Oranje 1974: Wim Jansen
In our series, we now look at the silent engine on midfield. In those days, most teams had a playmaker (Willem van Hanegem), a penetrating runner ( Johan Neeskens ) and a vacuum cleaner ( Nico Reijnders, Willy van der Kerkhof). In Oranje’s case, Wim Jansen was actually all three. He could make the play, give the crucial pass… Jansen read the game as no other player. He also had the mentality and stamina to work and sacrifice for the team and if need be, he could even present himself upfront to score.
Wim Jansen always was a quaint fellow. Born in Rotterdam, a son of Feyenoord. Went through the youth ranks and many fans thought he’d never leave the club. Wimpie (to differentiate him from Willem (van Hanegem)) was not a talker. Not with his mouth, anyway. Shy, introverted and totally uninterested in fame. Wimpie let his feet do the talking, because once he was on the pitch the shy, blushing curly head would turn into a little pitbull.
Cor Veldhoen, another Feyenoord player from the olden days, is still close to Jansen. “To me, Wim was the most important player of the team. He saw the game so well. Van Hanegem had the name to be the playmaker, and De Kromme was, but he had only eyes for what happened upfront. Jansen saw the whole game and brought balance.”
Rinus Israel, Feyenoord’s libero from those days, counts Jansen as one of his best mates. “We call weekly. Whenever one of us is working abroad, it could even be daily. Wimpie is a softspoken, sensitive and downright nice bloke.”
But watch it. He might be small, 1 meter 65, and sensitive, but he’s a fighter as well. When Feyenoord’s policies weren’t his anymore, he left. When Jock Brown at Celtic doublecrossed him after Jansen won the title in Glasgow breaking Ranger’s ten-year reign, he packed his bag. No one screws with Wimpie.
Wim’s ways are hard to follow, some times. Israel: “Not for me! It’s simple. You break a promise, Wimpie packs his bags.”
Cor Veldhoen looks back at his days with Jansen in Feyenoord 1. “I played left back, Coen Moulijn was left winger. He was and is my mate, but whenever Coen was dreaming on the pitch I’d run up to him to wake him up, haha. And whenever my passing to Coen was not precise enough, he’d do the same to me. Wim was like that. He’d never even look at the coffee-lady in the players’ home, too shy, but when one of us made a mistake on the pitch, he’d come and talk to you. And not in a nice way…”
Libero Rinus Israel was the big mouth in Feyenoord. Captain and coach… “I was mean. As a player in my challenges, maybe a bit too much… Did you know I was responsible for Johan Cruyff’s wandering over the pitch? Every time we played Ajax, I’d tell him: you can pass me or the ball can pass me but you will never get past me with the ball! And he wouldn’t come near me. He’d stay in midfield and allow others to move in to face me, hahahaa… Not that we were happy with that. Cruyffie was a problem for us, where ever he played. My coaching wasn’t too hot either. I would give it to all the lads who screwed up. I saw pretty early that young Jansen was like me. Not that he was dominant or loud, but he saw the game and he wouldn’t make silly mistakes. Ever. So we struck a friendship on that basis, and we’re still close.”
“Wimpie was the skilled technician on midfield. He hated running, but he was great with his little sprints to close gaps. On the pitch, he was everywhere and he always played in Van Hanegem’s shadow. But off the pitch, you didn’t even know he was there, that silent. On the pitch, he knew where to position himself. He has recovered millions of balls for us. It was skill, with speed, experience, vision and confidence. That sums up Jansen.”
“He could do it all, bar heading the ball. In the air, he was worthless. I never had a go at him, because there was never a reason for it. Van Hanegem didn’t need any coaching as a player, but Wim would sometimes forget himself in duels or versus the referee. We played tennisfootball, the three of us. Jansen always played at the back to set Willem and myself up at the net. Unbeatable!”
The hierarchy in Oranje was different. Rinus Israel missed the WC1974 due to injury. And the Ajax clan was strong at Oranje, what with Rinus Michels as the coach. “Johan Cruyff was smart. He would never antagonize players who could serve the team. Johan and Willem van Hanegem had a love-hate relationship, particularly off the pitch. But they highly respected each others skills. Johan knew, if Willem had the ball he would receive it whenever he went deep. And Willem knew that winning was more likely with Johan in the team. So they always supported each other and Van Hanegem was happy to play second fiddle to Johan. Cruyff also saw the value of Jansen and lamented in those days already that Jansen should play for Ajax. Blasphemy in our ears of course…”.
At the WC1974, players like Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep and Rensenbrink were the stars, but they were able to shine due to the hard work of players like Jansen, Rijsbergen and Haan. Cruyff and Jansen would strike a deep friendship in those days. Cruyff was dominant, extraverted…a leader. Jansen was more a servant, introverted and a follower. But their football vision was similar and the two could debate the game for hours on end.
In 1980, after winning four titles with Feyenoord, one European Cup, one World Cup, two National Cups and the UEFA Cup ( and finishing second with Oranje twice in World Cups) Jansen decided to go for an adventure. He signed for the Washington Diplomats where he played alongside his mate Cruyff.
When libero Ruud Krol left Ajax in the summer of 1980 to play for Napoli, Johan Cruyff advised Ajax to sign Wim Jansen. Ajax had a tremendous team in those days, but with lots of young players and Cruyff felt Jansen was the ideal mentor for these lads.
The Feyenoord fans were horrified with the thought! Wim Jansen in an Ajax shirt! For his debut in the Ajax jersey, Jansen visited the Kuip to play Feyenoord – in winter – amd an ice ball was hit on his eye, making it impossible for the little libero to play the game. Ajax was 8th in the competition when Jansen came and finished 2nd at the end of the season. The next season, Jansen and Co won the title.
Wim Jansen went back to Washington for one last season at the Diplomats before he retired.
Jansen disappeared into his own world. Visiting many youth games and working unofficially as Feyenoord scout, in the meantime creating wealth in share-investing.
In 1983, Jansen was appointed head coach at Feyenoord and he would win two National Cups with the team. He left to work as manager for Schiedam based second division club SVV – appointing a young Dick Advocaat as their coach – and won the title their as well.
After a stint in Belgium, Jansen returned to Rotterdam as technical director. Under his management, coach Hans Dorjee reached the semifinals of the European Cup II. Willem van Hanegem succeeded Dorjee – who fell ill and would later die on the field of a heart attack – and De Kromme would win the title with Feyenoord and the Dutch Cup a season later. The old buddies – and former neighbours – got into a dispute (concerning team discipline) and Jansen decided to move. He assisted Leo Beenhakker at a Saoudi Arabian club before moving to Japan to coach Hiroshima.
After Japan, Celtic appointed Jansen who signed Henke Larsson from Feyenoord, to win the title after a 10 years reign by the Rangers.
He left Celtic after another dispute and ended up assisting Gertjan Verbeek at Feyenoord last season, after having acted as “advisor” to the club. When Verbeek got the sack, Jansen decided to leave Feyenoord as well.
(There is no interview with Wim Jansen, because he hardly ever does interviews…)
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