Willem Andrée is one of the editors of the Vitesse supporters' magazine, Zwart op Geel (Black and Yellow), and he kindly sat down with us to answer a few of our questions.
This is actually the second leg of an interview series of sorts, as Willem interviewed me for his own article on the partnership between Chelsea and Vitesse in the upcoming issue of Zwart op Geel.
Interview with Willem Andree
Jake Cohen: What do Vitesse fans think about the Chelsea partnership? There are some fairly large positive aspects of the partnership, like bringing Lucas Piazon, Patrick van Aanholt, Tomas Kalas, and Slobodan Rajković, among others, to Vitesse. Also, there is likely no Merab Jordania / Alexander Chigirinsky without Chelsea, and therefore likely no new training centre. However, there are some negative aspects as well, such as the growing animosity towards the club in the Dutch media and among other supporters. Also, Vitesse is spending considerable resources developing Chelsea's young talent at the expense of its own. Does the potential for unprecedented on-pitch success this season outweigh the vitriol espoused by the Dutch media and rival supporters and the reduced availability of first-team minutes for Vitesse's own young players?
Willem Andrée: When Merab Jordania bought the club in August 2010, I think - other than being very surprised - a lot of Vitesse supporters knew this was the only way to keep Vitesse alive. To put it mildly, we were not doing very well financially, and I guess we still think that way. Also, we're used to being looked at somewhat suspiciously because of our past.
Former chairman Karel Aalbers had big plans with Vitesse in the 1990s, having built the current stadium, the GelreDome, but he was considered to be a bit megalomaniacal (for example, he spoke about winning the Champions League). However, we were indeed quite successful up until around the 1999-2000 season. It gave us the image of an arrogant club, and others started calling us "FC Hollywood on the Rhine." Vitesse fans reacted with slogans like "nobody likes us, but we don't care." We are used to being portrayed in a negative light, so when we are called "Chelsea B" in a mocking way, it's something we're used to.
Jordania did a good job. Although he had difficulty in the beginning (for example, Jordania was surprised by the straight-forward demeanour of Dutch journalists and made some strange decisions like appointing former Barcelona and Chelsea player Albert Ferrer as head coach), he showed football intelligence and a genuine interest in Vitesse (beyond the obvious financial interest).
Also, he helped Theo Janssen - already a Vitesse icon - "come home" from Ajax, and other Arnhem boys like Nicky Hofs, Piet Velthuizen, and of course Marco van Ginkel, were playing under Jordania's ownership. So, the Vitesse fans could still relate to the club and Jordania. The training centre is amazing.
From the beginning, the Chelsea partnership gave us interesting players and it's grown to what we now see before us. Looking at it all objectively, I think most of the fans feel that the partnership is positive. Players like Kalas and Van Aanholt stayed with us for a relatively long period, so we have been able to get to know them.
Since Peter Bosz took over the team at the start of the season, the team has played fast, forward and with heart. The football is a pleasure to watch and that is what we come to the stadium for. We get to see players like Piazon, what's not to like about that?
Also, the media have finally started to pay attention to what the club does on the pitch. After ignoring Vitesse for a long while, journalists and analysts are becoming more and more positive in their coverage. On various blogs or websites, Vitesse still isn't really popular with other fans, but gradually, we have seen more and more positive reactions about what the players show on the pitch.
It's too early to analyse whether Vitesse's young talents will have fewer chances in the future to be successful due to the Chelsea players. Van Ginkel has been successful, and this season Davy Propper is showing his magic. Propper is one of the revelations this year. Unfortunately, Adnane Tighadouini (another Vitesse youngster) got injured, but he was given first-team minutes at the beginning of the season and that looked promising. What the future brings, we don't know. If Chelsea demands that the players it lends to Vitesse must play and our younger players therefore cannot develop, that would, of course, not be what we want as fans.
JC: From the perspective of a Vitesse supporter, is there anything about the financial, marketing, player development, or loan aspects of the partnership that could be improved?
WA: Overall, there is a lack of transparency. It's weird that we don't know who Chigirinsky is and we probably will never know, because nobody gets the chance to talk to him. Journalists had to do a Wikipedia search on him, and I haven't seen Vitesse publish anything about him. Regarding the finances, there have to be earnings, or why else would Chigirinsky bother? Maybe it's just cool to own a club so you can brag about it to your friends, but again, we don't have a clue. And that doesn't feel right. Plus, look at Anzhi, a club with an absentee billionaire Russian owner. It's all falling apart there.
The Vitesse marketing is not working just yet, I think. Although marketing director Peter Gansler is doing a good job. The Vitesse players look tough in the ads, and in the stadium before the match, a cool short movie is shown on the big screen. They also use the Vitesse symbol, an eagle, a lot in print. It sometimes seems like the marketers feel Vitesse Arnhem is a local provincial club (the oldest club in the Eredivisie), and therefore, they should not go all out with the marketing, because it might alienate some of the hardcore Vitesse supporters.
