By the end of Thursday night, Bert van Marwijk could be the hero of Rotterdam. His Feyenoord team go into the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg against FC Internazionale in front of their own fans with a priceless and unexpected 1-0 lead from last week’s first encounter in Italy.
With the UEFA Cup final taking place at Feyenoord’s home stadium in Rotterdam next month, there’s a wonderful incentive for van Marwijk and his men to finish off the job – and the Feyenoord coach can already derive great satisfaction from having guided the club back into the European spotlight. uefa.com asked Bert van Marwijk about his coaching philosophies.
uefa.com: Do you have any role models or influences as a coach?
Bert van Marwijk: I can’t name a real example for me as coach. As a player, I worked with good coaches - and also with bad ones. I took the positive issues from the good ones, and learned from the bad ones the elements that I would handle in a different way when I became a coach. I think that it is important that a coach shows confidence, because when a good coach is acting without any confidence, his team will notice this and perform accordingly. For me, I think the way I chose to become a coach was important. I started working with youth players for eight years. And that was something I really enjoyed - but after that period, I wanted more. After coaching and training several amateur clubs, I started my career as a professional coach at SC Fortuna Sittard. After some years with Fortuna, I signed for Feyenoord. So when I look back, I think that this was the best way for me to learn the job. I never had the blind ambition to be a coach with a top team. I only said during my time in Sittard that it would be a challenge for me to work with better players…but I won’t force myself.
uefa.com: Dutch football has always been known for its tactical innovations and enlightened attitude towards the game. Are you trying to continue that tradition with Feyenoord?
BvM: Yes - but we also have to learn that there’s more than the Dutch way. In Holland, there are always critics when you perform without real wingers, but wingers have to fit your type of playing - otherwise it won’t give you any advantage. Football has become stronger and faster, and now it has became very important to be able to create space. That is why we can always learn something from developments abroad. A good example is the way Louis Van Gaal played with Ajax in the middle of the 1990s. Perfect positional play brought them lots of success, but when you always use the same system, your opponents will find a way to anticipate this, and then your strength will be reduced, because you are too predictable.
uefa.com: Are you someone who enjoys planning strategies to defeat your opposing coach? Is this a challenge for you?
BvM: No, not really, I think that as a coach, you are always dependent on the way your team is performing. Besides this, I feel that it is important to play the match in the style that you are used to, and try to anticipate during the match without changing your style.
uefa.com: How important is it for a coach to have a good, reliable coaching staff around him?
BvM: It is very important, but our achievement is a result of the complete club. Everyone has his own part to play. For me, everyone is important - my training staff, the medical staff, the president, the board and all the rest of the people with whom I am working.
uefa.com: How do you deal with the press? Are you someone who lets his team do the “talking”, or are you a “media-friendly” coach?
BvM: The press is a part of my job. My relationship with the press is ok, I think. And my players are free to talk with the press if they want. However, I sometimes miss mutual understanding. I believe that there is a lack of interest in the complete organisation, and that is something that I have to deal with. I think that if journalists invested more time in examining my way of working, my decisions would become very plain to them, and they wouldn’t need an explanation.
uefa.com: Finally, how do you see your future?
BvM: My ambition is to work with football players. I’m not planning my career. I never did that before, and I will see what life brings me.
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