In the second of the series looking at three players with a common trait, we are going Dutch. There is a very obvious period in our history where we were more than blessed with the odd talented Dutchman and also a few not so talented!
First of all, I’ll get rid of the ones that have no chance of making the shortlist. Bert Konterman, a player once described as “not even the best centre half in his own bedroom”. Signed for over £4m as a current Dutch International centre half, big things were expected. He was comfortable on the ball and decent in the air, in short, he looked the part.
Konterman turned out, for me, to be one of the biggest disappointments of my generation based on what we were expecting when we signed him. He was clumsy, panicky and gave the ball away frequently. He was so poor at the back that he ended up being squeezed into midfield because of his height and physicality, hoping he would be someone that could break play up and give it to the more creative players. But alas, it wasn’t a great experiment except for one blistering moment.
A winning goal v Celtic will always ensure you will remembered by the Ibrox faithful. A 30 yard thunderbolt will ensure you will be remembered for ever! Similar to Jonas Thern who’s Rangers career was way below expectations, Konterman will always be remembered fondly because of the 2002 semi-final strike at a time when Celtic had enjoyed a period of Old Firm dominance. But it’s not enough to make this top three.
Fernando Rickson had a stellar Rangers career bookended with a shaky start and ending with him leaving under a cloud. He was a PFA Player of the Year and is a Rangers Hall of Fame member, he also captained the club winning the League and Scottish Cup twice and League Cup three times in his time at the club.
Signed as a right back, his first two Old Firm games were brutal. Subbed after 21 minutes in one, then sent off before half time in the other. His transformation in form came when he moved into midfield where his energy and combative nature benefitted both him and the team enormously. Ricksen was the right player at the right time for the club but he doesn’t make my top three.
Neither does Peter van Vossen, Ronald Watereuss, Theo Snelders and Frank de Boer (already made the top three Bosman’s and wasn’t at the club long enough for this list).
Pieter Huistra was really close to making my list as he was one of my heroes when I was a kid, almost like an early Peter Lovenkrands he could win a game on his own but he could also be completely anonymous, a poor man’s Laudrup if you like. See, it’s not just a new thing Josh Windass has invented.
A notable mention must also go to Giovanni van Bronkhorst, loved him, a really classy player and complete midfielder. Something you appreciate more now that we really need a player like him. He genuinely had everything. He spent most of his career at Arsenal and Barcelona for goodness sake, oh, and he has 107 caps for the Netherlands. Not bad at all. But again, not quite enough for my list.
Arthur Numan was as good a player as the Scottish game has seen, yes, he had injury problems but as a complete player and for consistency there weren’t many better. He makes my greatest Rangers XI at left back, just ahead of David Robertson. Not only did he have pace, he could he read the game, he was an accomplished passer of the ball and was fantastic going forward. He had been called up to a formidable Dutch team in the late 90’s as a winger at a young age when he was at PSV by none other than Dick Advocaat.
He was just a class act. So much so that he was tasked with mentoring Barry Ferguson in his formative years as a player and during his early stages as Rangers Captain. I still don’t know how we were able to keep a hold of him for so long until he retired, he was playing in a league way below his level. So, he’s my first name, you can maybe work out the other two.
Ronald de Boer, we signed him from Barcelona when he was a current Dutch International. Imagine that, I’ll let that sink in. Some Rangers fans reckon he was the last truly world class player the club will ever sign.
Similar to Arthur Numan he was just a class act. There were players around him that obviously weren’t as good as him and not on the same wavelength but once he adapted, what a player he was. The one player that did click with him was Barry Ferguson. Funny how Fergie found a connection with the truly top class players in the side, almost amongst his brethren, it was the level he belonged at.
De Boer was the perfect link between midfield and attack, he covered the whole attacking half of the pitch and was always, seemingly, available for a pass. He could also finish with both feet and his head, he never looked like a player trying to get the ball onto his “favoured” foot. His passing range is probably what he is best remembered for, Ally McCoist would’ve had a field day with de Boer behind him!
Finally, Michael Mols. You can’t mention his name without mentioning what might’ve been. I’m not saying he is one of the greatest Dutchmen to play for the club because of his contribution and consistency, but because of the moments of genius and flair that he displayed prior to his injury.
He could drop a defender from a standing start, frequently he would turn a player to the extent that their back was turned and he had the freedom of the park. His guile, creativity and speed of movement were matched with his pace, finishing ability and intelligence as a player. How he was at Twente and Utrecht until the age of 28 is bewildering, his talents were more than a match for a higher level.
He was not only a joy to watch but he played with a smile on his face and genuinely seemed to love playing in front of fifty thousand adoring fans every other week. The Champions League was his stage, it was just such a pity we didn’t get to see him on it, at his peak before his injury, more often.
That’s my three, it was closer than I thought it might have been and I’m sure you’ll not all agree. I had my reasons and as I’ve said previously – it’s my ball, my rules!