‘When you realise that we have a new team and then you look at the small gap with PSV, I wouldn’t know of a coach that could have done any better than Van Marwijk up to now. He even has the courage to incorporate youth players from Varkenoord while foreign acquisitions look on and he still gets the points.’
That’s why Feyenoord categorically denies that it has already been decided that Van Marwijk will be leaving at the end of the campaign. ‘At the start of the season we said: we’ll talk after the winter break,’ says Swart. ‘That’s a logical time to take stock. We won’t take our lead from the clamour of journalists. And Van Marwijk is in no rush either, although he has a large number of offers.’
Feyenoord does formally have an option of binding Van Marwijk to a fifth season. ‘If you’ve worked together for so long, you’ll only take decisions that both parties are completely happy with.’ There are rumours of talks with Dick Advocaat, but Swart is quick to stamp on them. ‘The first person we will talk to is Bert van Marwijk.’
Technical Director Rob Baan’s close relationship with Advocaat – the two worked together at PSV – is not such a big factor, observes Swart. ‘I could name ten coaches that have a close relationship with people on the Feyenoord staff, but the closest relationship is with Van Marwijk.’
Henk ten Cate has admitted that he has been approached by Rob Baan, but as Swart explains: ‘That was in the summer when Bert van Marwijk was being chased by Schalke and – despite the fact that we kept him to his contract – we didn’t know if he wanted to leave or not. At that moment the club looked around. Not only Ten Cate was sounded out, there were others. But it all happened within a timeframe of no more than a week.’
Bert van Marwijk becomes Feyenoord’s longest serving coach in May 2004. Current record holder Ernst Happel left the club during his fourth season.