Exclusive Interview: Edward Sturing

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR  ‘'Hi Edward, thanks for taking the time to talk to me at TSF today.  You're back at SBV Vitesse, the club you first came to as a player in 1982, and which you can’t seem to stay away from!”

ES  ‘’That’s true!  My biggest challenge is to get the best out of every young player that we have here at the SBV Vitesse youth academy.  Together with the young players, parents and the school, we are not only training up players but also people who are able to function in a top sporting environment, that is the main challenge.  In the first instance our goal is to get players into the first team of SBV Vitesse and on the other hand you know that will not be possible for all the young players that we have at the club.  For one player maybe he will reach the top in the SBV Vitesse first team and for the other player maybe the top is the Dutch first division or the top in amateur football.  But we are intensive with all our young players, with the whole staff and the entire youth setup in order to get the best out of every young player as a footballer and also to develop as a person.’'

JR  ‘’I really like that philosophy.  Let’s talk about your playing career with De Graafschap, SBV Vitesse and of course, the Dutch national team…”

ES '' Yes, I believe to be a footballer is the best thing there is and a lot nicer than being a manager of working with the youth teams.  To be a footballer and participate in sport is the best thing there is and playing will always be number one for me.  That is how I reflect on my career.  If I look back on my playing career and I look back on the qualities I had as a player I believe I got the maximum out of my career and myself.  It is something that I give to the youth players that it is not only quality you need, but also the mentality and the determination to put everything to one side for football.  That is why you must have passion for the game in order to show your quality as a player, football must be your life and your passion and that is the case for me still today. 

I am passionate about football and I was not a bad player.  I was capped three times by the Dutch national team and I won the Dutch Golden Shoe as a defender which is really unique, especially playing for a club such as SBV Vitesse, it was not as if I was playing for AFC Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV Eindhoven *  

My highlights were of course the sporting successes.  Gaining promotion to the Eredivisie with SBV Vitesse and going on to play European football, and, of course, for me personally being capped by my country was a big highlight.  As a young player you have a dream to represent your country and I played three games for the Dutch national team against Brazil, Italy and Russia.  That is the best thing that you can experience as a professional footballer and it was a supreme highlight.  I am delighted to have achieved it.’’

JR  ''Did you ever receive any advice or encouragement from your mentors before embarking on your own managerial career and was it always your ambition to become a manager?”

ES  ‘’Firstly, I want to make it clear that I learned from every manager that I played under.  I read and see interviews with some footballers who criticize managers, saying that they learned nothing, and then I think that the player was not paying attention because you can also learn from a manager how not to do it something.  If you feel that way and if you believe that a manager is not doing well you must also analyze him and think how would you do it yourself.  You can learn from every manager in that respect.  I also always had exercise material of training and books full from my own active career and books from managers, I have been lucky to have worked under very good managers as a professional footballer. 

I started out under my own youth manager Leo van de Kraats, who is still active here at SBV Vitesse at the age of 75.  He trained me at the age of nine and he is still training the youth here at SBV Vitesse today, Leo was really important for me.  Guus Hiddink was my manager at De Graafschap which was his first managerial job.  Guus was a player of De Graafschap first team and he started out managing the second team of the club.  There’s also Herbert Neumann, Leo Beenhakker and Henk ten Cate, but the man who had the biggest influence for me was Bert Jacobs.  Bert was my manager for a long time and we had a lot of success together at SBV Vitesse, he also managed Sporting de Gijón in Spain and he was very important for me. 

I became a manager by actively training youth players during my playing career because I really enjoyed doing it, Leo Beenhakker was Technical Director at the club and together with Karel Aalbers they asked me to train a team there.  So I studied and got my coaching badges and I retired from playing at the age of 35 in order to become the assistant manager at SBV Vitesse under Artur Jorge.’'

JR  ‘'Tell me more about coaching youth players, particularly the core values and skills required by both the coach and the players.”

ES  ''The biggest difference today is that we have 160 young players in our academy at SBV Vitesse.  They are all talented players but talent is nothing on its own, talent means than you are above average in playing football.  It is not just about being a good footballer it also has to do with if you you want to live as a professional footballer.  It is a way of life and you must put your life at the service of football in terms of nutrition, sleep and rest of it.  All of that has to be given over to the possession of the game.  You have to want to function in a team with one another and also wanting to make other players better and not just concentrating on yourself.

These are the things that will decide if a young player will become a professional footballer.  I played with many good footballers in the past who were a lot better than me but they never became professional footballers because they couldn’t do these things.  I did, so quality is required but it is not the only thing that you need.  It is a combination of things.’'

JR ‘’Edward, I really want to thank you for your time today, your philosophy on youth development is particularly fascinating.  I just wonder if there is a little unfulfilled dream in there somewhere regarding your own aspirations of management?"

ES  ''I know that in football you have to watch out that you do not dream too much.  Football is a hard world and you have to adapt to it.  I enjoy the work that I do here at SBV Vitesse and I enjoy the fact that I can go out there on the pitch and enjoy the game of football.  That is the most important thing for me, that I can go to my work and have a lot of fun and indulge in my big passion every day.  I want to keep doing that for as long as possible.  Some people ask me if I am going to retire at the age of 65 and I respond that I hope just like Dick Advocaat that I can continue being involved and enjoying football for as long as possible. 

Whether that is with the youth teams or the first teams, I don’t mind.  I have managed and coached youth and first teams with a lot of pride and enjoyment but you never know what life will be like in the future.  However, at this moment in time I am fully motivated and I go to SBV Vitesse every day with a sense of fun and enjoyment in the work that I do at the club, for me that is really important.’' 

*  The title Dutch Footballer of the Year has been awarded in the Netherlands since 1984.  The award is determined by a poll of Dutch professional footballers playing in the First (Eredivisie) and Second (Eerste Divisie) leagues.  Until 1997, it was an annual award, afterwards the prize was awarded at the end of the football season. In 2006, the award merged with the annual prize named Golden Boot (Gouden Schoen), awarded since 1982 by the Dutch daily De Telegraaf and the Dutch football magazine Voetbal International.   Source:  Wikipedia


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.