‘Capable of more at home’
It is a deplorable year for northern Dutch soccer. Of the four professional clubs, only sc Heerenveen knows it will also be playing in the premier league next season.
FC Groningen and SC Cambuur have known since two weeks that they will be relegated and also FC Emmen is far from certain of a place at the highest level.
Although there is a glimmer of hope for the Drenten. Emmen are still in the dreaded sixteenth spot, which puts clubs in the playoffs against relegation, but with two games to go they are only one point behind direct rival Excelsior.
No easy matches
A glance at the playing schedule does take away some gripes from those who care about Emmen. Excelsior still plays at home against Fortuna Sittard and away against Volendam, two low ranked opponents. Emmen must visit FC Utrecht in the last game and take on champion Feyenoord this afternoon.
Not easy games, agrees coach Dick Lukkien, who says he is between “hope and fear.” He says he is still confident enough, even against Arne Slot’s well-oiled machine. “We are capable of just a little bit more at home.”
Emmen full of confidence heading into final weeks: ‘We can also make things difficult for Feyenoord’
Lukkien is referring to games against top clubs played at the Oude Meerdijk earlier this season. Emmen managed to win from PSV (1-0) and played a draw against Ajax (3-3). “We get incredible support from the crowd. It’s been that way for years.”
Still, it is the players who ultimately have to do it for Emmen. Captain Jeroen Veldmate is aware of that. “We have to stay together as a group of players and start giving it huge gas. Especially after last week’s slip.”
Emmen then trailed 5-0 before halftime against AZ and eventually lost 5-1. “Too naive,” midfielder Mark Diemers says of that match. And that, according to him, is his team’s story this season. “We are playing good soccer, but have taken too few points.”
Diemers under contract at Feyenoord
Diemers will play this afternoon against the team where he is under contract. After all, Diemers signed a three-year contract with Feyenoord in 2020. First, he says the match does not bring any special feelings to him. “I play against an old club almost every week, haha.”
Moments later, the Leeuwarder admits that it did cross his mind that he could have become champion as a Feyenoord selection member. Diemers says he thoroughly enjoyed the inauguration last week. “When I saw the images from Coolsingel, I got goose bumps,” he said.
With little chance of playing time in Rotterdam at the beginning of the season, he settled down in Emmen. There he is an undisputed base player and by his own admission is having a good season.
He expects that partly because of this, there will be several options at the end of the season. “At home and abroad.” In addition, Diemers has an expiring contract, so clubs do not have to put down a transfer fee for him.
The midfielder, who has scored one league goal so far, does not want to say anything concrete about the continuation of his career. “I’m focused on Emmen,” he said.
‘Never say never’
When asked if he would go with his current coach Lukkien to Groningen, he did not answer in the negative. “Never say never. I haven’t talked to the trainer about it yet. I would rather not play in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie. I might do it because of other reasons, though.”
The 31-year-old talks about his family. He lives in Leeuwarden and then Groningen is close by. “But Cambuur is also close, so is Emmen, so is PEC Zwolle.”
For Veldmate, a move to Groningen is not such a crazy idea either. He knows how to promote to the premier league, because he did that before with Go Ahead Eagles and Emmen, and he played there in youth. In addition, his father Henk will be active at the club again starting next year.
However, the 34-year-old Veldmate does not see such a transfer in front of him right now. “FC Groningen is absolutely out of the question for me at the moment.” However, the native of Groningen does leave the door ajar. “You shouldn’t rule anything out in soccer. Look at Dick Advocaat.”
His trainer Lukkien, of whom it is therefore already certain that he will continue to work in the north, does not want to say anything at all about his new club. “It has to be about Emmen now, which is tough enough.”
Veldmate and Diemers also seem to prefer talking about the upcoming matches. Diemers is pinning his hopes on a lesser day from the Feyenoorders. “Hopefully they partied a little longer than I heard,” he said.
Veldmate assumes the strength of his own team and throws out words that give the Emmen players courage. “Against better opponents we have more opportunities to play soccer again. I feel like surprising.”