Having watched Ton du Chatinier in full flow during his playing days, AZ Alkmaar boss Gertjan Verbeek feels he understands what the erstwhile combative defender now brings to FC Utrecht as a coach.
As a player, Ton de Chatinier was a Utrecht demon," said Verbeek, four years his counterpart's junior at 48. "He was great to have in your team, but not to play against. Guys like that have an absolute winning mentality. The current Utrecht coaching staff have guys who can also bring that mentality over to the players: Du Chatinier and his old team-mates Jan Wouters and Ton de Kruijk."
Fighting spirit has served the Stadion Galgenwaard side remarkably well in Europe this season. Having eliminated KF Tirana and FC Luzern earlier on, they ousted Celtic FC in the UEFA Europa League play-offs thanks to a 4-0 home win on the back of a 2-0 loss in Glasgow. Since then, they have showed no fear in Group K, drawing 0-0 with both SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC.
They are clearly capable of being a match for most sides, but, for Du Chatinier, equal is not likely to be enough. With FC Steaua Bucureşti due in town on Thursday, the Utrecht coach is eager to put his team's inconsistent results in the Eredivisie to one side. "We have to switch our focus onto the Europa League match against Steaua as soon as possible," he said.
The Romanian club's visit will likewise bring back memories for Du Chatinier, who was just 22 when he and his Utrecht team-mates – including Netherlands goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen and 1974 FIFA World Cup star Willem van Hanegem – took on FC Argeş Piteşti in a UEFA Cup first round game in 1980/81. After drawing 0-0 in Romania, they clinched a 2-0 home victory two weeks later.
It was the club and their future coach's first tie in UEFA club competition. Du Chatinier had started out as a schoolboy with Velox, one of the three teams that merged to form Utrecht in 1970, and he went on to make his debut for the newly established outfit in 1977. He later won the Dutch Cup in 1984/85, but was forced to retire due to a knee injury in 1987.
Kept on as a youth coach, Du Chatinier enjoyed a spell as interim boss in 1995 and, after coaching various amateur sides, he returned as assistant to his old colleague Van Hanegem in 1998. He then took sole command in 2008 and led Utrecht to a seventh-placed finish last season.
They currently lie ninth in the rankings, but mid-table security means little to the ambitious tactician. His charges followed up a 2-1 league win at AFC Ajax with a 2-2 draw at home against De Graafschap on Saturday, and it was a result that pained their coach. "
After that, I can't just jump in my car, turn the music up loud and suddenly put myself in a good mood," he explained. Utrecht fans can only hope he will enjoy his drive home a little more on Thursday evening.
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