After their shock promotion last season, can De Graafschap survive their first season back in the top flight?

  • By Michael Bell
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de grAfter finishing sixth in the Eerste Divisie last season, De Graafschap were not among the favourites to gain promotion through the play-offs, but they shocked both Go Ahead Eagles and Volendam to gain promotion. Now for the first time in four years De Graafschap are back in the Eredivisie, but can the Superboeren’s young squad make their mark in the top flight, and avoid relegation?

Summer transfers

De Graafschap have done most of their shopping this summer in the Eerste Divisie, signing defender Thijs Bouma (Almere City), midfielder Bryan Smeets (MVV), goalkeeper Eric Verstappen (VVV), and striker Erik Quekel (Den Bosch). However their most intriguing signing is that of free agent Andrew Driver, who was highly sought after as a Hearts player, before moves to Houston and Aberdeen. Recruitment isn’t finished for the summer too, with the club announcing they are still looking for another striker before the season starts.

On outgoings, Heerenveen swooped to sign defender Caner Cavlan, last season’s joint top scorer Jerry van Ewijk left for Go Ahead Eagles, and Milan Massop joined FC Eindhoven, while seven players were released. Both Edwin Linssen and Tim Bakens retired this summer.

Pre-season

Starting with a 9-0 win over VIOD, and a 8-1 victory over DZSV Dinxperlo, De Graafschap lost their first test against German side Preussen Munster. However they recovered to beat Ruurlo 6-1, fellow Eredivisie side Cambuur 3-2, Winterswijk 5-0, and FC Lienden 2-0. Pre season ends with ties against vv Dieren and FC Emmen.

Strongest line-up

Jurjus, Bouma, Cicek, Propper, Van de Pavert, Koolhof, Smeets, Driver, Vida, Tarfi, Quekel

Key Players

driver de graAndrew Driver

The surprise signing for De Graafschap this summer, Driver was seen as a big talent when he burst onto the scene with Scottish side Hearts of Midlothian as a winger. However moves to American side Houston Dynamo and Aberdeen have proved fruitless and the 27-year-old will look to resurrect his career in the Eredivisie. Driver will add versatility to the De Graafschap midfield with his ability to play in the centre or on the wing.

00 quekelErik Quekel

De Graafschap needed to add an experienced striker to their squad this summer and they have done that by signing Erik Quekel from FC Den Bosch. The former Oss, Dordrecht and Helmond Sport striker scored 24 goals in 47 league games for Den Bosch, and spent a part of last season on loan with PSV, netting three times for their reserves. Quekel has already proved his worth during pre-season, scoring four goals, and could be the man to score the goals to keep De Graafschap up this season.

Youngsters to watch

koolhof deDean Koolhof

The 20-year-old midfielder was one of the most promising talents in the Eerste Divisie at the start of last season, but then succumb to an injury which made him miss 19 league games. However Koolhof is fit again heading into the new season, and will be able to showcase his considerable talents in the Dutch top flight. Koolhof is usually used in the middle of midfield, but can also be dispatched on the wing.

VermeijVincent Vermeij

Vermeij decided to swap Ajax for De Graafschap in 2014, after failing to break into the Amsterdam club’s first team. However in Doetinchem the 20-year-old striker has been a revelation, with Vermeij scoring 18 league goals last season, join top for the club with Jerry van Ewijk. He wrote himself into the club’s history by scoring the crucial goal that sent De Graafschap up in the play-off against Volendam, and Vermeij will now set himself the target of impressing in the Eredivisie. At 6ft 3, Vermeij is a presence in the box and will prove to be a good alternative to Quekel during the season.

Prediction

Many are predicting De Graafschap to struggle after their promotion last season, but coach Jan Vreman has a squad packed with enough talent to avoid relegation, and they could shock a number of clubs. The addition of Andrew Driver and Erik Quekel to a young squad could prove crucial, and i expect Koolhof to thrive in the Eredivisie. It won’t be straight forward, but i can see De Graafschap finishing just above the drop zone.

Predicted position: 15th




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