The new Eerste Divisie season begins tonight, Markus Wenzel is here with a full preview of the new season.
The Eerste Divisie is facing a season with many unknowns. After the bankruptcies from AGOVV Apeldoorn and the SC Veendam last season, as well as the failures of Haarlem and RBC Roosendaal in recent years, was the league finished with only 16 teams. As a result, the KNVB decided to give the competition a makeover and a new structure of the League and decided for a version with 20 teams.
For the first time since 2005, the possibility that teams from outside the professional football world were able to join the Eerste Divisie. While at that time the FC Omniword, today known as Almere City FC, managed to fulfill all criteria to join the league with the help of private investors, were this time four teams invited by the KNVB.
After some discussion that lasted weeks, the KNVB and the media partners from FOX (former Eredivisie Live) the KNVB invited the Beloftenteams (2nd team) from the two biggest teams in the Eredivisie, Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven. The other two teams should be the two champions of the Topklasse Zaterdag (3rd division on Saturday) and the Topklasse Zondag (3rd division on Sunday). The problem with this was that both champions, vv Katwijk (Zaterdag) and Achilles`29 (Zondag) resigned weeks ago the possible promotion into the Eerste Divisie because of the strong rules in professional football.
Every new team discussed with the KNVB and Katwijk decided to reject the promotion and stayed in the Topklasse. So the KNVB needed another team for the Eerste Divisie and searched another Beloftenteam. The only team that was ready was Jong FC Twente, and they became the newest member of the Eerste Divisie.
Unlike the other 16 teams the four new teams have some special regulations for their first campaign in professional football. Achilles´29, Jong Ajax, Jong PSV and Jong FC Twente are not allowed to be promoted directly (with the aid of the Periodenkampionen) into the Eredivisie. If the feeder club of the Beloftenteams relegates into the Eerste Divisie, than the Beloftenteam must go back to the Beloften Eredivisie. Every Beloftenteam must have a fixed number of professional footballers (16), a headcoach and only three players plus one keeper is allowed to be older than 23 years. It will be exciting to watch as the teams use the rule that they are allowed to use players from the first team. Every player who played less than 15 games in the Eredivisie can play for the Beloftenteam. If one of the big stars from Ajax, Twente or PSV was injured or suspended or has no perspective for a short time in the first team he could play in the Eerste Divisie. The three teams earn no TV money. Achilles´29 from Groesbeek on the other hand, remains in the status of an amateur club. They do not need to have professional players in their squad and they will be helped with money from the TV contract.
Another big new rule is that the teams have chosen the preferred match day ahead of the season. So the Eerste Divisie has now games from Friday to Monday with up to five different kick-off times each weekend.
Like in past seasons, we will have no relegation into the Topklasse. The winner of the league will get promoted directly and the four Periodenkampionen (best team of 9 games) plus the best four team without a Periodentitel (except one of the new teams) will again join two teams from the Eredivisie to play out two more teams for the top flight, in a three round play-off system.
VVV from Venlo will try to make amends for their relegation last term. After finishing in 17th in the Eredivisie they failed to avoid relegation in the Play-offs. In the second round, VVV lost to Go Ahead Eagles. For the direct promotion, Venlo have changed nearly the whole squad. They said goodbye to fifteen players and signed thirteen new ones. Besides some youth players they contracted two players from rival Fortuna Sittard (Quin Kruijsen and Prince Rajcomar) and some players with knowledge of the League. In addition to that Venlo has to sign a new coach. Ton Lokhoff was fired at the 6th of June, so VVV signed René Trost from MVV.
After a disastrous season, Willem II finished last in the Eredivisie and were relegated. Only five victories in the whole season lead to the bottom position since week 12 for the club from Tilburg. But unlike Venlo, Willem II trust Jürgen Streppel to coach the team with success in his third year as Tilburg coach. They lost some important players like Nicky Hofs (to Vitesse), Marc Höcher (to Roda JC) or strike Aurélien Joachim (was loan from Düdelingen (LUX), but signed the Armenian international Norair Mamedov from FC Emmen and some experienced players from the Eerste Divisie like Jeffrey van Nuland (Helmond) or Freek Heerkens (Go Ahead).
