AZ Alkmaar summer exodus continues

The unfortunate yearly draining of talent from the Dutch Eredivisie has continued in fine form this summer. Though no club is grimacing as much as AZ Alkmaar.

The unfortunate yearly draining of talent from the Dutch Eredivisie has continued in fine form this summer. Though no club is grimacing as much as AZ Alkmaar.

Despite AZ head coach Pascal Jensen insisting in early July that his side would not entertain any bids from Eredivisie rivals, that hasn’t stopped them welcoming bids from elsewhere on the continent.

Whilst the past month has seen them recoup over €40million in transfer fees, the income is hardly positive.

The outgoings included two very highly-rated homegrown departures to French Ligue 1. The latest departure was Myron Boadu leaving for Monaco earlier this week. The speedy 20-year-old forward had tallied 88 appearances for AZ, scoring an impressive 33 goals.

His exit follows a recent trend having also seen Calvin Stengs leave for Ligue 1 outfit Nice, with the winger having accumulated 32 goal involvements across 77 Eredivisie appearances.

Both Stengs and Boadu, not only very promising members but already key parts of the AZ Alkmaar squad, will find their presence sorely missed.

Other departures include first-choice goalkeeper Marco Bizot to Stade Brest 29 and Norwegian full-back Jonas Svensson to Adana Demirspor.

However, worst might yet come for AZ fans.

Talk is ongoing regarding the future of another homegrown product and vital club captain Teun Koopmeiners. The industrious central midfielder is rumoured to be attracting interest from Jose Mourinho’s Roma having seen their initial target Granit Xhaka opt to sign a new contract at Arsenal.

Koopmeiners has also been linked with Roma’s Serie A rivals Atalanta and French Ligue 1’s Stade Rennes.

Add to this the constant noise around the future of exciting wing-back Owen Wijndal, who featured for Netherlands at the delayed Euro 2020, and the AZ fans may find themselves in a bit of a pickle this coming season.

Any incomings have done nothing to calm any worries with Vangelis Pavlidis being the only forward addition thus far – though an interesting acquisition nonetheless having scored 12 goals for Willem II last season.

It all begs the question of how clubs like AZ Alkmaar might pose a future challenge to not only domestic rivals but also continental sides. Are they now happy to only be a feeder club for the bigger fish?

Surely you can afford to sell one, maybe two, highly rated academy products each season for a profit. However, their model as seen this summer pose more questions than answers.

Recall Louis van Gaal’s triumphant side of 2008/09. An AZ Alkmaar team with the likes of Myron Boadu, Calvin Stengs, Teun Koopmeiners and Owen Wijndal had potential to challenge the recent Ajax Eredivisie domination as van Gaal successfully did back then.

Now all we have is the romantic speculation of what might have been for Pascal Jansen and this once promising AZ squad.


Groundhopper: Feyenoord Rotterdam

“I loved the Feyenoord atmosphere and how they pyro’d the hell out of the start of the match. So when I got an email through from the club offering me tickets, I was never going to say no, was I?”

De Kuip. Built in 1937 and the home of 17-time Dutch champions, Feyenoord Rotterdam. It’s a stadium I’ve wanted to visit for years and made all the easier now with me living in the Netherlands.

Being a Celtic fan you grow up knowing the name Feyenoord as they famously beat us in the European Cup final in 1970. Also with a number of players from the likes of Henrik Larsson and Pierre van Hooijdonk playing for both teams there has always been a link. Our infamous manger Wim Jansen who won us the league in ’97 also turned out for the Rotterdam club.

A few weeks prior, I attended the Johan Cruijff Schaal match between PSV and Feyenoord and loved the latter’s atmosphere with their singing, flags (which were green and white) and how they pyro’d the hell out of the start of the match. So when I got an email through from the club offering me tickets, I was never going to say no, was I?

Feyenoord and Celtic great, Henrik Larsson.

In the run up to this match, Feyenoord had not got off to a good start. The Dutch Super Cup aside, Feyenoord were beaten both in the Eredivisie and Europe, with a home draw in the latter resulting in elimination from the competition. So the derby match against their former feeder club Excelsior was a must win to kick-start their season.

