Steps Up: Marco van Ginkel

The Dutch Eredivisie season reaches its climax on Sunday afternoon when our own Marco van Ginkel will be hoping to help PSV Eindhoven pip Ajax to the title.

The two teams are level on points going into the final game of the season but it is Ajax who lead the way on goal difference. PSV travel to Zwolle while Ajax are at De Graafschap.  

Ahead of the decisive weekend in his native Holland, we caught up with Van Ginkel. The 23-year-old is approaching the end of a thoroughly successful spell at PSV, who he joined on loan at the end of the winter transfer window. He spent the first half of the 2015/16 campaign gaining valuable Premier League experience with Stoke, and, as he explains, it's been an important season in his development…

First of all Marco, how’s everything going in Holland?

It’s all good thanks. I’m close to my family and close to my friends which is always nice. The club is cool with lots of nice people around so I am enjoying it.

At the moment we are level on points with Ajax with one game left. It’s very exciting. Hopefully they drop some points because their goal difference is a bit better.

You played every minute of PSV’s epic Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid, only narrowly losing out on penalties to a team that has now reached the final…

It was a nice experience. I played once in the Champions League for Chelsea, against Basel. These games were the last 16, so big games, and I think we did very well against one of the top teams in Europe. As you can see even now they are still in the tournament and winning games against teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich. We lost on penalties which was obviously a disappointment but in the end we could be proud of how we did.

Normally Chelsea are playing a lot of games in the Champions League and other important games where there is pressure to win so as a young player it was good to play in those big games.

You scored twice last weekend meaning you now have eight goals in 14 games since your move to Holland. What’s been the secret?

At the moment I am playing a little bit further forward than I have played with my previous clubs and I can get in front of the goal more. That’s what I like, to score goals and be important for the team.

And you have taken and scored a couple of high-pressure shoot-out penalties too recently, one for Stoke at Anfield and then against Atletico…

I remember I took one in pre-season for Stoke which I missed so there was a bit of pressure of course in the semi-finals of the League Cup against Liverpool. I took the sixth penalty so if you miss then you know it will be a big mess! But I scored and that was a good feeling.

Then against Atletico I chose to take the first one and I scored again and all the pressure went on to the other players! 

 Van Ginkel and N'Golo Kante vie for possession earlier this season, one of 21 games the Dutchman played for Stoke.

What was your time with Stoke like?

It was good, especially at the beginning when I played a lot. Playing in the Premier League every week makes you really feel how high the levels are.

And in the March internationals you had the chance to play for Holland against England at Wembley too…

I remember the last time I played for Holland was before my knee injury at Chelsea so it was already three years ago. If you play in Holland you’re a little bit more in the picture for the Dutch people and the Dutch coach, and there were some injuries so he picked me and I had some playing time as well. It was nice.

And finally Marco, there was sad news a few days before that game when the great Johan Cruyff passed away. Was he someone you looked up to growing up?

He was one of the most important guys for football in Holland. When he died you could see all over the world people lived with him and his family. I could imagine that but when he died I saw just how important he was for football in general, for the Dutch team and for Barcelona too.

I didn’t see a lot of videos of him playing but I had the chance to meet him. I was named Talent of the Year in Holland in 2013 and every year the winner of that award, called the Johan Cruyff Trophy, gets a ‘Cruyff Court’, a little pitch for kids to play. He opened it with Javier Zanetti and some other important guys in Italy when I was playing for AC Milan.