As ever, the frequency of change with Oranje national coaches continues with KNVB’s Head of Professional Football, Marianne van Leeuwen, announcing earlier this year that Ronald Koeman would succeed Louis van Gaal after the World Cup.

  • by Vincent Bryson
  • Follow Vincent on Twitter @vincentbryson

This made me take a look at the ever-revolving coaching chair with Oranje as the KNVB have a habit of returning to a very familiar “well” when it comes to the top job in Dutch football.

Van Gaal will reach the peak of his third tenure this century in November and Koeman returning will be his second over the same timeframe – his return in December the 15th different coaching tenure since 2000. Fred Grim (three games in 2017) and Dwight Lodeweges (two games in 2020) were most definitely “caretaker managers” in the classic definition.

Dick Advocaat and Guus Hiddink have also had two tenures since 2000; however, coaches who see out their contract are few, with Bert van Marwijk and Marco van Basten actually having the longest tenures and leading Oranje at two major tournaments each.

So why the “backwards look” when Oranje are surely set for another strong showing under Koeman after the World Cup?

The main point of interest comes from this quirk of perhaps one of the most consistent national footballing identities outstaying and outlasting almost any coach since Total Football blew everyone away in the 70s. Standing fast van Gaal and a back three at the 2014 World Cup and van Marwijk’s ugly 2010-2012 teams, Oranje tend to be consistent in system and methodology so what is important in a coach, and does Oranje need a powerful head to outshine history, tradition and the shadow of Total Football?

My main interest here would be considering who will come post-2022 Koeman. If we fast forward to 2024 and a natural “break-point” despite the 4-year contract he’s just committed to, it’s likely KNVB will be anxious if a strong performance at the Euros that year isn’t achieved, and it’s almost certain if qualification isn’t achieved at all, then Koeman will be gone.

By 2024, van Dijk (currently under-performing for Liverpool) will be 33. Hopes are high though for De Ligt, Ake, Taylor, de Jong, Janssen and others, who will still be firmly in their 20s. Therefore we can assume a competitive player core is available.

So, with my deeply unfair assumption being 2024 is the next window of change, who steps in and fills the breech?

Let’s eliminate the unlikely scenario of deeply ineffective Frank de Boer returning (although the earlier part of this article does reinforce the fact KNVB enjoy a repeat occurrence of a coach’s tenure), and the also unlikely re-occurrence of Marco van Basten who hasn’t held a technical or coaching role since leaving FIFA in 2018.

Taking into account the characteristics of an Oranje coach – likely ex-player of some standing domestically, likely a Dutch National, not a rookie (van Basten aside) – we can begin to look at Eredivisie candidates and likely starting points are the Big Three in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

Alfred Schreuder at Ajax has the experience of understudy to 3 A-Listers in Nagelsmann (Hoffenheim), Ten Hag (Ajax) and Koeman (Barcelona), and winning a league title with Club Brugge in Belgium earlier this year.

Arne Slot’s credentials at Feyenoord are backed up with head coaching stints at AZ for 18 months. Judgement on whether he should have been sacked for “lack of focus” at AZ (having agreed to take charge at De Kuip at season’s end 21-22) are probably unfair.

In Eindhoven, van Nistelrooy needs no introduction as a player with a stellar CV and the famed necessity to manage big personalities – when you aren’t yourself one – could never be levelled at him. He’s also done time as an Oranje assistant to van Gaal in 2014 and spent time as a youth coach at PSV with the U17, U19 and reserve groups before becoming manager in his own right.

Looking at the 3 candidates here, van Nistelrooy appears to be the shoo-in at least among the Eredivisie big clubs, but there are a number of others to consider, with Ten Hag at Man Utd and Giovanni van Bronckhorst at Rangers clear candidates but unlikely to move out of the club dugout to coach 12-16 games per year.

If we then cast the net a bit wider, Jaap Stam’s next move will be interesting, but his career hasn’t gone to plan. A similar tale is told of Dennis Bergkamp who spent five years at Ajax coaching at various age groups, but most recently was seen dropping cryptic clues about how great it would be to reunite with Patrick Vieira as part of the Crystal Palace set up.

So where does this leave me at with my conclusion of the next Oranje-Coach-Plus-One…?

Adding up all the ingredients, van Nistelrooy appears to be a certainty but his copy book will be blotted after PSV Champions League qualification failure this year so Eredivisie form will be critical in the next 20 months. His playing credentials can’t be questioned, but as a perennial fan of the left-field choice I would love it if KNVB considered coaches like Rene Hake (Go Ahead Eagles) or Maurice Steijn (Sparta).

That is unlikely, as the KNVB do clearly have a “type” particularly in the 21st century where big personality and ego are just as important as tactical nous – wouldn’t it be fun if they surprised us just once?




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