AZ Alkmaar is a professional soccer team in the Netherlands that plays in the Eredivisie league. The team plays their home game at the AFAS Stadion.
Founded in the year 1967, AZ Alkmaar is a relatively new team. Their trophy cabinet comprises of 2 Eredivisie titles, 4 KNVB Cups, and 1 Johan Cruyff Shield. Alkmaar won their first-ever league title in the 19980-81 season. They finished first, winning 27 of their 34 matches and losing only once. They scored a total of 101 goals during the campaign.
Like any club, AZ’s history is filled with various achievements and setbacks. Keep reading the article to learn more about the club.
|May 10, 1967
The Foundation Of AZ Alkmaar
AZ Alkmaar’s history could be traced back either to 1910 or 1954. Today, the club we know was formed on May 10, 1967, as a merger between Alkmaar 54 and FC Zaanstreek.
FC Zaanstreek was the older club formed in 1910. They were previously named Kooger (KFC) and had a decent history of their own. They finished as runners-up to Ajax in the national cup in 1934. In 1955, KFC became a recognizable soccer organization. Alkmaar 54, as the name signifies, was formed in 1954 and developed a loyal fanbase quickly.
In 1955, the merging of the KNVB and the NBVB led to professional soccer formation in the Netherlands. But the money received from the participation was insufficient for the teams. They had to find ways to fund themselves to continue their involvement. Alkmaar 54 and FC Zaanstreek were no exception. They needed a solution fast.
Alkmaar 54 had a greater fanbase while FC Zaanstreek players were the best. The most practical solution was to merge both teams. More support would mean better revenue. It would certainly help the team survive a hard time. On July 1, 1967, AZ ’67 came into formation.
The Molenaar and the Scheringa era were the most successful period in the history of AZ Alkmaar. Let’s dive right into what happened during that time.
The Era Of Molenaar Brothers
The arrival of foreign players resulted in a large number of debts. To fix things, the Molenaar brothers invested heavily into the Holland-based side. The results were immediate as Alkmaar climbed the ladder of success in no time. The team would regularly participate in European soccer.
The four years from 1978 to 1982 under George Kessler is considered one of the best periods in AZ Alkmaar’s history. The Dutch team won 3 KNVB Cups during his reign. But, the much-desired Eredivisie title was still missing.
Alkmaar narrowly lost the league on four occasions. The fifth was the right one, though. In 1981, the Dutch side was crowned champions of the Netherlands. In a season of 34 games, they won 27 and scored a record 101 goals. That season also saw Alkmaar reach the UEFA Cup final, which they lost to Ipswich Town on aggregate (5-4). They ended up winning the KNVB Cup, completing a triumphant double. In the final, they defeated Ajax by 3-1.
A Transition Period With Many Setbacks
In 1979, Cees Molenaar, one of the owners of AZ Alkmaar, passed away. Within six years, the other brother, Klass Molenaar, left his role as the club owner. So from 1985 onwards, there was a deterioration of the club’s domestic and European form as AZ Alkmaar was continually finishing in the mid-table positions.
Many fans stated that they must recall George Kessler to stabilize things in the Dutch club. However, the club owners refused the idea. In 1988, AZ Alkmaar got relegated, culminating a dreadful period for the club that won the league just seven years earlier. The years that followed were perhaps the worst in the club’s history as they did not gain access to top-flight soccer for around a decade.
The Arrival Of Dirk Scheringa
In 1993, Dirk Scheringa arrived at the club as chairman. The owner of the DSB Bank had a big vision for the club. His goal was to bring back the glory days of Alkmaar. For that to happen, they needed a fresh start. He invested wisely in the team, which allowed them to move forward. With Willem van Hanegem’s appointment as coach, Alkmaar won promotion back to the Eredivisie in 1998.
They continued to finish mid-table in the first division before finishing third in 2005. It was their best league finish since their title-winning campaign in 1981. Legendary coach Louis van Gaal was appointed as manager in 2005. The performance of the club started to get better.
The 2004-05 season was particular because Alkmaar reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals only to lose to Sporting Lisbon. They overturned a 2-1 away goal deficit by winning 3-2 at home. Unfortunately, they were knocked out on the away goal rule.
