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How Feyenoord pipped Ajax to first Dutch title in 18 years

Wednesday 17th May 2017
It wasn't part of the original script, hence, never expected to see the light of the day. But against all odds, Feyenoord clinched their first Dutch league title in 18 years at the expense of arch-rivals, Ajax.

The 2016/17 season was foretold to be Ajax's year. One which the Sons of the God will reclaim their bragging rights at home as well as on the continent. Ajax had not won the Eredivisie or in fact any other Dutch title in the last two seasons. That's fair when compared to their continental drought which stretches to almost 21 years.

Feyenoord on their part was on an even critical trophy-less streak. The last time they lifted the Eredivisie was over two decades ago. And the closest the Club on the Meuse came to the title was in 2001 and 2012 where they finished runners-up on both occasions.

A Closer look at Feyenoord

Feyenoord is Holland's third most successful club behind fierce rivals Ajax and PSV having won the Eredivisie on 14 occasions, 11 Dutch Cups, two UEFA Cups and the European Cup in 1970. However, in spite of these achievements, they have largely assumed the position as the sleeping giant of Dutch football since the turn of the new Millenium.

The club has been besieged by debt and alarming mismanagement since they last lifted the Eredivisie title. Throughout its history, Feyenoord has had a renowned youth academy which has been responsible for the production of the likes of Ruud Gullit and Robin Van Persie. However, this was slowed in the early 2000's and perhaps more significantly the club was often found culpable of under-valuing their prodigious talents and selling them for cut- price deals. Van Persie is just one of many examples, sold for just £3m back in 2004.

As result, the fans has often accused their team of lacking direction and strategy, the absence of which had been caused by short-termism within the club's hierarchy. This ordeal spread to the dugout. No wonder there have been 12 different managerial appointments since the club brought home the Eredivisie at the end of the last century. Crippling debt, false promises of investment and perennial uncertainty over the future of the club's De Kuip Stadium has also blighted the Dutch giants in recent years.

Van Bronckhorst's effects

Gio Van Bronckhorst's appointment in 2015 was perceived as one likely to head in the direction of his predecessors. But Van Bronckhorst an indigene, who started and ended his playing career at the club, required no tutoring to understand what lies ahead in his quest to revive their glory days. And to everyone's surprise, the 42-year-old manager achieved the unbelievable by leading the club to their first title of any kind in 10 years, the KNVB Cup in his first season. They finished that campaign in third behind PSV and Ajax, but the fans were already beginning to show an all new enthusiasm, confidence, and optimism.

2016/17 Season

When the 2016/17 campaign started, the silver dish was expected to end up in one of two places – Amsterdam or Eindhoven. But after Feyenoord started with nine wins from nine, Rotterdammers began to dream. Their playing style wasn't the best in the country as they were heavily reliant on experienced skipper, Dirk Kuyt, preferring to flood the flanks which left them vulnerable in the middle. And yet they managed to fly high thanks to their extraordinary teamwork and unrivaled work ethic.

Ajax, on the other hand, wasn't giving the Rotterdam side any breathing space. The Amsterdam giants were cruising in the Europa League, which to some extent, became a bane to their domestic form. Peter Bosz and his wards knew they needed an extra bit of luck to catch up with their The Classic rivals who had clung onto top spot from matchday one. With a first European final appearance against Manchester United all but sealed, the Sons of the God then switched their attention to the Eredivisie.

And Feyenoord's shocking 3-0 collapse at Excelsior last week did make it seem as if they were gonna snatch the title away from their rivals. At this point, just one point separated both teams going into the final round of games. Ajax knew their destiny wasn't in their hands while Feyenoord was aware anything other than victory isn't good enough. But eventually, Feyenoord had the final laugh thanks to ex-Liverpool man Kuyt who grabbed three beautiful goals against Heracles.

Feyenoord's latest conquest means Van Bronckhorst has won a title at every single club he has managed. Can the ex-Arsenal man move a step further by clinching the Champions League next season? We wait and see.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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