim Krul’s role but Noppert is potentially surpassing the Norwich goalie. Every centimeter counts.

When asking that question, the press chief of Heerenveen comes up with an old video of Heerenveen A1 versus Ajax A1. A penalty series needs to bring the final decision and a lanky Heerenveen goalie can demonstrate his skills by stopping two spotkicks: Heerenveen A1 goes to the finals.

Does Van Wonderen see Noppert as that potential penalty killer? “He did stop one in the pre-season and he also was close to stopping Yilmaz penalty but that just taken with too much power for Andries.” Van Wonderen can understand Van Gaal’s thinking: “Yes, he has everything to be a penalty killer. The length, the reflexes, the mental calmness. But I think Van Gaal will want to test that in more details at the trainings camp.”

Van Wonderen stresses Nopperts mental powers. “He had to deal with so many setbacks and rejections. And he has been booed a lot and now people are cheering him. Either way, he will shrug his shoulders. I hope he’ll reach the final squad and that he has a chance to show himself. What a journey this lad has been through.”

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Dutch eleven lose important game….

Feyenoord’s youth system architect Wim Jansen with inspiration Johan Cruyff

Dutch Eleven? I can hear you think? Did the Dutch team lose?

No, Feyenoord lost. Against Marco van Basten’s Heerenveen. But quite unique, Ronald Koeman fielded 11 Dutch players. Quite a remarkable fact. And when he had to sub Immers and later Martins Indi, two Dutch subs came on. Boetius was subbed by Ivorian Cissee though, so the all-Dutch team got an international character then…

With Graziano Pelle in the team (the first name on the team sheet), this will never be possible, but as the Italian striker was suspended, Louis van Gaal looked on while his 7 internationals took on Heerenveen’s in form side.

Winning was key to remain a title contender, for Feyenoord and like Carlos, Louis van Gaal wants Feyenoord to win it. The National Team coach told Clasie last week: Go and win the title!!

Knowing, that if Feyenoord does win it, CL football is on the cards next season. What better foundation for the Feyenoord Seven, preparing for the World Cup.

Also, most Feyenoord players have stated to stay in Rotterdam if CL football is secured.

Players like Clasie, De Vrij and Janmaat will most certainly be able to sign lucrative deals for next season, but….will they get playing time? If they move to Liverpool, Arsenal or Fiorentina, they might be brought “slowly” by their new coaches, which will cost them their WC spot.

But Feyenoord didn’t win. Heerenveen was better, more aggressive and more hungry. A big mistake by Stefan de Vrij, otherwise very strong with Mathijsen in the central defender spot, secured the 2-0 win for Van Basten’s team. The former team manager of Oranje started very poorly this season. He lost the Heerenveen forwards Assaidi (Liverpool), Dost ( Wolfsburg) and Narsignh (PSV) but his Dost replacement Finnbogasson can’t stop scoring (21 goals for the Icelandic striker), while Djuricic is playing so well this season that Benfica snapped him up.

Van Basten has been able to turn his team around and with great results at home against the Top 5, Heerenveen is now sneaking back into the European football qualifications position of the league.

Feyenoord will have to take a backseat to Ajax and PSV. These two are also not impressing to heavily. PSV in particular, with that tremendous squad, keeps on underwhelming. By now, it is fairly certain that Advocaat will not extend his deal which means Philip Cocu will step up and take the reigns.

Arjen Robben played a key role in Bayern’s massive win over HSV (two goals and two assists in the 9-2 dressing down) but might consider a move (Inter Milan or Galatasaray are reported to make a move) as the ex-Groningen player wants security of a starting spot (for the World Cup, of course).

Wes Sneijder is fit to play with Galatasaray against Real Madrid, while Robin van Persie keeps on leading the line for Man United.

Rumours persist that Christian Eriksen will move to Liverpool this summer and Ajax will sign super talent Adam Maher to replace him.

Feyenoord may not win it this season, but they surely look bright.

Another club that seems to fly high thanks to Johan Cruyff’s insights. It is no secret that once Wim Jansen (former 1974 midfielder and Feyenoord icon) started to meddle with the youth system (with his son in law Stanley Brard), based on Johan Cruyff’s philosophy: 4-3-3 as the system and individual trainings plans for the players.

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Looking ahead to the new season….