The FC Volendam finished second last year and threw away the chance for the direct promotion into the top flight on the last day of the season. In the final play-off match for a place in the Eredivisie, they played the Go Ahead Eagles, who avert Volendam at the last day of the regular season the direct promotion and lost again. But after a radical change in the team, for example they lose the top scorer of the league, Jack Tuyp, to Ferencvaros, and the fact that Volendam signed with one exception (Kevin Wattamaleo from NEC) only own youngsters, so they may be perhaps not such a strong contender for promotion.
Sparta Rotterdam on the other hand seems to be a team who could gain promotion in this season. Finishing third last season, they lost a key player with keeper Pellatz, who signed for Dynamo Dresden, but got veteran keeper Khalid Sinouh from NEC and former striker John Verhoek. Soufian El Hassnaoui from De Graafschap and Cendrino Misidjan make Sparta under the new coach Adri Bogers one of the favorites of this season but they will have to try to cope with a trauma. Sparta was in the play-off-final against Roda JC and Sparta threw the promotion away in the last minute of the game. Without the final goal in Kerkrade, where Roda JC won 2-1, Sparta would be now in the Eredivisie on the away goal rule.
Helmond Sport hit the exclusion of AGOVV and Veendam last season very hard. After Helmond was also deducted the points from the two games against Veendam, they lost the top spot in the league. Top scorer Emrullah Güvenc left the club to join Antwerp in Belgium. Jeffrey van Nuland plays now for Willem II and Samir Fazli has gone back to Heerenveen but they signed potentially great replacements. Kevin Visser and Stanley Elbers from ADO and Serhat Koc from FC Eindhoven.
MVV from Maastricht lost their coach to VVV and find their new one in Kerkrade. Tini Ruys, a former head coach of Fortuna Sittard could lead MVV to a glorious season.
Fortuna Sittard on the other hand lost some important players. Belgian, Ramazan Cevik was loaned to Standard Liege in Belgium. Quin Kruijsen and Prince Rajcomar will play for VVV this season and Joeri Schroyen takes on the challenge of the adventure to play Eredivisie with the Go Ahead Eagles. Veteran defender Fernando Ricksen, who played for AZ, Glasgow Rangers and Zenit St. Petersburg, ended his career in professional football for the second time and signed with RKSV Minor, a team in the sixth tier of Dutch Football. With Jeffrey Vlug from Den Bosch, Boy Heijsteeg from Topklasser EVV Echt, the loan from Franco Zennaro has Sittard an striker Patrick Amoah from Belgium club WS Woluwe by now only signed four new players.
De Graafschap will try to play a better season. After they relegated in 2012, they missed the chance to get back in the first tier. They finished eighth and failed to win the play-offs. The team from Doetinchem said good bye to a few players. So signed Sam Hendriks a contract with Jong Ajax or Soufian El Hassnaoui with Sparta. At the same time De Graafschap decided to not renew the contracts of 8 other players, for example Gregor Breinburg, Jochem Jansen or Adil Auassar. Four players are now new signings in Doetinchem. Besides one player from youth and a Keeper from Go Ahead Eagles, Jasper Heusinkveld, they signed Edwin Linssen from AEK Larnaca and Tim Bakens from Cambuur.
