The making of Erik ten Hag: ‘Only one coach could analyse games like him

In a café within the coronary heart of Enschede is a well-recognized face from Nineteen Eighties and Nineties Scottish soccer. The goalkeeper Theo Snelders, 58, was 5 instances a Scottish Premier Division runner-up with Aberdeen and Scottish PFA participant of the year in 1989, later becoming a member of Rangers. He was additionally, earlier than he got here to Pittodrie in 1986, an establishment at FC Twente. He met Ten Hag when the latter was a youth participant at Twente after which once more when the each of them studied for his or her Uefa A-license.

Snelders is aware of British soccer properly. He was the substitute for Jim Leighton at Aberdeen when the then Scotland goalkeeper moved south to affix Ferguson at United. “He’s ready,” Snelders says of Ten Hag. “Look at his management career and how he has built his way up from an assistant to a coach.” On the Uefa course, alongside Michel Vorm and Wim Jonk, Snelders says that Ten Hag was “two steps ahead of everyone else, the best in the class”.

“You ask his players what he is like. Everywhere he has been people have started moaning when he got there. They got taken out of their comfort zone. It was the same at Utrecht, the same at Ajax, and then they start to see it works.” Snelders has a concept too about trendy coaches like Ten Hag. “Loads of them have been gamers who performed in midfield and like Erik weren’t that fast however fast within the head. Same with Arne Slot at Feyenoord.

“Erik has got a small ego, not a fancy guy. His presence is not that big in front of the camera. But what do you want, someone who is more about the outside [perception] or the inside? We see a lot of coaches on TV but not Erik, he is always working. He doesn’t need to drive to Amsterdam to be in a studio to promote himself. He cares a lot about his players and always protects them. In the dressing room, he will be really hard on them.”

The time at De Graasfchap was instructive for Ten Hag who joined them in 1990 on the age of 20 after a primary season at FC Twente. That 1990/1991 season is so well-known at De Graafschap that the gamers have a reunion each March to recollect their second tier Eerste Divisie title which they secured having not lost a single sport. Frank Lukassen, 54, was the right-back within the facet, with Ten Hag a central midfielder. “Erik was a very technically sound player,” Lukassen says. “He had a lot of knowledge about the game. He was also very confident even then.”

The coach of that De Graafschap group, Simon Kistemaker, who died final year aged 80, was a profound affect on his gamers. He merely acquired extra out of them than anybody else had. “From the moment he woke up to the moment he slept, I’m pretty sure he thought about De Graafschap,” Lukassen says of Kistemaker, “and if he ever woke up in the middle of the night he would have had De Graafschap on his mind.” Life within the Eerste Divisie then was not glamorous. Most of the gamers had full-time jobs and skilled within the evenings. Lukassen labored in a financial institution. Ten Hag had one benefit in that respect. The household business was flourishing and he could focus on simply taking part in soccer with a bit of monetary assist from his father.

“We were crazy about football, and the money took second place,” Lukassen says. “Nowadays it’s a bit different. Then the most important thing for the players was the football and the memories we have of that time money cannot buy.” Although for all of the success of 1990/1991, and simply two defeats all season after the title was secured, Ten Hag’s first style of the Eredivisie was sobering. De Graafschap completed seventeenth out of 18 and have been relegated.

By the time McClaren met Ten Hag in the summertime of 2008, the younger midfielder with flaxen blond hair was a shaven headed former footballer making his method in teaching. He had retired in 2002 and labored at FC Twente as an assistant underneath the coach Fred Rutten who had led the membership to a fourth-place end in 2007/2008 earlier than taking the supervisor’s job at Schalke. McClaren remembers the day he agreed to take over at FC Twente, as he sought to rebuild his career post-England. “The chairman said, ‘We’d like you to speak to the press’,” he remembers, “‘but before you do, come and have a chat with your assistant’.”

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