Bearing in mind the situation in January, it’s little short of a wonder that Feyenoord are even in the hunt for a Europa League place. ‘Given the situation we were in I feel it is a great performance,’ said Vlemmings. ‘But seventh place in normally not good enough for Feyenoord. If we’d had a fit squad throughout the season, I feel we could have finished in the top five.’
With the regular season all but over, the squad of players available to the caretaker coach is expanding all the time. Kevin Hofland, Karim El Ahmadi and Andwelé Slory all return to the squad after injury against Roda, while Jon Dahl Tomasson’s availability is touch and go.
The return of injured players means that Vlemmings has some tough choices to make, something he is delighted with. ‘It’s great to have an almost full squad of players to choose from at this stage in the season. I’ll have to make choices about players and that’s nothing but a good thing. Some players will obviously be disappointed, but that’s just how it is.’
A win on Sunday will secure that seventh place for Feyenoord, but it will also send opponents Roda JC down to the Jupiler League. For the Eredivisie’s bottom club, De Kuip is the last-chance saloon, but even an away victory might not be enough. ‘The relegation dogfight can bring things out of a team,’ warned Vlemmings. ‘In games like this, there are other things than systems alone going on. We have to be ready for that and just keep doing what we’re good at. It’s an accident that we’re playing Roda, it could just as easily have been FC Groningen. We want to win, whatever the repercussions for Roda.’
After the game Feyenoord will officially say farewell to masseur and carer Gerard Meijer and the players Henk Timmer, Theo Lucius, Michael Mols and Serginho Greene. ‘Obviously, if you work so closely together, it has an effect on the squad,’ admitted Vlemmings. ‘But everyone realises that the performance is the main thing on Sunday. On the other hand, you have to be able to close things out properly, that’s why you’re a big club. I view it as two things that stimulate each other. Everyone wants to experience a great day. We have that in our own hands if we win the game against Roda. That’s what we are all going for.’
Roda JC will want to ensure that 10 May 2009 does not become the blackest day in the club’s history, but in fact that’s out of the Kerkrade outfit’s hands now. Defeat to Feyenoord will condemn the club to relegation from the top flight for the first time in decades. But even a win may not be enough to save them from the drop, because bottom-placed Roda JC are dependant on results at the games involving FC Volendam, De Graafschap and ADO Den Haag.
Relegation would be a huge blow to the club’s pride after the season from hell. One sacked coach, a host of disappointing results, an on-off merger that provoked a revolt within and without the club, squabbling players… Roda JC have experienced it all.
Coach Raymond Atteveld was fired in the hope that a new man could turn things around after a string of poor performances, but the hoped-for impact didn’t materialise and Roda JC continued their slow slide down the table, finally hitting rock bottom last week.
History seemed to be on the club’s side. Roda JC have never been relegated from the Eredivisie and in recent decades have been a solid top-half team. That said, football has become a different animal in the 21st century and the club’s management felt that the new challenges facing the club could only met by merging with local rivals Fortuna Sittard. That didn’t go down well with either club’s fans and some went too far in their opposition to the merger, but the two sets of directors appeared to be ready to ride out the storm.
The clubs were set to join forces as Sporting Limburg next season, unless a few weeks ago that is, when financial problems resulted in the plans being shelved for the time being at least.
So while the club has been ‘saved’ in its current guise, it may well be playing in the second tier next season, as Feyenoord target the win that will ensure them a place in the Europa League playoffs. With that in mind, it is not inconceivable that Roda JC will be playing their last ever Eredivisie match at de Kuip coming Sunday.
Feyenoord – Roda JC
Sunday 10 May, 14:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Landzaat, Bahia, De Cler; Fer, Bruins (Tomasson), Van Bronckhorst; Wijnaldum, Makaay and Biseswar.
Roda JC: Castro; Linssen, De Fauw, Kah, De Jong; Delorge, Meeuwis, Vormer, W. Janssen; Cissé (Schors) and Oper.
20/04/2008 Feyenoord - Roda JC 3-0
04/03/2007 Feyenoord - Roda JC 1-1
22/01/2006 Feyenoord - Roda JC 0-0
13/03/2005 Feyenoord - Roda JC 4-1
28/03/2004 Feyenoord - Roda JC 3-0
02/11/2008 Roda JC - Feyenoord 0-4
16/09/2007 Roda JC - Feyenoord 1-3
29/10/2006 Roda JC - Feyenoord 1-2
20/11/2005 Roda JC - Feyenoord 2-3
17/10/2004 Roda JC - Feyenoord 0-2
BIG MATCH FACTS
> Feyenoord have the best record in the league over the last ten games, with a haul of 21 points.
> Roy Makaay is set to be Feyenoord’s top scorer for the second consecutive season. He has 14 goals to his name, followed at a distance by Jon Dahl Tomasson who has 9.
> Roda JC is one of just five clubs that have never been relegated from the Eredivisie. The others are Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV and FC Utrecht.