Anderson eyes land of his father to further career
HE has a saltire sticker on his car, mince and tatties are occasionally served in the family home and traces of the old country can be detected in his accent. Kenny Anderson, a 21-year-old RKC Waalwijk midfielder, born and brought up in the Netherlands, is as tartan as he is oranje.
After scoring twice against Den Haag in a Dutch Eredivisie match last weekend, a performance that lifted RKC out of the relegation zone, he was namechecked on Twitter by Mark Wotte, the Scottish Football Association’s performance director. “#Scotsareeverywhere” was the hashtag that followed.
Except that Anderson isn’t just a Scot, or a Dutchman. He is both. Or should that be neither?
“I feel half and half,” he says. “I’m proud to be Dutch, but I’m also proud to be Scottish. At the club, they call me a foreigner, a Scot, but in Scotland, they say I’m Dutch. I feel like I’m both. My parents brought me up in a way that is Scottish and Dutch.”
Alex Anderson is a Dundonian who left his homeland in the late 1970s to marry Joke, a Dutch-Indonesian he met on holiday in Greece. Together, they brought up a family in Arkel, a village of fewer than 3,000 people in South Holland, where one of their sons, Kenny, turned out to be a rather decent footballer.
Anderson junior was given a trial by Feyenoord at the age of nine. Although it was unsuccessful, he spent eight years of his childhood with RKC before, in 2011, joining Willem II, who have spent the last few years yo-yoing between Holland’s first and second tiers. “I played in the second team there, but last year, when I should have gone into the first team, the trainer said ‘no’. He said they had too big a squad, so I said ‘OK, I’ll leave’. I didn’t want to play in the second team for a first-division club. I thought I could do better than that.”
So far, he has been proved right. Back at the club where he grew up, Anderson made his breakthrough towards the end of last season before becoming a regular in the current campaign. He has made 13 appearances this season, many of them from the start, including against Ajax in the Amsterdam Arena, where the game ended scoreless.
“I started the season just to try and get a couple of minutes and show my best but, in my first two matches, I was already in the first XI. I wasn’t expecting as much playing time as I have had so I’m happy with how it is going. I think I have done well when I’ve played.”
Anderson, who is also completing an economics degree at the Johan Cruyff Institute, describes RKC, whose stadium holds 7,500, as a warm, small, but thoroughly professional club. His coach is Erwin Koeman, the former Holland international. His team-mates include Rodney Sneijder, brother of Wesley, and Evander Sno, the former Celtic player.
When Sno, whose career has been halted twice by cardiac arrests, joined the club in October, he briefly kept Anderson out of the team. Now they are both playing, Anderson in a central role behind the strikers, Sno in a deeper midfield position.
“He’s a very important player because he is strong and he brings a lot of calmness and experience to the team,” says Anderson. “He had a heart attack, remember, so just for him to be back on the pitch is a great achievement. We’re really glad that he’s with us.”
All of which information he passes on in a strong Dutch accent. Since the death of his Scottish grandmother, with whom he frequently conversed on the phone, he has not spoken much English, even to his father, with whom he communicates in the local dialect.
That said, the odd “doesnae” and “wasnae” sometimes creep in, a consequence perhaps of his regular visits to see family in Scotland. This week, he and his brother, together with a couple of mates, will visit Edinburgh, where his sister, Maggie, works – appropriately enough – for Visit Scotland. As part of his five-day holiday, Anderson will go to the Hibs-Kilmarnock match at Easter Road.
Dundee United, though, are his team. He does not claim to be a supporter, but he and his father look out for their results and he knows all about teen sensation Ryan Gauld. In youth football, Anderson played against Nadir Ciftci, the United striker who started his career with Den Haag.
Those were the days when Anderson played for one of Holland’s regional youth teams, from which the national squads were selected. “One year, my team were champions of Holland. We won against Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV, and I was captain of the squad, their top scorer, but I wasn’t selected for the Dutch squad. That was when my dad told me to leave Holland alone. If they didn’t notice the good work I was doing, I was better trying Scotland.”
Which he did. Anderson played “five or six” matches for Scotland’s under-16 and under-17 sides, when Ross Mathie was the coach, but his failure to break into a professional first team as he moved into adulthood meant that international recognition dried up. He is still eligible for both Holland and Scotland, although his preference would be for the latter, if he ever had the choice.
More realistically, perhaps, he wonders if his career might take him to the Scottish Premiership. “At this moment, I’m happy with my club, but maybe in the future, I’m open for anything. You don’t know how a career will develop, but if there was interest from Scotland, why not?”