Name: Ronald Katarina Martinus Waterreus
DOB: 25 August 1970 (age 43)
POB: Lemiers, Netherlands
Clubs: Roda JC, PSV, Manchester City, Rangers, AZ, New York Red Bulls
International caps: 7
Dependable wherever he went, Ronald Waterreus may never have risen to the heights of his fellow emerging countrymen, Edwin van der Saar, though he did enjoy a glittering 10 year career with PSV Eindhoven before arriving in Glasgow in January 2005. Initially signed as a stop gap veteran, Waterreus was able to play his part in one of the biggest days in modern Rangers’ history.
The goalkeeper started at Roda JC after coming through the club’s youth ranks. Despite turning only 19 in the opening month of the 1992/93 season he soon found himself with the gloves and his fine performances kept them in his possession for two straight years. In the second campaign Roda roared up the table to challenge for a European spot. Their dreams of an unlikely UEFA Cup appearance would fall short by a single point, but the increased attention to their play brought suitors for the youthful shot-stopper. Roda may have finished sixth, but they had the fourth best defence out of 18 teams and many credited Waterreus as a key component of that success. In the end it was PSV who won the rights to sign him, securing him for the beginning of 1994/95.
He arrived at the same time as Stanley Menzo. The 30-year old Dutch international had played nine years in goal for Ajax, helping them to win the league title, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup, before losing his job to an emerging Edwin van der Saar. His experience was supposed to give him the edge over Wattereus who was viewed more as a project for the future. Instead it would be the youngster who won the job and relegated Menzo to the role of back-up. The veteran would play only 10 times over the next two years before giving up and leaving to find first team football elsewhere.
PSV were slowly getting themselves together though things would not take off until Dick Advocaat arrived. The former national team coach encouraged the development of his younger players, most notably Waterreus and Boudewijn Zenden, while also making some shrewd purchases in the transfer market, including Jaap Stam, Phillip Cocu, Wim Jonk and Luc Nilis. It culminated in the 1996/97 League Championship victory, with Waterreus conceding only 26 goals in 34 games during the triumphant campaign.
Unfortunately the team was broken up after the failure to clinch a second successive title and Advocaat decide to leave to take the vacant manager’s job at Rangers. They did remain in the Champions League places thanks to the goals of their new signing, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and were able to take the title at a canter the following term. This achievement occurred despite van Nistelrooy wrecking his cruciate ligament, postponing a move to Old Trafford in the process, and playing only 23 games. The prolific marksman was sold once he was fit but the team didn’t miss a beat the following year when Mateja Kezman took up the goalscorer duties with great gusto and a second consecutive title was secured. It was back to the runners-up the next campaign before a swift return to the top when Guus Hiddink stepped in at the start of the 2002/03.
Throughout all of this change Waterreus remained a constant in the team and even earned a call-up to the Dutch squad in 2001, making his debut as a second half substitute coming on for van der Saar in a 2-0 win over England at Wembley. In the end he would make only seven appearances for his country, never able to overthrow the Juventus and future Manchester United stopper.
The 2003 triumph was to be his last title at PSV. Out of contract at the end of the campaign the 33-year old, having been at the club for ten years, left in search of a new challenge. England was to be his destination with Manchester City, but instead of competing for the goalkeeping gloves he found himself to be nothing more than an overpaid back-up thrown into an occasional League Cup game as a courtesy.
Meanwhile, up in Scotland, Rangers keeper Stefan Klos had just made it six consecutive years as the undoubted number one at Ibrox when a cruciate knee ligament injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season. With his side embroiled in a tense title race and a League Cup semi-final with Dundee United coming up, Alex McLeish scrambled around for a temporary solution. Looking down south, he convinced Manchester City to part company with their deputy and signed the veteran on an 18 month deal. The transfer might not have transpired were it not for a innocuous loan move for deputy Allan McGregor earlier in the season. The 23-year old looked confident in a 3-0 win over Livingston the Saturday prior to the semi, but a temporary switch to Livingston precluded him from selection. Instead of quickening his development, the loan move may have knocked the future Scotland stopper back a couple of years.
Regardless, Waterreus was in and immediately made his debut against United, though his impact was minimal with Rangers running out 7-1 winners. Coincidentally, his first game for Manchester City (v Barnsley) had also finished 7-1. And, just to take that coincidence even further, Dundee United keeper Nick Colgan had also featured in the Barnsley game. Waterreus really made an impression on the Rangers support, and the rest of Scottish football, after making his first appearance in an Old Firm derby at Celtic Park. McLeish’s men had endured a dismal record at the home of their rivals over the previous few years but left 2-0 winners after goals from Gregory Vignal and Nacho Novo, with Waterreus being the real hero. The recent signing denied the hosts on three occasions, including an incredible block from John Hartson when the striker seemed certain to score. It would later prove to be a real sliding doors moment in the 2004/05 season. Vignal scored five minutes later and it would be Rangers, and not Celtic, who took a three point lead in the title race.
His good form continued and he earned further praise for a terrific stop from Saulius Mikoliunas in a 2-1 win at Hearts – a game made famous for Andy Davis’s phantom penalty decision and Mikoliunas’s chest bump – that would push Rangers six points clear in the title race, although Celtic held two games in hand. Instead of using the lucky escape as a wake-up call they allowed Inverness to turn up at Ibrox the following Saturday and leave with a point, immediately handing the initiative back to Celtic in the title race. The Hoops won their games in hand to go top before immediately relinquishing the lead once more with a 2-0 defeat at home to Hearts. Rangers, however, could not answer as struggling Dundee United took all three points from a contest at Ibrox. No-one, it seemed, wanted the title.
