‘I’m about to light up a cigar’
Party, a wild night, smoking a Cuban cigar. By now the powder camps – for a while, because Sunday is the inauguration – will have descended in Almelo. Heracles crowned themselves – after being unexpectedly relegated last season – champions of the first division after victory over Jong Ajax (2-0).
And few had predicted that, over a month back. Indeed: after the loss against De Graafschap (5-3), promotion even seemed uncertain for a moment. “Before the first training session after that, I called the boys together,” Heracles coach John Lammers looks back, while stroking the necessary beer out of his hair.
The proud coach refused to go along with the dejection. “If we win six games, we will be champions. We have to believe in that,” he said at the time.
Saturday that happened. PEC Zwolle – which let the championship slip out of its hands this month after an away defeat to Jong PSV – was defeated on goal difference. “I came here to get promoted. If you then become champion in the last round of games, that’s fantastic.”
“We have guys who know what it’s about and who had a crappy year last year. Then the self-confidence is gone for a while and you have to work on that.”
Justin Hoogma, captain of the Heracles, was one of those players last year. He had to be comforted when the Almeloans were relegated. “That hurt. But with everyone here this season, you felt from day one that we were going to put up something great.”
“I think we haven’t had an easy season. Often it wasn’t very good, including tonight. But if you’re on top at the end of the streak, you’re also doing something good. A league lasts a long time, so then you just earned it.”
Lucas Schoofs, one of the standouts in midfield this season, also sees the contrast with last season. “It’s a shame what happened last year, but maybe it’s also good for the club. It shook things up. We can now continue in this positive flow.”
“Soon I will go home, how I don’t know. But it will be a fun and wild night. Let’s see if we know anything about it tomorrow,” said the 26-year-old Belgian.
His coach, Lammers, thought the same thing. “Normally I close down, but that doesn’t happen now I think. They are a little younger, fresher than me.”
“With Hendrie Krüzen (assistant coach) I’m going to smoke a nice cigar. At such a moment you can let everything pass in review, it is still unreal now. This is special. I want to enjoy that,” Lammers concluded.