HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 2 – Road to HVV

I love playing football but a football career has an end date, the longevity of a football career is very limited. There are exceptions on this but generally, field players retire between the age of 32 and 34 and goalkeepers might keep playing till they are 40. Seeing the limited time you have as a footballer you also have to think about what to do after you hang up your boots and retire as a player. For me the choice was always very clear, I wanted to stay in football and wanted to become a coach. I signed for Ajax Amateurs at age thirty I knew my career as a footballer would be dwindling down so I also started working on my coaching badges to move into coaching when my career was over. I started with the Pupillen Trainer badge which would allow me to coach kids between the ages of five and thirteen. The next badge was Junior Trainer which allowed me to train kids between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. I took a job as a youth coach of ASV De Dijk an amateur club who were just promoted to the Eerste Klasse.

I also started working on my Uefa C youth badge while training youth teams at ASV De Dijk. I was lucky enough to be a player of Ajax amateurs which opened doors for me. Ajax Amateurs played and trained on The Toekomst the facilities they shared with the (professional) Ajax youth teams. Because of that, I knew many of the youth coaches of Ajax one of them being Brian Tevreden with whom I played at Ajax Amateurs and I was allowed to intern under him as assistant for the Ajax under 12 teams as part of my Uefa C youth badge. After I got my Uefa C youth license I started working as a youth coach for Eerste Divisie club Almere City FC which was an affiliate of Ajax as a youth coach. After a year I returned to Ajax to be the successor of Detlef Le Grand as the trainer/coach of the second team of Ajax amateurs who played in the Reserve Hoofdklasse, the highest division for amateur reserve teams. We did well, as the team more often than not did they won the Reserve Hoofdklasse. I also started with my Uefa B license and I got dispensation for my internship because I was trainer-coach of Ajax Amateur 2.

It did not take long after I got my Uefa B license that I got phone calls of clubs who where interested in signing my as their head coach. This ranged from former professional club RBC who played started in the 5e Klasse the lowest tier in the Dutch football system and failed to get promoted from the 4e Klasse (9th tier) to a HVV who played in the 2nd Klasse (7th tier) and narrowly escaped demotion to 3e klasse (8th tier) to amateur teams who’s under 19 teams in the tweede divisie (third tier), under 17 Eerste Divisie and under 15 Eredivisie (top tier) and many other offer which where in some degree interested in possibly signing me. All offers where tempting, coaching at the top tiers at youth level was what I always wanted, coaching at such a high level would be good for my career too because we would be playing against professional clubs. On the other hand taking a gig as head coach at a senior level would mean autonomy, I would be standing on one’s own legs and could my own decisions.

I decided to dismiss the offers for trainer coach as a youth team level and focus on the offers for manager positions for senior teams. I did not care too much for the level the more important thing for me was potential and the clubs eagerness to be successful to be more then they are now. Those where things I found at two clubs, both clubs with a illustrious history in Dutch football. The first one was RBC, a former professional club that went bankrupt in 2011 and had to start at the bottom of the football pyramid and who after getting promoted from the 5e klasse last year and this season failed to get promoted to the
3e klasse (8th tier). The other one was Koninklijke Haagsche Cricket en Voetbal Vereeniging or HVV for short, one of the oldest clubs in the Netherlands and besides the traditional top three clubs Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV the only club to me allowed to wear a star on their uniform for being champions 10 times or more. They where champions between 1891 and 1914 and also won the KNVB beker once in 1903. They are now playing in the 2e klassen, the 7th tier in the Netherlands and are overshadowed by the other club from Den Hague, Ado den Hague who play in the top tier, the Eredivisie.

RBC had fired headcoach Martijn van Galen after finishing second in the competition and failing to win the playoff and get promoted. I talked to interim coach Danny Mathijssen who was a former professional footballer and player of RBC and there was a real will to get the club back to where they where. They stilled played at Herstaco Stadion, the stadium they played at before they went bankrupt. HVV had fired Edmund Vriesde who had been headcoach for six years but this year almost got the club demoted. They played at portpark De Diepput where they have been playing almost since their where founded in 1898. After professional football was introduced the club they choose not to become professional and since then played in the lower leagues of Dutch football.

Although both offers where tempting my mind was made up the second I got the offer from HVV, although not a big club but a club with a huge history and a club which such a history in Dutch football deserves to be playing at a much higher level. It would be a challenge but from what I was told and promised by the club they would do anything to make this happen. I had a good feeling about this and the next day of accepting the offer by HVV I was signing a contract as head coach of the club. They also promised me to find my UEFA A license, I only had a UEFA B license and if we got promoted which was what I had promised the board a UEFA B license would not be enough to coach at the 1e Klasse level. I was happy to have signed and was looking forward to the start of the season.

Besides at club level football I had also dipped my toe into international football as a (former) Gibraltar International I was very much so on the radar of the Gibraltar FA after being allowed as a UEFA member they needed coached and they asked me, somebody who they perceive as a young talented Gibraltarian coach to to coach the Gibraltar under 17 team. I accepted the offer, I knew it would not be easy because the level of players was dreadful. In the 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round where where thrown in a group with England under 17, Ireland under 17 and Armenia under 17 and we lost all games. The next year with Schotland, Ireland and Faroe Islands we managed to only get one point for drawing with Faroe Islands and in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualification we lost even against Liechtenstein and also against Croatia and Czech Republic. Somehow somebody of Solomon Island had seen me coaching and was impressed even though I lost all games with Gibraltar and only had 1 draw. The Solomon Island offered me a job as coach of their under 20 team including the Oceania Under 20 Championship. It would mean a lot of traveling with 21 hours flight to Brisbane and a 6 hours flight from there to Solomon Island and it would mean I would miss the start of the competition with HVV but after talking to the chairman they where gracelessly ok with it so I accepted.

Suddenly I had two jobs, both not paying but even so. I was the head coach of HVV in the 2e Klasse in the Netherlands and coach of Solomon Island under 20 team. It would be exciting times for me in the upcoming months.

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