Early February saw Guus Hiddink return to PSV in an advisory role. Ryan Ferguson retraces his career and looks at how PSV will benefit from his philosophy.

  • By Ryan Ferguson
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hidcocuIn making official the advisory role of Guus Hiddink, PSV aims to add certainty to a bright future of hope. The new era, embarked upon by the Eindhoven club this summer, has experienced turbulence in recent months, with many league points dropped and ignominious exits from the KNVB Cup and Europa League increasing frustration. However, as the technical staff headed by Phillip Cocu continues to learn, and his young squad continues to evolve, the presence of a seasoned ally like Hiddink will be priceless. The wisdom he can impart, and the experiences to which he can refer will be of great benefit to Cocu and PSV at a vital stage in this rebuilding process.

We’re already witnessing a positive improvement in performances, results and, says Jeffrey Bruma, atmosphere. “When you’re young, you have questions,” says the towering Dutch defender. “Who better to ask than someone at the top of football who really has seen it all? It’s a real boost.” Hiddink will be present at PSV’s De Herdgang training complex one day per week, affording players the opportunity to gleam advice and guidance on a range of issues. The renowned coach will provide pointers during training sessions and make himself generally available for club personnel needing support. Manager Cocu has praised Hiddink’s impact since the advisory role was made official in early February, telling assembled media how “you immediately see players approach him and ask for his advice. I learned a lot from him myself during my career, so it would be stupid to turn down someone like Guus if he offers to help out.

Hiddink will also be available to assist in technical staff meetings, where training and match preparation are discussed. In this area, particularly, his presence will be welcomed. At times this season, Cocu and his coaches, Ernest Faber and Chris van der Weerden, have produced fine gameplans which have worked a treat. The 4-0 home victory over Ajax was a tactical masterclass, with Cocu’s side pressing with insatious appetite and over-powering their great rivals. Similarly, games against Zulte Waregem and Milan were approached in a sharp and progressive manner. At other times, though, PSV have struggled to switch quickly to a Plan B in tight games where top form is elusive and the opposition smell blood. Against Vitesse, Feyenoord and away to Ajax in Amsterdam, Cocu was unable to turn the tide once PSV fell behind. When the initial attacking plan yielded only profligacy in front of goal, PSV were unable to change impetus and eventually succumbed to damaging defeat. Hiddink will help repair these struggles. Many of his teams have been robust and pragmatic, particularly away from home, and it has led to a tremendously successful career. All of Hiddink’s greatest teams have a stoic trust in their own talents, an innate belief that they will find a way to win, and a certain positive arrogance which enables domination. During his prime, Hiddink was blessed with great tactical versatility; he was always willing to adapt a game plan or select different players in a new formation to counteract strong opposition. The current PSV coaching staff and squad are still learning how to foster such attributes, so the presence of a footballing icon who has been mastering them for over three decades should expedite the process.

The aforementioned defeats against main competitors like Vitesse and Feyenoord came during an historically-bad run of form for PSV. We’re all aware of the stats and records and facts about how poorly the team was playing, but the Eindhoven club stood firm behind it’s manager. I, like a majority of PSV fans, have great faith in the vision and philosophy of Phillip Cocu. In my mind, appointing such a progressive coach has been a major step forward in helping the club grow. Sure, Cocu has experienced difficulties along the way. Results have been very disappointing, in fact. But, in an era where football continues to get smarter and younger and more academic, it’s vital that a club like PSV does not get left behind. In Cocu, the club now has a figurehead who will endure and grow in a changing modern climate, rather than a hired gun who will flee at the first big job offer. As Ajax dominated the Eredivisie under the suave Frank de Boer, PSV made a change in managerial profile to compete with them more closely. Cocu was the chosen man, and has demonstrated sporadically his ability to compete with, and even outwit, de Boer. The 4-0 home victory was a direct triumph for Phillip over Frank. However, the PSV coach was on the receiving end in the reverse encounter at Amsterdam ArenA, where de Boer effectively won the game with incisive alterations in shape and tempo. Thus, we see the problem: at this juncture, Cocu must replicate his obvious ingenuity with the relentlessness which has saw de Boer drive Ajax to three consecutive championships. The Amsterdam coach has demonstrated a sublime ability to alter the entire pattern of games at any point, and has the kind of conviction which can only come with experience. Cocu must aspire to emulate and better de Boer’s immense dexterity and endurance. Hiddink can aid this process by supporting Cocu like Johan Cruyff did de Boer.

