The first six months of Verbeek’s tenure in Rotterdam have not in any shape or form lived up to his hopes and expectations. ‘That’s clear I think,’ says the coach. ‘We thought we would be a lot further along, but the results have been disappointing. It is mainly due to the unbelievable injury list. It’s no use looking for excuses. The only worthwhile thing is to continue to work hard to get things back on track. Everyone in the squad realises that. At the start of January, during the training camp in Turkey, we have to lay good foundations for a good run in the second half of the season.’
Before the Feyenoord coach can start preparations for the second half of the season, he’ll want to wrap up the first half in an acceptable way. That translates as a win and a good performance against NAC Breda on Boxing Day – without any carry-on from misbehaving fans. ‘There is dissatisfaction among the supporters and that is understandable. However it’s never good for people to take the law into their own hands and try to get their way like that. But as players and coaches we realise that we have to perform and put things right in the second half of the season.’
That said, NAC Breda will provide Verbeek and Co with quite a challenge Friday. Besides the usual catalogue of injuries, Feyenoord are also missing three players through suspension in André Bahia, Karim El Ahmadi and Luigi Bruins. First-choice keeper Henk Timmer is also a doubt. ‘We have to play in a completely new formation then and that does not make the task against NAC any easier,’ says Verbeek. ‘We will obviously fight for a good result against NAC, also with all those replacements.’
‘We need the support of the Legion more than ever. I think it’s fantastic how the supporters have continued to back me and the players up till now and I hope they will continue to do so positively. It is then down to us after the winter break – hopefully with far fewer injuries – to show that the supporters have not stood right behind us for nothing.’
The general opinion at the start of this campaign was that NAC Breda could never reproduce the achievements of last season. Departing coach Ernie Brandts had secured an impressive third place finish, leaving his successor Robert Maaskant quite something to live up to.
Maaskant showed belief in his squad from matchday 1 however. AZ were beaten in Almaar on the last day of August to get the campaign off to the best possible start and despite a 1-3 reverse to strong-starting Wiilem II a fortnight later in the debut home fixture, NAC Breda were nestled in the upper echelons of the Eredivisie table until mid November.
While Brandts was accused of fielding a team that was lacking in initiative, Maaskant has garnered praise for how he has his team play. Passionate and attack-minded, the Breda outfit have won their fair share of admirers this term. The standout player has been Matthew Amoah. The Ghanaian striker has already netted eleven times, which has attracted interest from scouts of clubs at home and abroad.
NAC’s visit to De Kuip is a return to old stomping grounds for a number of players. Ellery Cairo, Edwin de Graaf, Joonas Kolkka, Anthony Lurling and Patrick Mtiliga all failed to really break through at Feyenoord for one reason or another. In Breda they are all valuable squad members and four of them are expected to start Friday’s game.
A run of successive defeats to Sparta Rotterdam, ADO Den Haag and Ajax, during which NAC conceded eleven and scored none, was brought to an end last Saturday when Vitesse were beaten 2-0 on home turf. Kolkka and Lurling got the goals in a fruitful spell early in the second half in that one. It means that NAC will arrive in Rotterdam with renewed confidence.
Feyenoord – NAC Breda
Friday 26 December, 14:30 at De Kuip
Referee: Van Hulten
Feyenoord: Timmer (Van Dijk); Tiendalli, Derijck, Lucius, Wattamaleo; Wijnaldum, Fer, Van Bronckhorst; Slory, Makaay and Biseswar.
NAC Breda: Ten Rouwelaar; Loran, Penders, Zwaanswijk, Mtiliga; De Graaf, Kwakman, Gorter; Kolkka, Amoah and Lurling.
26/08/2007 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 5-0
01/10/2006 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-2
14/08/2005 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-0
07/11/2004 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 4-0
31/08/2003 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-1
30/03/2008 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-1
21/01/2007 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 4-1
12/02/2006 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-3
10/04/2005 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-2
04/04/2004 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-3