In 2006, AZ Alkmaar moved to the new 17,000 capacity stadium. The AZ Stadion is considered the epitome of the “Scheringa era.” The team could not win the title despite playing well for the entire 2006-07 campaign. Ajax, AZ Alkmaar and PSV were joint-top of the league going into Gameweek 34. However, AZ Alkmaar lost to Excelsior. Despite losing out narrowly to PSV in the title race, Scheringa said that it was a magnificent season that bodes well for AZ Alkmaar’s future.
AZ Alkmaar missed out on the KNVB Cup on penalties to Ajax. They also lost to Ajax in the Champions League play-offs. Many integral players within the team left after this disappointing run of results. In 2007-08, the club finished 11th in the title race losing 13 of their 34 matches. The future started to look tough for the Dutch side.
Furthermore, they crashed out in the initial rounds of the KNVB Cup and the Europa League. After a string of poor results, AZ manager Louis Van Gaal expressed his desire to leave the club. However, he reversed his decision by looking into the AZ Alkmaar fans’ protest against the board.
Everyone thought that AZ Alkmaar would have a poor 2008-09 campaign because of their problems on and off the field. It looked to be true as the team lost the first couple of matches. However, things took a dramatic turn afterwards.
AZ Alkmaar went on an unbelievable 28-match unbeaten streak. Out of those 28 matches, they also kept 11 consecutive league clean sheets. This turn of events was so impressive that they secured their second league title.
This Dutch title confirmed AZ Alkmaar’s ticket to the UEFA Champions League. It was their first-ever entrance into the prestigious competition. However, following some poor results in the group stage, they finished bottom.
Managerial Transitions At AZ Alkmaar
In June 2009, Ronald Koeman took over as the AZ Alkmaar manager. He replaced Louis van Gaal who joined Bayern Munich. However, his managerial reign would last only for 16 games. He was sacked in December 2009 after suffering seven league defeats.
The fall of 2009 was also significant because of the financial worries Scheringa suffered due to bankruptcy. He had to let go of AZ and left the club, bringing an end to the glorious Scheringa era.
That was sure to leave a sporting impact on the club. After Koeman, Dick Advocaat became the club’s interim manager. Advocaat stabilized things, and Alkmaar managed to qualify for the next season Europa League.
During the 2010-11 season, AZ Alkmaar finished 4th under Gertjan Verbeek. It allowed them to secure their Europa League spot. They could not make it through the Europa League’s group stages after finishing 3rd in their group. In the domestic cup competitions, they lost to Ajax in the KNVB quarter-finals.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Alkmaar performed better in the KNVB Cup. They reached the semi-finals before losing to Heracles. They also managed to get to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Valencia eventually knocked them out on aggregate (2-5).
The 2012-13 season was a disappointing domestic season for the club. They finished tenth in the league, six spots lower than their previous two campaigns. However, they won the KNVB Cup, beating PSV 2-1. It allowed them to secured a place in the Europa League group stages despite a poor domestic league campaign.
In a strange turn of events, Gertjan Verbeek got sacked 24 hours after this famous win. Dick Advocaat replaced him. That move looked a positive one as AZ Alkmaar reached the Europa League’s last-eight and the KNVB Cup’s semi-finals. They could emulate that form in the league and finished in 8th place.
AZ Alkmaar And The Future
In June 2014, former Ajax player Marco van Besten became Alkmaar manager. However, he could only last for three games. Alex Pastoor got appointed as interim. However, Pastoor could not make it to the club for long enough as the contract negotiations failed. John van den Brom eventually replaced him.
Under a new manager, AZ Alkmaar finished third in the 2014-15 campaign. In 2015-16, AZ Alkmaar made it to another KVNB semi-final, losing to Feyenoord. They could not do anything constructive in the Europa League that season as they finished last of their group. As the club was not making any European breakthrough consistently, their top players started leaving the club.
Despite the departure of several key players, AZ Alkmaar is still performing at the top level. The 2019-20 Eredivise campaign was abandoned due to the Covid-19 outbreak. After 25 games, Ajax and AZ Alkmaar were joint leaders with 56 points.
In the 2020-21 Europa League group stage, AZ finished third and failed to qualify for the knock-out stages. In the 2020-21 Eredivisie league, they hope to finish in the top three to access next-season European competitions.
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