PRE-SEASON PROFILES: FC Groningen

By SFC Media time Wed 24 Jun Club

Saints will take on FC Groningen in the first friendly of their tour of Holland next month, with Ronald Koeman’s side set to face the Dutch outfit on Saturday 18th July.

It was a positive season for Groningen, who finished eighth in the Eredivisie and lifted the KNVB Cup for the first time in their history. The cup success means Saints could meet the Dutch outfit in the group stages of next season’s Europa League.

The KNVB Cup was the club’s first major trophy since they were founded in 1971 when GVAV changed its name to FC Groningen.

The club has spent the last 15 seasons in the top flight of Dutch football following their promotion from the Eerste Divisie in 2000, with a third-placed finish in 2006 their joint-best league finish.

Since then, they have only once dropped outside the top ten in the division following a 14th-placed finish in 2012. After coming fifth in the 2013/14 season they tasted European football for the first time in six seasons last time around.

Their Europa League adventure came to a premature end however as Scottish side Aberdeen knocked them out at the second qualifying round stage.

They will however have a prolonged stay in Europe this time around thanks to their KNVB Cup success last season. Groningen defeat PEC Zwolle, who won the competition the year before, 2-0 in the final thanks to two goals from Albert Rusnak.

Rusnak is a former Manchester City academy graduate who has been linked with a move back to his former club thanks to his impressive performances for Groningen.

The only other squad member with links to England is fellow striker Danny Hoesen, who spent three years at Craven Cottage before moving back to Holland with Ajax.

Saints and Groningen, who have never met in a competitive fixture, will go up against each other at the Euroborg, the Dutch club’s 22,329-seater stadium that has been their home since 2006.

One man to have plenty of experience at the Euroborg is Saints man Dušan Tadić, who spent two years with the club between 2010 and 2012. The winger played 76 games for the club, scoring 14 goals, before moving on to FC Twente.

Saints boss Ronald Koeman started his career with Groningen in 1980. He made 98 appearances and contributed 35 goals before joining Ajax in 1983.

His brother, and Saints’ First Team Assistant Manager Erwin Koeman, also has links to the club. The former midfielder started and ended his career with Groningen, making over 200 appearances in the process.

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