For a country with such technically skilled footballers, Dutch managers have had a surprisingly mixed record in the Premier League. With the arrival of Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace, here’s a look at his predecessors.
New Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer has become the eighth Dutchman to take charge of a team in the English Premier League. He arrives with plenty of pedigree, but could Frank de Boer become the best Dutch manager in the Premier League? Which of his fellow countrymen succeeded? Who lasted the longest? And who is only memorable as a trivia answer?
7. Rene Meulensteen (Fulham 2013-2014)
If you ever needed proof of the difficulty in stepping up from coach to manager, look no further than the list of Alex Ferguson’s assistants. Brian Kidd (sacked by Blackburn), Carlos Quiroz (he finished 4th in his one season with Real Madrid), and Mike Phelan (Hull weren’t great last season, but they were especially not great with Phelan in charge) all struggled to find sustained success away from Old Trafford. But maybe the most text book case is the number seven in this list, Rene Meulensteen. As first a technical coach and then first team coach, Meulensteen was deeply involved in the great success Manchester United had in the last 5 years of Ferguson’s reign, winning the Champions League and three Premier League titles. When David Moyes came into Old Trafford, he brought his own team, and Meulensteen was looking for work. He went to big spending Russia outfit FC Anzhi as assistant to Guus Hiddink in July 2016, but only lasted 16 days as a manager after Hiddink resigned. However, that was a bizarre, one off situation, right? When Fulham came calling in November 2013, it seemed like a great way for Meulensteen to break into management.
With Fulham stuggling under Martin Jol, Meulensteen came in as first team coach, and stepped into the manager’s role just 3 weeks later when results failed to improve. The problem was… they didn’t improve under Rene either. After just 4 wins in 17 games, he was replaced by German taskmaster Felix Magath. (Of course, Fulham were still relegated and are just now showing signs of perhaps being able to challenge to return to the Premier League)
Rene Meulensteen has done very little since, a 6 month spell earlier this year at Maccabi Haifa in Israel being his only other managerial role.
Verdict: Flat as a pancake
6. Dick Advocaat (Sunderland 2015)
With Sunderland in deep trouble and Gus Poyet unlikely to pull off another Great Escape, in March 2015 they made the decision to appoint veteran Dutchman Dick Advocaat. He had been a successful manager around Europe, probably most well known in England for his spell as Rangers manager at the end of the ninties, and then having won the UEFA Cup with Zenit St Petersburg against Rangers. He had also been very successful as the national team coach of The Netherlands, and slightly less successful with Belgium, South Korea, and Russia. So when the former PSV manager was announced as the Black Cats new manager, more than a few eyebrows were raised. A proven track record of success, but pressure at the bottom of the league is much different to pressure at the top. Was this just an old manager taking an easy pay day, with nothing to lose?
Despite losing his first match, Advocaat reorganised Sunderland and they finished two points and two places clear of relegation, sealing their status with a game to spare. The Little General announced his retirement just after the end of the season, saying he had promised his wife it was going to be his last job. He changed his mind though and signed a one year deal – prompting Sunderland fans to raise £2,000 to buy Mrs Advocaat flowers as a thank you!
To be honest, he should have stuck to his first choice. Rather than riding into retirement as a hero, he resigned after not winning any of the first eight league games of the season, leaving Sunderland facing another relegation battle after a disappointing series of summer transfers left them struggling to compete in the Premier League.
After this brief but memorable spell, rather than fading away Advocaat actually moved on to Fenerbahce in Turkey, and then became Holland’s national team manager for a third time in May 2017, with Ruud Gullit as his assistant. Perhaps this makes him the most successful ex-Sunderland manager – but not only good enough for sixth on this list.
Verdict: The worst crash in Dutch confidence since Tulipmania
5. Martin Jol (Tottenham Hotspur 2004-2007, Fulham 2011-2013)
Martin Jol’s work at Tottenham gets underestimated too often. He is overshadowed by the more popular Harry Redknapp who followed him at White Hart Lane, but if you look at his immediate predecessors and successors (Jacques Santini and Juande Ramos) he deserves a lot of credit for the success that came afterwards. He was hired as assistant to the ill-fated Santini after a moderate start to his coaching career that came at the end of a moderate career that had brought him into the English game with West Brom and Coventry in the latter part of his career.
He return the team to playing “the Spurs way” – attacking football replacing the more tactical approach of Santini, delivering a ninth place finish and then taking them to the verge of Champions League football before a dodgy lasagna caused food poisoning on the eve of their last match, resulting in defeat at West Ham and an agonising 5th place. The 2006-7 season saw them storm the last few weeks to again finish 5th, and another year of UEFA Cup football. His team was built around attacking stars like Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane, and Mido, before adding Dimitar Berbatov in 2006, with Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas and even Edgar Davids starring in the midfield. However, a poor start to the 2007-2008 season led to Spurs courting Sevilla manager Junade Ramos, and eventually he was sacked, rather unfairly in most peoples eyes, in October 2007.
