Feyenoord's Decline and Other Clubs Fortunes: What a Difference a Decade Makes
When I heard the score between PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord yesterday (10-0 to PSV in case you didn't know), I thought it was a joke—somebody was playing FIFA or Pro Evo just to wrack up a big score.
Never did I think that one of Dutch footballs greatest clubs could succumb to such embarrassment.
I'll admit though, my knowledge on Dutch football has waned over the years. Ajax no longer have the instantly recognisable players like Sneijder or Ibrahimovic, PSV have lost theirs too and Feyenoord, well, since they lost beauty queen Dirk Kuyt to Liverpool in 2006.
I hadn't thought about them for a while.
I do know that Feyenoord are a decent club though; I know that they have a rich and cultured history in the game, a respected name, a great kit and a fearsome old stadium that's never an easy place to pick up three points.
Of course, this is when Dutch football used to be on Channel 5 in England, usually around 2am. Around 2000-01, Feyenoord were on the up, finishing second domestically to PSV and enjoying Champions League football, which they'd been securing now since 1998-99. Throw in a few league titles and a Dutch cup along the way, and Feyenoord looked all set to be a dominating force once again.
So, where did it all go wrong? The next six years were a trophyless slump.
Selling their best players and much scrutinised financial irregularities didn't help but the result yesterday got me thinking—thinking about how a once major club can slip into a frustrating mediocrity so easily and how others who were once in their shoes are now doing so well.
Here are just a few clubs who exactly ten years in the 2000-01 season were strugglers, trying to establish themselves in footballs top tier or fighting desperately to recapture former glories:
1) Seville - Relegated in 1999-00, they spent the turn of the century in the Segunda Division.
The back-to-back UEFA cup wins seemed a long way off but they managed to climb back up to the top, thanks to chairman Jose Maria Del Nido bringing financial stability to the club and not to forget, some great players too.
2) Villareal - Despite coming up in '98, they yo-yoed for a year or two before finishing a credible 7th in '00-01.
Another four years would pass before they truly became a household name; now, the little club from Castellon are a regular fixture at the top end of La Liga.
3) Napoli - Relegated from Serie A that season, the club fell into a tailspin.
In 2004, they were declared bankrupt and found themselves in Serie C1, losing the right to use their original name of SSC Napoli in the process. They had a long, hard fight back up and, in 2006, had their name back and their place in the top flight.
Now they're widely tipped for Campions League football in the coming years and with the squad they have, it'll probably happen sooner rather than later.
4) Manchester City - Spending the last few years of the '90's in the old second division was a shock for City.
In '00-01, after a solitary season back in the Premier League, they were relegated again.
Now though, the times have certainly changed, being bought by a billionaire and subsequently filling their squad with some really fantastic players; City are not only expected to be playing Champions League football soon but to be winning the Premier League too.
I bet no City fan saw that coming when they were playing away to Barnsley on a cold Tuesday night 10 years ago.
5) Hoffenheim - 10 years ago, they were members of the Regionalliga Sud, then the third tier of German football.
They surprised the world in 2008 by gaining promotion to the Bundesliga and topping the table until Christmas, with 35 points from 17 games.
Their season gradually slipped away but they now can consider themselves a firmly established side, after a good start to the current campaign.
After looking at that list, maybe all hope isn't lost for Feyenoord—who knows where they'll be in 10 years; who knows where any club will be in 10 years, but this is just one of the reasons why football is so fascinating.
I hope Feyenoord fans aren't hurting too much today—it's a humiliating defeat but we've all felt one and a score like that is a freak occurrence.
Good luck to them anyway, hopefully they can still do something this season—it's still early days after all.
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