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The former Dutch goalkeeper and his classmate on a 'mission' to get Ireland to Euro 2021

Ireland women’s goalkeeping coach Jan Willem van Ede is Vera Pauw’s right-hand man in the job.

Ireland goalkeeping coach Jan Willem van Ede.
Ireland goalkeeping coach Jan Willem van Ede.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Updated Feb 26th 2020, 8:48 AM

THERE WAS A disgruntled message or two online when Ireland manager Vera Pauw named her goalkeeping coach in September, and fellow Dutch native Jan Willem van Ede was revealed on her coaching ticket.

“I am a qualified goalkeeper coach from Ireland,” read one response. 

“Pathetic,” another tweet. 

Pauw — who brought Eileen Gleeson on board as her assistant coach — has since explained her thought process behind the Van Ede appointment. The team was already in competition, with a massive Euro 2021 clash against Ukraine just five days after they met.

“I needed somebody that would keep me sharp,” she said. “I knew that I had to select players from video and from advice, which I gained information from anyone who could help us. But I needed somebody who understood how I would work.

“You need the support to not only explain to others and be in the same philosophy, but also somebody who could get me sharp in the choices that we make. You cannot expect that from new people coming in and working with you in the first three days.”

The decision to start Rianna Jarrett against Ukraine that night came from Van Ede. The then-Wexford Youths, now-Brighton & Hove Albion striker went on to light up Tallaght Stadium in a Player of the Match performance, scoring her first international goal. 

“That is what you get if somebody knows you so well that he or she can challenge you,” Pauw adds.

“He’s an A licence coach with a lot of experience coaching internationally. He knows the international pressure and he has huge experience in international competition, both on the men’s side and the women’s side.

In that first week, that was the key thing why I wanted to have him in the team. It was not so much a goalkeeping coach, it was Jan Willem that I needed.

***

They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

Van Ede settles into his chair in the FAI press conference room, offers a warm, ‘Hello’ and a wide smile. Straight into the why.

“It’s the same challenge we had 10 or 12 years ago with the Netherlands team and we have only one challenge: qualifying for England next year,” he begins. “We made it with the Netherlands national team for the first time, and we’ll try to do it again. That’s the biggest reason.”

The duo go way back.

“I know Vera very well. We know each other for over 40 years, we were in the same class at school. That’s not so important, we worked very good with each other in the Dutch national team.

“I’m not only a goalkeeping coach, I’m more an assistant coach with a specialty in goalkeeping. That’s the way I want to work, especially in the time that you have ten outfield players and one goalkeeper, that is far behind us.

“We have 11 players and one can use her hands. That’s why I’m working, I’m looking through the whole situation, that’s important with goalkeepers.”

Listening to his beliefs and philosophies is interesting, as he delves deeper into both his playing and coaching careers. Van Ede played at his hometown club, FC Utrecht, for the vast majority of his career. The 56-year-old made over 400 appearances in the Eredivisie there, and remains one of the club’s most-capped players.

dutch-soccer-friendly-atc-65-v-twente-enschede In action for Twente Enschede in 2000. Source: EMPICS Sport

Later, he spent time at PSV, FC Twente, HFC Haarlem and NAC, before returning to Utrecht in a different capacity.

“In 2004 I was the technical manager at Utrecht, and I really had a good contract,” Van Ede explains. “But it was not the way I was I was searching for; I wanted to be more directly on the pitch, working with the football and not only at a desk.

“So I stopped by myself and two weeks after that, Vera called me and said, ‘I know a good job for you… Okay, goalkeeper coach with the women’s team.’ That was a shock because I was not all that involved in women’s football but they convinced me especially about the discipline and the way they wanted to work, it’s really different.

“Playing football is no different and the exercise you are doing is no different but especially how they work for you, that is really great with women. Always going, going, going, and boys they are sometimes a little bit…”

He feigns uninterested in that role play. But Van Ede is more than interested in everything he speaks about. From 2005, he worked as assistant and goalkeeping coach with the Netherlands Women, while he and classmate Pauw led the nation to a first-ever major tournament — and European championship semi-final — in 2009.

That Dutch squad when they came in were at “the same starting point” as Ireland now, “but they developed so great.” Most of that is down to Pauw, Van Ede enthuses. She didn’t just look at the national team, she looked at the bigger picture as the technical director and was central to the growth of women’s football there.

Developing youth ranks, grassroots and accommodating home-based training sessions for peripheral players were all key. On that point, Van Ede refers to Sari van Veenendaal, Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2019 Women’s World Cup as Netherlands reached the final.

“We started with her 12 years ago the same way,” he smiles. “Nobody, including I, ever expected her to be the best goalkeeper but everything is possible, if you do the right thing with the goals.”

The likes of him and Pauw aren’t responsible for that though, he insists. Their job is to give players opportunities to develop, and they go from there themselves.