Rotterdam is about a two hour train journey away from where I currently live in Maastricht. With all the years of following Celtic everywhere from Milan to Inverness, two hours is nothing. Train tickets in the Netherlands aren’t really cheap though with tickets for example from Maastricht to Amsterdam costing you €25 one way. Thankfully someone turned us on to a website offering half-price tickets before this trip.

The tram journey to the stadium from Centraal takes about 20-minutes and much to my delight, it’s free with a match ticket. The tram was full of a variety of fans, young and old. We asked a few fans about where was the best place to get a beer before the match and were advised that a lot of fans drink at a local amateur ground near the stadium.

‘Stadion Feijenoord De Kuip sinds 1937’

We arrived off the trains and headed to a number of cafes and bars next to the tram station which were rammed full of Feyenoord fans with music blasting out the doors. A drink or two in there and we headed over to get a good look at De Kuip. In a world where new modern stadiums are built all over the place, De Kuip is a welcomed change. Old and gritty with flood lights outside the stadium pointing inwards. All around the stadium there is banners that celebrate players and moments from the club’s history. The stadium was buzzing before kick-off so we grabbed another few beers and made our way to our seats.

The game itself didn’t really get going until Robin van Persie calmly slotted home the first goal on the 17th minute mark. A lot of wasted chances and poor passes filled the rest of what was a frustrating half for the home support. The one noticeable occurrence was the Excelsior fans showering the sick kids from the local hospital below them with cuddly toys which was also done by Ado Den Haag a few years prior. The second half kicked off and much of the support was still tense. This was finally relieved on 78 minutes when Jerry St Juste slotted the ball home after some good play from Yassin Ayoub. A further goal from Jan-Arie van der Heijden in the 89th minute sent the fans home happy.

Whilst chatting away to a supporter beside me, he told me all about the plans for a new 70,000 seater stadium to be built in the near future. The decision is now in the hands of the Rotterdam council as the planning permission is all they are really waiting for. According to him there is a large quantity of the support strongly against the move. It would be a shame to see this stadium go but whatever is built in its place is sure to be a cracker.

The view from the seat.

Living where I live you are literally in the heart of Europe so you have a mixture of massive clubs and small clubs at your door step. The next fixture I would attend was VVV Venlo vs Heerenveen in the Eredivisie. After that I’m looking to head over to Belgium for a K.R.C Genk or Standard Liege match.

More on them in my next piece.

Groundhopper: The 100th Dutch Cup Final

One of the biggest dates in the Dutch football calendar saw Az Alkmaar up against Feyenoord in the KNVB Beker. Olav Sierag talks us through his recent groundhopper experience.

By Olav Sierag

Back in April, AZ Alkmaar played against Feyenoord in the 100th final of the KNVB Beker – the Dutch Cup. Every season it stands out in the Dutch football calendar as one of the highlights. A final is always a great experience. In The Netherlands the expectations are well known: a lot of buses on the highway, a sold-out game and loads of fireworks. Not only on the stands, also on the field.

Dozens of buses arrived in Rotterdam.

This year Feyenoord should have been satisfied with every draw thrown their way, as they didn’t play a single away game. However, we should remember the fact they defeated PSV in the quarter final. Only a few clubs defeated PSV this year.

AZ wasn’t so lucky with their draws this season. With trips to cities like Sittard and Maastricht, they accumalated more kilometers than anyone else in the Netherlands. Fortunately the fans were rewarded with reaching the next round each and every time.

Like every year the final was played in De Kuip, one of the most impressive stadiums of The Netherlands. With a capacity of 51,117 it’s the second biggest in the country. In the past a lot of important matches took place in Feyenoord’s home, including several European finals, with Feyenoord – Dortmund the last one in 2002.

Nowadays, De Kuip isn’t the modern stadium UEFA search for. But the fans in Rotterdam don’t care about that. De Kuip is connected to the club. It breathes football. A sold-out match brings an intimidating atmosphere. It doesn’t surprise you that fans have protested for a while against the club’s plan to build a new stadium.

