DEN HAAG COURIER 18th May 2018
FINAL DAY DRAMA ONLY MORE MOTIVATION FOR DEN HAAG BOSS
EXCLUSIVE: An interview with ADO’s rising star – manager Shrew Naldo
Driving through the Donau area of eastern Den Haag, it would be easy to pass the Kyocera Stadium without realising that one of the country’s major football teams are housed behind its curved metallic façade. Resembling a Swedish furniture outlet more than a major sporting venue, the Kyocera is a relatively new stadium, built just over a decade ago to replace the smaller, ageing but fiercely popular Zuiderpark.
Like much at ADO, though, times are a-changing and, in 2012, then chairman Henk Jagersma took the gamble of entrusting an untested young manager with the task of establishing this unfashionable club in the exclusive elite of Dutch football.
Over 500 games later, Jagersma’s prescience is becoming apparent. In just 6 years the club has become a major player on the national stage; challenging the giants of Amsterdam and Eindhoven; and securing silverware in 2016 with a win in the KNVB Beker. Both on and off the pitch, ADO Den Haag is barely recognisable from the day a young Shrew Naldo arrived and imposed an entirely new footballing philosophy on the South Holland club.
Now, just a week after missing out on a maiden Eredivisie title in a dramatic final day of the season loss at VVV, the Den Haag Courier has been given an exclusive and unprecedented interview with ADO’s young boss. Ruud van der Ruud was the man entrusted with the questions.
Ruud van der Ruud (RvdR): Good afternoon and thank you for giving us such unprecedented access to yourself and the club.
Shrew Naldo (SN): No problem, it’s always the club’s policy to engage with the fanbase where we can and interviews like this are an important part of that.
RvdR: You’re about to enter your 7th season in charge of ADO. To what do you attribute the success you’ve brought to the club and the longev….
SN: Excuse me, let me stop you there. Success? What success? We’ve won one trophy in six years.
RvdR: Yes, but you’ve been to 5 finals and finished second twice.
SN: So we’ve lost 4 finals and not won the league yet. That isn’t success. Yes, it’s progress but let’s not pretend that second place is success for a football club. Trophies mean success. There have been achievements at this club: qualifying for Europe, building the new training facilities, raising the profile of the club, improving the finances and, most importantly, developing the youth system but the only success we’ve had is the Beker in 2016 and that should be the bare minimum expected of a club like ADO.
RvdR: You obviously set high targets for yourself and the club. Were these targets that were established when Henk Jagersma first approached you about the job?
SN: Absolutely. Mr Jagersma is a hugely ambitious man with yellow and green running through his veins. He commissioned the building of the Kyocera in 2007 and was instrumental in the drive to eliminate the hooligan element that the club had sadly become associated with. His success in that regard cannot be underestimated.
When he first approached me about the job, he knew exactly where he wanted ADO to be in 5 years – challenging Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and Twente at the top of the table with a team of promising youngsters playing attractive, attacking football. I think it’s safe to say that we have managed to do just that.
RvdR: And yet he felt that he had to leave for the club to achieve his goals?
SN: I don’t think that’s quite fair. Mr Jagersma was always looking for investment to help the club but wanted the right sort of investment. When the van de Meulenhof Consortium appeared in 2013, it took 15 months of due diligence before Mr Jagersma was satisfied that they would have the club’s best interests at heart.
RvdR: And those are?
SN: Development of the club’s infrastructure, primarily. Ensuring that the club is not propelled upwards by an artificial, and ultimately unsustainable, injection of cash. But the club needed some capital that Mr Jagersma didn’t have. The consortium invested almost £6m when they took over the club. That money was needed to improve the facilities right off the bat. We’ve invested a further £4m since then but, crucially, have increased our monthly outlay on the youth setup sevenfold.
That’s created the conveyor belt of talent such as Jan van den Berg and Maarten van Veen.
This would not have been possible without that initial investment in the training facilities.
RvdR: You’ve been accused in the past of placing too much faith in youth players with a lack of experienced signings and one of the youngest squads in the league. How do you respond to those who say that an over-reliance on youth is holding the club back?
SN: Well first of all we don’t have ‘one of’ the youngest squads in the league. We have THE youngest squad in the league and consistently the youngest first eleven on match days. Does it hold us back? Absolutely not.
