Report from Holland – End of Newcastle United’s Dutch experiment?
It’s been really difficult for me this season to be able to watch much of Newcastle United. With our relegation from the Premier League, and UK highlights on a commercial broadcaster, there’s no convenient way for me to see them. The Premier League Friday night games, mean it’s rare that our sports channels have the space to show a televised Championship game.
But probably the biggest difference has come because there’s a much reduced interest here in Holland in Newcastle, with the exodus of Dutch players during the last transfer window.
With Wijnaldum and Janmaat taking their thirty pieces of silver, and chronically injured Krul and De Jong going out on loan, our Dutch representation has massively reduced. Tiote was never more than a fringe player in FC Twente’s championship season, and he’s pushing hard at the emergency exit or leaving on a free.
So this summer, Dutch interest in Newcastle United has taken a tumble; Vurnon Anita is out of sight, and being out of the Dutch squad, also out of mind of the Dutch public. And this apparent watershed gives us a chance to reflect on the Dutch experiment that NUFC engaged on in recent years, and also to reflect on our transfer policy.
Rumour has it that Vurnon Anita managed to get a clause into his contract that restricted our opportunities to start him as a right-back. That was an indulgence too far for a player that has only ever really had anything at right-back. If we’d been tough at the start, then he might be realising his potential, but conceding to the hype did no one any favours.
Wijnaldum is another who’s had a run of form mistaken for class, and I think by the summer we’d all spotted his clear lack of guts for a fight. He got a lot of credit for being at Feyenoord as they battled bankruptcy and had a lucky season at PSV. But by all accounts, there’s nothing in his career to date that should make us in the least surprised at just how anonymous he’s been at Anfield since the move.
A stronger showing on Friday (Netherlands 4 Belarus 1) for the Netherlands in the Kuip is a sharp reminder how easy he loses his concentration, and I remain convinced that he’s got nowhere better to go.
Sending Tim Krul on loan to Ajax probably makes sense to both Tim and the club. It gives him the chance to recuperate in familiar surroundings, and allowed Rafa to bring in Matz Sels with an eye to the battle in the Championship (regardless of how that works out in practice). He’s yet to make a competitive start, and his biggest effect on the Eredivisie was in facilitating Cillesen’s move to FC Barcelona and hence cementing their wobbly season’s start.
Siem de Jong has used the move back to the Netherlands to bounce back and is this month celebrating a recall to the Dutch national squad. But that recall comes when Oranje are plummeting down the FIFA rankings, and it’s more because he’s found his level at PSV than he’s taken a step up in his game.
He’s recovered some of what he had at Ajax but the harsh reality is that he’s probably not good enough for the Championship, let alone the Premier League. And likewise we’ve got to conclude we lucked out when we lost out signing his brother to Gladbach in 2012 for the best part of €15m. Having run the rule over him during his ill-fated loan spell, we can conclude that we’ve been able to find precious little value in the Dutch top-flight in recent years.
The big problem with the Dutch influx was that we got caught up in a hyped-up merry-go round around a fairly successful group of Dutch kids, who got to the World cup finals in 2010 and came third in 2014.
The world convinced themselves that anyone close to Dutch Class of 2010 had the world at their feet and deserved price-tags to match.
They had a good run of form, but they didn’t really have the class to compare with the previous generation of Sneijder, Van Persie, Kuyt and Van Nistelrooij. Many fairly average players left the Netherlands in recent years with massive expectations, and have stagnated disappointingly, like Memphis Depay, or slunk home with their tail between the legs, like Luuk de Jong.
The fact they were knocked out in the group stage of Euro 2014 should have set some bells ringing. And when the music stopped, all the big clubs in Europe who’d signed up to the form team of the tournament got hit by the hard reality of the Football Certainty that whilst class is permanent, form is only ever temporary.
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