CHANCE TO END YEAR ON A HIGH

RKC Waalwijk away wraps up an eventful first half of the season for Feyenoord Sunday. Since losing a string of key players just before campaign kick-off in August, coach Van Marwijk has been forced to build a team almost from scratch. The Rotterdammers currently hold fourth place in the Eredivisie and the prospects for improvement look good. But Feyenoord cannot afford to drop many points through to May. Starting in Waalwijk.

Van Marwijk’s main personnel problems are in central defence. ‘Patrick Paauwe and Peter van den Berg did not train on Friday. Peter looks worse than Patrick, but the probability that they make Sunday is fairly small for both of them,’ admitted Van Marwijk Friday. A day later the news was better for the Feyenoord coach, as Paauwe took part in most of Saturday training and looks like making the cut after all. As always the aspiration in Waalwijk is three points, but it remains a big ask for Van Marwijk’s men, as the coach himself realises. ‘We have to be realistic. We aren’t going to get an easy win there. The main thing now is to survive.’ The winter break cannot come too soon for Feyenoord. The young team has shown recent signs of improvement and Van Marwijk will welcome a month without competitive matches to tweak his formation, because one thing the squad does not lack is potential. ‘This team will only get better. The question is how the squad handles the peripheral phenomena.’ The team and the coach have come under pressure after a series of unnecessary defeats in the first half of the campaign. ‘Beforehand, I would have thought we weren’t doing badly if we were only five or six points behind Ajax and PSV at this moment. But the gap in points is greater than that, while we could have been in a better position. The difference between winning and losing has often been very small. The players do their best every game, they go through fire for each other, but they haven’t always been lucky. Look at Lurling in Enschede. I think he was brought down from behind as he closed in on goal, which is a red card. Twente don’t get one and that costs us one, maybe three points. And the same happened against Teplice, but we do get a red card. That costs us the third round of the UEFA Cup. I can put that into perspective, but I don’t know if my players can see it that way too. ‘We also have to shake off our fear. Against Vitesse you saw how cramped the team was. If we don’t play at our best, we have to roll up our sleeves and put the Feyenoord club song into practice.’ That song praises action over words, based on camaraderie and commitment. ‘We are too erratic, that’s been shown often enough. We have a lot of players that can score, but we don’t have a genuine top scorer, someone who can grab that goal when it’s 0-0.’ One of the players responsible for goals is Tomas Buffel, ‘He’s going through a difficult patch. But he has shown what he can do so often that I still have confidence in him.’ Van Marwijk is just as clear about his own future. ‘This group is a unit, separate from all the things going on around the team. I’ll only stop when I feel that the feeling with the group is no longer any good. But in the three and a half years I’ve worked here the feeling has never been so good, So I’d never use that excuse. After the winter break I’ll continue as now. People who think that I won’t be here after the winter break are making a mistake.’ Holland Casino Eredivisie, 21 December 2003 RKC WAALWIJK-FEYENOORD Where: Mandemakers Stadium When: 2.30pm Probable teams Feyenoord: Lodewijks, Swerts, Van Wonderen, Paauwe (Gyan), Snoyl; Lurling, Ono, Pardo, van Persie; Buffel, Kuyt RKC Waalwijk: Sinouh; Greene, Olfers, Texeira, Van Hintum; Van Diemen, Boutahar, Petrovic, Molhoek; Hoogendorp ,Cornelisse.
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