Theo Ten Caat: Eredivisie memories and battling Van Basten

You retired from professional football in 2002. How are you enjoying retirement and how is life for you these days?

When you retire from professional football you remember when you started out playing football and that it is a hobby that you enjoy and that you have fun in doing and then it appears that you are talented enough to embark on a professional career of 18 years with certain clubs.

Football is a world that is emotional and trying to get the maximum out of yourself everyday and where there is a lot of camaraderie because you are all working for the same goal and that is to keep improving everyday and eventually to win games and that ensures that you have a certain relationship with players and managers and in 2002 when I became too old to play professional football.

I had to admit that I have a long professional career at great clubs and I have great memories. I played great games and you have to accept that your playing career is over and that is not easy because you also have to deal with a mental switch because football remains in your system because you have done something for 20 years and it’s not easy to let go and that was difficult ”

You played three seasons for FC Groningen. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

Yes, FC Groningen are a great club and we had a really good team and we had a great composition of squad with good players. There was no Bosman ruling at that time and there were a few foreign players and the rest were Dutch players. I had three great years at the club and a great manager in Hans Westerhof.

We also played European football in which we played the likes of Atlético Madrid,VfB Stuttgart and Partizan Belgrade and we did and played well to Europe especially for the standards of a club such as FC Groningen. We also played well in the Eredivisie we played the 1989 Dutch Cup Final v PSV Eindhoven.

In my last season which was my best season at the club in my opinion we had a great chance to win the Eredivisie and we just come up short and I remember a key game against Willem II and our squad was not as big as an Ajax, PSV Eindhoven or Feyenoord and PSV were are main competitor in the Eredivisie that season. I had three fantastic years at FC Groningen and I made a lot of friends and I have many sporting highlights and playing in the Stadion Oosterpark which is a jewel of a stadium was very special and the supporters were fantastic. I really enjoyed the privilege of playing for FC Groningen for three seasons.

You came through the youth setup and debuted for FC Twente and then had a second spell at the club during your professional career. How do you look back on your time at the club and what does the club mean to you?

FC Twente means a lot to me. I am a supporter of the club. The youth setup in my day at the start of the eighties was the first and second teams. I played three years in the amateur league for Hoogeveen and I was scouted and I signed for FC Twente at a young age and I learned a lot and after three years at the club my contract was coming to an end and we could not reach an agreement regarding an extension and I made a decision to leave the club to go to SC Veendam and I then returned to the club in 1996 at the age of 31 years old and I played for the club for another four years and I had four great years where we played European football and we played well in the league.

We had a good squad of players and we were in and around the top of the Eredivisie. The red colours of FC Twente are deeply rooted in my veins and I still watch the club now and again and I play in the veteran team of the club. I have a fantastic relationship with the people and the club of FC Twente.

You accrued a lot of experience at club level during your professional career. When you look back could you say who are among the best players you played alongside?

Yes, It is always difficult to say because a player is in a certain period of their career. When I arrived at FC Twente I was a young player and I looked up to Jan Sørensen because he was a fantastic footballer as was Gordon Hill. When you become older you realize that you have the same level at such an age. If you look at players of 30 years of age you think they are fantastic but when you reach 30 yourself you realize that you have the same quality Jan Sørensen was among the best players I played with as was Milko Djurovski, Jim Bell and Alex McLeish at Aberdeen FC and Alex was a wonderful defender who won a European Cup with Aberdeen and won over 50 caps for Scotland.

“File:FC Amsterdam tegen FC Twente 0-1 Epi Drost (r) onderschept schot Tjeerd Koopman, Bestanddeelnr 928-9703.jpg” by Rob Bogaerts / Anefo is marked with CC0 1.0

Epi Drost was an icon of FC Twente and we were good friends. My massive camarad Patrick Bos who died at a young age and we started out at FC Twente together and I think about these people a lot and the great friendships I have made in football stay with you for the rest of your life and when you think about the special memories it brings a smile to your face when you reflect on your career.

I can imagine in your position as a striker that you came up against many difficult opponents. When you look back could you say which opponents stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?

“Ronaldo statue” by BadSwan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In terms of opponents. I played against the Brazilians Ronaldo and Romário at PSV Eindhoven and they are a great club who also won the European Cup in 1988. I played with Hans Gillhaus who was an important part of that team and he was an excellent player who I also played against.

If you face a trio of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Gerald Vanenburg you know that it is going to be a very tough afternoon and if Dick Schoenaker also plays that makes it even more difficult and it was often a combination of players of Ajax and Feyenoord too. Ruud Gullit could decide games on his own. I was fortunate to face many good opponents during my playing career.

“File:Selectie Nederlands elftal in Zeist Ruud Gullit , kop, Bestanddeelnr 934-2142.jpg” by Rob Croes / Anefo is marked with CC0 1.0

Finally Theo. When you look back could you say who were the coaches and managers who meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?

In the first instance I would say Fritz Korbach because he brought me to FC and taught me a lot and we got on really well. He was a no nonsense manager and you could also joke with him but the moment we had to perform you must not have come with excuses because he would then be hard on you and I learned a lot from him. I also learned a lot from Hans Westerhof, especially the tactical elements of football and learning how to read football.

Alex Smith at Aberdeen FC was a really important person for me when I went from FC Groningen to Aberdeen FC and I arrived in a different culture and football culture and he was a real people person and we also got on really well together and he taught me about Scottish football and it is just a shame that I only got to work with him for one season.

Under Hans Meyer at FC Twente I got to learn about the political side of football and that it is not always about the truth in football but sometimes also the business side of it and he was a master in manipulating people to do certain things which is not my style.

I do not play people off each other and Hans Meijer did it well and had a lot of success with it in the Netherlands with FC Twente and also in Germany with Borussia Mönchengladbach too, you don’t have to agree, you experience it, you see it, you pick it up in your system and you analyze and learn apart from that Hans Meyer not a direct manager is that fits with you but that does not always need to be there are many players who do you fit with you as a teammate.

You still learn from them because it is not just the way in which you think and play and see the game that is the key to success, no there are more facets of football that you need and all the other things belong to that not just only needing a good left footballer you also need players that are rock hard and that are capable of kicking a player off the pitch and you also need managers who at the expense of everything regardless of the person dare to take decisions that supporters are maybe not accustomed too but that are necessary at that moment and you must also analyze football like that. It’s about a lot of money and you must use everything that you have experienced and use everything that you have learned and you must never betray your own qualities and if you have created your own vision of football, you must never betray it.

You can always think back to people who did things differently and reacted and took decisions and you can always think if you should or could do things in such a way but if you think about a lot of things in football you become a better manager and I will never forget managers such as Fritz Korbach, Hans Meyer and Hans Westerhof.

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