The Belgian media has recently been focusing on the so-called invasion of Dutch coaches in the Jupiler League. There will be five of them out of 16 when the league starts in July and Belgian coaches such as Hugo Broos – currently out of work – have questioned why the Dutch are getting jobs that could just as easily be filled by home-grown candidates.
The main reason for the criticism is that the vacancies at two of the country’s top clubs – Anderlecht and Standard Liege – have gone to Dutch applicants and that leaves a sour taste in many Belgian coaches’ mouths. This feeling that Belgian coaches – such as Lokeren’s Peter Maes or Kortrijk’s Hein Vanhaezebrouck – have been unfairly overlooked has increased now that the Dutch national team has failed abysmally at the 2012 Euros.
The two high profile appointments were Vitesse Arnhem’s John Van den Brom who has moved to Anderlecht and Ron Jans who left Heerenveen for Standard Liege. Neither of these are exactly household names and they’ve joined Mario Been who’ll be in his second season at Genk , Adrie Koster who has joined Beerschot, after an unsuccessful spell at Club Brugge, and Harm Van Veldhoven, a naturalised Belgian of Dutch origin, who has take over at KV Mechelen. There would have been six Dutch coaches in Belgium’s top division but Dennis van Wijk became exasperated by Abbas Bayat’s failure to conform his job at promoted Charleroi and signed up with second division Royal Antwerp.
Van den Brom could be a shrewd appointment. He took Vitesse Arnhem into Europe last season and he has a reputation for bringing youngsters through. While at Apeldoorn, Van den Brom introduced two current Belgian internationals – Dries Mertens (once rejected by Anderlecht because he was too small) and Nader Chadli (who failed to make the grade at Standard Liege) – to first team football. On the negative side, however, Van den Brom has a reputation for not sticking around long; after Apeldoorn, he spent one season at Den Haag and then just one term at his old playing club Vitesse.
The same accusation cannot be levelled at new Standard coach Ron Jans as he spent eight years at Groningen before a two-season stint at Heerenveen. His second season was crowned by a direct qualification to the Europa League. The appointments of both Van den Brom and Jans have been criticised as it was said neither could speak French; however, Van den Brom started tweeting in French on arrival in Brussels and Jans surprised the media in particular by speaking the language of Molière at his first training session.
The Dutch have a reputation for attacking football and this might work with young players brought up in the world of the Eredivisie. Whether this will be successful in the Belgian Jupiler League is an open question; Koster’s spell at Club Brugge was typified by splendid attacking football mixed by poor defending. With Trond Sollied staying on at Gent, there will be six ‘foreign’ coaches in the league next season and it could be seven when Charleroi’s Bayat finally decides if he’s going to sell the club, hire a new coach or do the job himself. Whatever the final figure, it will be a case of ‘them and us’ as the league plays out, with the accent on Belgian-Dutch rivalry.