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Holland 2015 Part 2

They have many a valiant hero,
Remembered through the years:
But never one whose name so oft
Is named with loving tears.
And his deed shall be sung by the cradle,
And told to the child on the knee,
So long as the dikes of Holland
Divide the land from the sea!

From “The Leak in The Dike’ by Phoebe Cary (1824 – 1871)




Friday 13th February 2015

Netherlands Eredivisie

AZ Alkmaar                                    2

Marcus Henriksen 40,

Robert Muhren  49,

PSV Eindhoven                             4

Luuk de Jong  3, 8, 60

Georginio Wijnaldum  59,

Referee:- B Nijhuis                         Attendance:- 17,081


I only had four days in England before I was off to The Netherlands again for the second instalment of this year’s Dutch adventure! This time I was going with my son James and two of his friends, Jonny and Mark.This was the sixth year of Dutch adventures that the four of us had undertaken ever since the very first match at Willem II in Tilburg in February 2010.


James, Jonny and Mark outside the Beer Museum in Alkmaar

Jonny had booked rooms at The Stad en Land in Alkmaar and before the match we all enjoyed a riotous Indonesian meal, liberally laced with beer and wine. Then we took a taxi to The AFAS Stadion for the match


It looked pretty impressive from the outside – a bit like Groningen’s ground with a flourish added. It must be comparatively modern, but it had none of the boring sameness of stadiums like Leicester City and Southampton. Tickets were €30 and programmes and team sheets were free.


The AZ Mascot


What made it different to Groningen was the ‘wavy’ feel to the roof of the stand, which you can clearly see in the photographs above and below. It apparently holds 17,037 at full capacity, but there were a few more spectators (just) than that, this evening. The seats and stairwells were solid and new looking, as befits a stadium not yet ten years old. They moved into this grand new edifice in 2006, leaving behind The Alkmaardehout with its tiny 8,500 capacity. You got the impression that vandals would have a hard time here!


Techincally, I suppose, we should call the home side ‘AZ’ because that stands for ‘Alkmaar Zaanstreek’. Adding a second ‘Alkmaar’ at the end is pure tautology!


The club was formed in 1967 as an amalgamation of two teams in the area: Alkmaar 54 and FC Zaanstreek. Considerable backing and investment saw them break the stranglehold of the ‘Big Three’ (Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV) and win the Eredivisie in 1981, the first time in 44 years that a team from outside those three teams had won Eredivisie. That same season, they lost in the Final of The UEFA Cup by 5-4 to Ipswich Town and the following season, they went out of the UEFA Champions League at the second round stage by 3-2 on aggregate to Liverpool.

When the backing was withdrawn, they were relegated in 1988 and spent ten years outside Eredivisie, returning in 1998. They were Champions of Eredivisie again in 2009 under no less a manager than Loius Van Gaal, but he left immediately and his successor Ronald Koeman lasted a bare six months in 2009, being sacked from his post in December after a run of seven consecutive defeats!


AZ Came into tonight’s match on the back of a fine away victory at FC Groningen last weekend by 4-2. They were fifth in Eredivisie and they rather fancied themselves against runaway leaders PSV Eindhoven.

It was not to be. They were blown away by two goals in the first eight minutes from the visitor’s striker, Luuk de Jong, and the same striker completed his hat-trick on the hour mark. The main excitement came around half time. Five minutes before the break, the hosts pulled a goal back and then, five minutes after the break, they actually drew level!

PSV exerted there grip on the match with two goals in two minutes just ten minutes later and after that, there was no way back for AZ. PSV deservedly took the victory and the points!

We returned to The Hotel Stad en Land and proceeded to make serious inroads into the hotel’s liquor stocks. The following morning, I was horrified to find that most of the liquor consumed had been loaded onto my room bill, more than doubling its cost for the one night stay …… AND, I was still more than a little ‘groggy’.


Saturday 14th February 2015

Netherlands Eredivisie

SBV Excelsior                                 1

Daan Bovenberg  47,

FC Groningen                                1

Albert Rusnak  58,

Referee:- Eric Braamhaar                Attendance:- 3,450


The train took the strain from Alkmaar to Rotterdam, but we broke the journey at Amsterdam Centraal so that we could pop into the dedicated football shop close by the station. It was a little gem with a vast and very eclectic array of football wear and DVDs, books and other memorabilia.

On our arrival in Rotterdam, we found that we had booked very different modes of accommodation. James, Jonny and Mark were in a room with four beds in a hostel and I, inadvertently had booked bed and breakfast with a Russian lady who had arrived in Holland via Latvia and whose Russian and Latvian was far superior to her English!


It was only lunch time and still feeling the effects of last evening’s excesses, we adjourned to O’Shea’s Irish pub hard by the station for football, rugby and something to eat. We stayed there for the best part of five hours (we even saw England crush hapless Italy in the Six Nations RU Championship), but during all that time, I managed to finish off only one pint of Speckled Hen!


The number 21 tram took us down to Esche, about a twenty minute ride and once again I was glad I’d got my OV. Chipkaart (it is a bit like an ‘Oyster’ card, but unlike the selfish Londoners who keep it for themselves, this card can be used on all forms of transport all over The Netherlands!). Excelsior is a very small club! Everything about it is small. The ground only holds about 3,500 spectators, tickets for the match were a very reasonably priced €15, team sheets were distributed free in the clubhouse and they were the only club with a pin badge on sale during the whole of our stay!


They were founded in 1902 and have always been the poor neighbours of Rotterdam football behind Sparta and the mighty Feyenoord with whom the club is presently linked in a “feeder” capacity (something which is not to the liking of the supporters: “Excelsior sold her soul”, they say). A 3G pitch was installed in 2009/10 ostensibly because the club could not afford the undersoil heating costs associated with a return to Eredivisie.


