Phillip Cocu appointed manager amid a PSV revolution
The Eredivisie is prone to duopoly. While Feyenoord have threatened intermittently, PSV and Ajax are perennial competitors for Holland's domestic crown.
At present, de Amsterdammers are luxuriating in the glow of a third successive title and plotting the next step of their new evolution. The instigator of such success is a remarkable coach, even the most ardent PSV fan must admit: Frank de Boer a lithe manifestation of the proud footballing standards upheld at Ajax. With panache, he has orchestrated a period of success from an inherited mess.
In stark contrast, PSV have chased instant success with expensive, failed recruitment drives and a lineage of unsuccessful managers. As Huub Stevens, Fred Rutten and Dick Advocaat each failed to reclaim the championship with an increasingly burdensome group of players, fan dissent has piqued. Many feel that the spiritual connection between club and supporters has been eroded in a barren era, mismanagement from the top creating an unsustainable PSV far removed from the glorious teams of yore.
In essence, as football became younger, PSV got older, both in the makeup of technical staff and interpretations of how to build a successful team. After another unsuccessful title challenge, defeat in the KNVB Beker final, and a whole raft of players set to leave the Philips Stadion this summer, the winds of revolution have at last blown through Eindhoven.
The club has promised a revitalised outlook, spearheaded by North Brabant's prodigal son, Phillip Cocu. There are few men who embody the true spirit of PSV better than Cocu, a clean-spirited playmaker who starred in two stints with the club during an illustrious playing career.
A mild-mannered central midfielder with a keen eye for spectacular goals, Cocu won four Eredivisie titles and two Dutch cups while at the club from 1995-98 and again from 2004-07. Also playing for Barcelona and captaining the Dutch national team to distinction, Cocu ranks among the very best. In Eindhoven particularly, he is loved like no other.
Therefore, his appointment as manager on a four-year contract has inspired great excitement among PSV fan. As he was unveiled at a formal Philips Stadion press conference on Monday, it was clear to see that a new plan has been created in the PSV corridors of power. Along with assistant coaches Ernest Faber and Chris van der Weerden, Phillip Cocu has been chosen to make it spring from idealism to reality.
With a glass of champagne perched symbolically on the desk before him, Cocu outlined his vision for the future. "We will build a new PSV," the 42-year-old Eindhoven native proclaimed. Essentially, Cocu is a figurehead, an icon, of a changing PSV culture. He is a believable leader urging change from boom-and-bust to a more economical outlook conducive with sustainable success.
As part of his overhaul, the incoming coach aims to modernise the club and make it more sustainable in a rigorous new age of financial fair play. Cocu is a long-termist just when PSV need a long-termist. There may be teething problems ahead, but the club will follow a manageable path.
“The club needs to invest more to help smooth the path for youngsters to the first team," says Cocu. Indeed, the development of youth players forms the very bedrock of this long-term vision, an objective that has already been set in place with the hiring of Art Langeler demonstrating the new dedication to youth at PSV.
Langeler weaved miracles while coaching PEC Zwolle, a club that earned all manner of plaudits for a fluid footballing philosophy while defying the odds in a wonderful season. He will work closely with Cocu in delivering a much more productive youth system in Eindhoven.
It is a youth system that Cocu knows well, of course. The former PSV captain has worked extensively with the club’s youngsters since 2008, gaining experience as a coach and a clear assessment of the talents available.
A further example of the new long-term plan came in his decision not to become head coach this time last year. After a period in interim control following the dismissal of Rutten, during which he led PSV to their first trophy in four years, Cocu decided to step back and embark on the final steps in his coaching education. Therefore, it becomes apparent that his ascension to head coach has been a carefully managed operation.
Now that the contract has been signed, the press conference has been held, and the moment has arrived, Cocu must get to work on an initial rebuild. This summer, swathes of the PSV squad are likely to leave, which is just how Phillip wants it. From his perspective, the exit of this underachieving core will allow the smooth progression of a new generation.
A sharp, intelligent and inspirational figure, Cocu hopes to satisfy PSV's intrinsic trophy ambitions in an organic, financially prudent manner. From an era of famine, he hopes to create a model for future Eindhoven monopoly. Time will judge his abilities to resuscitate a sleeping giant of European football.