2016/17 Review: Eerste Divisie

One interesting trend from the 2016/17 season involving English players abroad has been the number of English expats competing in the Netherlands this season, particularly in the second tier, known as the Eerste Divisie.

Four Englishmen have also competed in the top-tier, the Eredivisie, this season but this post is going to focus on the second division, especially now as the regular season is over.

The Eerste Divisie finished last Friday and the playoffs for promotion to the top-tier begin tonight. Ten teams in total will compete in the playoffs, eight from the second division and two from the top-tier. The teams finishing 16th and 17th in the top-tier will join in the second round alongside the four highest playoff finishers from the second division. Tonight’s games see the other four sides begin two-legged first round playoff ties. The two winners of the two third round ties later in the month will earn the right to compete in the Eredivisie next season.

There were nine Englishmen who featured in the regular season of the Eerste Divisie in 2016/17, five of which were on loan from English clubs, three from Manchester City and two from Arsenal. There was also a third loaned from Arsenal but he is yet to make an appearance but did feature lower down the pyramid.

Let’s take a look at the nine who featured plus one other… (stats are for league games only)

The NAC Breda Boys

Ashley Smith-Brown

Ashley Smith-Brown. 21. Defender. NAC Breda, on loan from Manchester City. Appearances: 29. Goals: 1
The first of four Englishmen who have featured for NAC Breda so far this season, Ashley Smith-Brown will be starting in the second round of the playoffs alongside his NAC teammates following their fifth place finish this season.

A young left back, the 21-year-old had not played a senior game before agreeing to join NAC on a season-long loan at the start of the season. The former captain of City’s U18s, he has enjoyed a successful first season of senior football, becoming a regular in defence for his adopted club. Only two of his 29 appearances this season have come from the bench and he was subbed off on just three occasions.

An additional bonus for Smith-Brown this season has been scoring his first ever senior goal, which came in only his second appearance for NAC, during a 2-1 away win over Achilles ’29 in August last year. Smith-Brown’s only ever previous goals had come whilst playing for England U19s in the UEFA U19 European Championships in 2015.

Brandon Barker

Brandon Barker. 20. Winger. NAC Breda, on loan from Manchester City. Appearances: 22. Goals: 2
The second City loanee at NAC, Barker had just five senior appearances to his name before joining the Dutch club two games into the season, four of which came in the Championship during a brief loan spell with Rotherham last season.

The England youth international has managed 22 appearances so far this season, sixteen of which were starts. The winger also managed two goals, coming in two home wins.

James Horsfield

James Horsfield. 21. Defender/midfielder. NAC Breda, on loan from Manchester City. Appearances: 16. Goals: 1
The final of Manchester City’s three loanees at NAC, Horsfield joined the Dutch club in January earlier this year. Since the move, he has become a regular in defence for NAC, having originally joined the club as a midfielder.

Horsfield, who had made just three senior appearances before the move during a loan spell with Doncaster Rovers in 2015, has made sixteen appearances since his switch to the Netherlands and also scored in the 2-0 win over Fortuna Sittard back in March. The experience he has gained in the Eerste Divisie will no doubt prove priceless and would have been a significant improvement on how the 21-year-old spent the first half of the season, where he made 12 appearances for Man City’s U23s in Premier League 2.

Fisayo Adarabioyo

Fisayo Adarabioyo. 22. Striker. NAC Breda. Appearances: 12. Goals: 1
The only one of NAC’s four Englishmen not be on loan at the club, although there is still a strong City link with Fisayou Adarabioyo. He spent last season playing for Macclesfield Town in the National League and AFC Flyde in National League North. However this season, the 22-year-old has spent the campaign in the Netherlands’ second division.

Having spent his youth career with the academies of Manchester City, Birmingham, St Johnstone and Crystal Palace, Adarabioyo finally made his senior debut in September 2015 with Macclesfield. Following just three appearances with the Silkmen, he went on to play eight minutes with Flyde later in that year before spending the rest of the 2015/16 season without a club.

Then in August 2016, following a trial with the club, the 22-year-old signed a two-year deal with NAC. Fisayo’s younger brother, Tosin, currently plays for City and has appeared twice for the Citizens in the Champions League this season.

All 12 of Fisayo’s appearances for NAC this year have come from the bench but he did manage one goal during the 4-2 victory over RKC Waalwijk back in September. As well as his 12 appearances, the striker was also an unused sub a further 12 times.

