‘It is a good idea to stick with this as long as possible to get the best out of it and give the team something it can rely on. But if it becomes difficult due to personnel problems, the question if whether it continues to be a good idea. That is the decision we have to take,’ explained assistant coach John Metgod, who took over at the Friday press conference with Erwin Koeman in England to watch UEFA Cup opponents Blackburn Rovers.
Against Vitesse, Koeman will have to do without second keeper Patrick Lodewijks, who has a sore knee. With third keeper Sherif Ekramy still suffering from a shoulder injury, the coach will choose one of the youth keepers for a place on the bench. That will be either Erik Cummins (18) or Erwin Mulder (17).
Elsewhere, Nicky Hofs returns to the squad after a suspension, but Angelos Charisteas is still a doubt. The Greek has a groin problem and no decision will be taken on his availability until after Saturday training. The uncertainty about the striker’s chances coupled with the unavailability of Tim Vincken places the technical staff before an interesting choice, as it may impose the re-adoption of 4-4-2 after just two matches. ‘It would be enforced,’ judges Metgod, who expressed the technical staff’s wishes to stick with 4-4-3. It is reliant on Feyenoord having the players to play the system of course. Joonas Kolkka could fill Vincken’s boots, as could Ali Boussaboun. Up front, Pierre van Hooijdonk could deputise for Charisteas. ‘It is now important that the players have something to hold onto and that we play in a recognisable way. Things went a lot better against Roda than against Twente. We played very diligently, in any case a lot more than in the preceding matches. Keeping that system is the preferred option.’
One decision that really paid off last week was to put Theo Lucius in central defence and Serginho Greene at left back. Feyenoord are doing better, observed Metgod with satisfaction. Whereas the team made a shaky impression in the first half against FC Twente, it has gradually gained in confidence. ‘They are not as fragile as in that match against Ajax,’ says Metgod. ‘It has not been a 180-degree revolution either, that would be exaggerating. But the technical staff are noticing that the group is starting to develop something. It would be nice to continue and put in a run. It’s important we now slowly climb up and we don’t fall down one or two rungs. That’s why Sunday’s match is important. But really, every match is in the phase we are now in.’
Realism is rife in Arnhem too in the aftermath of near financial meltdown. Vitesse is no longer burdened with the expectation that the club must join the top ranks of Dutch football. Nowadays, a place in the top half of the table is a more practical target. Last year it was too a big an ask however, as coach Edward Sturing guided his side to an eleventh place finish. Sturing has moved onto PSV and Aad de Mos has moved into the Vitesse hot seat, but little has changed on the pitch. The Arnhem outfit are currently fourteenth in the league. That said, there does not appear too much to worry about, as long as the new coach is given the time to turn things round.
De Mos was reportedly dissatisfied with what he found when he arrived at the Gelredome and three months into his job he is still not completely happy. ‘Forty per cent of the players can look for a new club if they continue like this,’ declared De Mos in the local newspaper. It certainly seems that the new coach is committed to instilling the same professionalism at Vitesse as he had at Ajax, KV Mechelen and Anderlecht, each of which he guided to a national title. With Erwin Koeman in his starting eleven, he even piloted KV Mechelen to a European Cup Winners Cup win in 1988.
Sunday 5 November, 14:30 at De Kuip
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Lucius, Bahia, Greene; Buijs, De Guzman, Hofs; Boussaboun, Charisteas (Van Hooijdonk), Huysegems.
Vitesse: Wapenaar; Verhaegh, Sansoni, Sprockel, Fränkel; Hersi, Kaya, Janssen; Pryor, Lazovic, Esajas.
LAST TEN LEAGUE MEETINGS
6/11/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 0-0
23/1/2005 Feyenoord - Vitesse 1-2
22/11/2003 Feyenoord - Vitesse 3-0
12/4/2003 Feyenoord - Vitesse 2-1
17/11/2001 Feyenoord - Vitesse 3-2
15/1/2006 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-1
29/8/2004 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
8/2/2004 Vitesse - Feyenoord 0-0
19/10/2002 Vitesse - Feyenoord 1-1
17/2/2002 Vitesse - Feyenoord 2-1