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Heerenveen: Feeder Club, Dynamite Wingers and Joey Veerman

Heerenveen.

The ignorance of ‘so-called’ football enthusiasts allows pre-empted ideologies to be carved for the masses. Way too young individuals are earmarked for success before they’ve left their teens. Debates occur on Twitter over players that neither restless raconteur has ever even watched. It’s now a stats driven game, and it is why teams like SC Heerenveen go under the radar. Eighth place, the annual 4-0 drubbing against Ajax. Nothing to see here. Or is there?

With an average age of twenty two, Heerenveen have always been able to develop raw talents into something remarkable; it sits in line with their stubborn philosophy of prioritising youth over everything else, including domestic success. Whilst occasionally slipping into a feeder club for the European giants, there still is nothing like seeing one of your own put on that fabled shirt, no matter how long it lasts.

Heerenveen’s newly appointed manager Johnny Jansen has worked with the youth sides for the past nineteen years, giving him an unparalleled experience. This could be encouraging for fans that want to see more than a brief moment of excellence. There’s no contending that Heerenveen can develop world class players, it will be Jansen’s task in keeping them in the blue and white for as long as possible…

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Hakim Ziyech and more recently Kik Pierie, Heerenveen are the Dutch equivalent of Atalanta’s Scuola di Calcio, but are simply incapable of keeping their players long enough to challenge the top of the table seriously. Can this change?

Pierie was the first to go this season. A £4.5m fee to Ajax would be a mighty shame if it weren’t for the Dutch champions’ relentless inclusion of youth produce. Morten Thorsby and Michel Vlap soon followed to Sampdoria and Anderlecht respectively. Johnny Jansen’s promising side was quickly disintegrating. A minute budget, clever acquisitions were required next…

Talent: Mitchell van Bergen

The Abe Lenstra Stadium in southern Friesland jumped to a ferocious roar as Mitchell van Bergen skipped between FC Twente’s Calvin Verdonk and Javier Espinosa, sneakily sliding the ball through Verdonk’s legs and unleashing a venomous cross into the box. Exquisite, yet incomplete. The video was titled De Perfecte Tien: the perfect ten. Although a huge statement given he plays out wide, it may not be entirely indistinguishable from reality…

With more successful dribbles – 2.3 per game (WhoScored) – than the highly coveted Steven Bergwijn and more key passes – 1.8 per game – than Neymar, Mitchell van Bergen doesn’t seem to have caught the eye of many. He should. Five goal contributions in nine games from the twenty-year old should not be brushed aside. Deployable on either wing, his “weaker” left foot comes as a shock to defenders, who usually jockey him as a solely right-footed forward.

Joining from Vitesse in 2018, Van Bergen’s running gait is mildly reminiscent of Brazilian Douglas Costa. Tall and straight, this style sucks in spectators, mesmerises coaches, and obscures almost every defender’s perception of where the ball will end up next. Aesthetically, it’s the pinnacle of wing play. Hugging the touchline or darting inside, Mitchell van Bergen’s tremendous ability to glide beyond players has him as one of the hottest Dutch players on the scene. A catalyst for Heerenveen.

Bringing van Bergen to the fray on a more consistent basis seems a masterstroke from Jansen. Combined with the arrival of the incredibly talented Chidera Ejuke on the other wing, Heerenveen have replaced what seemed like horrific losses with players maybe more talented. Another one of them: Joey Veerman.

Assured: Joey Veerman

Heerenveen and Joey Veerman: A match made in heaven.
2019-09-14 20:23:26 Joey Veerman of sc Heerenveen during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax Amsterdam and sc Heerenveen at the Johan Cruijff Arena on September 14, 2019 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands ANP/VI IMAGES

An open training session at FC Volendam sparked an intriguing combination of two varying footballers by an idle spectator: “Joey De Bruyne”, he giggled to himself. This seemingly impalpable comparison between a Premier League winning Belgian and young Joey Veerman can in fact draw similarities.

Whilst ignored by Ajax and PSV Eindhoven for playing ‘monotonous football’, the twenty year old’s daring simplicity proceeds the breakout of the ‘Frenkie de Jong type’, and his six-foot one frame makes him perhaps more robust than the Barcelona star. Of course, there is room for improvement, and a severe knee injury certainly stifled his progress, but Veerman is back on track. A £495K move to Jansen’s progressive Heerenveen side can help him progress the way we know he can.

Tidy finish. A short back lift for a player of that stature really is a rarity. Slotted on the left of Jansen’s midfield three is an ideal position for Veerman as the slight angle allows him to carve long balls towards the eager wide players. Characterised by 1.6 tackles as well as 3.4 dribbles per game, Joey Veerman has the capability of operating as a number six, eight or just off the striker. A unique talent with a high ceiling. One to watch.

Whether SC Heerenveen will be able to clamber up into the European places remains to be seen, but one thing is a certainty: they are one of the most intriguing and entertaining sides in the Netherlands, if not Europe. And they can only get better.

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