It is amazing that a club with such small support and a very modest stadium can compete in the top flight of Dutch football. However, over the years, Excelsior have survived by being pioneers in Dutch football. In 1955, they were instrumental in delivering professional football in the country, In 1959, they introduced covered stands on their ground. In 1974, they were the first Dutch club to introduce shirt advertising. There was also the lucrative partnership with Feyenoord which started in 1979.


We had plenty of time before the match started and we spent it in the bar where we were joined by a lady with a very interesting background! She was using the season ticket of an icon supporter of the club who had recently died. She didn’t seem to have much passion for the game or for the club, but it was a good meeting place. She was an intentional un-married mother and she was seeking another child – but not a relationship. Time was running out for her. She is forty-five years old. She was very open about her circumstances – and extremely good company – but then, it was time for us to take our seats for the match. Having caught the breath of the dragon, we eagerly escaped!


It was a very cold evening and we settled ourselves on the front row of the seated stand behind the nearside goal.


Both of tonight’s teams were pretty much becalmed in mid-table. However, they both have pretty decent form over the last four games. Excelsior have won two and drawn two, including an away victory 3-1, at well-placed Vitesse Arnhem. Groningen have won two, drawn one and lost on their last outing by 2-4 at home to AZ.


Tonight’s match was enthralling and interesting, without ever becoming really exciting. The hosts piled on the pressure in the early stages and had several attempts without managing to score. Groningen played some neat and pretty football without ever really threatening a goal. At half-time, there was no score!


Almost immediately after half time, the hosts took the lead when the ball was squeezed in at the far post after a cross from the right. Groningen, however, fashioned an equaliser some ten or eleven minutes later and despite penalty appeals and a disallowed goal for Excelsior, there was no further score. The spoils were shared, which was probably a little unfair on the hosts, who looked the more forceful throughout.


The magnificent frontage of Rotterdam Centraal Station

Sunday 15th February 2015

Netherlands Eredivisie

PEC Zwolle                                  0

Go Ahead Eagles Deventer       1

Jeffrey Rijsdijks  24,

Referee:- D. Makkelie                  Attendance:- 12,400


Deja-vu! This would be my second visit to IJsseldelta this year and the third time I will have seen PEC Zwolle in action. There was a direct train from Rotterdam to Zwolle in a little over an hour and a half and a taxi transported us to the ground, a couple of miles from the station.


Prins Hendrik – Ende Desespereert Nimmer Combatie Zwolle

Prince Hendrik / Never Despair, Combination, Zwolle

The banner explains PEC better than ever I could!


We dined at the ground. There was a cafe/pub on the outside wall of the stadium and when we arrived, there was a party in full swing and we had to wait for our meals. However, Spanish and Dutch football matches were being played live on side by side television screens.


There is a club shop that doubles as a ticket collection point and once again I was impressed with the very helpful response we received. Nothing was too much trouble and even finding a team sheet for a stranger from a foreign land was accomplished with a wonderful smile – and by precisely the same person who found me a team sheet last week! Tickets behind the goal – virtually in the same position as my last visit – were priced at €23 which was €4.50 dearer than last time and programmes were €1 (last time, they were €1.50).

The match was a huge disappointment. Everywhere we have been this year, PEC Zwolle have been talked about as the surprise team of Eredivisie, the little team that dares to challenge the big boys. Everyone, it seems who does not support Ajax/Feyenoord/PSV is hoping that they will do well and perhaps break the monopoly at the top. A win today would have taken them above Feyenoord and into third place. Go Ahead Eagles, Deventer are struggling. They are fourth from bottom and teetering on the edge of the relegation struggle.


PEC never really got going. They persisted with their attacks down the right hand side and Go Ahead sewed up that side of the field so that there was no way through. They lacked invention. Once or twice in the second half, they moved their wide player to the opposite wing and openings appeared. By then, however, it was too late. The visitors grew in confidence, especially after Jeffrey Rijsdijk’s strike in the twenty-fourth minute put them in front and their defence tightened up and the frustrated hosts could find no way through.

The away contingent kept up their noisy support in Dutch and English and at the end, the whole team came across to applaud them in a joint celebration of what was a deserved, but probably a very rare away victory!

And that was it! Another splendid visit to The Netherlands had come to an end. The sun was setting over the wintry skyline and the train hurried us back to Schiphol for the return flight.

Already, we are looking forward to next year’s visit!!!!!


This Season –    Matches:-  148 (9 in The Netherlands)  

                             New grounds:- 90   (6 in The Netherlands)


Total –                Matches:-  3,119 (33 in The Netherlands)

                            New Grounds:- 1,043 (30 in The Netherlands)

Football grounds visited in The Netherlands:-

In Eredivisie                                         In Eeerstedivisie

Ajax                                                                  SC Veendam

PSV                                                                  Fortuna Sittard

Feyenoord                                                      Sparta Rotterdam

Twente Enschede                                         FC Oss

Vitesse Arnhem                                            Jong Ajax

NAC Breda                                                   

ADO Den Haag

PEC Zwolle                                                 In Topklasse

Utrecht                                                        DETO Twenterand

Willem II                                                    Excelsior 31

VVV Venlo                                                  IJsselmeervogels

FC Groningen

Heracles Almela                                       In Hoofdklasse

Roda JC Kerkrade                                    Sparta Nijkerk

SBV Excelsior

Go Ahead Eagles Deventer

RKC Walwijk


AZ Alkmaar

NEC Nijmegen

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