FC Dordrecht, a competitor in the last Play-offs, wants to confirm their good season with the ninth position. However, their losses could be hard to replace. Four of their players (Amevor, Rijsdijk, Tano and Kastenaar) join a team in the Eredivisie, three players want to play in the amateur football and Gielisse, Veldwijk and Post joined another team in the Eerste Divisie. So they signed two players from Spain, Erison Danso (Valencia B) and Carlos Carrasco Rodriguez (FC Orihuela), Paul Gladon from Sparta and some talented players from their own youth and other lower teams. The new coach Harry van der Ham, who was fired once during the last season, might have a problem to get back into the Play-offs
The FC Oss was behind Volendam the biggest unlucky team last season. They missed the Play-offs with 3 points. Coach Anton Janssen lost 17 players from the team, 8 players signed at a team from a lower league. Unfortunately for them, they lost many key players like Marc Koot (Helmond), Ferhat Görgülü (Genclerbirligi) or Muslu Nalbantoglu (Orduspor). These gaps should be filled by the 6 new players. These new man from the benches of Eredivisieclubs and regular players from the Topklasse should help Oss to establish in the first half of the Eerste Divisie.
FC Den Bosch signed a new coach during the summer. After the resignation from Jan Poortvliet they signed Ruud Kaiser. The former player from Den Bosch was the technical director from Lierse SK and wants now to reach the Play-offs. But like many teams in the Eerste Divisie they have a radical change in their squad. Some players are now Free Agents, Keeper Kevin Begois is now a player from Zwolle, Bart van Brakel will play in Leeuwarden for Cambuur and two players, Jeffrey Vlug and Randy Wolters, signed with another club in the League. On the other side they contracted the Brazilian defender Alair Cruz Vicente from Sparta Rotterdam and Stijn de Looijer, who signed after a one year adventure in Nijmegen again for the team from `s-Hertogenbosch. Another new signings are players from the youth or amateur teams.
The FC Emmen lost also some key players from last season. Hiariaj and Jones were only loan from Groningen, Armenian International Mamedov signed with Willem II, Harm Zeinstra should be one of the new Cambuur-keepers and Ruud ter Heide will play in the Hoofdklasse with SVZW. Be seen as a success can be the comeback from midfielder Tim Siekman, who played the last three years in Hardenberg in the Topklasse. They also signed the Free Agent Sander Rozema, who lost his job last season after Veendam goes out of business and some other players from the benches of Eredivisieteams.
The new setup of the Eerste Divisie is for Almere City a heavy problem. Almere, a city from the environment of Amsterdam, was in the last years a partner club from Ajax and got every year some players on loan. Last year for example Gino van Kessel or Sven Nieuwpoort. But now with Jong Ajax in the League, it’s no longer allowed. But they not loose only the loan players. The Keepers Dennis Gentenaar signed at NEC and Erwin Friebel at amateurteam DHC. Other players like Gino Felixdaal or Leroy Resodihardjo are now without any contract or will play in the Topklasse. On the other hand Almere signed a few talented players from the Beloftenteams of AZ, Utrecht or Vitesse.
Also Telstar from Velsen extended many contracts of their old team not. But the biggest losses could be without a doubt the transfers from Jerold Promes to Venlo and Leondro Resida to Emmen. Both players join competitors for a better position in the upcoming season. But to Telstars advantage they could sign two players from the Eredivisie. Tim Keurntjes signed from Groningen and Daryl van Mieghem from Almelo.
After two disastrous season Excelsior Rotterdam, Relegation in 2012 and the second last position in the Eerste Divisie in 2013, the club from the Stadion Woudestein must change everything. They fired coach Leon Vlemmings and signed former Danish International Jon Dahl Tomasson as headcoach. It will be the first job as headcoach for the former Player from Feyenoord. In contrast to the last few years Excelsior has by now no loan player from the big partner Feyenoord in it’s squad. So they tried to renovate their team with players of their own youth. As a big name is Jeff Stans from RKC Waalwijk new at Excelsior. In addition, they gave 8 players no further contract for this season.
The FC Eindhoven is the veteran of the Eerste Divisie. No team is longer active at the second tier of Dutch football without a promotion or a relegation. This season will be the 37.season in row for the FC in this league. After a great season in 2011/12 they got a really bad last year and finished last. Another big blow was the addition from Jong PSV to the Eerste Divisie. Because of that the FC Eindhoven is no longer allowed to loan players from PSV. After the 8 players who joined the FC last season from the big brother they must now try to recruit their new players from other teams. This summer they signed for example the defenders Chiro N`Toko from ADO and Norichio Nieveld from PEC Zwolle. The new coach Jean-Paul de Jong must play without the players from PSV and key players like Fukan Alakmak (now RKC), topscorer Sehat Koc (now Helmond) or the Old-International Theo Lucius, who joined the Kozakken Boys in the Topklasse.
