Oozing with confidence, PEC Zwolle head into the new Eredivisie campaign off some great success under the leadership of Ron Jans writes Will Burns.
A mid-table finish would have been deemed a success last season, after surviving relegation the season before and winning the Eerste Divisie the previous season to gain promotion back to the top flight. The two-year curse had been avoided finishing 11th. However, that was not all.
Zwolle had never won a major trophy in Dutch football and the highest they have ever finished in the Eredivisie is 8th, so the club were never described as a successful club, until last campaign. Ron Jans lead his side to the KNVB Beker final, the first time the side had been in the final of the competition since 1977. They were due to play Eredivisie champions Ajax in the final at De Kuip, Rotterdam. Not only did come away with their first ever trophy they sent the Amsterdam giants back home with the tail between their legs. The game finished 5-1 and PEC Zwolle was on the European football map.
Lightning never strikes twice, however, last Sunday, Zwolle did the unthinkable again. The Johan Cruijff Schaal was the prize and Ajax was once again the opponent, although this time the match was held in Ajax’s backyard, the Amsterdam Arena. Unbelievably, a solitary Stef Nijland goal gave Zwolle more silverware to polish as they prepare for a European adventure. The Blauwvingers had never ever won a major competition and then two come along at once.
The self-belief in Zwolle will be at an all-time high heading into the Eredivisie campaign. Although, losing defensive rock Darryl Lachman, creative midfielder Mateusz Klich and strikers Guyon Fernandez and Fred Benson will have damaged the squad, Sunday proved they still have a lot of quality in the team to hurt opponents. Jans has done well to replace the outgoings with defender Thomas Lam arriving from Alkmaar and defensive midfielder Ben Rienstra coming in from Heracles. Greek strikers Nikos Ioannidis and Dimitrios Ferfelis left clubs in Germany to join the Jans revolution, and although unproven, they both are well thought of in their homeland. The main factor to success this season will be keeping New Zealand international Ryan Thomas and South African midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo (see Key Player) when the window shuts in September.
I predict that following Europa League group stage failure, Zwolle will bounce back in the Eredivisie to achieve their best ever finish, giving Ron Jans yet another great achievement and all the fans inside the IJsseldelta Stadion, more reason to celebrate.
TRANSFERS INS AND OUTS
IN: Boy de Jong (Excelsior), Dimitrios Ferfelis (TuS Koblenz), Thomas Lam (AZ Alkmaar), Ben Rienstra (Heracles), Nikos Ioannidis (Olympiakos).
OUT: Darryl Lachman (FC Twente), Fred Benson (Sheriff), Furdjel Narsingh (SC Cambuur), Giovanni Lutz (Sparta Rotterdam), Leon ter Wielen (Achilles ’29), Mateusz Klich (Wolfsburg).
MANAGER – RON JANS
What more can be said about this guy? Held in the highest regard in Zwolle for working miracles with the football team, with Jans at the helm and some financial backing from the European fixtures, PEC Zwolle can only go from strength to strength.
KEY PLAYER – KAMOHELO MOKOTJO
The South African midfielder is best described as the ‘heart of PEC Zwolle’ as every move beats through him. He dictates play, defends the back four as well as linking up play to the attack. Mokotjo provided an excellent 89.2% passing success rate last season, and Ron Jans will be looking for more of the same to help fire Zwolle up the league and in their first venture into Europe. This is providing he stays in Zwolle, as a move to Ajax has been rumoured all summer long.
PREDICTION – 7TH
Click the name above to follow Will on Twitter.