JC: Given the "Chelsea B" label that has been affixed onto Vitesse, is there a concern that the club is losing its identity? Full disclosure, I often refer to Vitesse as "Cobham East," as Cobham is what our training ground is called, but rest assured, coming from a Chelsea supporter, such a moniker is out of nothing but respect and affection for Vitesse.
WA: Of course there is a chance that might happen. If this partnership continues (and all Vitesse fans realise that this is a fragile construction, since Chigirinsky could simply lose interest in the club), and in two or three years, Vitesse really is Chelsea B, you might wonder if the identity which we've built up for years survives. Speaking for myself, I would have a hard time with that. Vitesse has about 17,000 fans who come to the stadium no matter what. Among these core supporters are older fans who still remember the old stadium Nieuw Monnikenhuizen (pure romance) and remember when we played in the Eerste Divisie (the Dutch second division). Can they still relate if Vitesse becomes Chelsea B? Will new fans only be attracted to the success?
JC: Are there any match day chants/songs about our players, and if so, could you share them with us?
WA: Not yet, but I think one about Piazon is on it's way, I'll let you know.
Many thanks to Willem for spending some time with us, and if anyone has more questions, we'll be sure to keep them in mind for future interviews with people close to the club. Also, if anyone still has holiday shopping to do, be sure to check out Vitesse's web shop.
Vitesse crashes out of KNVB Cup, loses 3-1 to Roda JC
Letting the match slip away in a domestic cup against inferior opposition? Sounds familiar.
Just a day after Chelsea's ignominious defeat in the Stadium of Darkness, Vitesse followed suit, losing to Roda JC, a club sitting just one point clear of being subjected to the complex Dutch relegation process that, for simplicity, I'll just refer to as the relegation zone. The curiously named Japanese striker Mike Havenaar picked up a three-match suspension due to some shenanigans during the PSV match, and while Vitesse supporters have been vocal about wanting the club to get a new striker since Wilfried Bony was sold to Swansea, today's match might be a case of failing to appreciate what they had in Havenaar, as he was sorely missed.
I had a chat with Willem Andrée before the match and he told me "My guess is it will not be a smooth win tonight. Havenaar got suspended and Bosz is trying out Chanturia as attacker..." Willem was spot on, and suffice it to say, that experiment did not go well. Vitesse could really use some depth, especially at the striker position, and the quality of reinforcements Vitesse can muster during the upcoming transfer window could be the deciding factor in the Eredivisie title race.
Lucas Piazon, Patrick van Aanholt, and Christian Atsu all started, with Sam Hutchinson coming on for a cameo towards the end of the match. Van Aanholt scored Vitesse's lone goal, and by all accounts, was Vitesse's best player on the pitch.
With Roda up 2-1 and Vitesse threatening to tie it up in the waning minutes, Vitesse's keeper Piet Velthuizen came up for a Vitesse corner kick, as one does in such situations. However, after the set piece, Velthuizen apparently had enough of goalkeeping for the day and decided to stay up there and play striker for a bit. Surprisingly, he was actually looking pretty good until, of course, Roda put one in the empty Vitesse net to seal the win.
The transfer Chelsea should really be targeting in January
Forget Falcao, Pogba, Lewandowski, or Matic. Vitesse's video team is number one on my Christmas transfer wish list. After every Eredivisie match, Vitesse's video team creates a highlight video called a "Sfeerverslag." I can only imagine that "Sfeerverslag" means "cinematic masterpiece" in Dutch, as they managed to transform Vitesse's fairly routine victory over NAC Breda into the stuff of legends. Just see for yourself (I thought my judgment may have been clouded by the liberal amounts of Tim Berg applied to this video, but I went as far back to last season's videos, and they're all fantastic. I particularly recommend this one from the Gelderse derby if only to see a Nijmegen player run into the brick wall that is Lucas Piazon at 0:27). We'll be sure to include all the Sfeerverslag Vitesse puts out for the rest of the season (or at least until they get loaned to Chelsea, and then we'll obviously be including all the Chelsea Sfeerverslag in our match reports).
Also, if you look at the view count on YouTube, you'll find that these videos are criminally under-viewed. In fact, it's almost certain that within a day, most of the views will come from you guys on this site. If Chelsea can't secure a work permit for the Vitesse video team and they have to stay in Arnhem, I can only imagine what a force Vitesse's marketing team is going to be once Marina Granovskaia starts working with Vitesse marketing director Peter Gansler on laying out a social media strategy for the club.
Updating an item from the last roundup, I mentioned that there were rumblings about some Chelsea banners being waved at the Gelredome, but couldn't actually find one myself. I saw a lot of blue and white, but couldn't make out the Chelsea crest. WAGNH member and long-time Vitesse season-ticket holder, Maikel Berends, found visual confirmation of a Chelsea banner at 3:02 of this video documenting Marco van Ginkel's return to Vitesse this weekend. Maikel also informs us that blue and white are Arnhem's city colours, which explains why it's not uncommon to see those colours at the Gelredome (it also explains the away kits).