Sky Bet EFL Q&A: Swansea’s Mike van der Hoorn grew up idolising Jaap Stam and loves cuddling his cats and dog
- Mike van der Hoorn was signed as Swansea’s successor to Ashley Williams
- Unsurprisingly the Dutchman’s defensive partner of choice would be Jaap Stam
- Less obvious is his admission that he is a soft touch away from the pitch
Signed from Ajax in the summer of 2016, Mike van der Hoorn was supposed to be the natural successor to Ashley Williams in the Swansea City back four as the Welsh club continued to entrench itself in the Premier League.
That was until relegation in May when, as he explains in this week’s Sky Bet EFL Q&A, the Holland central defender felt the club’s relegation as sharply as anyone.
At 26, van der Hoorn is hardly a veteran, yet he is now one of Swansea’s senior players as they seek a quick return from the Sky Bet Championship with a side crammed with young talent.
Unsurprisingly, van der Hoorn’s central defensive partner of choice would be countryman Jaap Stam, a player he grew up idolising.
Less obvious is his admission that he is a soft touch away from the pitch.
Mike van der Hoorn was signed as the natural successor to Ashley Williams at Swansea
Describe yourself on the pitch in 3 words.
Committed. Leader. Tough.
Describe yourself off the pitch in 3 words.
The opposite – easy-going. Funny. Honest.
Best moment of your career so far?
My move to the Premier League was the nicest one because I always enjoyed the Premier League when I was young. I was really proud of that. It just happened. Swansea came along early in the summer. I thought about it, made my mind up and just came.
As a boy in Holland, I used to like watching Man Utd and Chelsea, because they had Dutch players as well. Arjen Robben was at Chelsea and you had Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar at United.
The Premier League was always on Dutch television and as a boy, you’d think: ‘I want to go there.’
In the beginning you think it’s going to be hard, but then as you get older, you get to know where your line is and what you want to achieve.
People tell you: ‘You can really do it.’ That was an eye-opener for me, I really worked even harder and then Swansea came by.
The moment that made me think: ‘Yes, I’m here now,’ was probably United away when you walk on that pitch for the first time.
At 26, van der Hoorn is hardly a veteran, yet he is now one of Swansea’s senior players
Who is the hardest opponent you have faced?
Either Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) or (Sergio) Aguero. Zlatan is extremely strong. He’s not predictable at all.
Aguero, because I’m so tall, he’s so quick with his feet and he can turn so quickly, which is hard for me. And he’s in a team which knows how to play with him.
But in every game you play against the best strikers in the world, especially the big six teams. Every week you have to be the best you can be, otherwise you just get punished.
I improved so much playing against them. They play on such a high level that you have to be ready for it. If you can focus the whole game, then you will make less mistakes.
Most embarrassing moment in football?
The relegation with Swansea last year. It’s not nice to witness that. It was the whole thing, everything about relegation. The first weeks after relegation are so hard.
You have to tell everybody you got relegated and it’s not nice to tell somebody that. Or you get messages like: ‘Are you okay?’ You are okay, but still.
You see people looking at you when you are in Swansea. You’re disappointed for the fans. They say: ‘You’ll get back there,’ but you feel so bad for the supporters.
Which song gets you in the mood for a match?
Anything hip-hop, R ‘n’ B, songs with a good vibe, a good beat. It doesn’t really matter which song it is. As long as it’s got a good beat and a good rhythm, then I’ll be ready for the game.
Leroy Fer is in charge of the music in the Swansea dressing room. He’s a very good DJ as well, so you can book him. There are no arguments about who does the music. Leroy’s the man.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I like to have a good hamburger, maybe from Five Guys. I don’t treat myself a lot, just sometimes after a game when I feel like I need some fatty food. I’ll have a hamburger with hand-cut fries, and bacon bits, pickles, everything on top of the burger.
Which player in history would you like to play alongside – and why?
Jaap Stam. He was my idol when I was young and I saw him in the Dutch national team. He was such a hard player and as a striker you didn’t want to mess with him. It wasn’t fun for strikers to have him around.
He was my coach at Ajax as well for two years, which was really good for me.. The first two weeks I was at Ajax, I was thinking about him being my idol and now my coach, but then after a month you get to know him better and you realise he’s just a normal person.
I’m not like him as a defender. You can’t compare people who are different, but still I learned about his preparation for matches, his style, his footwork, how he turned, how he gets the striker in his eyeline and sees the cross coming as well.
That’s what I learned from him, which was really good.
If I was playing alongside him, I would just listen to him and hope for a clean sheet.
Unsurprisingly, van der Hoorn’s central defensive partner of choice would be Jaap Stam
Which famous manager would you have loved to play for – and why?
(Pep) Guardiola. He makes players so much better. Every player at Man City is just getting better and that’s what you want as a player.
I think it’s through a little bit of craziness. He goes so far with what he wants to achieve. It’s mental, how strict he is with the players and the training. It’s repeat, repeat, repeat, even just by saying things.
You look at Raheem Sterling. Nobody ever thought he would be the player he is now because he’s just so versatile. He can play as the No 10, he can play as a striker, he can play as a winger, whereas before you thought he was going to be a winger forever.
He had the ability to do more and Guardiola sees that in players. Also, John Stones and Kyle Walker are getting so much better as defenders as well. They think quicker as well. It’s crazy.
What would you be if you weren’t a footballer?
I would think I would have gone into the marines or the army, so I might be in Afghanistan now. Something in the military. As a boy I thought I’d like to do that, but I liked football more.
I always like going to a shooting range or paintballing and I always play shooting games on the Playstation as well.
Tell us a secret that fans won’t know…
I’m tough on the pitch, but I’m soft at home. I’ve got two cats and a dog – and I treat them with a lot of love, lots of cuddles, so I’m soft in the house, a different person.
How I am on the pitch is just how I am. You want to win and you do everything to get there. Then you’re just a different person at home.
But you see that a lot with athletes and boxers, they are just so different away from the track or the ring, they just switch it on.
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