A game of two hoofs

2

ADO Den Haag 2

Kramer 17, Gehrt 74

FC Dordrecht 0

Friday 24 October, 2014

Written by Matt Birch

As an ex-patriated Bradford City fan we have to get our regular dose of Bantams football from BBC highlights, YouTube or if we are lucky, a live City game on Sky. Some ex-pats do get over to the UK for the occasional match but these are few and far between.

For me, my last live match (apart from amateur football) was in Liege, back in the brief Montegnee period. My last trip to Valley Parade was also around this time (Boxing Day 2008 v Lincoln) arranged through the Montegnee tie-in and getting the VIP treatment from David Baldwin and Mark Lawn.

Over the past couple of years we have been spoilt with live City games on Sky and there’s more and more highlights, interviews, etc. than ever on t’interweb, but nothing beats going to a live football match. So me and a fellow ex-pat partner in crime (who has been converted into a Bantam over the past few years) decided to go and check out our local professional team.

Me being an occasional writer for “The Width of a Post” I thought I’d do a write up from the game but try and make it a bit relevant to City fans, so here goes…

The Stadium

ADO Den Haag moved from their old dilapidated stadium in Zuiderpark to their new €27m Kyocera Stadium in 2007. If City ever were to move away from Valley Parade to a new purpose built stadium then the Kyocera has some ideas I’d be interested in taking to Odsal (or wherever it may be). On the flip side, there are some missed opportunities.

  • The Good: When you come into the ground, you are underneath the stands. Not only that but you are two meters under pitch level. You enter the stands from the front via staircases. The pitch is therefore basically surrounded by a dry moat, making pitch invasions very, very difficult (if not entirely impossible).
  • The Good: With the pitch being elevated above ground level it makes drainage of the pitch a piece of cake.
  • The Interesting: There is a lot of talk about smaller clubs investing in 4G artificial turf. Now the weather on Friday was terrible. It heaved it down all evening, but I didn’t see a single player slip once all game. The bounce of the ball remained very true all game. And I didn’t see any players notice they were not on grass after doing a sliding tackle.

(I have recently played matches on old 3G turf, on new 4G turf and on real grass, both as a winger and as a keeper. And I will take the 4G turf every single time if given the choice. I would be very keen to install this straight away if City were to get a new stadium.)

  • The Bad: When building a new stadium, you would expect the stands to be covered. Yet for some reason the architects decided the roofs only need to cover half the seats. We got soaked and we were standing half way up the stand!

If I were building a brand new stadium with an artificial pitch I’d go a step further than Den Haag did. I’d either go with a retractable roof or an entirely covered roof, allowing the stadium to be used for concerts and the like. In Bradford’s case I’d definitely be ground sharing with the Bulls as well. Maximising revenues would be a must for any new stadium in Bradford.

The Fans

ADO Den Haag (formerly FC Den Haag) are traditionally known for being the Millwall of The Netherlands. By which I mean the club with the worst hooligan element. With the new stadium and the new name, the club have been trying to move away from the past and become more of a family club. This seems to be working pretty well.

The crowd were a decent bunch all in all, good in voice though the stadium roof didn’t help much with the acoustics. And there were the usual one or two moaners in the crowd.

I wouldn’t recommend standing at the front of the kop as there was a lot of lager thrown from the back to the front of the kop. And being Holland, not only are you allowed to drink and smoke in the stands, some of the fans were even smoking weed.

The Formation

It will come as little surprise for you to hear that both sides lined up with 4-3-3.

In Holland, every team in every age group in every club from amateur to professional plays with 4-3-3. It is a system that is ingrained into kids from a young age. And 95% of professional teams line up in the same manner.

Personally I cannot understand why English teams do not copy this model? It is the most fluid, most versatile and most natural of all formations. When Phil Parkinson wanted to move away from the bog-standard English 4-4-2, why on earth did he decide to try the over-complicated and dangerous diamond? Take a look at how well Southampton are doing this season, Koeman has come in with his favoured 4-3-3 and brought in a few players who are suited to the system. Boom, they are flying high in the league despite losing all their best players over the summer.

A well drilled 4-3-3 can slip seamlessly into 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 or even 4-2-3-1. Everyone knows their job, they know their positions, they know which opposition players they need to track and they know which team-mate they need to cover.

If I were lucky enough to win/make a fortune big enough to buy Bradford City, I’d go Dutch and have 4-3-3 throughout the academy, employ a number of Dutch coaches and (once Parky was no longer at the helm), hire a new manager who shared the same 4-3-3 philosophy.

The Former Bantam

There was actually one former Bantam on show in the match. Former Liverpool loanee keeper Martin Hansen is now the ADO Den Haag number 1 keeper. Hansen had a brief one month loan at Bradford City in 2011, playing a handful of games.

Now 24 years of age, he seems to have developed into a decent keeper. He certainly didn’t put a foot wrong in this match, though if I had to pick a criticism I’d say his kicking could do with a little work.

The James Hanson

Up front for ADO Den Haag is the Dutch Eredivisie’s leading marksman. Michiel Kramer stands at a mighty 6 ft 5 in, dwarfing even our own beloved James Hanson. Nimble, good feet, good ball control and maturing nicely at 25 years old,

I think it is only a matter of time before he gets a move to one of the bigger clubs in Holland. And with the way the Dutch national side have started their Euro qualifying campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to get an international call-up soon.

The Hoof

Before kick-off this was a match between 3rd from bottom against 2nd from bottom. Despite this being a proper relegation battle, Despite the giant Kramer and despite Dordrecht having a couple of reasonably tall lumps up front, there was a distinct lack of “hoof” during the match. In fact aside from a couple of last ditch clearances, I counted only two proper hoof passes in the first 80 minutes.

It was only in the last ten minutes with the score at 2-0 that the ADO keeper twice punted long balls forward. So a grand total of four hoof passes in the entire game.

Certainly a refreshing change to see two teams rigidly sticking to trying to play proper football on the ground.

The Match

And so we come to the game as a whole. A spectacle it was not. As I said they were trying to play football, but at times both teams really struggled with that. You can definitely see why the two teams are near the bottom of the table. A lot of the ADO players looked very short on confidence, while Dordrecht were just plain awful. Dordrecht could have played for a month and not come close to scoring.

The 2-0 scoreline was fair with ADO by far the better of the two teams despite a good number of individual errors.

The Conclusion

We loved every minute of it and will be going back again very soon. In fact we will be dragging others along with us.

This highlights the great benefit of schemes like “Kid A Quid” or Bradford City’s cheap season tickets – get the fans in once and they will come back for more. We went on the off chance for this match but if there had been some random incentive scheme we may have started going a long time ago.

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Categories: Opinion

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2 replies

  1. As a foreign Bantam and Dutch football regular (PSV Eindhoven) I can only agree to above observations, nice perspective.

    Interesting to add to above story is the linkage that exists between ADO fans and Swansea City fans through Swansea’s board member (and notorious ADO supporter) John van Zweden. Every Swansea game at least a few dozen ADO supporters cross the Channel to see a Swansea game.
    When we (two Dutchies) came over for the Wembley final we met various ADO fans both on our flight as well as around the ground (obviously to their bemusement that there were also Dutch Bantam fans!).

    • Indeed Joris, as a Bantam who lives in Utrecht and is also a PSV supporter through my wife from Vught, I remember a few interesting conversations that day in London between an Ajaxied friend I had brought long and some of the ADO aanhang! Unfortunately, my son is starting to realise that PSV are, cough cough, a slightly better outfit than the Bantams…

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