Home Global Game Asia Schrijver talks about his Edmonton return, Matt Lam and what went wrong at JEF United

Schrijver talks about his Edmonton return, Matt Lam and what went wrong at JEF United

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FC Edmonton coach Hans Schrijver sat down and chatted with The 11 about his decision to come back to the club, his dismissal at Japanese side JEF United, and about how much the team has progressed in the year that he was gone.

Schrijver was Dwight Lodeweges’ assistant in 2010, when FC Edmonton was born. But, after a season of friendlies, Lodeweges and Schrijver accepted a lucrative offer from JEF United, and recommended that Harry Sinkgraven take over as FCE’s new coach in time for the club’s first NASL season.

But, as FC Edmonton played their first NASL season in 2011, Schrijver and Lodeweges — along with Matt Lam, the local product loaned out by FCE to JEF United — were facing tough times in Japan. They were fired before the end of the season. Schrijver then made the decision to return to Edmonton to be an assistant under Sinkgraven, the very man he had recommended for the job months earlier.

Schrijver on coming back to Edmonton:
“When we (Dwight and myself) left FC Edmonton, we left with sadness in our hearts. Starting a club is a big opportunity. So, when I left, I always felt that I would like to go back.”

In August, Schrjver spoke with Sinkgraven, who was unsure if his new assistant, Edwin Petersen, would stick it out in the Alberta capital or decide to return to the Netherlands at the end of the season.

“After it was clear that Edwin was leaving, the plans for me to come back became even more realistic. But JEF United made the decision for me by firing Dwight and me.”

On what went wrong at JEF United:
“When they fired us, we were still in the race. We were three points out of a promotion position. There was no reason to fire us.”

Lodeweges and Schrijver were hired on a deal that had an ultimatum attached. They were to get JEF United back to J-League’s top flight within one season. Promotion or else. And things went well through the first half of the year; the club was atop the second division after 18 games, and won each of its first 10 home games. Expectations were so high that when JEF United’s streak of 10 home wins was broken with a draw, the club was booed by the home fans. It was a high-pressure situation.

But, despite the fast start, Lodeweges and Schrijver had recognized something right at the start of training camp; JEF United did not have a lot of depth. They told the club’s president that they needed or new player or promotion would be very difficult.

“We felt that we had eight to 10 good players,” said Schrijver. “But we felt that we didn’t have enough good players to fight for promotion. We said that we had to bring in some more players, but that’s a money question. So, players weren’t brought in. We feared that as soon as we got injuries or suspensions we would be in trouble. We wouldn’t get the results and we’d lose ground. And that’s what happened. But, we felt that we had done a good job over there. We got the most we could out of that group and we were still in the race.

“But the pressure from the sponsors and the fans, it got to the president and he made the decision to get new coaches.”

Really, the big challenge, especially for Schrijver, who worked one-on-one with players, was the language. They had translators, but Japanese is a complex language.

Matt Lam

On Matt Lam:
FC Edmonton loaned local prospect Matt Lam to JEF United before the start of the Japanese and NASL seasons. Lodeweges and Schrijver brought Lam with them, and JEF has until Dec. 31 to decide whether or not to buy the forward. If not, he will return to FCE. But Lam didn’t play under the new coaches and didn’t play much when Lodeweges was in charge, either.

“Matt had a difficult time getting used to the conditions there. He had to get used to the style of play. The club hasn’t contacted us about whether or not it will keep Matt. But he didn’t play a lot of games, so why would they keep him? And, they didn’t get promoted, which means even less of a budget to spend. In my mind, one plus one makes two.

“Matt needs to play a lot of games next season. He is a big talent, great touch.”

On the earthquake and tsunami — and how it affected JEF United:
JEF United is located in the suburbs of Tokyo so, fortunately, the players and coaches were unhurt. But it delayed the Japanese season by nearly two months. But Schrijver refuses to use the earthquake as an excuse; the conditions were the same for every team in Japan.

“Basically, we had a new preseason. We started again at the end of April after six weeks off. Dwight and I went home for two weeks, some of the other players went home, Matt went home.Yes, it was a major disruption, but everyone had to deal with it. All the teams did. It was a very tough situation. What the Japanese call aftershocks, to me they were just more earthquakes. I had an apartment on the 13th floor of a building and the whole building shook when we had an aftershock. But the authorities did give us very good information. We were worried about the nuclear plant, and we would ask: How is the air? How is the water? And they were good.”

On FCE’s development as a club:
When Schrijver left Edmonton, Paul Hamilton was a raw rookie. Now, he’s regarded as one of the best centre backs in NASL. Midfielder Shaun Saiko is an all-star. He has come back and recognized that many of the players have made significant strides in a season.

He recognizes that the two Canadian pro teams with Dutch coaching and training philosophies — Toronto FC and FC Edmonton, are using more Canadian players on their first teams than Montreal or Vancouver is at the moment.

“You can see it throughout the organization now, everything is more clear. When Dwight and I started, we didn’t have balls, we didn’t have a field, we didn’t have players. The team has improved a lot in quality. It’s good to see so many Canadian players, Alberta players. And, it shows our philosophy that we started with has been correct. We want to see the local prospects improve.

“The Dutch system is that you are always developing players, and you want to start with the resources you have, which are your local players. But, most of the credit has to go to the players themselves. We can provide the coaching, and the training sessions, but it is up to that player to go to the next level. In Edmonton, they proved to themselves that they could improve themselves. The coaches can only help give them the facilities to succeed, the training sessions. But the players are responsible for their attitude.

“I believe in the Dutch philosophy. I am not saying other systems aren’t good, there is more than one path to success. But on a development path, it is always best to use local players, for us that means Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The philosophy in Holland is that first you develop the coaches, then the coaches develop the players.”

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