In terms of Irish goalkeepers, Marie Hourihane has been number one since Emma Byrne — who Van Ede was unfamiliar with when asked — retired. Reading’s Grace Moloney and West Ham youngster Courtney Brosnan have been involved with the squad plenty of late, while some Women’s National League [WNL] shot-stoppers have been in and out.

Several costly errors between the posts are pointed out, but Van Ede accepts that mistakes are part and parcel of it all.

“Mistakes are part of the game, that is not a problem,” he nods. “We cannot create and develop other goalkeepers in a couple of days. You have to look the way you want to want to play and that’s what you discuss with your goalkeepers.

“The goalkeepers in our squad are really experienced and of a certain age. They know what they have to do; change the skills of catching, that you have to take care of the way of playing and mistakes, that is one of the parts of the game, especially for a goalkeeper… if you make mistakes it will be a goal. 

vera-pauw-celebrates-after-the-game Celebrations with Vera Pauw. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We were confident that they are doing a good job in that kind of work, but it takes a longer time probably. We want to form a goalkeeper who is right-footed and left-footed. But we don’t want that from outfield players.

“The standard is much higher for a goalkeeper than it was 1o or 12 years ago and that is what you have to realise. Then you have different goalkeepers of course, the one is a little bit better, or on the line, you have to make a mixture.”

Good feet are key, he stresses, and they’re used most for 90% of the match — but what one does with their hands between the posts generally decides the outcome of said match. 

Manuel Neuer, he reckons, is the best goalkeeper in the world, while his Neuer’s fellow German Marc-André ter Stegen also gets an honourable mention: “In 2009, I was assistant coach of the boys U17s. I had to watch the match Spain against Germany, I saw the goalkeeper, it was amazing.”

Someone else who’s brought up in conversation, not by Van Ede, understandably, is former Netherlands Women manager Arjan van der Laan. While the former remained on board after Pauw’s departure in 2010, Van Ede quit in 2016 due to a difference in view with Van der Laan.

“If you want to work with people together, it’s good to fight with each other,” Van Ede notes, “With respect, one plus one can be three but with Arjan van der Laan, I was always fighting but it leads to nothing.”

A comment from Van Ede blew the whole thing up, he says. He quit and Van der Laan followed suit two months later.

“You can fight with each other but always in a way that contains respect and that’s the way I fight with Vera,” he adds with a grin. The pair worked together at Houston Dash for a few weeks too, but all eyes are on the Girls In Green now.

And the mission they are on in women’s football.

“They have to fight more and more and more,” he continues when asked about the differences. There’s a constant fight for equity, he agrees. A constant point to prove. 

“Especially the younger boys, I was also the assistant coach for the boys U17, U15, U19 and then they all have 14 years and they are playing for Ajax Amsterdam or Feyenoord, then they are going to Manchester City and Manchester United at a very young age. Then it’s really difficult to be strong enough to go.

“That’s why I’m very interested now, the ladies, they always made their decision on becoming better, on training facilities… and also, money is now coming into the women’s world. So I am very curious about how that will develop. From my own experience, the women fight more for their position, and fight more to bring women’s football to a higher level generally as well. 

“It’s really a mission,” he nods. “That’s why we are here, Vera and I and the other staff members. It’s not only the Dutch, the Irish people they are very important to create a situation to qualify for England next year.”

Women’s football is becoming more skilful and tactical, he stresses, and it’s coming closer to the men’s game in that sense. One thing that’s been discussed quite a lot over the past while in terms of comparisons is goal sizes.

jan-willem-van-ede Speaking in the press conference. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Fabio Capello suggested making the goals smaller in women’s football, and that’s something Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has also spoken about. Van Ede will have none of that, though.

“Nah,” he interjects. “Are the tennis pitches smaller?

“Tennis pitches are also the same. It’s just like it is. It’s football, and sometimes it will be played by men, sometimes it will be played by women. It’s the same kind of sport. I also heard [suggestions] that you have to play with 12 or even make [the pitch] smaller… no. It’s football. Also tennis players, they have the same pitch. No, I don’t agree with that.”

Fighting. With respect.

And so, the mission is well and truly on, with the entire focus on qualification for Euro 2021.

A first-ever major tournament. Should the mission fail, and Ireland not qualify, Van Ede doesn’t rule out staying on. Nor departing.

“I have to ask Ruud Dokter,” he concludes with a laugh. “No, no, I don’t know… we’re only working day by day, week by week, match to match.

“We don’t have to think about the German match, the first match is Greece and that’s the only thing we have to worry about. The only thing I have to think about now is the home-based session in 30 minutes.

“Of course, there is a final result you want to achieve; that will be the championship, England, 2021. There’s no better place to play, England… that started football, isn’t it?

“Of course you have that in your mind but the only thing that’s important now is the home match against Greece.”

Thursday, 5 March. 7.15pm. Tallaght Stadium.

Nothing else matters.

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Emma Duffy

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