On the other hand, AZ were excellent throughout the 2017-18 season. Many people called them ‘the team which plays the most attractive football’ and considered AZ as a very talented team with a lot of potency. On the other hand Feyenoord had a disappointing season. Having been Eredivisie champions in 2017, they could not hold their standards this year.

Nevertheless, Feyenoord defeated AZ twice this season. In Alkmaar they dominated AZ, who had an off-day. In Rotterdam AZ was a bit unlucky not getting a 100% penalty. But as you know, in a final everything starts again!

Before the game the atmosphere on both sides was excellent. Combined with the fine weather it promised a great day for us. Accompanied with a lot of firework on the stands, the players entered the field. I am not a supporter of both clubs, but my seat was in the AZ end. We had nice places around the corner flag. Because of this I had a great view of both groups of supporters. On the left Feyenoord’s side, with Alkmaar fans to the right of me.

A lot of fireworks from both sides when the players entered the pitch.

Despite this AZ did not reach the level they had played for the rest of the season. Yet in the first half, neither did Feyenoord, but they at least managed to score after thirty minutes to go 1-0 up at the half-time break.

A lot of scenario’s could have occurred in the second half. AZ nearly scored two goals with the strong attackers they possessed. Unluckily for them, Feyenoord made it 2-0 following a fine counter-attack. AZ battled hard to get back into the final, yet this wasn’t to be their year. In stoppage time, Feyenoord completed the victory and started the party by making it 3-0, and with that AZ lost their second final in two years.

A lot of disappointed faces sat around me. This wasn’t the final they expected. The great AZ everyone has been talking about, did not show up today. The 15,000 fans travelled back home in dire moods.

And the other side of the stadium? They celebrated the win until late.

All in all, a fine final. The game wasn’t spectacular, but Feyenoord made a great tifo with a lot of smokebombs. AZ also didn’t forget their fireworks and won the vocal battle in the stands. Next year will be the 101st final of the cup. Obviously I can’t say I will attend the final, but one thing is for sure: let’s hope we can enjoy many more finals in De Kuip!












Video compilation AZ:

Video compilation Feyenoord:




The Polluting of Den Haag

We look into the ownership structure that threatens Eredivisie club ADO Den Haag’s footballing future, despite having promised the world upon their arrival.

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

The Hague is an international city renowned for peace and justice. Thousands of people work here for numerous organisations that make a secure world their number one priority. The Peace Palace sits here as the worldwide judicial ideogram of the last 100 years. In this city, conflicts are discussed, stopped and peacefully solved.

However, this city has never been the owner of a truly successful football team.

You’d imagine that a world-renowned city like The Hague, that inhabits over a million people when you count the numerous suburbs, a city classed as the third largest in The Netherlands behind Amsterdam and Rotterdam, would have possessed a trophy-laden footballing side at some point in history.

Nevertheless, The Hague’s ADO Den Haag have been national champions on only two occasions. The successful campaigns came during the war-ravaged period in 1942 and 1943 under the name ADO (Alles Doer Oefening).

Their only success of note since 1943, came in the 1968 and 1975 KNVB Cup wins. The second of which came under the name of FC Den Haag after ADO merged with city-rivals Holland Sport in 1971.

Another merger followed in 1996, and they’ve been ADO Den Haag ever-since.

In 2014 though, a ray of light flickered at the end of the Den Haag tunnel.

A Chinese businessman by the name of Wang Hui bought a 98% stake in the club. His company, United Vansen International Sports, vowed to turn ADO Den Haag into an European footballing powerhouse over the course of the next decade.

This vow was welcomed, given the club had largely been known as the nearly team of Dutch football, having often finished in the Eredivisie top five only to narrowly miss out on silverware.

The club was nearly as renowned for their reputation on the pitch, as they were off it.

ADO Den Haag had one of the fiercest hooligan reputations throughout Europe, striking a vicious rivalry with Feyenoord and Ajax. They also burned down their old Zuiderpark Stadion’s main stand following a 4-0 defeat to Haarlem in 1982.

Today, their fans paint a different picture.