The duo have maintained a strong bond for many years. Hiddink has been a key mentor throughout Cocu’s development as a coach; the pair regularly exchanging phone calls this season. Hiddink has provided moral and technical support and is a great believer in Cocu’s managerial ability. In return, Cocu praises the positive impact Hiddink had on his career and welcomes the insight of his former boss. “I’m happy that [Guus] is now ready to intensify the already existing contact,” the manager said. “Guus will be regularly present at De Herdgang for the remainder of the season to help out myself and the technical staff.”

If the mutual admiration between the two men were not so great, and if the widespread belief in Cocu’s ability was not so vociferous, friction could easily exist in such a managerial structure. Many may see the presence of Hiddink as a hindrance, somehow undermining the existing coaching staff. However, it’s vitally important to understand and appreciate the standing of these two men in PSV lore. They are true icons who have achieved a lot together, have unending respect for one another, and strive only to see this football club succeed. I firmly believe that Hiddink’s impact is positive. I also believe that Cocu will eventually be the man to bring the glory back.

Of course, they have combined to experienced great success before. In 2004, Hiddink, then in the nascent of his second stint at the PSV helm, brought Cocu back to the club from an illustrious spell with Barcelona. The silky playmaker became an intrinsic part of multi-talented PSV midfield alongside Mark van Bommel and Johann Vogel; his penchant for important goals and tactical precision inspiring PSV to greatness. If van Bommel was Hiddink’s on-field enforcer, Cocu was his calm lieutenant, directing play with unrivaled poise. He became captain when van Bommel left for Milan in 2005, ascending to a leadership role in which he thrived. In this regard, Hiddink trusted his players wholly, allowing stars like Arjen Robben and Mateja Kežman to emerge and bloom. The brave manager wanted his players to take the initiative, maintain responsibility and express themselves. Cocu benefited greatly from such an ethos; during a three-year association, the midfield metronome and the managerial behemoth drove PSV towards successive Eredivisie titles (including a sensational domestic Double in 2004-05), and a famous run to the Champions League semi-finals. They experienced unprecedented success.

hid champIt was a halcyon period in the history of PSV, inspiring Cocu to become a coach whilst solidifying Hiddink’s standing as a PSV legend. Such a status was first cultivated in the 1980s, when Hiddink graduated from assistant manager to engineer another illustrious spell. He fashioned a team of sensational attacking flair which scored at will and conquered all which lay before them; PSV winning three straight Eredivisie titles in addition to three domestic cups. In 1987-88, Hiddink navigated a route past Galatasaray, Rapid Wien, Bordeaux and Real Madrid in the European Cup, before his side beat Benfica on penalties in the final to complete a sacred Treble.

Hiddink’s position within PSV royalty was assured.

Naturally, this first stint in charge of PSV remains the zenith of Hiddink’s accomplishment. In a long and distinguished managerial career spanning thirty-two years, three continents and thirteen different jobs, Hiddink has won FA Cups and reached the knockout stages of five international tournaments with Oranje, Russia, Australia and South Korea. He’s experienced the biggest games, managed the biggest players and led such clubs as Valencia, Real Madrid and Chelsea. However, the six Eredivisie titles, four KNVB Cups and European Cup won for PSV are his most cherished achievements. They’re also his most profound qualifications for advising young Cocu on how to fulfill his immense potential.

Behind the records and the achievements and the medals, Hiddink is the type of spirited character which can only benefit PSV in the closing stages of this season. The proven coach believes strongly in the value of unity, and always seeks to stress the importance of every man in his camp. I remember him as a cuddly father figure to those great PSV teams in the mid-2000s, with a booming presence and brilliant man-management skills, but Hiddink is also a scholar of football. His philosophy states that the whole is greater than the sum of your parts; rhetoric which, when implemented succinctly in training sessions, should help the current PSV team bond and find the inner-strength required to succeed. At present, Ajax are demonstrating the value of complete self-belief with an endless stream of victories and trophies. In applying small doses of Hiddink’s methodology, this precocious group of PSV staff and players can close the gap between Eindhoven and Amsterdam and begin to emulate his greatest achievements.

The ultimate aim of bringing back Hiddink is to support Phillip Cocu at a delicate juncture of his managerial education. Similarly, the football club is at a difficult stage in rebuilding for a bright future. It would be foolish not to benefit from the immense experiences of a proven winner; it would be ridiculous not to add substance to skill by making his suggested adjustments; it would be stupid to reneged when the biggest icon in club history offers his assistance once more. In time, Guus Hiddink will likely enjoy a swan song with Oranje after the World Cup. I hope he succeeds. Eventually, Phillip Cocu will benefit from the tutelage of his great ally and lead PSV back to the Promised Land. It will all slot into place just fine. I know that for sure.

Ryan Ferguson (23 Posts)