Let’s go back to the beginning. When Jan Versleijen was looking for an assistant as head coach of Go Ahead Eagles in the early nineties, his eye fell on youth coach Dwight Lodeweges. Versleijen saw a passionate professional and brought him to the technical staff of the first. Thirty years of experience richer is Lodeweges interim union coach of the Dutch national team.
“Thanks to Dwight, we then went on the defensive at Go Ahead,” said the 64-year-old Versleijen. “He learned to defend space. In those days, he was much further ahead than others. His training on positional play was also very strong. That’s what the players said then and now I hear that too”
After a few years as an assistant at Go Ahead, Lodeweges first stood on his own two feet at the Harderwijk amateur club VVOG in 1995. His predecessor was Henk Drost. “I was an interim coach and when it became known that Dwight would succeed me, he came by every Thursday evening to help me”, says Drost.
That Lodeweges was a trainer with potential, Drost knew. “I did the trainer course a year after Dwight had done it and the teacher always said that in last year’s group there was one trainer who stood head and shoulders above it. That he would become a top trainer. That was Dwight.”
“He understands the art to make football easy and trainable”, Drost continues. “He puts players in the right place”, Versleijen knows. “His tactical preparation is excellent, his football knowledge is great and he is very clear, can simply tell you what to do in certain situations”
Two years after he took office, Lodeweges led VVOG to the national Saturday title and took his first steps as head coach in professional football at FC Zwolle and then FC Groningen. There was no real breakthrough as head coach. He became assistant again, until Lodeweges was given a chance in 2009 as an interim trainer of PSV as the successor of Huub Stevens.
That didn’t make PSV any worse, although the damage could not be completely repaired. PSV came fourth. “If we’d played the whole season as we did in those fifteen games, we’d just be champions,” Lodeweges said. “There was also a 6-2 win on Ajax. We wiped them out completely. On flipcharts I set the challenges we still had to face to finish second. We got very close, but we just didn’t make it”
Just back at VVOG
After returning from adventures in his native Canada with FC Edmonton and JEF United in Japan, Lodeweges took some time for reflection. He could even be found on the training field of VVOP from his hometown Voorthuizen to train the A1 and in 2012 he accepted an offer to once again become head coach of VVOG.
The offer came from Henk Drost, then and now in charge of the football business at the club from Harderwijk. “He hadn’t changed anything”, says Drost. “Totally remained himself. No-nonsense. A lover. He liked to stand on the field. He also interfered with the youth. Or we’d watch opponents together. Piece of paper with me. Ten minutes after halftime we left. Not to avoid traffic jams. He’d seen it quickly.”
After the gap year at VVOG, a Frisian period followed at SC Cambuur and sc Heerenveen and with a role behind the scenes at PEC Zwolle, Lodeweges joined the KNVB in 2016. He became national coach of the Dutch Under 20.
For his first internationals, practice matches against the Czech Republic, he called Steven Bergwijn, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek, among others. The men he now also has to teach again. Lodeweges won 4-1 on his debut as national coach in ‘s-Gravenzande on 2 September 2016.
Because Lodeweges could no longer combine his work at Onder 20 with his work as assistant coach at PEC Zwolle and his tasks with the youth of that club, he quit the KNVB at the end of 2017. A few months later, another message came from Zeist.
The new national coach Ronald Koeman asked if Lodeweges wanted to become an assistant. Lodeweges did. The note against Germany in Gelsenkirchen suddenly put the silent assistant in the spotlight. A note with which the Dutch placed themselves in injury time for the final round of the Nations League. It became the Letter of Lodeweges.
For Drost a familiar piece of paper. “I know him only with a piece of paper. Always an A4 folded in four.”
“That note typifies Dwight”, says Versleijen. “He can read a match. A piece of paper changes the whole competition. Simple, fast and clear.”
Friday-evening against Poland, the 62-year old Lodeweges will lead the Dutch Team himself. National coach Lodeweges. “The crown on his work”, said Drost. “He doesn’t have to live up to himself,” says Versleijen. “He already has credit and credibility with the players.”
Versleijen does not exclude that Lodeweges will stay on even longer. “Look at Hansi Flick at Bayern. He’s also very quiet, doesn’t do exciting things and just says what it says. Still, Lodeweges with his football knowledge and personality is more the ideal assistant, I think. He loves training and dealing with players, not everything around it.”