Jol rebuilt his career at Hamburg, then got a plum job as manager of Ajax. His time back in Holland weren’t up as successful as they should have been (Steve McClaren’s FC Twente pipped them to the title) and he lasted only 18 months before being sacked and replaced by Frank de Boer. In July 2011 he got the chance to return to London, becoming Fulham manager after Mark Hughes decided to bail after only a year – either overestimating the job opportunities that awaited him or seeing the chaos that was about to engulf the Craven Cottage club. He had two successful seasons at Fulham, taking them to ninth and twelfth, before in a classic case of “be careful what you wish for”, he was sacked by Fulham in the relegation zone and replaced him with Rene Meulensteen – remember him?
Jol basically got the sort end of the stick twice, teams getting twitchy and sacking their manager, only for his replacement to do much worse! His teams played good football, and it is a surprise that he has not had a job since, only a short time last year in the Egypt with Al-Ahly.
Verdict: Solid as a pair of clogs
4. Ronald Koeman (Southampton 2014-2016, Everton 2016- )
When Mauricio Pochettino left Southampton for Tottenham in 2014, there was a feeling that it was one step too far for the Saints. High profile players left every season, and had just about been replaced, but surely it could not be done again, especially with a new manager. Former Barcelona captain Ronald Koeman had won the Dutch title with Ajax and PSV, but had not had a lot of success in his other roles. On his first day he tweeted a picture of an empty training ground, referencing the loss of important players such as Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Luke Shaw.
However, Southampton recruited well. Fraser Forster, Saido Maine, Tadic and Pelle all made huge impressions, and loan star Toby Alderweireld became one of the best centre backs in the Premier League. The early season goals of Pelle and the defensive work of Alderweireld and Jose Fonte made Southampton a solid team, and lead them to an impressive seventh place. In the summer, Southampton lost Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester United and Nathaniel Clyne, but reinvested their money wisely, bringing in Virgil van Dijk from Celtic, Cedric Soares from Sporting, and Oriel Romeu from Chelsea. This added even more solidity to Southampton, and apart from a terrible spell from November to January, they were always in the top half of the table. A record points total and a sixth place finish led to European qualification for a second year, and Koeman decided on a move to Everton was better than another summer of rebuilding.
At Everton, Koeman brought Swansea captain Ashley Williams in to replace Macnhester City-bound John Stones, and Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa. There season had ups and downs, but the goals of Romelu Lukaku kept them competitive and led to a 7th place finish. Koeman had some struggles with the talented youngster Ross Barkley, but he brought plenty of young players (like Tom Davies, Mason Holgate, and Dominic Cavlert-Lewin) into the Everton first team and got them playing attractive, attacking football, without the defensive frailty of the Roberto Martinez-era teams. He has plenty of time, and opportunity, to climb even higher in this list.
Verdict: A Dam fine manager
3. Louis van Gaal (Manchester United 2014-2016)
When Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager, there was probably no bigger show of respect than the fact that he got to hand pick his successor. David Moyes had a lot of similarities to his fellow Scotsman, and had a very successful run as Everton manager. But, whereas Fergie reigned for 27 years, his replacement lasted barely 9 months, after which the Manchester United board went for an experienced replacement, bringing in Louis van Gaal.
Van Gaal had built the incredibly successful Ajax teams of the 90s, winning the UEFA Cup in ’92 and the Champions League in ’95, a team that included Dennis Bergkamp, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, and notably for this article, Frank de Boer. He then won two championships with Barcelona, but then failed to qualify the Netherlands for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and a return to Barcelona was not well received, lasting only 18 months. A slight step down in prestige led to a rebuilding of his career, spending 4 years at AZ Alkamaar, where he won the Dutch league title in 2009. This led to a chance at Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga in 2010 and lost to Jose Mourinho’s Inter in the Champions League final. A disappointing 2011 saw him sacked though, and a return to the Dutch national team led to a 3rd place finish in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
This all led to being in the right place at the right time when the Manchester United job became available. The Netherlands had played attractive, intelligent football under him, and he seemed like the right man to replace Moyes, who seemed overawed by the job at times. However, things never really worked out for van Gaal at Old Trafford. He made a lot of signings that never really settled, some though injuries, some just never looking up to the pace of the Premier League (*ahem*Falcao*ahem*). There were signs of improvement in his first season, although a fourth place finish and qualification for the Champions League was the bare minimum of expectations.