The Permanent Eindhoven Additions

Kyle De Silva

Kyle De Silva. 23. Midfielder. FC Eindhoven. Appearances: 25. Goals: 2
The former Crystal Palace midfielder is one of two Englishmen who joined Eindhoven at the start of the season. The club’s campaign for 2016/17 is now over, after they failed to make the playoffs.

De Silva spent ten years with his local club Crystal Palace, making his senior debut in January 2012. However, he would go on to make only nine more appearances for the club and following a loan spell with Barnet in 2013, the midfielder went two seasons without playing a game following a string of untimely injuries.

In 2015, he joined Notts County but after a season with the Magpies, he had made only six appearances in all competitions. Finally though this season, De Silva is starting to realise some of his potential with Eindhoven.

Having joined the club at the start of the season, the 23-year-old has made 25 appearances for the Dutch side, 17 of which were starts. He has also bagged two goals, his first ever in senior football.

Jonny Rowell

Jonny Rowell. 27. Midfielder. FC Eindhoven. Appearances: 13. Goals: 0
For those who are English players abroad connoisseurs, Jonny Rowell will be a familiar name. The former Hartlepool United midfielder spent five seasons playing in Belgium for Olympic Charleroi and Waasland-Beveren between 2010 and 2015. During that time, he made 89 league appearances, with 47 of those coming in the top-tier with Waasland.

Following a season out, Rowell joined Eindhoven before the start of this season. It has been a slow return to football for the midfielder, having managed just 13 appearances this season, with only nine of those being starts. He was also an usused substitute on a further 16 occasions.

He failed to score this season but did manage to pick up two bookings.

The Arsenal Adventurers 

Tafari Moore

Tafari Moore. 19. Defender. Jong Utrecht, on loan from Arsenal. Appearances: 26. Goals: 0
Like Man City, Arsenal have also sent youngsters to the Netherlands this season, the first of which is Tafari Moore. The 19-year-old full back initially joined Eredivisie side Utrecht two games into the season. However, the young defender has spent almost the entirety of the season with Utrecht’s second team called Jong Utrecht (jong meaning young) in the second tier.

Having previously never made a senior appearance, Moore’s season in the Eerste Divisie can be considered a huge success. He made 26 appearances, 23 of which were starts, for Jong Utrecht becoming a regular in the side’s defence. He also demonstrated excellent discipline, having not picked up single booking all season. He also made one sub appearance for the club’s first team in the Eredivisie back in September.

Moore’s season is now over as his side finished 18th in the second tier but would have been ineligible for the playoffs anyway as he was playing for a reserve side.

Stefan O’Connor

Stefan O’Connor. 20. Defender. MVV Maastricht, on loan from Arsenal. Appearances: 4. Goals: 0
It’s fair to say that Stefan O’Connor’s loan spell to MVV Maastricht was not a success. The young defender managed just four sub appearances all season, with those four appearances totalling less than four minutes as all four came in stoppage time. He was also an unused substitute on 14 occasions.

Having made his first team debut for Arsenal in the Champions League in 2014 and after spending time on loan with York City in 2015/16, more was expected from O’Connor’s loan spell in the Netherlands.

The defender, who has previously featured for England U17s, is now expected to leave the Gunners over the summer, after his loan deal in the Netherlands was cut short.

+

Aaron Eyoma

Aaron Eyoma. 19. Midfielder. Jong Volendam, on loan from Arsenal. Appearances: 6. Goals: 1
The final Arsenal youngster who has spent time in the Netherlands this year is midfielder Aaron Eyoma. Having made just one appearance for Arsenal U23s and one for Arsenal U19s in the first half of the season, the 19-year-old joined Volendam at the end of January.

Now at the end of the regular season, the defender failed to gain any game time with the first team, which finished the season in sixth place in the Eertse Divisie. However, he did make six appearances for the club’s Jong side which play in the country’s fourth tier. This included one start and one goal as Jong Volendam finished the season in 6th place.

The Returner

Andrew Driver

Andrew Driver. 29. Midfielder. De Graafschap. Appearances: 33. Goals: 0
It was a disappointing season all round for Andrew Driver. The oldest player on this list and the only one who played for the club this season who he also played for last season, the 29-year-old midfielder was looking to bounce back following relegation from the top-tier with De Graafschap last season. Despite being a regular in the side, starting all but six league games this season, his side managed to finish only 12th and missed out on the playoffs.

The former Hearts player had previously played abroad for Houston Dynamo, where he made 65 appearances in two seasons with the MLS club between 2013 and 2014. After that, a brief spell with Aberdeen followed before he joined De Graafschap in 2015.

This year, he failed to score in any of his 33 appearances as his side finished disappointingly in midtable.

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