Ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Rotterdam to take on Feyenoord in the Europa League tomorrow, we’ve spoken to Koos from the Feyenoord Netwerk fan community to get the inside track on the Dutch club.
tBB: Can you tell us a bit about the Feyenoord Netwerk? How long have you guys been going and what do you do?
FN: Feyenoord Netwerk was started 15 years ago. Way before communities were known, we wanted to create a place where we/other Feyenoord fans can come together, meet, interact, share news and form opinions about what is going on around the team. That is basically what we still do. We create a platform with other fans, maintain it, and give us and other fans a place to interact, share and discuss with our 39,000 registered members. The platform itself tries to give an objective view of what is going on and give fans tools to create and form their own opinions and stay up to date.
tBB: Feyenoord have made a great start to the season, do you think they will be able to challenge for the Eredivisie championship this season?
FN: With minimal budget Feyenoord added the right players to be able to make the next step. The team has more balance and little more individual quality to make a difference. If that is enough to win the title against much richer clubs like PSV and Ajax, we have to wait and see. The squad is richer in quality, diversity and now has around 15 players of the same level. That should result in us fighting until the end for the title.
tBB: Were you happy with last season's third-place finish and KNVB Cup win?
FN: It was the first season with coach Giovanni Van Bronckhorst. We had a bad period of seven consecutive losses. That period overshadowed a lot of the feeling of the season. That aside, we had a good season, especially from were we were coming from. Winning the Cup, although in the Netherlands it’s generally not seen as so important, was the icing on the cake. Especially with us going without trophies for too long. It was expecially important to give the team and us the confidence that we can play for the prizes and win. It had a big impact on the team; giving confidence and spirit for this year.
The bad period actually helped a lot. Coming out of it, the team was closer, more willing to fight for each other, being more compact; a team difficult to beat again for whatever team.
tBB: We are very familiar with Dirk Kuyt from his time with Liverpool, how important is he to how Feyenoord plays?
FN: Dirk Kuyt is an icon of Feyenoord. He always was and still is. He fits in quite well with the Feyenoord character. He hasn't changed the way we play but he’s an example for it. And therefor an example for the new and youth plays to give everything, always, and until the end. He was, and is, important to give the team confidence, drive and spirit. Even at his age he has this role, especially at times where it is difficult, or when the drive has to come out of the players themselves instead of the external stimulation of big games.
tBB: Which Feyenoord players should we look out for tomorrow night?
FN: Feyenoord normally makes the difference as a team. But to name some players anyway: Rick Karsdorp has everything that you want from a modern attacking right-back. Steven Berghuis is up and coming; it will be interesting how he can show himself against United as a winger. Same goes for our new striker Nicolai Jorgensen; it will be his first big match for Feyenoord. Jens Toornstra is currently in good shape playing between the lines. Just to name a few. Unfortunately Eljero Elia is out injured. He made a big impact the first matches and one that can really make a difference.
tBB: How do you feel van Bronckhorst is performing as coach? What is his style?
FN: Van Bronckhorst has made big steps as a coach. He started without experience and he made rookie mistakes, but he’s shown he learns fast, and is not afraid to look for the right help and to learn from it. He is a definitely a 'new generation' coach from whom can be expected great things if he can keep learning. He’s calm, independent, builds trust in the organisation. As for his style of playing, it seems it is still forming. Using the character of the club and the qualities of the players he has to find the right way of playing. Team and players are more important than himself.
tBB: What are your hopes for the Europa League this season? And what is your prediction for the game against United?
FN: It will be very interesting to see how this team performs on the European level. We should have the stability and confidence to surprise. But as we say at Feyenoord 'geen woorden maar daden', we have to act and show it first, not to talk about it. Feyenoord in their own Kuip stadium is very difficult to beat; fans are the 12th man of the team. The impact of all the new regulations, leaving half of the stadium empty, will have to be seen. It will be a very weird situation. That being said, it is a question of how United will take on this game. If Mourinho takes the game too lightly we might be able to surprise you.