The following article was recently published in WATP Magazine.
Pieter Huistra spent five successful seasons at Ibrox after completing a 300,000 GBP move from Dutch side FC Twente in August 1990. And he recalled how his move from the Eredivisie side to Ibrox came around in quite unexpected circumstances.
“My agent met with Graeme Souness during the draw for the UEFA Cup. He arranged a trial for me with Rangers on their pre-season camp in Italy. Obviously, this went well and I became a Rangers player.”
Huistra, who is now managing Japanese side Iwaki FC after spells in charge of clubs such as FC Groningen and De Graafschap, explained how he got into coaching and just how much he is enjoying living in Japan.
“At the beginning of my career, I was just focused on improving myself as a player, but as time went on, I realized so much about squad harmony and how the dynamics of a good team can make you successful – that was something else I picked up when I was a Ger. “In terms of the Japanese style of living, it’s very interesting, the society is well organized, the people are very disciplined, the crime levels are very low and the food is great. I am really enjoying life here.
“The standard of football here is good, and I would say it is comparable with the level in the Netherlands and Scotland. The J-league is popular with the fans and it’s well organized.” Huistra went on to explain how he likes his teams to play the game and how he deplores “boring football”.
He said: “I like my teams to be the dominant one within the games. I also like them to create a spectacle that gets the fans talking. Attacking is my only way, and I like my fullbacks to attack. I hate boring football, and to be honest, I would rather win a game 4-3 than 1-0.”
Huistra won countless honours during his time at Ibrox, including five league titles, two League Cup medals and a Scottish Cup. He recalled some of his favourite times during that successful period in his playing career. “I have to say I was lucky to be involved with Rangers during the 90s. It was an exciting time for everyone at the club, right from the top of the club to the fans. There were many high points during my time – the five championships and the prolonged run in the Champions League are the particular memories that stick out.
“My most memorable goal was the goal against Club Brugge in the Champions League. The team played great that night and we got the well-deserved victory.
“In my period there were many great internationals, but the best player I have to say I played with is Brian Laudrup – he was an outstanding footballer and he had the best time of his career at Rangers, after facing difficult times in Germany and Italy.”
Rangers’ greatest victory in the last four years was, without doubt, the 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory over Celtic in April. Huistra took in the match with his great friend and he was absolutely thrilled to see his old club come out on top and reach the Scottish Cup final.
“I watched the semi-final against Celtic in Koriyama, Japan, together with a big blue nose Roy Cameron. He has been living in Japan for 13 years and has not missed a game. Given the time difference, it’s some achievement.
“He also organized Rangers Football clinics for young kids in the Fukushima region. The semi-final was very exciting with a deserved winner. I was impressed with the spirit of the whole team. It was a big team effort. The only had one thing in mind: go to the final.
The former winger believes that Rangers can challenge for the title, especially as they have been able to attract two big name players that used to ply their trade in the English Premier League.
“Everything is possible for Rangers this season. Celtic will have to get used to having a serious challenge put upon them for the title – something that they haven’t been used to for four years.
“However, it will come down to consistency and it will all be about beating the smaller teams week in week out, that’s what wins you championships. It’s good to see that they are going with the right formula of adding experience to the young players that they have and they will be trying to get a good mix.
“Kranjcar and Barton will be good signings if they are ready for the battle. But I also believe their quality and experience will be valuable.”
Huistra has praised the support for sticking with the club during the troublesome four years and he thinks the club will be competing in Europe once again in the not-too-distant future.
“In the beginning I was shocked to see the club in League 2. But at the same time, I was impressed with the fact that the fans kept coming to support the team. If the directors can solve the financial problems in a way that benefits the club going forward, they will be able to concentrate and build towards playing European football again.
“I am sure the club will keep on emerging through these times and will come back stronger than ever.”