Young players may be more inconsistent than an established professional, it’s true, but that’s what squads are for in the modern game – to mitigate against the lack of form from an individual, whatever the reason. Look at our strikers as an example. This season both Frank Bond and Giovanni Lagendijk started 25 games; they scored 18 and 26 goals respectively. When one had a bad game, the other was always eagerly waiting their chance on the bench – it’s a vital part of squad management.
Besides, experienced players of the quality required to improve our team cost significant sums of money and demand wages in excess of what the chariman or I are willing to pay.
RvdR: Willing to pay or able to pay?
SN: Willing. The club is now on a sound financial footing. Thanks in part to the investment of the consortium but more so because of our successful transfer policy and progression in various competitions, the club can compete financially with everyone in the Netherlands except PSV and Ajax.
RvdR: So why not invest in some marquee players?
SN: There is no reason not to and we might well do so at some point but there’s a big ‘if’ and that’s ‘if the situation is right’. The player must be the right player, it must suit the team and be at the right price. I will not unsettle the business model at the club for the sake of one player.
The club’s relative current wealth is built on transfer profit. In the 6 years I have been at this club, we have made a £50m profit from transfers. Signing a ‘marquee’ player, as you put it, with no resale value puts that business model at risk. So we must continue to develop youth players through our own system and look for bargain transfers which we can then move on at a profit.
The 3 key examples to date are, of course, Andreas Derix, Bernd Tschauner and Andjelko Bosec – bought for £1.4m and sold for £46m.
RvdR: So ADO will continue to be a selling club?
SN: I don’t appreciate the negative connotations of the question, but yes.
Only a bad manager doesn’t prepare for this, though. Look at our side and it’s easy to spot the next targets for the big clubs – Jan van den Berg, Marcelo, Lagendijk… but we know this and we prepare accordingly with youth players being moulded in preparation of getting their own turn in the first team.
In reality, there are only a handful of clubs who can honestly say they aren’t selling clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, etc.
We have a 15,000 seater stadium and to make progress you need money. How do you get the money? By selling assets for more than you bought them for. What assets does a football club have? Players. It’s that simple.
RvdR: So how does the team recover from losing key players when the big teams come swooping?
SN: By having a succession plan in place. No-one is irreplaceable. Some may be more difficult to replace than others but it’s a manager’s job to ensure that the club comes first and that means knowing who is going to step up to the mark. Failure to prepare for this eventuality is just bad management.
When Milan bought Andreas [Derix], we had Jan van den Berg waiting to take his place; when Bernd [Tschauner] left for Germany, we knew Bosec would take that place.
RvdR: And now Bosec has moved to Chelsea?
SN: You’ll just have to wait and see what happens there.
Naldo smiles and at this point a PA arrives to give us the 15 minute warning. A press conference has been scheduled for that afternoon to officially announce the arrival of AZ winger Achille Vaarnold and Lierse’s young striker Lieven Segers on free transfers.
RvdR: This seems like an opportune time to ask for your opinions on the new signings.
SN: Achille is a player that I’ve tracked for a while. He has terrific, explosive pace and wonderful crossing ability.
RvdR: Is he seen as a replacement for Marcelo, who has had such a wonderful first season in Holland?
SN: No, not at the moment.
I know many fans are anxious for Marcelo to stay and who can blame them after last season? He was directly involved in 48 of our goals last year [scored 25 and assisted 23] and he’s quite naturally proven to be a popular buy. I’m under no pressure to sell him, though, and anything other than a sensational bid will be rejected.
Also, I know that Achille has played from the left for AZ but I see his strengths on the opposite flank as an out-and-out winger playing on his strongest foot. He should provide good competition for Kevin Tano.
RvdR: And just like Segers, he’s young and with profit potential?
SN: Absolutely. Lieven is a terrific young player and I think he’ll have a big future in football but I’m looking to loan him out this season and let him get some first team experience.
RvdR: Can we expect further signings this summer?
SN: That’s a possibility but there’s nothing concrete at the moment. The money’s there as the chairman has once again backed me with significant funds… given previous experience he’s probably just made up a figure safe in the knowledge I won’t use it anyway! [laughs]
In all seriousness, though, we have a bit more financial freedom than previous seasons and so there could be a bit more investment than might otherwise be expected.
RvdR: Is this a direct response to the manner in which you lost the title last season?
