Heracles are the Eredivisie equivalent of Swansea City in the English Premier League, Celta Vigo in La Liga or Chievo in Serie A and so on. They don’t have the financial backing and the allure of the big boys of their League but with some astute management by their directors, they are now hovering in the upper echelons of the Dutch top flight.
The past weekend, they claimed the scalp of Eredivisie champions PSV as they grinded to a 2-1 win at home. According to Opta, it was their first victory over PSV Eindhoven in nearly 51 years as they bagged their fifth straight win. Their 39 year-old coach John Stegeman employed a similar approach that PSV used when facing Manchester United in their midweek Champions League clash.
“We have great respect for PSV, but we need not be afraid. The manner in which Manchester United have beaten PSV shows how a smaller team can beat a big team. So tomorrow they must be Manchester United and we PSV, ” said Stegeman in his pre-match press conference.
Very few would have expected such an inspiring start to the season as this time last season, they lost their opening four games and coach Jan De Jonghe was sacked by the end of August. Stegeman took over on an interim basis and after keeping the team from Almelo in the Eredivisie, he was awarded a contract on a permanent basis till 2017.
He will look to follow in the footsteps of Gertjan Verbeek and Peter Bosz who performed above expectations with the Heraclieden and after their roaring start to the season, he has sent out a stern warning to the rest of the Eredivisie.
At his disposal are a fine array of exciting players which have supplied their fans with a brand of ‘edge of your seat’ football which has grasped dreams and set higher hopes and expectations for the side. The zestful Oussama Tannane is the first of these that comes to mind.
Tannane was exiled from the first team in January until the end of May this year in an attempt to curb his anger issues and now after starting the season with 5 goals in 5 games, Heracles are now focused on offering him a new contract. The 21 year-old winger possesses searing pace, a low centre of gravity and troubles defences with his nifty, fleet-footed skills. Brahim Darri occupies the left wing and is making Vitesse Arnheim regret letting him go permanently in January.
Another skillful winger who thrives on challenging his fullback who needs to add more in terms of output to his game. The towering Wout Weghorst occupies the centre and before the PSV game, had scored 4 goals in 4 games as he acts as a target man in a team laden with creative attacking talent.
23 year-old Ilass Bel Hassani orchestrates Heracles’ attacking play from a deeper role as he possesses the panache and drive to be effective with less of the ball. His innovation and daring passing ability are a vital part of Heracles’ counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation and it is important he stays fit. He is partnered by Thomas Bruns who scored the winning goal against PSV this weekend to add to his tally of three goals and two assists. An ever reliable player who is effective at both ends of the pitch with his defensive contribution and attacking prowess.
Joey Pelupessy anchors the midfield and brings balance to the team while aiding in the defensive rigidity that Heracles heavily rely on. Mike te Wierik and Ramon Zomer are the team’s centre back duo who are dominant in the air, constantly repelling a hoard of crosses and exuding determination for their team. Te Wierik is 23 and Zomer is 32 as they bring a blend of youthful desire and experience to the Heracles defence. They are flanked by Wout Droste on the right who was a shrewd signing from SC Cambuur, as he gained a year of vital Eredivisie experience. 32 year-old Mark Jan-Fleddurus has returned for his second stint in Almelo to add an experienced reprieve to an excitingly young side in front of Bram Castro who is of the same age.
Heracles and their young side have gone from strength to strength after their opening day loss to Roda JC on the opening day of the season. Apart from beating PSV, they boast bragging rights of beating their Eastern rivals FC Twente in a 2-0 win while a 6-1 away win to SC Cambuur stands out as their most eyecatching performance with Tannane scoring 4 goals in the match.
The rise of the Almelo club has obviously not been without struggle as their plans for a new 13,500 capacity stadium was scrapped. So, the board decided to renovate and increase the seating of their Polman Stadion for a fraction of the price from 8,500 seats to 13,500 in a vision to make their stadium visually resemble a new one. They are currently taking the Eredivisie by storm as they sit in 2nd place with a bright young side pushing the envelope of the Eredivisie establishment. If they manage to keep their best players fit under the watchful eye of Stegeman, the sky is the limit.