Last season, Waalwijk minnows RKC managed to finish 9th in a remarkable season for the club. After winning over promotion the previous year, by the hand of a majestic Derk Boerrigter, the club was doomed to certain relegation according to most pundits. Without Boerrigter and Israeli goalkeeper Ohad Levita, the side contained to many “Jupiler League players” and to little people with experience at the highest level.
The RKC board agreed with this. But they took a different step than most clubs in that situation. They didn’t start spending ludicrous amounts of money on proven players, only to bring the club in financial trouble. After all, they had just left that situation behind a year or two ago. However, they did not sit still either.
RKC went out and searched for young, driven players that were hungry to prove themselves. Players that had fallen out of favour at their current club, for various reasons, but had the talent and abilities to make a difference on the highest level. Evander Sno is the prime example of this policy. Brought back to Holland from an adventure in Scotland with Celtic by Van Basten, the tall, strong midfielder spent the majority of his Ajax-time in the Reserves because Martin Jol didn’t utilise him. After getting hit by a sudden cardiac arrest on the pitch, nobody ever thought of Sno again. Nobody but RKC, who smelled their chances of a possible gold-mine.
After all, Sno was still young (24), had what it takes to leave an impression and was determined to prove the whole world that he was still able to make a difference despite his precarious physical situation. RKC came at just the right time for the midfield brawler, as he available on a free and had just seen a deal with Genoa be cancelled. Sno chose for RKC, accepting his lower wages in return for a new chance, and RKC had their dreamed midfield strengthening.
Like Sno, 3 more Eredivisie rejects arrived at the club, all on loan. Geoffrey Castillion, formerly tipped as the next Patrick Kluivert but ultimately neglected due to his personality. Ricky ten Voorde, regarded a supertalent at Emmen but never leaving an impression at NEC. Audil Auasser, the former VVV midfield stormer whom didn’t conquer the Kuip. In addition, RKC brought in a young, talented but inexperienced goalkeeper (Jeroen Zoet) on loan and their squad was complete.
This summer, RKC’s hard work seemed to be undone in swift fashion as manager Ruud Brood left for Roda JC and key players Schet, Sno and Meijers left for greener pay checks at other clubs. But the side kept in touch with their policy and continued to bring in young and talented players without lots of experience and a great deal of motivation, a policy which brought them a lot of success before. In the same sense, new manager Erwin Koeman was recruited. Koeman started out his career at RKC, was then given a chance at Feyenoord and that’s where things started going bleak. After a failed adventure with the Hungarian national team, he took up the job in Utrecht but left soon after seeing all his key players leave. After having spent half a year at Eindhoven in the Jupiler League, RKC then came around to offer Koeman a new chance.
After bringing in Jozefzoon, Rodney Sneijder, Chevalier and veteran Lucius, the season started off and it did so in spectacular fashion. PSV was slaughtered at home (3-2), ADO held to a drew (2-2) and Roda suffered defeat in Waalwijk (1-0). Due to their impressive start, they now find themselves as higher as 4th on the table. And who knows where it may end?
By sticking to their policy of buying young, unproven but determined individuals for a dime, RKC are proving it’s possible to survive on a shoestring budget as long as you’re creative and sensible with your spending. A lesson many clubs can take to heart, in these financially dark times.