Phillip Cocu: Back At PSV To Knock Ajax Off Their Perch

After six years without an Eredivisie title, PSV Eindhoven hope club legend Phillip Cocu can bring back the glory days.
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After six years without an Eredivisie title, PSV Eindhoven hope club legend Phillip Cocu can bring back the glory days.

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The Eredivisie is prone to duopoly. Whilst Feyenoord have threatened intermittently, PSV and Ajax are perennial competitors for Holland's domestic crown. At present, de Amsterdammers are luxuriating in the glow of a third successive Title, and plotting the next step in their new evolution. The instigator of such success is a remarkable coach, even the most ardent PSV fan must admit; Frank de Boer a lithe manifestation of the proud footballing standards upheld at Ajax. With panache, he has orchestrated a period of success from an inherited mess.

In stark contrast, rivals PSV have chased instant success with expensive, failed recruitment drives and a lineage of unsuccessful managers. As Huub Stevens, Fred Rutten and Dick Advocaat each failed to reclaim the Championship with an increasingly-burdensome group of players, fan dissent has piqued. Many feel that the spiritual connection between club and supporters has been eroded in a barren era; mismanagement from the top creating an unsustainable PSV far removed from the glorious teams of yore.

In essence, as football became younger, PSV only got older, both in the makeup of technical staff and interpretations of how to build a successful team. After another unsuccessful Title challenge, defeat in the KNVB Beker Final, and a whole raft of players set to leave the Philips Stadion this summer, the winds of revolution have at last visited Eindhoven.

The club has promised a revitalised outlook, spearheaded by North Brabant's prodigal son, Phillip Cocu. There are few men who embody the true spirit of PSV Eindhoven better than Cocu, a clean-spirited playmaker who starred in two stints with the club during an illustrious playing career. A mild-mannered central midfielder with a keen eye for spectacular goals, Cocu won four Eredivisie Titles, two Johan Cruijff Shields, and two KNVB Beker's whilst at the club from 1995-98 and again from 2004-07. Also playing for Barcelona and captaining the Dutch National Team with distinction, Cocu ranks amongst the very best; in Eindhoven particularly, he is loved like no other.

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Thus, his appointment as manager on a four-year contract has inspired great excitement in every PSV fan. As he was unveiled at a formal Philips Stadion press conference on Monday, it was clear to see that a new plan has been created in the PSV corridors of power; along with assistant coaches Ernest Faber and Chris van der Weerden, Phillip Cocu has been chosen to make it spring from idealism to reality.

With a glass of champagne perched symbolically on the desk before him, Cocu outlined his vision for the future. "We will build a new PSV," the 42-year-old Eindhoven-native proclaimed. Essentially, Cocu is a figurehead, an icon, of a changing PSV culture; a believable leader urging a change from boom-and-bust to a more economical outlook conducive with sustainable success. As part of his overhaul, the incoming coach aims to modernise the club and make it more sustainable in a rigorous new age of financial fair play. Cocu is a long-termist just when PSV need a long-termist.

The development of youth players forms the very bedrock of this long-term vision. Cocu argues that "the Club needs to invest more to help smooth the path for youngsters to the First Team," an objective which has already been set in place with the hiring of Art Langeler demonstrating the new dedication to youth at PSV. Langeler weaved miracles whilst coach of PEC Zwolle, a club which earned all manner of plaudits for a fluid footballing philosophy whilst defying the odds in a wonderful season. He will work closely with Cocu in delivering a much more productive youth system.

It is a youth system which Cocu knows well, of course. The former PSV captain has worked extensively with the clubs youngsters since 2008, gaining experience as a coach and a clear assessment of the talents available. A further example of the new long-term planning came in his decision not to become Head Coach this time last year. After a period in interim control following the dismissal of Rutten, during which he led PSV to their first trophy in four years, Cocu decided to step back and embark on the final steps in his coaching education. Therefore, it becomes apparent that his ascension to Head Coach has been a carefully-managed operation.

Now that the contract has finally been signed, the press conference has been held, and the moment has arrived, Cocu must get to work on an initial re-build. This summer, swathes of the PSV squad are likely to leave, which, one believes, is just how Phillip wants it: from his perspective, the exit of this underachieving core will allow the smooth progression of a new generation. Cocu, a sharp, intelligent and inspirational figure, hopes to satisfy PSV's intrinsic trophy ambitions in an organic, financially-prudent manner. From an era of famine, he hopes to create a model for future Eindhoven monopoly.

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