The summer of 2015 saw more big money spent, with Antony Martial, Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Mattias Darmian all coming in. However, the Red Devil’s return to the Champions League ended in the group stage, and again their season never really fired, sparking rumours of van Gaal handing in his resignation in January. Things did pick up, but results remained mixed, and as Leicester City shocked the world and won the League, United ended up in a disappointing 5th place. Van Gaal actually had a worse win percentage than Moyes, and a FA Cup victory was not enough to keep van Gaal in a job.
Louis van Gaal never really got the team he wanted at Old Trafford, and maybe deserved another year. The spectre of Sir Alex Ferguson (or at least the success he brought) still hangs around Manchester United, but van Gaal’s team played more attractive football than Mourinho’s have done so far. He was ultimately undone by a failure to secure Champions League football, a must for a global brand like Manchester United.
Verdict: Gouda but not great
2. Ruud Gullit (Chelsea 1996-1998, Newcastle United 1998-1999)
In the mid-90s, Chelsea underwent a revolution. Glenn Hoddle started the team playing a 3-5-2 formation, and brought in a more technical style of football. He also oversaw the signing of Dutch superstar Ruud Gullit in 1995. Although originally played as a sweeper, he moved in midfield and ended up as runner up in the 1996 PFA Player of the Year awards, although Chelsea finished a rather average 11th place. Hoddle moved on to become England manager, and Gullit became player-manager in the summer of 1996. With big profile signings like Gianluca Vialli, Frank Leboeuf, and Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea became more consistant under Gullit, and ideas like “squad rotation” became more prevalent as he juggled a front three of Zola, Vialli, and Mark Hughes. A poor run in March/April led to them finishing 6th, but a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup Final (including a record setting early goal by Roberto Di Matteo) capped a fine first season in management for Gullit.
The following summer brought more signings that would go on to have long term success at Stamford Bridge – Tor Andre Flo (top scorer in his first season) and Gustavo Poyet – and a general improvement all round from Chelsea. However, a dispute with chairman Ken Bates led to Gullit leaving Chelsea in February, despite sitting in 2nd place. Gianluca Vialli took over the managerial hot seat, but a very poor start led to Chelsea dropping to 6th before finishing 4th. They also won the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup later in that season.
Gullit had always had a reputation for speaking his mind – described as arrogant by some people – and perhaps this led to the lack of managerial work he has had since leaving Chelsea. He took over Newcastle United after Kenny Dalglish made a poor start to the 1998-99 season, but his attempts at changing the team ethos were too much too soon. Despite taking them to the FA Cup final, finishing 13th was disappointing for a team used to challenging at the top. Falling out with Rob Lee and later Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson left him an unpopular figure with the fans, and the failure of big signings like Silvio Maric and Marcelinho led to him resigning after a 2-1 home defeat to Sunderland in August 1999. Gullit has worked in the media mostly since then, but his impact on Chelsea and the Premier League place him high on this list.
Verdict: Sexy football eventually lost its appeal
1. Guus Hiddink (Chelsea 2009, 2015-2016)
Maybe a surprise, but number one on this list due to the sheer weight of success that he had in his two spells at Chelsea, and not blotting his copy book with any failures. He won the European Cup in his first season at PSV in 1988, and was very successful there, before a middling managerial career took him to Valencia and the Netherlands national team in 1995. That was the team that suffered from internal bust ups and went out at the quarter final stages of Euro 96 and France 98. A disappointing spell at Real Madrid was followed by seemingly taking the dead end job of South Korean manager, but a well prepared team stormed to the semi finals of the World Cup in 2002. After that World Cup he returned to PSV for 4 years of success, before taking the Russian national job with his salary allegedly funded by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
So, when things had gone sour with “Big Phil” Scolari, and the Chelsea team was adrift in fourth place, Abramovich knew where to turn. Guus Hiddink came in on a temporary basis and had an impact so great that it puts him above the achievements of Gullit or van Gaal. He took the Blues to the Champions League semi-final, and one terrible referee away from a famous victory. A 2-1 victory over Everton took the FA Cup back to Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea ended the season in 3rd place, just missing out on the top two. His stop in west London was only temporary, and he went back to his job as the Russian national manager.
A spell as Turkey manager, a strange job with oil rich Anzhi FC in Russia, and a return as the Dutch national team manager did not being success for Hiddink. But when Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho in 2015, Hiddink was brought in with the Blues sat in 16th place. Although they only ended up in tenth place, it was due to too many draws, as they only had three league defeats in the league.
Hiddink had a remarkable impact in his first Chelsea role, and both times he helped bond together a team that was struggling with a divided dressing room. What is also to his credit is the success that followed both of his interim manager spells. Carlos Ancelotti took Chelsea to the double in the 2010 season, with a record points total, and Antonio Conte has just stormed the League in his first season: both times, Hiddink takes a lot of credit for keeping things ticking over so smoothly.
Verdict: The (not so) Old Master
Only time will tell how successful Frank de Boer is! Where will he end up on this list in the future?
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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