Robert Verbeek, younger brother of South Korean coach Pim, has spent eight years coaching at PSV Eindhoven. The 45 year-old is now six games into his Japanese coaching career with J-League outfit Omiya Ardija.
The Squirrels struggled at the start of the season but, in recent games, have seen results improve.
Now you have your first point of the season. You must feel better…
I feel good. For everybody it is good, we finally have a point. We now have two 0-0’s in our last two games. We are not scoring goals but on the other hand we are not conceding. Before they were scoring two or three goals against us so I think our defensive organization is getting better – it is not 100% but like everything, is getting better. I was very satisfied with the last game for the players and for the fans.
You’re a new coach and you lose the first four league games. Did you feel under pressure?
I knew before I started that it was a difficult situation. It is not easy because you are working with the same Togel Singapore players as last season. I am satisfied with the quality of the players but it is always difficult when a new coach comes in. I want to play a little Dutch style – more attacking, more attractive for the fans but also with a strong defensive foundation.
Maybe it has something to do with last year. The second half of the season was not good so I think confidence was not high among the players. So I have to talk a lot, be positive, I am always very positive to my players, so maybe that helps.
When you’re on a losing streak, as a coach, are you always positive? Is there a time when you need to start shouting?
I am always quiet, I don’t shout at my players. It is true that the other teams score because of big mistakes. I just tell them, “you can’t play football everywhere; sometimes you must take no risks and kick the ball away from danger.”
That was important for us because we were trying to play football even inside our own penalty area. It’s not possible.
Secondly, we have conceded a lot of goals from corners. OK, we did something about that and we did something about taking no risks. The first game we played against Gamba Osaka, one of the top teams here, and we played very well but they scored in the 88th minute. If we get a result at a place like that then it gives us a lot of confidence for the next few games, we were a little unlucky but what can you do?
I always try to be positive and we played Nagoya, who are doing well in a friendly and we played well. We played Kashiwa in the Nabisco Cup and beat them when they were in third place in the league and now. So it doesn’t mean that we can’t play football because we can and have some good players.
Also, I can see our Brazilian players getting better and better. They have become used to playing football in Japan and they are getting used to me and the Japanese players and the culture and I think that everyday it is going a little bit better but I must have patience, everyone must have patience but perhaps for the fans it is difficult.
What was your target before the season started and what was the club’s target?
The target that the club told the fans was finishing in seventh (laughs). Last season we were 12th and I think that they played themselves higher in the last two or three games so I think seventh is a bit high but it is no problem for me. Perhaps it is better to play safe for the fans and perhaps for the players who could feel the pressure, the coach also.
However, I don’t feel pressure; I enjoy my job very much. I talked a lot with the players, to explain to them not to feel pressure and that they should just play football and the pressure is for me.
I think seventh is a little high but I can live with it.
What about your target?
I want to be better than last year. If we finish eleventh, that will be better but I want people to recognize the football we play. They see our organization: when we have the ball, they can see our movement and the positions we take and when we don’t have the ball, they can see our good organization.
I hope we can play attractive football for the fans, create a lot of chances and score a lot of goals. So far, that is one of our problems – scoring goals. One of best players is injured, Deigo, he scored 12 goals last season.
Why did you take the job ? Was it because your brother worked there in the past?
Pim worked before here but it was nothing to do with him. I was in Singapore and Omiya were looking for a Dutch coach or someone who could play 4-4-2 and a zone defence. I have been doing this kind of work for years now –especially in Singapore. But the reason why, you should ask the board or the president. I know there were other coaches in the running, other Dutch coaches and a German coach.
You haven’t done so great in the league but have started well in the cup, beating Gamba. That suggests that you are not so far behind. Is it possible for teams like Omiya to compete in the J-League – does it have the resources?
I think so, yes. One of the things we must address as a club is the fact that we have a lot of players who are 28 or 29, for the future we need to improve our scouting system and find good players between 20 and 24. I will see how things go. We have an interesting game against Nagoya on Saturday – they also have a Dutch coach. They are doing well and I am really looking forward to playing against them and seeing how far away we are.
