Hein Vanhaezebrouck continues to push in a tender spot at AA Gent: “As a football club, your field is super important, sometimes I have the impression that people don’t see it that way here”

“There is a press release on the site. I don’t have to judge, but I can only say that I had the owner of the field on the phone this morning. It’s not the product; that’s fantastic”, Hein Vanhaezebrouck defended the supplier of the Ghent turf on Friday afternoon. “Incidentally, there are several at the top clubs, some are also fantastic, such as Antwerp – that is English level – but it is also good in Leuven, Club Brugge, Union.”

What causes can be invented to explain the pitiful state of Ghent’s turf: “It’s not the rain, because yes, it rained a lot, but there is also a hybrid field in Oostakker. You can throw tubs of water on it all day long, if the drainage works, that’s no problem. With us, the problem is the top layer, which is a felt layer that holds up all the water. So my vision is confirmed.”

And Vanhaezebrouck had already sufficiently explained this vision earlier: “I have of course already raised this internally. As long as it doesn’t rain too much, it will work, but yesterday we had a setback. If we are going to qualify, we will have to play 90 or 120 minutes in Istanbul and 45 here in Ghent. So then we will have done our best if we qualify for the quarter finals. So you mortgage a quarterfinal.”

“You then also have to wait and see how it will be against Eupen. Then there will be three weeks when more is possible. Maybe the weather will be okay. Maybe then the tide can turn. Otherwise you have a problem. We are a team that needs a good field, not one that can bring power play. We miss Darko (Lemajic, ed.) for that.”

It is clear to Vanhaezebrouck, very high indeed: “We are a professional football team and then football is your core business. Your field is super important for that. Sometimes I have the impression that people don’t see it that way here. I never saw weeds growing on a tennis court at Roland Garros. That field has to be perfect. If you don’t administer the right care, it will be of no use. That is unfortunate.”

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“Then it tickles me”

The club had indeed acknowledged in a press release that the less use of the grow lamps – for financial reasons – had a negative impact on the growth of the grass. A thesis that is emphatically criticized by Vanhaezebrouck. “I defend the club, the team and the players. We want a good mat to achieve good results for the club.”

“We want to reach a quarter-final in Europe, which has not been possible for so long. Then it tickles me. We always claim to be a top club, so I am disappointed to see this. I’m proud of my guests, how they handled it, that’s great. Almost fatal when they are under pressure to do back passes over the ground, although you warn everyone not to do that anymore. But yes, those guys are in that battle. It’s also really in this group.

Suddenly Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s phone rings: “Maybe they’ll call me now to say that I’ve already said enough”, grins the Ghent coach. “No no, that is not the case. You know, it’s not for me to go into this, you should do this. I’m just disappointed. We now have to play three times in seven days, which is obviously tough. Especially since we have to visit Basaksehir again on Wednesday.”

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“Now Zulte Waregem follows first, two days after only 90 minutes of football; of which 45 minutes of slogging. Don’t underestimate this. We have consumed quite a bit but we have to be able to be fit. Then it will soon be Wednesday, with another trip. Afterwards you have the advantage of having an extra day to recover.”

Normally, such a hellish schedule doesn’t deter Vanhaezebrouck in the least: “Either you have enough players with a big engine who can handle that or you have a large group of players so you can make enough changes. Now we are in need of players. Then it is not easy to manage such a calendar. We once finished ten duels in thirty days, that never scares me. Now it is important to get as many guys fit as possible.”

It remains to be seen who will be fit by Sunday with the Buffalos: “We will be able to determine definitively tomorrow who will be fit. There were some problem cases today, like Sven Kums and Malick Fofana. That still remains to be seen. There is also little positive news about the other absences. So it remains to be seen whether we will be able to travel to Zulte Waregem with the same group as on Thursday.”

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