Holland 1974
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Cruyff in action for Barcelona against Feyenoord
  The 1974-75 season saw Johan Neeskens joining Barcelona, alongside Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels. Although they defeated Feyenoord in the early rounds of the European Cup, our very own Leeds United overcame them in the Semi-Final, before being beaten in turn by Bayern in the Final. Cruyff was at Barcelona for several more years, although for him there were no more major trophies to be won. Neeskens, however, went on to pick up a Cup-Winners' Cup medal for the Spanish club in 1979.

  Cruyff became a much-travelled mercenary in his later days. I saw him playing as a guest for New York Cosmos, alongside Beckenbauer, against Chelsea in 1978. The turn he executed against Graham Wilkins that night was replayed many times by London Weekend Television over the next few years. He plied his trade in the North American Soccer league with the Los Angeles Aztecs, the Washington Diplomats and Spanish club Levante, before returning to Ajax for a couple of seasons, winning the Dutch Cup in 1983. As late as 1984, Cruyff won the Dutch Championship and Cup double, with, of all clubs, Feyenoord. He went on to become a hugely respected coach, putting Ajax back on the European map with a Cup Winners' Cup win in 1987, and then moving on to Barcelona, where he won the Spanish League in four consecutive seasons. He reached the peak of his coaching career (so far, anyway) by taking the famous Catalan club to European Cup success in 1992, with a team featuring Dutch superstar Ronald Koeman.

  In the summer of 1976, Holland, now coached by former Ajax man George Knobel, figured briefly in the European Championship, having qualified from a group which included Italy and Poland, and eliminated Belgium in the Quarter-Finals. Only four teams played in the tournament in those days, and Holland lost a most controversial Semi-Final to Czechoslovakia in Belgrade.

Dutch line-up for the European Semi-Final against Czechoslovakia

Line-up for the European Semi-Final against Czechoslovakia.
Cruyff, Van Kraay, Rijsbergen, Suurbier, Willy van de Kerkhof,
Rensenbrink, Rep, Jansen, Schrijvers, Krol, Neeskens.

  Piet Schrijvers was in goals, Adri van Kraay of PSV Eindhoven in defence alongside Suurbier, Rijsbergen and Krol; Neeskens, Jansen and Willy van de Kerkhof in midfield; Rep, Cruyff and Rensenbrink up front. Neeskens and substitute Van Hanegem were sent off. A much-changed team subsequently beat host nation Yugoslavia for third place, while the Czechoslovakians famously went on to beat the Germans on penalties in the Final.

  For the 1978 World Cup, in Argentina, the Dutch were without Cruyff and Van Hanegem, but a team only marginally less exhilarating than the 1974 side again reached the Final, and again lost to the host nation. Ernst Happel, the former Feyenoord coach, was in charge. Of the thirteen players who figured in the 1974 Final, nine played against Argentina - Jongbloed, Haan, Krol, Neeskens, Jansen, Rep, Rensenbrink, René van de Kerkhof and Suurbier (as a substitute).

Dutch line-up for the 1978 World Cup Final

Line-up for the 1978 World Cup Final against Argentina.
Back: Rep, Jongbloed, Haan, Brandts, Neeskens, Krol.
Front: Jansen, Poortvliet, Willy van de Kerkhof, René van de Kerkhof, Rensenbrink.

  Krol now played as sweeper and captain, and Haan, to great effect, as an attacking midfield player. The other players on duty were full-back Jan Poortvliet and central defender Ernie Brandts, plus Willy van de Kerkhof (an unused 1974 squad member) and the other substitute Dick Nanninga.

  The 1978 World Cup team is now the subject of another web site, which you may like to visit:

  By now, the old Ajax side was long scattered - Suurbier at Shalke, Rep at Bastia, Haan with Rensenbrink at Anderlecht - and PSV were the dominant club domestically. For the national side and Dutch club football, the early 1980s were to be relatively lean years, as the nation struggled to replace the Total Football generation with players of equal calibre.

  But what goes around comes around. Rinus Michels, after a colourful career as an international coach, went on to take Holland to the 1988 European Championship in West Germany, the side including an astonishing quartet of players for whom the title "world-class" hardly does them justice: Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman. Gerry Mühren's brother Arnold was also in that star-studded squad, while Arie Haan was Michels's Assistant Manager.

  The Semi-Final victory over West Germany was perhaps better appreciated in Holland than the Final triumph over the (shortly to go out of existence) USSR. This truly great side cemented Michels's reputation as one of the greatest coaches of all time, and probably represents the pinnacle of Holland's international success. Shame about the shirts though.

Dutch line-up v West Germany

Line-up for the 1988 European Campionship Final against West Germany.
Back: Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Erwin Koeman, Ruud Gullit, Hans van Breukelen.
Front: Adri van Tiggelen, Arnold Mühren, Berry van Aerle, Jan Wouters, Gerald Vanenburg.

  Since then, the Dutch have been serious contenders at every World Cup and European Championship, but without quite matching that success, altough PSV Eindhoven did bring the European Cup back home in 1988. Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard, of course, were instrumental in dominating European club football for much of the early 1990s, but in the red and black of Milan rather than the colours of Ajax or Feyenoord, with European Cup wins in 1989 and 1990 to their name.