It wasn’t the best form for either side to take into the final Old Firm match of the season. Celtic had a two-point advantage and a win for the visitors would all but hand them the title with only four games remaining. Rangers had to be at their ultimate best, but in the first half they could have scarcely looked worse. Craig Bellamy tore them to pieces, nabbed a goal and Celtic led 2-0 at the break. Rangers fought their way back into the contest, prompting Waterreus to charge forward for an injury time corner, but time ran out. For McLeish’s side to be crowned champions their rivals would have to drop five points from a possible 12 against the rest of the top six. They would need a miracle.
Incredibly, hope was rekindled the following weekend. The golden generation Hibs side, led by Scott Brown and Derek Riordan, turned up at the home of the champions and vastly outplayed their much fancied hosts en route to a 3-1 win. The gap was down to two points when Rangers won at Pittodrie the next day. The title race was back on. For the next two weekends Rangers would be playing on a Saturday and Celtic would then have to respond on the Sunday. Martin O’Neill’s men navigated their way around Aberdeen before meeting Hearts at Tynecastle. The manager-less Jambos, having sacked John Robertson earlier that week, looked to have snatched the title away from the day’s opponents after Paul Hartley cancelled out Alan Thompson’s opener with less than 20 minutes to play. The Gers’ hopes of controlling their own destiny soon vanished when Craig Beattie restored the leaders’ advantage in the 77th minute. It would go down to the final Sunday of the season, remaining firmly within Celtic’s grasp.
Rangers went to Easter Road while Celtic travelled to Motherwell. The leaders’ inferior goal difference meant that they needed a victory to be certain of the title, but Motherwell had yet to win a top six game and had nothing to play for. Whereas Hibs could conceivably see their third place finish, and subsequent qualification for Europe, evaporate if Aberdeen defeated Hearts by enough goals to swing the +5 goal difference enjoyed by Hibs prior to the day’s events. Chances were slim.
They diminished further when Chris Sutton put Celtic into a 29th minute lead in Lanarkshire. Nacho Novo eventually broke the deadlock in Edinburgh just before the hour mark and the fact that Celtic had not added to their lead instilled hope in the away supporters, but that hope was dwindling away with the time remaining. With just a couple of minutes of the action remaining, Hibs and Rangers were going through the motions in what had descended into a glorified training match. Waterreus stood at the goalmouth opposite to the away fans. He’d had little to on the day and there was nothing that could be done. Then, of a sudden, the silence was broken by the sound of 4,000 seats snapping back, followed by the deafening roar of the travelling support. Scott McDonald had equalised for Motherwell! The play was still going on, but Rangers didn’t care: players jumped into each others arms, Dado Prso sank to his knees, completely ignoring a pass that had come his way seconds before, and Alex McLeish fist pumped on the sidelines. Two minutes later and another roar went up. Was it full-time? No. McDonald had scored again! Hibs were happy to see their season out. Aberdeen were only winning 2-0. The title belonged to Rangers.
The incredible highs of that final day soon came down to earth the following campaign. Waterreus began the term ahead of Klos even though the former had recovered from his knee injury. The pair enjoyed a respectful but tense relationship with polar opposite personalities off the park – Klos was intense, Waterreus liked to joke – and a deeply competitive edge which fuelled resentment at each other’s presence. Waterreus was determined to keep his rival sitting on his backside but hadn’t reckon on Rangers lacking the same intensity that had carried them to the title the previous year. It wasn’t long before the poor form spread to the goalkeeper. In an away trip to Livingston Waterreus inexplicably shepherded a 30 yard Robert Snodgrass drive into his own net, kick-starting a two goal comeback from the hosts. A week later he and Brahim Hemdani got into a couple muddle over a pass back and allowed Artmenia Bratislava to equalise in a Champions League match at Ibrox.
From there a goalkeeping controversy ensued. Klos was brought back into the starting eleven, but McLeish failed to show the kind of patience associated with valuable first team players coming back from a serious injury and the gloves were soon back in the possession of Waterreus. Klos paying the price for being at fault for both goals in a 2-0 defeat to Celtic in the League Cup. It was soap opera type drama to disguise from the fact that Rangers were enjoying a terrible season on the domestic front and the best they could hope for was a second place finish in front of Hearts. Waterreus kept the gloves for the remainder but found his name mentioned in a February article detailing all the underachieving first-team players who would be jettisoned at the end of the season. He then frosted the relationship further after giving an explosive interview with a Dutch magazine:
“The true facts are Alex McLeish has been badly let down by lots of big players as they’d had more than enough of him. If he said ‘left’, then they said ‘right’. Their attitude was ‘He’ll dig his own grave and we’ll eventually get rid of him’. They are now busy presenting the new coach with lots of noise and fuss, giving him millions to spend when they should have done that at the beginning of the season – then we would have won the championship by a mile. If I had been the trainer in this situation I’d have left immediately, telling them where to go, and kept my own dignity. The way that they treated McLeish was shameful, an utter disgrace, especially when you hear that they wanted a new trainer last October. Unbelievable, a disgraceful way to do business – making a fool of this trainer for six months. Being perfectly honest, I’m counting down the games till the end of the season.”
Well, he is Dutch after all. Despite the story, which he claimed was taken out of context and badly translated, he remained between the sticks. He did get to enjoy the high of playing in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in his career – he had never done it with PSV who had, ironically, reached the semi-finals the first season after his departure – when Rangers took on Villarreal, but they failed to overcome Hearts in the league table and crashed to defeat against Hibs in the Scottish Cup.
After leaving Ibrox that summer he spent a year playing with AZ back in the Netherlands before a quick spell at New York Red Bulls proceeded his retirement.
Where is he now? The former Ibrox stopper is now a pundit back in Holland. In fact, he is the winner of the “Worst Football Pundit” two years running with comments on his lack of abilities stretching from “humourless” to “always biased in favour of PSV”. Sounds familiar.
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