They are now known for helping the The Hague’s less fortunate by donating vast amounts to food-banks and helping out on a weekly-basis, whilst adopting an open-arms policy to refugees at their club.

Having welcomed Wang Hui, the Den Haag fans jumped on the bandwagon by daring to believe they could find themselves among football’s elite in the near future.

“Many ADO fans started to believe something might change, so at first it was a novelty,” explained Alastair Ryan, a law-student at The Hague University, who follows Den Haag on a weekly basis.

He continued: “Wang Hui stated that he wanted ADO to be in the UEFA Champions League within three seasons. Now however, it seems that’s not going to be the case.”

Having promised the world and made numerous enthusiastic appearances during his first few months as owner, which included joining in with first-team training at one point, Wang Hui suddenly disappeared from public view and left a trail of missed payments in his wake.

Eighteen months on from the buy-out, ADO were still a mid-table club in the Eredivisie. Wang Hui’s promised funds failed to materialise. The KNVB decided to keep an eagle-eye on the situation. The fans were wary all of a sudden.

“Many Dutch teams report losses so it wasn’t a worry at first. However, he hasn’t been acting on his promises when it comes to investment. Because of this, people are starting to feel that wages may not be paid and we may end up in administration.” Alastair said as he went on emphasising the worries that were now creeping into the fan base.

However, during an interview from his Beijing based office, Wang Hui said that given he was now the club’s owner, he can choose how much he invests and when he does it.

“After I pay the takeover, the club is mine,” he said. “It is my business in terms of how much I will invest in the club.”

Despite Wang Hui’s insistence that it’ll be his choice regarding the timing of investments, the KNVB had other ideas.

Dutch clubs are required to submit their accounts to the KNVB each year to gain a playing licence approval. This then provides a category rating from one to three – category three being good, category two being could do better and category one being used for the worst cases.

If a club is issued a one rating, the KNVB then has the right to intervene and provide a clear plan to become self-sufficient again.

A recent well-known case is FC Twente’s third-party ownership agreement with Doyen Sports Investments.

When documents were leaked to the press, it became clear that Doyen had control over the club’s transfers, which is prohibited by both the KNVB and FIFA. The club was subsequently fined £35,000 and banned from European football for three years.

Whilst a well-known footballing man like Den Haag-born Dick Advocaat called on things to change at his hometown club, ADO fans stayed somewhat surprisingly loyal to the new ownership structure.

Most fan-bases across Europe would have been protesting for change and causing havoc across the surrounding city.

Instead, ADO fans waited and clung on to hope. They chose to pen an open letter asking for a meeting with Wang, whilst insisting they’ll give him time to prove his intentions.

No reply was ever given by the owner.

“It was a chance for Wang to show what his plans were, and it felt like he ignored the fans. This was really the start for the discontent. However, we still have some hope that Wang will deliver his intentions.” Alastair Ryan said as he explained the fans’ view of the situation.

This hope seemed to disintegrate last week as the first signs of protest was shown at the stadium.

Having been placed in the category one pot by the KNVB during the previous week, the worries became a reality and frustrations boiled over for the first time.

During their 1-0 victory against NEC Nijmegen, banners were unfurled from the North Side section of the Kyocera Stadium calling on the ownership to pack their bags and leave.

One stated ‘United Vansen Crookswhilst another said ‘Wang Out’. Another translated to ‘With Wang in power, our local pride will be raped’.

Wang Out ADO

The ADO faithful’s change in opinion was striking.

It remains to be seen if Wang Hui and United Vansen Sports International will take any notice, but Alastair Ryan believes the protesting emphasises the change in opinion towards the owner’s behaviour and the fans won’t stand for it from now on.

“There isn’t this trust anymore, and Wang has a lot more to prove if he is to show he’s committed to the club.”

It remains to be seen if Wang Hui will be part of the long-term practice for a club that lives by the motto ‘Everything Through Practice‘.

Next Maestro off the Dutch Conveyor Belt

Here is Stuart Griffiths with his view of the newest Dutch maestro on the block – Ajax’s Riechedly Bazoer.

By Stuart Griffiths.

