PSV are one of the three giants of Dutch football. The club was created as one of Philips’ staff works teams, named Philips Sport Vereniging, back in 1913. Seventy-five years later they lifted the European Cup.
Jim Stewart visited the Dutch city to experience an Eredivisie match at the Philips Stadion.
Eindhoven: A modern Dutch city
Eindhoven is a thoroughly modern city. Back in the 1800s, when Amsterdam was already a major European hub, and Rotterdam was on its way to becoming a huge port, Eindhoven was a town of a few thousand people. Then, in 1891, as more industries began to arrive, it truly saw the light. The Philips family founded a light bulb manufacturing company in 1891 and so began a story that would change Eindhoven forever.
You will find out more about the Philips story, and company, at the official museum located in Emmasingel. It takes you on a journey from those early days of light bulbs through the technology that powered our household goods in the fifties, and CD players in the eighties, and is now at the forefront of innovative healthcare.
Its influence on Eindhoven shouldn’t be underestimated. The company saw the importance of a healthy, happy workforce and were at the forefront of providing good accommodation and health care for its employees. Some of its former factory complexes, vacated in the 1990s, have been reborn as Strijp-S, a creative hub for industry as well as a vibrant youthful population.
Historic sights are fairly few and far between but it’s worth taking a look at the twin spires of the impressive 19th Century St Catherine’s Church right in the heart of the centre.
More modern, but even more striking, is the Evoluon. Shaped like a flying saucer, it originally opened as a science museum by, you’ve guessed it, Philips, in 1966 although now it’s an exhibition and conference centre. Meanwhile the Van Abbemuseum first opened in the 1930s and is a renowned contemporary and modern art gallery.
Much of central Eindhoven features more modern designs – most notably the high, grand entrance to the Piazza shopping centre and the nearby ‘Blob’ – now a clothes shop. The city has a seemingly endless number of bars, cafes and restaurants, in the Market Square but most noticeably in Stratumseind, the longest pub street in the country.
Goalless draws can be boring but, for PSV, there was one 0-0 that turned out to be the greatest night in their history: the night they lifted the European Cup.
After Galatasaray and Rapid Wien were beaten, PSV needed the away goals rule to see off Bordeaux in the quarter-finals, and then the mighty Real Madrid over two legs in the semis. In front of 90,000 in the Bernabeu, Edward Linskens scored in a 1-1 draw, and then his side held out at home to make the final.
There they faced Benfica at the old Neckarstadion in Stuttgart. Guus Hiddink’s PSV played out a goalless 90 minutes, then neither side could break the deadlock in extra time and it all went to penalties. There both sides found their scoring boots – Ronald Koeman netting the first for PSV as the first 10 were scored. Anton Janssen added the sixth, and Hans van Breukelen saved Veloso’s kick to win it for PSV. It secured the treble – the Dutch league and cup alongside the European trophy.
It was exactly 75 years earlier that PSV were founded. They soon merged with Philips Elftal, formed three years before who played at the exact spot where the current stadium is located. For those early years only company employees were allowed to play, a rule relaxed in 1928, by which time the club were playing in the highest Dutch league, a position they have held to this day. For many years most of the players were drawn from the Brabant region, and the fans still revel in calling themselves ‘Boeren’ – meaning peasants, related to the rural nature of southern Holland compared to the busy, metropolitan home of their biggest rivals Ajax.
In 1929 PSV won their first Dutch title, achieved after winning their district division and then competing in play-offs. That was the first of numerous national titles: the mid 1970s and late 1980s saw them dominate, with an equally impressive run of eight titles in ten years at the start of the noughties. Only Ajax sit above them in the all-time winners list.
Their European record is also impressive, and they have played in one competition or another since 1974 – it’s 50 years since they’ve finished outside the top five in the league. In 1988 their landed their first continental silverware with the UEFA Cup. Barcelona were beaten in the semi-finals, and Bastia were their opponents in the two-legged final. The opening game in Corsica was goalless, and PSV wrapped up the title with a 3-0 win back at home.
Matchday at PSV
When your city has the longest bar strip in the country, that seems as good a place as any to start a matchday. And so we did. PSV’s was the final match of the weekend, at a civilised time of 4.45pm on a Sunday, so that meant there was plenty of football showing on the TV screens beforehand.
Suitably refreshed we made the 20-minute stroll to the Philip Stadion. The location is excellent, a real city centre spot that most people reach on foot or two wheels. The surrounding streets are relatively peaceful, and then you catch a glimpse of this modern arena.
PSV have played on this patch of land their entire history, at the heart of the Philips neighbourhood. In the forties, stands were built around the entire ground that took on an oval shape, allowing a running track, this was removed in 1958. The stadium you now see began to take shape in the late 1980s when a new south stand was built on two tiers, complete with VIP seats. The three other sides were developed in time for the Euro 2000 tournament when it hosted three group matches – including England’s 3-2 defeat to Portugal. Shortly afterwards the stadium corners were filled in, complete with distinctive curved upper tier exteriors, and the all-seater capacity is now just over 35,000.
Outside the main stand there’s a busy fan zone in full swing, complete with beer and food stalls plus a DJ regaling the supporters with some epic Euro pop numbers, and I suspect a few club anthems too. Across the road is a popular supporters bar, where the more ultra fans appear to gather.
Our seats were located in the upper tier of the South Stand and offered a great view of the whole arena. It’s two tiers all the way round, with corporate boxed in-between, and now the corners are filled in it has a very hemmed-in feel about it – I suspect even more so at night under the lights. There are big screens built into the stand opposite.
And so to the action on the field. After a pulsating countdown the players arrive on the pitch to the strains of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’, for a top Eredivisie clash between PSV and Twente from Enschede.
The home fans were delighted after just nine minutes when, on his first start, Fabio Silva headed home from close range.
Twente were level moments into the second period when Virgil Misidjan’s shot crept in at the far post. The visitors looked like they would go on to grab a second, but it was PSV who regained the advantage with De Jong’s header at the far post. And the points were secured when Simons broke through and held his composure to slot home.
Getting to Eindhoven
Eindhoven Airport has a handful of services from the UK and is located on the edge of the city. From the airport you catch either bus 400 and 401 to Eindhoven city centre.
We made the journey via Eurostar services – boarding at London St Pancras and after stops in Lille and Brussels, alighting at Rotterdam after a three and a half hour journey. From there an Inter City trains run every half hour to Eindhoven, taking one hour. Your train in the Netherlands will cost around £10 each way.
If you prefer to travel more leisurely, cross the sea: you can take the overnight ferry from Harwich in Suffolk to the Hook of Holland. From the port you can walk five minutes to the railway station, where a local commuter train takes 30 minutes into Rotterdam, there you change for the one-hour onward journey to Eindhoven.
Getting to Philips Stadion
Once you’ve arrived in the city it’s easy to find the stadium, one of the more central major arenas in Europe. Exit Eindhoven station south towards the city centre and turn right on the concourse, past the vast bicycle park. Cross the road and continue on the pedestrian 18 Septemberplein past the distinctive Piazza shopping centre. Continue straight ahead on this as it becomes Mathildelaan and you’ll be at the stadium in a little over 10 minutes.
If you’re in the city centre itself, it’s best to head north towards Rechtestraat and Demer, then turn left on 18 Septemberplein for the stadium. It’ll take around 15 minutes.