It’s been another eventful week for the Dutch football fans. We are smashing the coefficiency ratios with our tremendous results in Europe (Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ, Vitesse, PSV) and we might see all teams surviving the usually devastating winter break!
Ajax got a bit lucky, Feyenoord was able to adapt to the muddy pitch best, PSV had to do without creative influx from Gotze, Propper and Gakpo while Vitesse was close to getting another result vs Spurs. AZ has found their mojo again and has been playing some excellent football (again). This weekend, it’s Arne Slot vs his old club…
And our master coach Louis van Gaal announced his definitive squad for this last World Cup qualification block, leaving Krul out (wouldn’t it be better to get an experienced goalie in, alongside young Bijlow and Drommel? Cillesen even?). Owen Wijndal loses out against Malacia and Luuk de Jong is not longer needed as pinch hitter as Louis has decided on Memphis as #9, knowing that Gakpo, Malen, Danjuma, Lang are excellent options on the left. Berghuis is still the only real right winger, (“real”) with Bergwijn also dropping out.
When van Gaal was announced as the new NT manager, his third stint, he said the following during a press conference: “Who else would there be to take this job?”. Telling words. And add to that the oft heard criticism here, by the Dutch Bleeders: “Why always a Dutch coach??” , “Blind and De Boer are useless, headless chickens who don’t deserve to be alive” and more of that :-).
Stam quit his job at Feyenoord when he realised he couldn’t play how he wanted…
This is inspired by a VI article by Pieter Zwart about the lack of Dutch coaches breaking through to the absolute top.
We used to have Beenhakker (Ajax, Feyenoord, Real Madrid), Hiddink (PSV, Valencia, Real Madrid), Advocaat (PSV, Zenit), Van Gaal (Barca, Bayern, Man U), Van Marwijk (Feyenoord, Borussia Dortmund), Ten Cate (Ajax, Chelsea, Barca) to name a few, while Cruyff and Van Hanegem and Wim Jansen at a certain point felt “enough was enough”.
I think it is fair enough to have a critical look at the Dutch trainers course. Very expensive, and very ineffective. The vision of this course by the KNVB has shifted through time and it has been further tainted by privileges for ex players.
Jaap Stam had enough. The class room lessons didn’t work for Jaap. He started to complain in interviews and the media pressure was such that the KNVB decided to offer him and other ex-players a custom course. And it’s probably “typically Dutch” to feel above and beyond these courses. When Van Hanegem was asked what he had picked up from the course, his typical sardonic response was “my cigarette butts after the course”. Cruyff even completely refused to take any course, saying that spending 20 years in a dressing room is worth more thn 2,000 diplomas. He was Ajax’ head coach but decided to call himself Technical Director so he could bypass the Dutch KNVB regulations.
Based on that feedback, the KNVB decided to offer short track courses to ex players, with 50 caps or more. Marco van Basten retired from football at 29. He took many years off and when he returned in 2002, he wanted to become a coach. The KNVB offered him a short course and within the year he had the highest diploma in Dutch coaching. After one season as coach of Ajax 2, with friend Van ‘t Schip, the KNVB appointed them both as NT managers.
Two national team managers
Now, Van Basten says: “And there I was. Boom. National Team manager. I wasn’t ready for that. I simply lacked the experience to be comfortable as a head coach.” In his autobiography he admits he missed hours and hours of sleep, purely from stress. In Sweden 2004, when he made his debut, he had completely forgotten to bring his analysis notes of the opponent. He was not particularly strong in communications with his players and decided in 2014 that coaching was really not his thing.
Frank Rijkaard won the Champions League with Barca, but got relegated with Sparta. Ronald Koeman had good (Ajax, Feyenoord, Southampton, Oranje) and bad spells (Valencia, Barcelona, Everton, AZ) while Cocu and Frank de Boer saw their reputations tarnished abroad. Jan Wouters, Ruud Gullit, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Clarence Seedorf, Jaap Stam and Edgar Davids all took blows in their careers. As Co Adriaanse said: “A good horse doesn’t make a good jockey!”
Bergkamp, Cocu and Kluivert with their diplomas
The KNVB created a kartel. Ex players were short tracked through the course while non-players had an extremely difficult time trying to get through to the course. Someone like Julian Nagelsmann or Jose Mourinho would have struggled to get their diploma in The Netherlands. Even Arne Slot and Danny Buijs struggled to get in, in 2017! In that year, the rules were re-considered, which als gave Sjors Ultee (Fortuna Sittard coach) the opportunity to snug in.
Our last biggest club success in the highest competition was Ajax’ Van Gaal in 1995. Now we look back and know that a change in rules in 1992 was key to Ajax’ success. The goalie was no longer allowed to pick up a back pass. Ajax was known to press high and that tactics resulted in a high number of goal keeper kicking errors, which Ajax could use to turn around possession. But that benefit has long dissipated into thin air.
The first coaching course, with Rijsbergen, Stafleu and Willem van Hanegem
Van Gaal was the last Dutch coach to be in a Champions League final, and to win a foreign title with Bayern. After Mark van Bommel and Ronald Koeman’s sacking, Peter Bosz is the only Dutch coach abroad, in a major competition.
Today’s Dutch School flag bearers are non Dutch. Like Pep Guardiola. Where his Dutch colleagues were short-tracked, Pep took the long way. He went to play in Mexico, to get a chance to work with Juanma Lillo, a Spanish coach with particular views on football. He also visiting football professor Bielsa in Argentina, to take his lessons. Bielsa was so obsessed with Van Gaal’s Ajax, that he would watch the games and he would stop the match when Van Gaal would make changes. And he would then try to second guess what the Ajax coach would do, assisted by his wife.
According to the Dutch coaching candidates, we have four issues with our coaching program. Firstly, the cost. A Dutch diploma costs twice as much as the equivalent in other European countries. These high rates are a stumbling block for many ex players to have a go. Secondly, the contents of the course is outdated. It’s talk, show, do. The coaching objective must be articulated in 5 Ws: What do we want? Where on the pitch? Who are the key players? When do we execute? What is the role of the opponent? Situational coaching, it is called. The Dutch coaches first explain the situation, then show it and then go and practice it, with the Dutch coach constantly stopping the play to go through the solution and practice that, almost in slow motion.
Rijkaard, Neeskens, Hiddink (NT coach in 1998), Gullit and Koeman (who received their diplomas)
This method doesn’t work in combination with the current standard of international football. Dutch coaches stop the play when a ball is turned over. Those are the moments to get the players attention in order to work on the situation. But subconsciously, that “stopping” at turn overs becomes part of the players’ behaviour!
Thirdly, the teachers at the coaching course. There has not been any new fresh blood. The coaches are theoretically strong but lack any real world consciousness around coaching and managing. The fourth issues, is that every student will graduate. You cannot fail. You pay, you get the diploma.
Marcel Lucassen is the new director football development at the KNVB and he will take his experience with the German DFB, Al-Nasr and Arsenal and inject his ideas into our coaching curriculum.
With the successful exploits of young coaches like Arne Slot, Danny Buijs (Groningen), Sjors Ultee, Kees van Wonderen (Go Ahead), Rogier Meijer (NEC), Johnny Jansen (Heerenveen), Pascal Jansen (AZ), Erik ten Hag, Wim Jonk (Volendam), Reinier Robbemond (De Graafschap), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Young PSV), John Heitinga (Young Ajax), we might see a new generation of “top coaches” emerge.
Success coach Sjors Ultee would not have been admitted in the old regime