Achilles´29 from Groesbeek started their first campaign in the League with most of the team who won the Topklasse Zondag and lost the Amateur championship last season. A heavy blow, however, is the loss of three key players from last season. Keeper Barry Ditewig, Michael Lanting and Dominique Scholten wanted to stay in the amateur football and join Zaterdagtopklasser Spakenburg. Instead Achilles signed Keeper Nick Hengelmann from Vitesse and Steven Edwards from NAC. So the only plan for the team could be to play along and not to embarrass themselves in the new Division.
Jong Ajax will use the campaign to gain experience from players with this project. With exception of Marvin Höner, a successful striker in last years A-Jugend-Bundesliga West in Germany for Armina Bielefeld, and the loan of Stanislav Lobotka from Ajax’s Slovak partner club AS Trencin, can the new coach Alfons Groenendijk work with many players who go through the Youth of Ajax. Groenendijk, who was responsible for the A1 from Ajax last season and was active as a player and a coach in the Eredivisie, knows many of his players. Also in this team will be some players who came back from loan like Sven Nieuwpoort from Almere or Geoffrey Castillion from Almelo if he find no new team. It’s also possible for injured players from the first team that they will play their first games in this team to get game practice again. In any case, Ajax has many talented players in this team and it will be exciting to watch.
Jong PSV got also a new coach. The Bosnian Darije Kalezic, who was active in the Eerste Divisie as player and coach, has to work with some great talents from the Netherlands and a few international players. But same as Jong Ajax will the team here change within the season, depending on the results and events of the first team. For the participation in the Eerste Divisie PSV must end it’s cooperation with local rival FC Eindhoven. So the players who would normaly get game practice in professional football, last season 8 players were transferred from PSV to FC Eindhoven, will now play for Jong PSV.
Also Jong Twente, with their new coach Jan Zoutman, will play with some talents who came back from loan. Besides some international talents and defender Sven Verlaan from an amateur team, the squad consists of many player from the Youth Academy of FC Twente.
So the Fans will see 380 games this season instead of 308 or less like last season. But not every fan is allowed to see every game of his team in the stadium. In addition to the almost obligatory ban for fans from Ajax and PSV at the opponents pitch, has PSV declared the fans from Willem II, Oss, Jong Twente, MVV, Fortuna Sittard, Den Bosch and De Graafschap are not welcome in Eindhoven. After this announcement the FC Den Bosch banned the fans from Jong Ajax and Willem II in their away games in Den Bosch.
The All-Time-Table is lead by Cambuur Leeuwarden (44 seasons, 2.227 points) but after their promotion there is the chance for the FC Eindhoven to take over the first position. The club from Eindhoven collected 2.205 points in 53 seasons and it is possible for them to get more than 22 points at the end of the season. However Eindhoven is the team with the most losses and the most goals against them in the history of the Eerste Divisie.
Besides the four new teams there is a chance for Helmond Sport to overtake Heracles Almelo, FC Volendam to overtake Excelsior, Fortuna Sittard to overtake Heerenveen and Wageningen, Willem II to overtake ADO, Sparta to overtake Elinkwijk and Delft and Almere can overtake Stormvogels and Amersfoort.
Without a doubt this will be an exciting season for the Eerste Divisie. The officials from the KNVB must show that they prove their critics wrong with the new concept. Achilles´29 must prove that they can compete in professional football. The three Beloftenteams must demonstrate that they play fair and don’t use too many players from the Eredivisie squad. The two relegated teams must verify their ambitions to get back directly into the Eredivisie. And many of the other teams will point out their strength to play for the promotion over one long season.
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