How far away do you think you are?
That’s difficult to answer at the moment.
You mentioned that you played Kashiwa. They were promoted to the J-League and have done very well. What can Omiya learn from Kashiwa?
They have a good balance in the team with age. They came from J2 but they have the same coach and have been playing together in the same system for two or three years and that is always better. For me, this is a totally new start here.
In our pre-season training camp at Guam, we trained a lot with the ball, I wanted the players to learn the system and the way I wanted to play. We did a lot of passing exercises and the players were not used to that. A good pass is the start and after the pass you need to control the ball, controlling the ball is not stopping the ball but taking it with you, the ball doesn’t stop. These are the little things I am trying to improve here, every day we are doing passing exercises, positioning to make the players better and if that happens then the team improves.
Sometimes we talk and we try to give them a lot of information. We show them highlights, for example, old Barcelona games and Frank De Boer and the way they play with Guardiola in the midfield. We say “look where he is standing, look how he is asking for the ball, look at that he is always looking around him before he gets the ball.”
We watch Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the best teams playing 4-4-2 defence zone. We saw the games against Barcelona and PSV and point out what Liverpool are doing defensively, when they are pressing etc. The players like it and now they understand because we show them. I also tell them that Liverpool didn’t start playing the system yesterday, it took weeks and months and training everyday to get it right. It takes time.
When you were at PSV, you worked with players such as Romario and Ronaldo, what’s the difference between those players, the Dutch and the Japanese?
For players like Romario and Ronaldo, especially for Romario, you have to look to the other players. Romario’s first few weeks in Holland were difficult. The way they train in Holland was difficult for him. When he was there, it was a very very good team, the mentality of the team was so strong players like Eric Gerets, Soren Lerby and Ronald Koeman.
Every game they played in training was a real game. Everybody hated to lose there, sometimes players like Gerets would go inside after losing a training game as they were so upset. That is the winning mentality that they had and they hated to lose in training so you can imagine how they felt about losing on the weekend. That is perhaps the Dutch mentality; well it certainly was the mentality at PSV at the time. For a coach it was fantastic to work there.
A few years ago in the Netherlands, there were a few Japanese players playing, and a few Koreans too, but now there are none. Why do think that is?
The last player was Ono. I lived close to Feyenoord and sometimes saw him play. He was unlucky with injuries. I think perhaps that he was not used to training in Holland which is always aggressive. I don’t know for sure. There are also some players like Nakamura who is playing well for Celtic in a strong competition.
How are you and Pim different as coaches?
The main difference is that my brother has much, much more experience. He was very young when he was head coach of Feyenoord. I think he learned a lot during that period. He has also been involved in two World Cups.
I have also worked with big coaches during my time at PSV –Guus Hiddink, Bobby Robson and Dick Advocaat and Huub Stevens, the present coach of hamburg. I was lucky to work in a good period for PSV when they had some great players and I learned a lot from people like Hiddink.
I think there is not a big difference between Pim and me in the way we coach and train but he has more experience.
How about as people?
We are both crazy about football. We were both very young when we started playing for the first team in Sparta and we were both a little unlucky with the injuries we got. There is not much difference. I can be very quiet, Pim is better at making connections with people, to meet people. I wait to get to know people very well and when I trust them, then I am very open. I am talking to people the same way Pim does but I don’t go to people like he does.
How often do you contact each other?
We call each other every week. We talk often. He talks about his team, I talk about my team and we talk about football in general and our family of course. I know he is enjoying himself in Korea. He is very busy in charge of the national team and the Olympic team. The Olympic team had a good result recently but the national team was not quite so good against Uruguay.
Pim coached Omiya Ardija a few years ago and now you are doing so. Does that mean we can expect to see you over in Korea in a few years’ time?
(Laughs). Who knows what will happen in the future? However, I have just started in Japan and I am really enjoying my time here. I hear good things about Korea from Pim but Japan is good for me at the moment.