SN: [scowls briefly before answering] No.
Obviously, no-one was happy with what happened in Venlo but we’ve only got ourselves to blame. Having recovered a 10 point deficit on Ajax, to fail at the final hurdle was unacceptable. Obviously we needed PSV to do us a favour on the final day… everything fell into place except our own perf… result.
I was going to say performance there but that’s not fair. We battered VVV, hit the post twice, missed a few sitters, Jan [van den Berg] scored that own goal… it was just one of those days.
RvdR: Do you think your young side will have learned anything from that experience?
SN: They’ve learned not to be losers.
RvdR: With Javier Aguirre [Ajax’s previous manager] moving on to Portugal with Sporting, do you have a message for the new man in charge – Markus Babbel.
SN: Absolutely, I’d like to congratulate him on finishing second next season.
RvdR: Ha, fair enough. You have enjoyed quite a rivalry with the Amsterdam club so far.
SN: I’m not sure ‘enjoyed’ is the best way of describing it. It’s been a healthy rivalry but I would have liked to have come out on the winning side more often. I wish Javier all the best in Portugal, though. He did a fantastic job at Ajax.
RvdR: So what next for yourself and ADO? There have been rumours that you may also leave for a new job with some even touting you as a successor to Aguirre at Ajax.
SN: That was never going to happen. I will never manage another Dutch club. It simply won’t happen.
RvdR: But clubs outside Holland?
SN: Well I’m an ambitious man and I will, one day, leave Den Haag for a club in a bigger league. I want to manage in the Bundesliga and Premier League before my career ends. I don’t believe it’s disrespectful to ADO to say that. If I am to achieve my ambitions then I need to be successful with ADO. The club benefits, I benefit, the fans benefit.
It doesn’t mean I have no love for this club or I’m not committed. I am absolutely committed.
RvdR: You aren’t worried that fans will perceive this as a lack of loyalty?
SN: [exhales in exasperation] Loyalty! That word gets bandied around in football by overly-emotional fans and a mischievous media scrambling to make a story out of a perfectly normal sporting decision.
They clamour for players to show loyalty to their club; but only once that player has proven himself to be a good player. What happens to the 12 youth players that I had to release this summer? Where’s the loyalty there? Or is loyalty only reserved for those that the fans or media decide are worth keeping?
What happens if we lose the first 15 games next season? Do you think the media will be calling for loyalty then? Or will they be hounding me out the door, writing stories about a successor being lined up before I’ve even been sacked?
In the context that it is commonly used, loyalty is an utterly artificial concept in the world of football, wheeled out when it suits.
I believe in loyalty being earned – between team-mates and between the player and the manager. And as much as the player owes me loyalty in turning in his best performances week-in, week-out. I owe a player that loyalty in return by not standing in the way when he has the chance to better himself at a massive club like, for instance, Andreas Derix and AC Milan.
RvdR: Finally, ADO have become famous for playing attacking, attractive football – scoring a sensational 99 goals last year. Can we expect to see more of the same this season, including your second attempt at Champions League football?
SN: Well hopefully we won’t be as unlucky as our last draw and avoid the likes of Arsenal this year but yes. Attacking football is part of ADO’s image. When I first joined, the chairman made it clear that there were two underlying tenets to the club: develop players through the youth system and play attacking football.
Why change now?
The fans want attacking football and we are capable of supplying them with it. Last year we reached the Second Knockout phase of the Europa League playing some sensational football. I think a lot of people sat up and took notice when we beat Stuttgart 4-0 away from home.
Besides, the squad is now set-up for us to play a certain way. You can’t ask players like Belgacem Trabelsi, Marcelo or Jan van den Berg to curb their natural creative instincts – all you end up doing is limiting their efficacy on the pitch.
We’re an attacking side and that’s how we’ll stay!
RvdR: Well thank you very much for your time and all the best for the coming season.
SN: Thank you. Hopefully we can finally deliver that elusive title for the fans.
DISCLAIMER – this is something a little different as I fancied trying something new for the blog. So I feel I should stress that this is, of course, a bit of fun – so for anyone stumbling on this blog, this relates to an entirely fictional game. There are a couple of real people mentioned but only their names are real. I’ve made everything else up for creative effect.
Please let me know what you think of the new style. I will probably return to the old format for the next update.