  In 1995, the wheel of football fortune had turned full circle as a young (and this time markedly multinational and multiracial) Ajax team under Louis van Gaal again won the European Cup by beating Milan in Vienna, and only lost on penalties to Juventus the following year in Rome. Sadly, this Ajax team quickly broke up, a new generation of Dutch stars being disseminated across Europe. In years to come, maybe the names of Van der Sar, Reiziger, Blind, the De Boers, Bogarde, Silooy, Davids, Kluivert, Overmars and the like will be as fondly remembered as Cruyff, Rep, Neeskens, Suurbier, Haan and Krol. Maybe, but I doubt it.

  And finally, by popular demand, a brief "Where are they Now?" section:

  After a distinguished career with DWS and FC Amsterdam, Jan Jongbloed went on to play for Roda JC, then Vitesse and finally Go Ahead Eagles, where an eye problem ended his career at the youthful age of 45. He became assistant coach at Haarlem, and last I heard was goalkeepers' coach at Vitesse.

  Wim Suurbier left Ajax for German club Shalke '04 in 1987, then moved on to Metz in France, then the Los Angeles Aztecs in America and Seiko in Hong Kong. He did a spell of coaching in America, and apparently worked for a German sports firm, but seems to be out of the game altogether now.

  Captain of club and country, Ruud Krol was the last Ajax player to leave home, which he delayed until 1980. He had a year in Canada with the Vancouver Whitecaps, then three seasons with Napoli in Italy, and finally went to Cannes, where a knee injury forced him to retire in 1987. His management career has taken him far and wide: Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and more recently the Dutch international coaching staff. His long-standing record number of Dutch caps, 83, was only relinquished to Aron Winter during Euro 2000. He was until recently assistant to national coach Louis van Gaal.

  Arie Haan played for Anderlecht for six years. He and Rensenbrink appeared in three consecutive Cup-Winners' Cup Finals for the Belgian club between 1976 and 1978, winning two of them. He then moved onto Standard Liege and PSV. Coaching jobs in Belgium followed, and then he took over at VfB Stuttgart whom he led to the UEFA Cup Final in 1989, and later Nürnburg, PAOK Saloniki (twice) and Feyenoord. He operated as assistant to Michels with the Dutch national side in 1988. Also seems to be between jobs now.

  Wim Rijsbergen spent a year at Bastia, then five at the New York Cosmos, alongside Franz Beckenbauer. He also played for Helmond Sport and Utrecht, until an ankle injury forced him out of the game. The inevitable coaching career has seen him at DS '79, Rodenburg, Groningen, Volendam and NAC; in recent years he has found himself at Universidad de Catolica in Chile.

  Wim Jansen left Feyenoord for the Washington Diplomats in 1980. Three years later, he moved to Ajax. He has held coaching positions at Lokeren, SVV, Feyenoord and in Saudi Arabia and Japan. Most famously, he won the 1998 Scottish championship with Celtic, but departed acrimoniously soon after. Presently, he is thought to be considering offers.

  Johan Neeskens's eventual departure from Barcelona, for the New York Cosmos, was the cause of great unrest at the Spanish club, almost bringing about the downfall of the President. After some years, he briefly returned to Europe, to play for Groningen, but ended his career in America. He did some low-key trainers jobs in Switzerland, then in 1996 became Frank Rijkaard's assistant as coach of the Dutch national team, in which capacity he famously had the pleasure of wishing Daniel Passarella a pleasant journey home after the Dutch Quarter-Final win in the 1998 World Cup. After the resignation of Rijkaard in summer 2000, he was appointed coach of Dutch Premier Division club NEC Nijmegen.

  Wim van Hanegem left Feyenoord for AZ '67 in 1976. Like Cruyff, he decided not to to take part in the 1978 World Cup, the only other member of this great team to decline an encore. His playing career took him to the Chicago Stings, Feyenoord again, and finally Utrecht, where he became assistant coach. He coached Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup three times, and the championship in 1993, and has also done the coaching job at AZ '67, as well as commentating for the television company Canal+. When Dick Advocaat was appointed Dutch national coach, Van Hanegem became the latest in a long line of 1974 players to become assistant.

  Johnny Rep played for Valencia, then Bastia and St Etienne, before returning to Holland with a club called PEC Zwolle. He has also worked for Feyenoord and Haarlem, and currently coaches Sporting Flevoland.

  Rob Rensenbrink stayed at Anderlecht until 1980, whence he departed for Portland Timbers. By then, however, the NASL was not the success story it had been, and the club closed down, although Rensenbrink apparently received much compensation. He also played briefly and lucratively for Toulouse, but now seems to be lost to the game.

Cruyff in action 1999   And Cruyff? After becoming more famous for not taking over as coach of the Dutch 1994 World Cup team than he would done had they won the competition, and falling victim to a power struggle with Barcelona in 1996, he seems to have settled down as a wide-ranging commentator, consultant and general éminence grise of Dutch football, organising the Holland "Team of the Century" game to keep himself amused during 1999. He has of course had heart by-pass operations in recent years, but it would be nice to think the competitive game has not heard the last of him. Time will tell.

  Thanks to Koos for help with the above. Hopefully this is correct as at early 2002 - please e-mail me if you have more up to date information!

A well-earned lap of honour,
for a team we'll never see again
  Anyway, this concludes my recounting of the tale of the class of 1974. Hope you enjoyed it, and hope it brought back the memories. We truly will never see their like again.

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