HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 3 – And so it begins

On May 28th, two weeks after the disastrous season where HVV was almost demoted to the 3e Klasse I signed a contract making me the head coach of HVV. It was still almost a month before the start of the competition which started on June 20th so I had enough time to make me familiar with the club, the staff, and the players. As much as possible I tried to make myself familiar with the players but at this level, the information that I had about the players was limited at best but that was what I had to work for with now, at least before the preseason started and I could see them playing with my own eyes and assess their abilities and how good they where and eventually made some additions to the team. I was sure we could use some additions after how last season went.

After the previous head coach Edmund Vriesde left after 8 years of being head coach there his assistant and most of the staff left the club which let the short sorely short of staff. The only people left where Jason Janssen who took over temporarily after Edmund Vriesde was fired and Head Physio Melvin Stafleu. Both were young and inexperienced and probably not up to the job at hand. This was quickly fairly resolved, within a few weeks after I signed more staff members were signed by the board, big names who just like me were persuaded by the compelling argument and the ambitiousness of the club. Former PSV keeper and seven-time international Ronald Waterreus was signed as my assistant manager, Former Feyenoord player Jan van Deinsen was signed as reserve manager, Former Ado Den Haag player Joop Lankhaar was signed as Under 19 Manager. Former PSV keeper Wim de Ron signed as goalkeeping coach, former international Orlando Engelaar as under 19 Assistant, Former international and Ajax player Andy van der Meyde as Reserve Coach and finally Former PSV player Rob Landsbergen as Director of Football and Head of Youth Development. With the exception of me, all internationals or at least played for a top tier club in the Netherlands which was intimidating.

Before the preseason started I also had to fly to the Solomon Island for the two under 29 friendlies we had planned. It was a long flight, first to Brisbane for 22 hours and from there a 3-hour flight to Honiara. The first one was against the Cook Islands Under 20s and the second one was against Tahiti Under 20s. We played at home at the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara the capital of the Island. It was the only stadium on the Island and calling it a stadium might be an exaggeration, it was at the level of lower league football. It did not have any official capacity but no more than 20,000 would fit the surrounding grassland. I recruited some local football coached to help me and also to overcome the language barrier seeing although English was the official language only 2% speaks English fluently. With the help of my staff, who actually did most of the work we selected twenty-three under twenty players for the upcoming under 20 matches. We week before the first game we came together and did our first training and the level of football was shockingly bad. Luckily most of our opponents were equally bad or worse so that was a reassurance. The first game we played against the Cook Island, the game went better than expected we won with 2-1. The second game we played against Tahiti Under 20s who are traditionally one of the stronger footballing nations of the Pacific Islands. In the end, we kept them to a draw, the match ended in 1-1 which I was satisfied with. I went on the long flight back home, I would have to return in 2 months for 3 friendly matched and also the Oceania Under 20 Championship 2018.

Two weeks later the preseason started, we started early and had a long preseason which I was looking forward to. After the first two trainings, I had a pretty good idea about the players and the selection in general. There were a few good players like Defender Yoeri Jenner, Midfielder Thierry Seaw, Defender Saleh Dahmani, and attacker Boy Wotte. We would need quite some reinforcement for our team. I knew of some young players who mostly played 5e Klasse (lowest tier) but where pretty good so signed them, I signed 17-year-old winger Jim Holtkamp, Midfielder Haris Alispahic, Luka Ulrich and 18-year-old keeper Ralf Nietfeld, attacking midfielder Thijs van Bremen and Midfielder Haris Alispahic. For some experience I signed players with Eredivisie players, I signed 34-year-old Defender Danny Mathijssen from RBC, Keeper Cees Paauwe, Defender Milan Berck Beelenkamp, Defender Karim Saïdi and keeper Beau Molenaar.

From there it kinda escalated with the transfers, we kept bringing in new players. It was a mix of (older) former professionals and Ajax Youth players who did not get a new contract who I knew from my time at Ajax. Former Ajax youth players that we signed were wingbacks Shaquill Sno and Rodney Lopes Cabral, attacking midfielder Melvin Vissers and attacker Adham El Idrissi. Other players, we signed attacker Collins John, midfielder Lorenzo Davids, Wingers Etienne Esajas and wingback Tim de Cler, Winger Derk Boerrigter, Defender Noah Barendse, and Attacker Mustapha Riga. Finally, we signed Attacker George Weah Jr who I knew from my time as a player in Italy, he was the son of former AC Milan player, Ballon d’Or winner and presidential candidate George Weah. It really was a mix between older experience and talented youth, our selection was already at a level far above that of this and probably clubs a few levels above us.

So I could get a good idea of the players I started with a game against our under 18 team and a second game against our reserves. We disappointingly drew against our under 18 but won 4-0 against our reserves. Our first serious game was against PFC which we barely won 2-1, our second match we played against the reserves of our big local rivals Ado Den Hague who play in the Eredivisie and we narrowly lost with 2-3. After this we played a sequence of games against lower league and weaker teams that mostly went well, we won 5-0 against RVV Kocatepe, we won 6-3 against IJVV Stormvogels, we won 1-0 against Legmeervogels and, we won 3-2 against SDO Bussum. After these game the level of our opponents went up, we played against VV Assendelft who play at the same level but in a different group and we lost with 1-3, we played against the reserves of LOSC Lille which we also lost this time with 1-2 and for our final preseason match where lucky to win from Overmaas who also played at the same level as us with 4-2 mostly because of the two own goals they made.

The board and the press both expect us now to get promoted which, seeing the players that we have should technically be easily attainable but ofcourse you never know what happens. With this many good players, everybody will probably want to play which can lead to tensions, we can have injuries or we can just not have the luck we need to lose games that we should win.

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