NO-WIN SITUATION WARNS GULLIT

Feyenoord trained in the Odd Stadium Wednesday evening a day before the club’s first Uefa Cup clash of the season. The surroundings are a little different from De Kuip, with a crowd of 5000 expected, including around 250 Feyenoord fanatics, but there’s no sign of complacency in the Rotterdam camp. The Norwegian club’s quaint home brought back bad memories for Ruud Gullit, who was manager of Chelsea when the English club crashed to defeat against Tromsø in similar circumstances.

For Gullit there’s little to philosophise about the match at hand. ‘We have to ensure that we score and do not concede. That is the only task my players have here in Norway,’ says the coach. ‘If we win big everyone will think it’s normal. If we draw or lose, it’ll be seen as a howler. All told, we cannot really win.’

The sight of the stadium transported Gullit’s thoughts back to his last visit to Norway as a coach. ‘Chelsea once played against Tromsø. The pitch was frozen when we started the game and then it started to snow big time. The game should really never have been played, but Uefa was adamant. We went on to lose 3-2.’

‘The danger with this type of game is that the players start with a somewhat lax attitude. That is what I’ll be warning my players against, because the time when you could beat so-called little teams with ease is history. Look at last night. Rosenborg lost to Panathinaikos but should have won. I just want to say that there are no easy games any more. So it’s very important in this type of game to be focussed and to start with the right attitude.’

Mindset can take you a long way in football. Just look at the Greeks. ‘Yes, we saw that against Vitesse,’ admitted Gullit. ‘My players thought they could rely on their talent alone, that attitude wasn’t so important. We were taught a lesson. That’s why I said after the game in Arnhem that the draw had maybe come at the right time. Since that game we are forewarned.’ 

The coach feels he has a pretty good picture of Odd Grenland. ‘They are a physically strong team that usually play a 4-3-3 system. We are well prepared for this opponent. I asked a few Norwegian journalists who they though the team’s best player was, but I kept hearing a different name. So they think they’re all good,’ laughed Gullit, who refused to reveal his own line-up. 

‘Everyone is fit. Only Saidi has a little trouble with stiff muscles, but it’s not really a problem. That means that I can make choices. I enjoy that. The player’s who miss out may not, but that’s just part of the game. If you can’t take that, you don’t belong at a big club.’

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