This day has been a long time coming for the fans that suffered when HFC Haarlem closed the gates on the Haarlem Stadion back in 2010. A club with such a rich history never deserves to die, but they did with debts of a mere €1.5m. The very same fans have rallied, and four years later have been able to reform De Roodbroeken as an amateur side in the fourth tier of Dutch football reports Paul De Vries of De Telegraaf.
It has been a long, hard road for the fans of one of Holland’s oldest clubs. Up until only three weeks ago they did not have a single player registered with the FA. Six weeks ago they were not even sure that they had been accepted into Hoofdklasse C. Today, they will run out in front of around 1600 passionate supporters and, indeed, owners of their new club in their 125th anniversary year. Their opponents will be Heinenoord.
Not much is expected of Haarlem this season, just being in existence once more is a huge achievement. The bookmakers have them at 40-1 for promotion, the pundits believe that 6th place is the best they can hope for. New manager, Englishman Chris Darwen, has been working hard during pre-season trying to get a squad together that can match those expectations and more. Each player signed is Dutch. Each player in the nineteen man squad is aged 23 or under, in line with a new club policy put in place by the shareholders.
Pre-season has been mixed with two victories and one defeat. The players clearly need time to become accustomed not just with each other, but the style of play Darwen is looking to implement. On the face of it, it looks like a traditional Dutch 4-3-3. However, with the evolution of modern football and the desire for teams to play at a much higher tempo, Darwen’s tactical structure is a bit of a throw back to twenty years ago when Ajax won the Champions League. His wingers are wingers and are not expected to contribute a great deal defensively. His full backs get up the pitch in a style reminiscent of the great Brazilian full backs and both central defenders are expected to be able to dictate the tempo of the game with quick, accurate passing. This Haarlem team promises goals once they settle.
The star performer of the friendly matches has been newly appointed captain, Ozan Cimen. The twenty-two year old centre back has defended well but also contributed two goals in the three games. Much will depend on how he and seemingly first choice partner, the seventeen-year old Robin Hoekstra perform, as well as the Haarlem front three of Hooijmeijer, Sadiek and Monnikhof.
More generally, the league favourites ASWH start their campaign at second-favourites Kloetinge and in their goalkeeper/captain Stef Doedee they have the finest goalkeeper outside the professional game in Holland.
Darwen’s debut will be followed closely in Holland as the national game would welcome back a strong Haarlem club with open arms.
Paul De Vries
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