Even before joining Ajax from their fierce rivals PSV in 2013, Riechedly Bazoer had already attracted attention from Europe’s elite.

If not for his mother intervening, Bazoer could today be playing for the blue side of Manchester, having been offered a 3 year deal by the then Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini.

Still only 19, it has been a quick rise through the ranks for the Dutch wonderkid, having already represented The Netherlands at International level and Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.

His first Ajax goal came on 19th February 2015 in a 4-2 victory over FC Twente. He has 5 goals to his name so far this season, which includes a right-footed thunderbolt against Eredivise arch-enemies Feyenoord, which subsequently turned out to be the match winner.

Many in his native homeland see Bazoer as a holding midfielder, protecting the back four which he has done with great maturity at such a young age within this vastly inexperienced Ajax team. This key role allows the likes of Davvy Klaasen and Nemanja Gudelj to advance and support the front three.

Having said this, Frank De Boer has occasionally played him in a more advanced role. In an interview with Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf, De Boer was asked of the reasoning behind this decision.

“He is so talented. I see him as a major force in the future of Ajax and Dutch football, I was just saying to Dennis (Bergkamp) he plays so free and uninhibited. He is so fast and powerful.” He said.

I’ve witnessed Riechedly playing a few times this season and he immediately stood out on each occasion. His strength on and off the ball caught the eye, with this undoubtedly helped by his six foot frame.

Recently, football-oranje caught up with former Ajax youth coach Fons Groendijk and he envisioned the young midfielder as the ‘Patrick Vieira of Ajax’, as he has an ability to drive forward with the ball at great speed and has extremely quick feet for a large man.

With a passing accuracy of 86%, it’s easy to see why he is so increasingly sought after. This accuracy has seen him create numerous chances this season, assisting in 3 goals and creating 19 chances for his teammates, according to

In a recent match against Vitesse Arnhem, he had one of his best games in an Ajax shirt scoring the only goal of the game, creating 3 chances and completing 91% of his passes.

With The Netherlands missing out on the European Championships this summer in France, whilst many of the current squad seem to be coming towards the end of their International careers – Bazoer looks finely positioned to cement his place in the team.

Matters are helped further with the oranje adopting a similar 4-3-3 formation to Ajax that includes his favoured holding midfielder position.

The position is currently occupied by Daley Blind in the national team, but with Blind now playing centre-half for his club and his versatility across the pitch a well-known attribute, it will only be a matter of time before we see Bazoer taking up the defensive midfielder role, and potentially making it his own.

As to where life after Ajax takes him – your guess is as good as mine. According to recent reports, Barcelona have had him watched numerous times this season and Luis Enrique has him pinned as an ideal replacement for Sergio Busquets – should the long-serving Catalan choose to try pastures new this summer.

He has also been linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League, with talk of Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain, Manchester City Sporting Director, meeting his agent in Amsterdam a fortnight ago.

Personally, I’d like to see him continue to apply his trade at Ajax before making a move. If a move to Manchester City does materialise, the guidance of Pep Guardiola would allow Bazoer to prosper and develop much like Sergio Busquets all them years back at La Masia and Barcelona B.

Whatever comes of him this summer, The Netherlands will be glad to know they have a young prodigy from Utrecht to build their new era around.

American in Alkmaar

Billy Beane, former first draft Major League Baseball pick turned Sporting Analytics enthusiast, has made his first and much-anticipated venture into Football…


By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Billy Beane, former first draft Major League Baseball pick turned Sporting Analytics enthusiast, has made his first and much-anticipated venture into Football in an Official Adviser capacity for Dutch Eredivisie club, AZ Alkmaar.

Ever since a best-selling book called Moneyball – about his ideology and antics as General Manager of The Oakland A’s – was converted into a Hollywood film back in 2011, his name has been attached to folklore by the Sporting Economics and Analytics field.

Having Brad Pitt play his character in the film may have had a part to play in it. Although, for everyone that’s taken an extra interest in his achievements within Baseball management – they quickly look past this coincidence.

Over the past fifteen years, the Oakland A’s went on to reach the play-offs eight times despite having the fifth or sixth lowest budget among the 30 teams involved in the Baseball Major Leagues.

