As individual entities, Steve McClaren and Twente are very odd. It seems these days they are incapable of success without each other. The coach and club were united amidst worrying times and found instant, remarkable but mostly surprising success. Despite appearing the perfect fit for each other, their partnership was cut short and again, they struggled immensely until they were reunited earlier this year. It seems that, after Tukkers beat Marco van Basten’s Heerenveen on Sunday to record their sixth successive Eredivisie win this season, maintaining their 100% league record, like neither the club nor the coach will look to end their partnership prematurely this time if things keep going the way they are just now.
After a disastrous spell with the England national team, McClaren looked to restore his credibility with Twente who were looking to upgrade from a team fighting for Europa League spots to one challenging Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to the title. In his inaugural season, McClaren was unlucky not to lift the title as his side were caught behind a phenomenal AZ side, coached by Louis van Gaal, who were crowned landskampioen after a fantastic 28 game unbeaten run.
The next season belonged to the Tukkers and McClaren though, as they held off Martin Jol’s Ajax to lift the title, despite the Amsterdam giants’ 14 game winning streak after the turn of the year to take the battle for the championship down to the last day. Despite such success, McClaren departed the Grolsch Veste stadium to join Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, but he failed to see out a full season in the German league before joining Nottingham Forest and again found no joy.
After the Englishman’s departure, Twente failed to defend their title and in the 2011-12 season they sacked Co Adriaanse during the winter break. Twente needed a new coach who could bring them back to winning titles and competing in Europe and McClaren needed a club which had style, would give him the time and support he was never going to receive in his homeland and had fans which would welcome him home. A reunion between club and coach was only logical and so, in January 2012, McClaren was back in control of the Eredivisie side.
He was delighted to be back, the club were over the moon and the fans were so happy they even wore ‘Welcome Back Steve’ t-shirts to his first game back in the hotseat. The former Hull City player had his work cut out for him, though and could only muster a sixth place finish after an incredible title race in the Dutch league in which a third of the league were still involved until the final weeks.
But Twente only enhanced their side during the summer, giving McClaren the support he required. Promising young winger Ola John left for Benfica whilst star striker Luuk de Jong joined Borussia Monchengladbach. In came Luc Castaignos, who had spent a season on the sidelines with Inter after joining from Feyenoord, he was joined by Dmitry Bulykin, a free agent, Dusan Tadic from Groningen, Robber Schilder, Felipe Gutierrez, Andreas Bjelland and Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City. The new arrivals complimented the stars already within the Twente ranks such as Leroy Fer, who has developed immensely over the last year, Nacer Chadli, Wout Brama, Willem Janssen, Peter Wisgerhof and Douglas. McClaren had added well to build a squad which looked strong in all areas.
Dusan Tadic has been key thus far for the Tukkers. The former Groningen star netted his third goal of the season on Sunday against Heerenveen to add to his six assists.
Fer has been immense so far this term. The electrifying midfielder has a great work ethic and boosts the attacking potency of his side when he bursts forward, making himself available to receive and play passes as well as finish attacks off himself, recording three goals in the current campaign.
Luc Castaignos has thus far proved a good replacement for the departed De Jong. The 19-year-old is regaining his eye for goal as well as his sharpness, having found the net twice so far and he is lucky to have great support from the flanks via Chadli and Tadic, whilst Gutierrez and Fer provide extra support to give Twente an all round wonderful attack.
With Twente looking immaculate with their 100% league record after five matches, it seemed a victory over a Heerenveen side which is yet to pick up a victory under Van Basten would be a formality, and so it was. The margin of victory was not as high as expected, but Twente controlled the match and were more than worthy of the three points.
The feeling in Enschede is only one of joy and ecstasy as they stroll ahead of the rest of the pack in the Eredivisie. McClaren is flying high with Twente and there is no doubt that he is back where he belongs. Steve, a man who is ridiculed at no end in his homeland but is celebrated in the Netherlands for his remarkable achievements, will not be looking to flee the nest so quickly this time – much to the joy of the Twente hierarchy.
How things have changed at Heerenveen
Whilst Enschede is a place of optimism and wonder, Friesland must be mightily depressing at this time. Van Basten was always going to have a tough time at the helm of Heerenveen following the departure of the magic trio of Bas Dost, Luciano Narsingh and Oussama Assaidi. The dream team were crucial to Ron Jans’s side challenging for the title and eventually holding a Europa League place by the end of the season, and inevitably fled for bigger and better things along with Viktor Elm, who replaced his brother at AZ.
The board had failed to reinvest the money received from such transfers and Van Basten was left to work with a fraction of the resources available to his predecessor. But with talents like Alfred Finnbogason, Filip Djuricic, Jeffrey Gouweleeuw, Rajiv van La Parra, Ramon Zomer and Sven Kums, Van Basten has not been able to get the team playing as a unit at all. Van Basten can pin some of the blame of his side’s false start on a tough set of fixtures which included playing Feyenoord, AZ and Ajax in successive weeks, against whom they did well to earn a point from each match, but a lack of fighting spirit against NEC and ADO Den Haag has damaged his credentials as the man capable of taking Heerenveen forward already.
The defeat to Twente was slender and Heerenveen came close to gaining a point, but much of that was down to the hosts’ sloppiness in front of goal. Castaignos was found lurking at the back post far too many times and should have netted twice at the least. Gutierrez, Tadic and Janssen all had chances to put the ball past Kristoffer Nordfedt but had no joy.
These are worrying times for Heerenveen, and more so for Van Basten who will struggle to find a job as a football coach if he is dismissed from his current post.
As for Twente, things are looking great for the side four points ahead of second place Vitesse.
Week 6 results:
Roda JC 0-1 Utrecht
Zwolle 1-2 Groningen
RKC Waalwijk 1-1 VVV-Venlo
Vitesse 1-1 Heracles
NEC 0-0 Willem II
ADO Den Haag 1-1 Ajax
Twente 1-0 Heerenveen
NAC Breda 2-1 AZ
PSV 3-0 Feyenoord