Seven years after his departure, Leo Beenhakker returned to De Kuip Monday morning, energetic with a dash of humour and most of all bullish about his side’s chance in the coming play-offs. He’s expecting to stay no longer than 20 May, once Feyenoord have qualified for the UEFA Cup. ‘For me it’s two weeks. I know, if we have to play for the Intertoto it could be three. But that’s being defeatist. I’ll say goodbye to everyone again in a fortnight.’

Time – or more precisely the lack of it – is Feyenoord’s biggest adversary. Leo Beenhakker took to the training pitch for the first time with the squad just three days ahead of the first leg of the playoff semi-final against FC Groningen. The caretaker coach used the weekend to complete intensive preparations, speaking with his staff and spending Sunday evening studying DVDs packed with material on FC Groningen. But Beenhakker is less aware of what he can expect of his own players in this crucial phase. ‘It’s very good for me to get as much information as possible. We went through the players one at a time with the technical staff. It has given me an idea, which is worthwhile. But that idea will only be confirmed or otherwise on the pitch. It’s then I’ll see what approach the lads need. At this stage it’s a matter of surviving. We’ll use the system that’s best for the team. The difficult thing is those meagre three days I have to discover it.’

A bullish Beenhakker is positive about Feyenoord’s chances. ‘If I did not believe in them I would not have accepted. I’m not only here to return to De Kuip for a short while, although I think that’s great in itself. I’ll leave in two weeks’ time. With a UEFA Cup ticket. We have to do our utmost to accomplish a dignified and tolerable ending. That’s not an easy thing. It’s now all about going full throttle. We have to have a team that’s willing to go for it on Thursday.’

Asked whether he will get a paycheque if Feyenoord fail to secure a place in the UEFA Cup, Beenhakker repeated that money is not what has driven him to accept the mission. ‘We discussed for maybe ten seconds. If we fail I don’t even want my petrol paid back. It’s no cure, no pay.’

The Poland coach feels that he had to follow his heart and accept this emergency call. The frosty reaction of some supporters, based on what has gone on in the past played no role in his decision. ‘That’s the past. Back then it was time to leave. There was understanding for that in the club at the time. I cannot do anything about people outside the club not understanding it. I don’t make decisions based on that. Feyenoord had a problem. The club management thought it over and felt that I could help. My feeling is that I have to. That’s it.’
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