Feyenoord host fellow frontrunners PSV Eindhoven on Saturday with the Rotterdam side back on their feet after coming badly unstuck in 2006/07.
The two-week winter break in the Netherlands ends with a bang as the Eredivisie's top two meet at De Kuip. With 36 points each after 17 games, Feyenoord trail PSV on goal difference, but the mere fact they are keeping pace with the title-holders is an achievement given last season's litany of woes.
Ejected from European competition after crowd trouble marred a 3-0 UEFA Cup defeat at AS Nancy-Lorraine, Erwin Koeman's men found no comfort back at home, their relatively meagre resources earning nothing more than a seventh-placed finish. However, with a new coach and fresh revenue streams acquired in the summer, Feyenoord could yet celebrate their centenary on 19 July in style.
Van Marwijk back
An innovation has encouraged investors to back the club, with shares being sold in Feyenoord's young players with a view to future transfers. Royston Drenthe's sale to Real Madrid CF last summer also helped swell the coffers and returning coach Bert van Marwijk was given the wherewithal to finance important deals to strengthen the squad.
Former Feyenoord graduate Giovanni van Bronckhorst returned and is now captain, while further experience arrived in the form of striker Roy Makaay, Kevin Hofland and fellow defender Tim de Cler. The acquisitions of Netherlands Under-21 midfielder Luigi Bruins and young Turkish international Nuri Şahin were a nod to the future, meanwhile. "When you look at where we came from, we can be satisfied," said technical director Peter Bosz. "With this new team, a lot of progress has been made in a short time, but that does not mean we will take a break – a lot of work still has to be done."
While a fighting fund has been set up to finance new signings, Feyenoord will be careful with their cash. "We only want players who can really add quality to the side," explained Van Marwijk. "Otherwise transfers won't happen. We can use reinforcements in every department but we will be focusing our attention on the midfield."
On the up
The club are also working on plans to build a new 75,000-seater stadium, eager to return to a position at the top of the Dutch footballing heap. Next season, they will wear the same shirts as the Feyenoord team that won the 1970 European Champion Clubs' Cup – a reflection of their long-term ambition. For now, though, they are enjoying the ride. "If you are sharing first place with PSV halfway through the season, you can't be doing badly," said Van Marwijk.
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