Well my friends, the debacle that was the Euro2012 is wearing off a little bit for me.

I actually came out of bed today and tomorrow I will definitely shave, I promised my wife. There is more to life then football, I realised and I hope to find out what exactly, soon…

So, with poor Bert trying to forget his sorrows on some far away island ( with a hefty exit fee in his bank account) and Louis van Gaal scheming and preparing the humiliation of Belgium next month, I am starting to focus on the coming football season.

And I’m not sure I like what I hear/read….

The latest rumour is that Inter and Anzhi have agreed the transfer of Wesley Sneijder to Russia. Now, I don’t care how much he gets ( 15 mio per season?? Really???), I personally want to see him ( and Yolanthe) in England, Spain, Italy or Germany. Not in Russia! Is it all about the money, Wes??

Another rumour says that Raf will have to leave Spurs. Sure, he has hinted at it himself, as Sylvie is making her moolah in Germany but it would again be a bit of setback, being sent away from Real Madrid earlier. Spurs new boss AVB apparently wants to play 4-3-3 and sees no room for Van der Vaart at White Hart Lane. Another disappointment for me.

Van Persie’s future is a bit unsure but we do know he won’t go for Chinese yuans or Russian rubels. I do hope he stays at the Emirates but he will most likely join Man City.

The EPL is getting less interesting for me. Vorm and Krul will keep me interested, but with Kuyt leaving Liverpool and Man City spending money like there is no tomorrow I’m not sure I will focus as much on England as last season. Sure, De Jong and De Guzman will interest me and Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen will be cool to follow but other than that… I do hope we invade Belgium soon… Vermaelen, Kompany, Vertonghen…aaaarrrggh… We would have had one World Cup and one more Euro Cup in our trophy cupboard for sure.

With Dost in Germany, maybe Rafa there too and Robben and Huntelaar in the Bundesliga, I might switch a bit more to the East, giving me a chance to check out Dost and Luuk de Jong too, who might sign for Monchengladbach (if Twente treats him well). Don’t forget, we have Bruma in Hamburg and Elia in Bremen, so heaps to look out for.

Portugal and France don’t offer leagues I’d be following but Ola John, Ricky Wolf and Stijn Schaars do happen to be players I love to watch, so…who knows…

The Dutch Eredivisie might well be the place to hang… Ronald Koeman at Feyenoord and Frank de Boer at Ajax play real Dutch football. Karim El Ahmadi, John Guidetti and Otman Bakkal may have left, but Feyenoord did sign former AZ talent Vormer, ADO marathon man Tim Immers and Heerenveen right back Daryl Janmaat, while the Norwegian/Indian Singh has impressed already.

Ajax will lose Vertonghen and Assaiti and who knows, Vernon Anita but Frank de Boer doesn’t panic. He refuses to pay ridiculous amounts of money for players (like Narsingh) and expect his new recruits to really want to play for the Sons of Gods. If not: see you later.

Bassie getting the Heerenveen suit measured to fit

PSV has new skipper Mark van Bommel in da house, alongside coach Dick Advocaat and is seriously eyeing Luciano Narsingh and Adam Maher. The AZ talent wants to move up a bit and doesn’t believe he’ll play for AZ again.

Gertjan Verbeek at AZ did sign Rasmus Elm brother Victor Elm from Heerenveen and seems to be comfortable with the exit of potentially Maher and Benschop, who left for France.

It’s pretty quiet in Arnhem (Vitesse presented Fred Rutten as their new coach), Groningen ( Robert Maaskant takes the helm), Utrecht ( Jan Wouters stays on board, with potentially Co Adriaanse joining in) and in other places but in Heerenveen the eyes are focused on new coach Marco van Basten, who will need some magic to replace the golden forwards Assaidi, Narsingh and Dost.

Despite another exodus of talent, it’s most likely going to be another exciting season in the Eredivisie, where coaches like Van Basten, De Boer and Koeman will stick to the Dutch school and present some open and attacking football…

And to finish this post off: interestingly our neighbours in the south ( Belgium) have decided to sign a number of Dutch coaches. Mario Been is doing really well at Genk, while former Club Brugge coach Adrie Koster will be active in Belgium as well. Ron Jans signed for Liege/FC Luik and Dutch crown prince coach John van den Brom left the snakepit Vitesse to coach the Belgium top club Anderlecht.

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