Sometimes the lower divisions of a country hold little treasures to be discovered; talents to be unearthed. And in Holland, a nation famed for punching above its weight relative to its population on the international scene, this is especially true.
Holland’s Eerste Divisie (First Division) often represents a vital stepping stone and some of the most talented Dutch players of recent times have come through the league: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (2003/04 Eerste Divisie topscorer with AGOVV Apeldoorn), Danny Koevermans (2004/05 topscorer with Sparta Rotterdam) and Keisuke Honda (Player of the Year with VVV Venlo in 2009), are just some of the stars to have burst onto the scene from this league over the past several years.
Inside Futbol takes a look at a group of youngsters born in 1990 who could soon make upward strides in the game:
Patrick N’Koyi (FC Eindhoven – Forward)
Born in Kinshasa on the 1st January 1990, N’Koyi settled in Holland at the age of four, after his family left the former Zaire to escape Mobutu Sese Seko’s oppressive regime. “I could have become a child soldier instead of a footballer if I’d grown up there” said the forward. Luckily for FC Eindhoven, the ball is the only weapon N’Koyi knows how to use. In the 2009/10 campaign, the 20-year-old was the club’s top scorer with 12 goals, helping Eindhoven to transform themselves from the “shame of the Eerste Divisie” – they were so labelled after an 8-0 loss to Dordrecht – into a solid mid-table outfit. With three goals and two assists under his belt from six games this season, N’Koyi, who can play as a striker and classic number 10, could well make 2010/11 his breakthrough season.
Kevin Strootman (Sparta Rotterdam – Midfielder)
A tough tackling midfielder, despite being only 19 years old, Strootman was Sparta Rotterdam’s leader of the pack in their unlucky Eredivise campaign last season. While most of Sparta’s talents abandoned ship after the drop into the Dutch second tier, Strootman remained at Het Kasteel. It would be understandable for the midfielder to harbour a little regret, having missed out on a proposed move to champions FC Twente, but he can be expected to shrug that off. Starting out as a left sided midfielder, it was during the 2009/10 season that he was increasingly deployed in the middle. Strootman has just penned a new deal with Sparta, keeping him at the club until 2012; and it was something he had little doubt about doing. “I owe Sparta a lot, because they invest so much in young players. I will not leave them for free.” The fast improving midfielder can be the man to lead Sparta back to the top flight.
Luis Pedro (Go Ahead Eagles – Winger/Forward)
Born in Luanda to a Portuguese father and an Angola mother, 10 goals and a vital role in Excelsior’s promotion push last season did not prove enough to secure left winger Luis Pedro a new deal at Feyenoord. Having been loaned to Feyenoord’s satellite side in the summer of 2009, Pedro was left to find a new club; that side was Go Ahead Eagles and Pedro joined alongside talented Polish playmaker Michal Janota, another Feyenoord outcast. Go Ahead Eagles, who hail from Deventer and were national champions four times in the 1930s, have not enjoyed top flight football since 1995. Last season the club suffered heartache when losing a promotion/relegation playoff final against Willem II. Pedro and co. aim to put that right this year, and the forward has already notched five goals in six games. The Dutch star could be the catalyst Go Ahead Eagles need to finally clinch promotion.
Serhat Koç (Cambuur Leeuwarden – Forward)
When Groningen sold Swedish striker Marcus Berg to Hamburg in the summer of 2009, they picked up young Koç as a potential replacement. 18 goals for the Dutch forward of Turkish descent for FC Eindhoven in the 2008/09 Eerste Divisie made the Euroborg outfit sit up and take notice. However, someone at Groningen probably made a mistake if they thought that the quick, but small, forward (Koç is only 1.66m) could be the right man to replace the giant (1.84m) Berg. Koç spent most of last season on the bench; now he has been loaned to Stanley Menzo’s Cambuur to start all over again. The move is already proving to be a wise one, and Koç has immediately struck up an understanding with attacking partners Mark de Vries and Reza Ghoochannejad. Koç can play as a winger in a 4-3-3 system, or as a second striker in a 4-4-2; however, the youngster is not powerful enough to play as a Berg-style frontman. Koç surely deserves another shot at the Eredivisie; an impressive display in the Eerste Divisie will ensure he gets it.
Fonte: Inside Futbol