Football-Oranje’s James Rowe spoke to Roda JC manager Robert Molenaar. They spoke about the challenges of managing Roda JC, his time abroad playing in England for Leeds United under George Graham and David O’Leary and cutting his managerial teeth at FC Volendam.

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Below is a transcript of the interview.

JR ”Roda JC have managed to pick up points in 3 of their last 6 Eredivisie matches. To what do you attribute the improvement after a difficult start to the season?”

RM ”Yes we have improved in recent weeks and the most important thing is that we keep improving. At the start of the season it was difficult because we had to play very strong opponents and that meant that after 4 Eredivisie games we had 0 points. Looking back I felt we could have picked up at least 2 points from our opening 4 games. You must also not forget that this team had to deal with changes in terms of manager and style of play. After difficult fixtures we have made progress in picking up points and that gives confidence to the squad.”

JR ”What do you believe is the biggest challenge you face at Roda JC?”

RM ”I believe my biggest challenge is to change the way Roda JC play. For far too long Roda JC have been defensive and let the opponent dominate them. We want to change that also for our supporters and for them to enjoy the football that we play but it is also coupled with results. We want to play football in a more positive way whilst also getting results.”

JR ”Looking ahead to this weekend and an Eredivisie home match against AZ Alkmaar. What will be your approach to deal with an AZ Alkmaar team that is in form?”

RM ”I have an idea on how to deal with AZ Alkmaar and we will speak about the plan we have together as a squad. Naturally I will not be revealing our plan before the game. What I can say is that as a defensive feature we want to be well organized and that means that we will be compact and press well in the right areas of the pitch. In an attacking sense we want to force our opponent to make defensive choices.”

JR “You played 4 years for Leeds United. How do you look back on your time in England and what were your highlights at Leeds United?”

RM ”My highlights was making my debut in the Premier League and my first few games for Leeds United. I was delighted with the impact I made. There were question marks surrounding my ability as I was not a Dutch international and had no experience in European club competitions. In my debut I was named man of the match against Leicester City. Also the European matches that I played for Leeds United are great memories playing against Francesco Totti’s AS Roma you never forget those moments. In a general sense it was a wonderful adventure even the low points the plane crash at Standstead Airport, my knee ( Cruciate ligament) injury that kept me from playing for almost 2 seasons. I look back with very fond memories of my time at Leeds United and I am proud to have played for the club.”

JR ”You played under George Graham and David O’Leary at Leeds United. What is your opinion of those two managers?”

RM ”George Graham is the man responsible for bringing me to Leeds United and I am grateful to him for that. He also taught me zonal marking. I learnt an awful lot from George Graham. When David O’Leary took over the reigns Leeds United became a much younger team. Lots of reserve team players made the step up to the first time . That helped Leeds United to play better football and take the initiative in games which made us successful in the Premier League and also in Europe. We played good football and we were good to watch. I was recovering from an injury when David O’Leary took over and I had already signed a contact extension and thought I would get my chance if I was good enough. David O’Leary approached me to ask if I would like to take the offer to join Wimbledon FC on a 4 year contract but also told me that I was welcome to stay at Leeds United. I chose to stay at the club and fight for my chance and right after that I went from the bench to the stands which was difficult while the team kept on doing well. But if I had my time again I would not change a thing.”

JR ”You managed FC Volendam for 2 seasons from 2015- 2017. How do you look back on your time at FC Volendam?”

RM ”What is special is that I went as a player from FC Volendam to Leeds United. As a manager starting out you always need an opening to show what you can do. Due to my career as a FC Volendam player that played a part in me being offered to manager’s job and I will always be grateful for that. In my first season we started well picking up 22 points from our first 9 games. We fell away over the course of the season even though we had already managed to qualify for the promotion play-offs which we lost to MVV Maastricht. In my second season we thought about changing our style of play adopting a 3-5-2 formation. We scored more goals and picked up more points. We drew many games and we were sluggish towards the end of the season. When the time came to talk about extending my contact I felt a lack of appreciation and I decided to let the club know about my desire to leave. Two weeks before the last league game I was relieved on my duties even though I brought through a lot of youth players and we had a cup run and we had also made progression as a club. I was disappointed. I learnt a lot at FC Volendam and I am grateful to the club that I could start my managerial career there. I must now concentrate on my current role as manager of Roda JC.”

JR ”Could you say who is the best played you ever played with?”

RM ”I played with many great players Olivier Dacourt, Mark Viduka, Tony Yeboah, Tomas Brolin, Ian Rush. Even Dean Saunders at Bradford City but I would say the two best players that I have played with were Harry Kewell and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink.”

JR ”Who is the most difficult opponent you have ever faced?”

RM ”Romario is head and shoulders the most difficult opponent I ever faced during my time at FC Volendam when he was at PSV Eindhoven. He was phenomenal. Ronaldo comes a close second. In England, Duncan Ferguson often gave my a tough time as did Alan Shearer too. I once received the man of the match award from Sky Sports for my performance when Leeds United played Newcastle United. Finally playing against a young Francesco Totti who went on to become even better than he was when I played against him. I can only compliment him for that.”

JR ”Finally who is the best manager you have ever played under?”

RM ”George Graham had the biggest influence on me and my career. I learnt the most from him and I now use that in my own managerial career. In the Netherlands we were not ready to adapt to zonal marking. Without my experience in England I would be less of a manager than I am today.”

James Rowe (696 Posts)