The revelation of the Dutch top flight so far, PEC Zwolle stand proudly above PSV Eindhoven, AFC Ajax, FC Twente and Ronald Koeman's Feyenoord five games into the Eredivisie season.
Before the campaign, pundits were hardly tipping Zwolle for success. After all, Frank de Boer's Ajax are on the hunt for a fourth title in a row, with a revived PSV under new coach Phillip Cocu and a resurgent Feyenoord billed as their main rivals. However, with four wins and a draw so far, Zwolle are two points clear of PSV and a further three ahead of Ajax.
The Bluefingers – full name: Prins Hendrik Ende Desespereert Nimmer Combinatie Zwolle – had been tripped to struggle after coach Art Langeler left to head up PSV's youth department, with the 43-year-old having been credited with keeping promoted Zwolle up last term, having led them back to the Eredivisie for the first time since 2004.
As it is, former FC Groningen and SC Heerenveen coach Ron Jans, who played for Zwolle between 1976 and 1982 and left R. Standard de Liège last October, has turned PEC into the league's pacesetters; they had not dropped a point until Sunday's 1-1 draw with FC Utrecht. During home games, fans have already chanted about winning the championship, though Jans responded curtly: "I do not think it will happen, and I would not bet my money on it."
Jans' side are playing exciting football regardless, with the likes of central defender Darryl Lachman, former Feyenoord midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo and forward Guyon Fernandez on song. Their 21-year-old striker Youness Mokhtar, meanwhile, proved too tempting for Twente, who signed the former PSV youngster.
How Zwolle will fare without him remains to be seen, but for the 12 days leading up to their next league game, at Ajax, their fans can enjoy at least enjoy looking at the table. And having watched his side beat Feyenoord already this season, Jans knows they could hold top spot for even longer.
"Ajax are not unbeatable – that was shown again when they drew against FC Groningen," the coach said. "We will have to go there and show that we are brave enough to play football and push forward. Last season PEC lost twice against Ajax without creating a chance. That is something we certainly want to do differently this time."
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