PSV suffering after Reker arrival
''A slap in the face of the fans.'' Ger van Os, chairman of the PSV Supporters Club, was livid. With the club's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next year diminishing at an alarmingly early stage in the season, he had every right to be.
His anger however was directed at the last-minute decision for the squad to head south to a training camp in the sun instead of attending the annual New Year's party with the supporters last Friday; and in Brabant, the Dutch region of which Eindhoven is the biggest city, panic only starts when they've run out of beer. So when technical director Jan Reker compromised to organise a meet and greet with the players at the end of the season, peace broke out rather quickly among the faithful.
But not all problems have found such an easy solution at PSV recently. The club has been in turmoil ever since the arrival of Reker in the summer of 2007. It all started well, until PSV were eliminated from the Dutch Cup for fielding an ineligable player in the first round against Heerenveen reserves. Then Reker let trainer Ronald Koeman suddenly leave for Valencia. A nice gesture, but it all blew up in his face when Martin Jol could not come immediately and Huub Stevens was only available at the end of the season. Retired Sef Vergoossen filled the gap and took PSV to an uninspiring title, but Reker admitted he had made a mistake.
This was nothing compared to the can of worms he opened after the title celebrations in May. Apparently part of his assignment was to end the cooperation between Serbian agent Vlado Lemic and technical manager Stan Valckx. The club had suspicions that they took profits from their deals for PSV. When a transfer was made at the club, Lemic would allegedly send a hefty bill to the PSV office, even when no one was aware of his involvement. He reportedly claimed services like 'cooling off the interest of club X in player Y' to keep transfer prices down or making a supposed bid by a foreign club for a PSV-player fade away. Meanwhile Valckx earned five per cent of every outgoing transfer at the club according to findings from an investigation by reporters of the NRC Handelsblad.
As alarming as this may seem, PSV never questioned these sums in the past. There was still plenty of cash to make the treasurer a very happy man and they had built a worldwide network of players and clubs in which PSV had a preferred status. Gomes, Alex, or Peruvian Jefferson Farfan would never have set foot in Eindhoven if Lemic and Valckx had not made it happen.
Lemic made deals with clubs like Chelsea to let Latin-American players stay at PSV before they earned a work permit for the Premiership. The Dutch title holders could reach stages in the Champions League that they had only dreamed about in the past. And with footballing success came the financial rewards. Within a few years the considerable debts of the club had evaporated with the tens of millions that UEFA deposited in their bank account. In the 2007/08 season the club made a profit of almost 30 million euros.
Guus Hiddink, coach in the most successful recent period, understood that people like Lemic are necessary nuisances and accepted that the Serbian was very close to several players at the Herdgang. Some of his Brazilian signings turned out to be a waste of money, but hey, better embrace the devil you know. The current board at PSV did not like these murky dealings though and appointed Jan Reker instead. Lemic and Valckx were sent away, while scout Piet de Visser was so appalled by the situation that he left of his own accord.
In doing so, the club threw their international connections away as well. None of last summer's signings have proved a resounding success, while 'Mr Discipline' Huub Stevens could do with a go-between in his conversations with the Spanish talking players. Several of them have voiced their wishes to leave now Lemic is gone.
Indeed, the internal strife had its repercussions on the pitch during the first half of the season. Too much of the creative play rests on the frail shoulders of injury prone Ibrahim Afellay, while the defence has leaked too many goals, especially in the abysmal Champions League campaign. The strikeforce is made up of Danny Koevermans and Danko Lazovic who have been discarded by AZ and Feyenoord respectively; and after the great goalscoring tradition that PSV had with the likes of Romario, Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy, these two cannot compare.
There will be no European football to look forward to in the coming months, while a defeat in the cup at AZ in Alkmaar only leaves the league to play for. Trailing eight points behind runners-up Ajax makes another Champions League appearance next year extremely unlikely and they have to pick up their game to even manage a place in the UEFA Cup.
A disappointing season on the pitch has not decreased the interest in the club though. On the contrary, the PSV website had more than half a million unique visitors last October. Not surprisingly as the club are cutting edge on the internet and making themselves even more profitable.
They have put all their footage on the net for free and use this to promote subtle commercials. Players can feature in a funny clip about the new shirt or when they pick up their car at a sponsor, which has shown to be more effective then a banner in a corner of the screen. The costs of the website are easily recouped by the increasing sales in the commercial departments the site generates. PSV has even become an appreciated launching customer for new technologies and since the start of the year several clips are shown full-screen with the high-quality WARP-technology. Just take a look at the Vusion demo on www.PSV.nl.
When Reker meets the supporters at the end of the season, he may well be asked why PSV are not showing the same kind of commitment on the pitch.