‘Ready for a new adventure’ – Dutch boss Maurice Steijn on continued Ipswich Town links
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Maurice Steijn, the hottest property in Dutch football management, says he is ready for the challenge of plying his trade in England.
The 44-year-old, who was first linked to Ipswich Town this time last year, has seen his stock rise considerably over the last 12 months and made it clear he is now seeking a ‘new adventure’.
And now the stars could align for a move to Portman Road given the recent announcement that Mick McCarthy will be leaving the Blues when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Steijn guided unfashionable VVV Venlo to an unlikely second-tier title after a three-year build, then comfortably kept them in the Eredivisie on a shoestring budget.
Top-half trio Utrecht, Vitesse and Heerenveen are all reportedly ready to make a move for a man whose success has been built around man-management, astute recruitment and youth development.
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“The board wish me the best because over the last two years there have been several clubs who have wanted me, but I have always stayed at Venlo because we have been working on a plan and a project,” said Steijn, speaking to the EADT and Ipswich Star.
“I have loved my time here and feel proud of what we have built together, but when you have been somewhere for four years as a manager then maybe it is a good time go – both for the club and for me. Maybe we are both ready for a new adventure.
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“For now though I am fully focused on finishing as high up the table as possible and making as good a team as possible here for next season. That is very important to me.”
Currently 13/1 to be next Town manager among some bookmakers, Steijn was quizzed about the speculation.
“As I said to you this time last year, I really don’t know where the Ipswich talk came from,” he said. “No-one from the club has called me or my agent.
“Ipswich is a very nice club and a very famous club in Holland because of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren and what they achieved under Sir Bobby Robson.
“But I have to be careful what I say. Every week I am asked about clubs. I respectfully said ‘Vitesse is a nice club’ when someone asked me about them, for example, and then all the newspapers and websites say ‘Maurice Steijn wants the Vitesse job’.
“All I can say is that managing in another country is a challenge I would relish. I would like to see if my behaviour and way of working would have the same outcome.
“What club I go to depends on what sort of plans they have for the future. When I came to Venlo they had a very clear plan.
“For me it will be important to go to a club that will let me work my way.”
Former Swansea City investor John van Zweden recently tweeted a picture of himself with Steijn, saying: “Probably the best manager in Holland and a good friend. Hopefully there will be a great club for you next season mate. @Official_ITFC get him.”
A midfielder who played in the top two tiers of Dutch football with ADO den Haag and NAC Breda, Steijn moved into coaching after a knee injury ended his career age 27. He worked his way from youth to first team boss at his hometown club of ADO den Haag, managing them in the Europa League qualifying stages and overseeing top-flight finishes of 15th and ninth.
Along the way he uncovered several hidden gems who have gone on to become senior internationals. The best example is forward Jens Toornstra, who was signed from an amateur side in the seventh tier. Moves to Utrecht and Feyenoord followed, with the 28-year-old now having four Dutch caps to his name. Defender Kenneth Omeruo was loaned from Chelsea as a teenager and has since gone on to become a key man for Nigeria.
Steijn was controversially sacked by ADO den Haag in February 2014 after a downturn in results and his remarkable journey at Venlo started in June that year. Second-tier finishes of seventh and second were followed by a title-winning campaign.
Reflecting on this season’s underdog success, last weekend’s goalless home draw with Twente confirming Eredivisie safety with five games to play, he said: “We have been the surprise of the season because everybody in Holland thought we were going straight down. We’ve had the lowest budget, only 20 contracted players and very little top-fight experience.
“I only added two players to my championship winning side – a German goalkeeper and a German striker – and everybody said it would be impossible to stick with the same team. But I gave them confidence and said to them ‘we can do it together’.
“I am used to working with the lowest budgets. I don’t like it when I see managers constantly saying ‘we need to buy better players’. For me, the most important thing in my job is to make the players you have better players and to make a team.”