Phillip Cocu takes over PSV Eindhoven… for now

I guess the PSV fans may now be familiar with the idea of not strolling to the Eredivisie title like they did under the astute management of Guus Hiddink. No, in fact, the ‘Boeren’ have to be content now with fighting for scraps with the emerging powers from the east and north of Netherlands respectively – FC Twente Enschede and Alkmaar Zaanstreek in addition to staving off perennial rivals, Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord Rotterdam for a chance at the domestic crown.

Strangely, I’ve always had the opinion that the Eindhoven club is one of the best-managed teams in European football. The efficiency which they won their numerous Eredivisie titles and seasons of Champions League football is testimony to that.

Not anymore.

Lately, the club is finding itself hoping to qualify for the august  tournament rather than fighting earnestly for it. At the time of writing, they sit four points off the summit of the Dutch table with a point shy off 2nd place for a shot at qualifying for the Champions League. Yes, it’s far too early to hit the panic button just yet. I mean, give and take, the top three teams would drop points along the way and soon the Philips-sponsored club could even be lifting the Eredivisie shield come the end of the 2011/2012 season.

Fred Rutten is no more in charge of the club. A little prematurely, one might add. He had announced in December 2011 that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season but after a series of disappointing defeats, including a horror 6-2 reverse against FC Twente, the sand in his managerial hourglass slipped even faster to the bottom receptacle. Still, it has to be said that he’s not an awful manager – on 28 August 2011, his PSV side thrashed Excelsior Rotterdam 6-1; 24 September 2011 saw his team record a superb 7-1 against Roda JC Kerkrade whereas large wins against the likes of FC Groningen, Heerenveen and De Graafschap Doetinchem confirmed that PSV benefitted from his management. In fact, he presided over the insurmountable 10-0 victory over Feyenoord Rotterdam on 24 October 2010. If ever there was another PSV coach in recent memory that could conjure up huge crushing wins, it has to be Rutten.

But when he made public that he won’t be managing the club for the 2012/2013 season, I could only imagine the morale within the squad. In a team already bereft of natural leaders in the mould of super captain Mark van Bommel, Arthur Numan and more recently, Timmy Simons, the squad predictably veered off in the wrong direction when results didn’t come their way, starting with the 6-2 debacle at home in the Philips Stadion. I watched the Valencia – PSV Europa League game last week at 4 am and was unimpressed with the 4-0 capitulation until the 60th minute of that particular match. The manner in which the North Brabant side surrendered was evidence of poor leadership within the team. I won’t go into details as to whether Ola Toivonen is a fit captain or not but clearly, no one was taking the side by the scruff of the neck and leading the way. In a game of divided loyalties (I also support VCF), Valencia fell asleep in the closing stages of the game and allowed the Dutch side to make the final scoreline a little more respectful. Of course this current Valencia team is not the best we’ll ever see but there’s no need to go down that discussion now – the fact is, it took one bad result against a respectable team for PSV to lose steam.

The team had started the new year of 2012 in indifferent form – winning well against Vitesse Arnhem and De Graafschap (and a resurgent Feyenoord) but totally got owned against FC Groningen and stuttered against small club Heracles Almelo and relegation-battlers FC Utrecht. The 11 March 2012 defeat to lowly NAC Breda sealed the fate of Fred Rutten.

You could appraise for yourselves the effect that such an announcement had over the team. Prior to that, PSV was doing the right things – signing the right players and getting the right results, only losing to AZ and Feyenoord along the way to the end of 2011 but otherwise on course to challenge for the title.

Couldn’t it wait until the end of the season before the gaffer opens his big mouth and make it known that he won’t be managing the club beyond the current season? I thought that this entire affair could have been handled in a more professional manner. When the head coach tells the whole world he would be leaving, the players suddenly found themselves facing an uncertain future –  a new coach, new tactics, possible time to be committed on the bench or having a new ‘rival’ to contend for a place. In addition, the team would obviously be in transition phase – some friends within the team would be sold on because these players may not be needed by the new manager, or a change in pace of training and so on. Players who all along disagree with Rutten’s methods would suddenly find themselves needing no urgency to obey his instructions.  

Again, I’d say that the club is poorly managed.

If the club’s top brass had forbidden any strict correspondence with the media about the manager’s future plans, the players would probably not be any wiser. I mean, it’s not like you would be confiding in your secretary or subordinates that you would be moving on from your current employment or staying – that’s your personal business at the end of the day but the ill-advised public announcement won’t help the club at all. It was a selfish motive.

Now, PSV fans would hope that ex-Oranje star Phillip Cocu is able to instill some badly needed confidence in the squad – first with Valencia to reverse the 2-4 aggregate and then to get their league form back in shape. All is not lost!



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