Looking at long-term achievements, there is no Football equivalent to Baseball’s Oakland A’s.

Currently, it’s like 6th placed English Premier League side Southampton selling their prized assets last summer, but doing so each year for fifteen years whilst still achieving a top-six finish nearly every season.

Forgetting English Football and looking across the shores, Borussia Dortmund is another potential example. However, even they’ve shown this season it’s pretty much inconceivable a bad-patch may come along by doing exactly that.

Billy Beane has been able to maintain performance levels by trading players at the right time, and for the right amounts. To put it simpler, he uses data analysis to find value that may not strike the eye at first view.

From time-to-time, a player comes along that has his value to a team-sport demeaned because he may be suspect to injuries, say. It’s here that Billy Beane saw a gap in the Baseball market and decided to exploit it.

He picked up on a theory by Kansas-born Bill James that on-base percentage within Baseball was overlooked and underappreciated, therefore moved to take advantage of it – and thoroughly did.

Factory worker James studied Baseball in his spare time. He went on to achieve bestsellers when his scribbles and thoughts were eventually sold as books.

James stated that ‘his books were outside baseball and shows you what the sport looks like if you take a step back from it and study it intensely.’

In Football though, it would be harder to spot an undervalued part of the game given the fast pace it is played at. It’s not a stop-start sport like Baseball.

However, dead-ball situations are sections of the game where Billy Beane and Bill James’ methods could make a difference. You’re able to take that step back and analyse the situation from a free-kick or corner.

If AZ were expecting Billy Beane to make an immediate impact, it is during these situations he may be able to achieve his first positive progressions within Football.

Scoring rates from free-kicks and corners are incredibly low to think that so much concentration is given to these situations.

As Ben Lyttleton of Soccernomics and The Guardian recently stated, Cristiano Ronaldo had failed to convert any of his previous 54 free-kick attempts as of the 26th of March 2015. (Typically though, he scored his first of the season as I uploaded this piece.)

The brilliant Soccernomics book has a theory that you have a better chance of scoring from dead-ball situations if you play it short to a teammate. The reasoning being that a number of players are holed up in the wall or marking in the box; therefore it allows space to develop in other areas of the opposition’s final-third.

Dutch Football followers might just pick up on the increased numbers of AZ short-corners or free-kicks over the coming year, perhaps.

Billy Beane’s success isn’t only down to his and James’ own ideology. He places emphasis on ‘making sure he is always the dumbest guy in the room.’

He decided to surround himself with people that were experts in their own field, may it be Baseball or not. One of his staff, Farhan Zaidi, had a PHD in Behavioural Economics but no thorough knowledge of the sport. He is now the General Manager of the LA Dodgers.

Billy Beane bringing analytic ideology into Football will not be a completely new experience, though. Nowadays, most top-tiered teams have statistical analysis specialists employed throughout their clubs.

Surprisingly perhaps, but it was Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers in 1999 who first placed more emphasis on employing good statisticians, rather than good players – not that he was able to afford any.

Bolton were known as overachievers during Allardyce’s eight years in the North West of England. They saw seasoned veterans like Jay Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo arrive cheaply to great effect. Billy Beane has had similar success with older athletes across the Atlantic.

One of his analysts at the time, Mike Forde (later went onto become Chelsea’s Performance Director) found that ‘the ball changed hands 400 times during a match, on average.

Allardyce was apparently infatuated by this stat, and emphasised the importance of instantly switching to defensive positions once the ball was lost.

People with an outside view of the game have more reason to pick up on these aspects as they look at the game differently to a coach.

Therefore, Allardyce’s decision to employ statisticians paid dividends – similar to Billy Beane’s at The Oakland A’s.

Beane’s contract with The Oakland A’s comes to an end in 2019. Afterwards, he intends to become involved in English Football, per The Guardian. If his plans come to fruition, English Football might be given the statistical shake-up of a lifetime.

Firstly though, the influence he has around the cheese markets of Alkmaar will bear much influence on his future intentions.

By @dannywgriffith.

Some info sourced from The Guardian articles and the Soccernomics book.

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