Phillip Cocu will take charge of his first match as PSV Eindhoven interim coach when the Eredivisie team host Valencia CF in the UEFA Europa League round of 16, trailing 4-2 after last week's first leg.
PSV's third successive defeat in all competitions – 3-1 at NAC Breda on Sunday, a run in which they have conceded 13 goals – prompted the club to dismiss coach Fred Rutten and appoint their former midfielder in his stead. Cocu, capped 101 times by the Netherlands, had not planned to take such a post at this stage in his nascent coaching career, but had little time to think things over once he was offered the job.
"The club appealed to me, asking me to finish the season," said Cocu, a four-time Dutch title winner with PSV. "
I've taken the responsibility on and I will go for it 100%. I had a certain [career] plan in mind but now we are in an exceptional situation. The past few weeks have been painful and I feel partly responsible [as assistant coach]. I now have a different role now, though, so I will have to act differently towards the players."
Cocu oversaw his first training session on Wednesday at the PSV Stadion, where he was greeted by a banner wishing him and assistant Ernest Faber success in their new roles. The pace of change has been rapid for all concerned, but Cocu is keen to get on with the job.
"Monday was a special day for the players, while Tuesday was free so they could switch off. Looking at the attitude they showed in training today gives me confidence. I have experienced these moments as a player myself and it is good when the next match comes quickly. There is no time to stand still − we have to look forward."
The first item on Cocu's agenda is turning around the tie against Valencia and earning a place in Friday's quarter-final draw. PSV's record on home soil, where they are unbeaten in 18 European matches, brings hope. "It's clear that Valencia are favourites, but we will try to take our chances as and when they arise. We have a good European record at our stadium."
Along with Edwin van der Sar, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Frank de Boer, Cocu was honoured by UEFA in November in recognition of his haul of over a century of international appearances. De Boer, a friend of Cocu, was thrust into the coaching limelight himself last season when he was appointed by AFC Ajax on the eve of UEFA Champions League matchday six; campaign finished with the Amsterdam club winning their first Dutch title in seven years.
"The way Frank made his debut [by defeating AC Milan at San Siro] and how it went well for him is something I would settle for immediately," said Cocu. Eliminating Valencia would be a nice start.
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