It’s a different ball game for Jermaine
By Marcus CavaroliDROGHEDA United’s new Dutch signing Jermaine Sandvliet had to miss out on watching Holland’s Euro 2004 quarter-final against Sweden in order to sample the delights of a goal-less eircom League match in Longford.
The 26-year-old left back travelled with the team to Flancare Park, although he wasn’t eligible to play for his new club as his contract with Dordrecht doesn’t expire until this Wednesday.
It was very much a learning experience for Sandvliet, whose only other encounter with League of Ireland soccer was watching Drogheda’s recent victory over Shamrock Rovers.
Paul Doolin’s connections in Holland led to Sandvliet arriving here on trial around that time, and the player quickly settled in to life at the Mosney training ground.
Speaking to the Drogheda Independent in almost perfect English this week, Sandvliet said: ‘It was a nice experience coming here on trial, the squad were nice, the training was very interesting and I made a good impression, I think, but I had to go back to Holland to discuss things with my seven-year-old daughter and my girlfriend, who is pregnant.
‘My daughter wasn’t happy with me leaving, but my parents and girlfriend are behind me. She is here for three weeks and then going back because she has a good job in Holland.
‘I am signing for one and a half years, until November 2005, and she may consider coming here after that if things go well.
‘I always wanted to play outside of Holland and I had an opportunity to go to Switzerland when my trial here was finished, but I decided I wanted to play for Drogheda.’
Sandvliet joined Dutch First Division side Dordrecht aged 19, initially as a ‘left forward’, but was soon converted into the left-back position and made 201 appearances, scoring seven goals.
However, despite Dordrecht featuring in memorable cup matches against Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, they never went further in the league than the promotion play-offs.
Sandvliet’s desire to leave and further his career was hampered by Dordrecht’s insistence on securing a large transfer fee. That tactic back-fired and he has now departed for nothing at the end of his contract.
So what are Sandvliet’s early impressions of the eircom League and of Ireland in general?
He said: ‘In Holland the ball never goes in the air and it’s more tactical. Here a lot of clubs kick and rush and the game is much quicker, and that’s what I have to get used to.
‘Drogheda can play the Dutch style, but maybe we have to wait until the games calm down after 25 minutes.
‘Dordrecht have big clubs like Feyenoord close by, so they had maybe 1,500 people at home games, although sometimes we played in front of 10,000 away. But I noticed there is a lot more noise from the crowd here, and that’s great.
‘It’s a good season for Drogheda. We’re fourth and I hope we can stay up there until the end of the year.
‘I am nearby to England and Scotland, so I want to improve myself, make a name for myself and get a chance to get into one of the top leagues. But if I am happy here, things are going good and we are playing in Europe, I would like to stay.
‘I am living in the middle of the city [Drogheda!], the people are nice and I’m trying to find my way.’
Sandvliet will be hoping to catch this Wednesday’s Euro 2004 semi-final between Holland and Portugal – if training schedules allow.
‘The timing of the Longford game was really bad,’ he admitted. ‘I wanted to see the match, but I also want to think of my future and succeed here in Ireland, and I can always go to a newspaper and read about Holland.’
Traditionally, players signed from outside the British Isles haven’t made much of an impression with Drogheda United. There were a couple of Brazilians in the 1970s and, more recently, an Albanian centre forward called Gerd Haxhiu, none of whom set the world alight.
However, Doolin is confident in Sandvliet’s ability and hunger to succeed. Now it’s down to the player to prove that his manager’s faith in him was justified.