By now, you're likely well aware of the Interest Days with the PSV Coaching Academy. You've likely seen that they are highly recommended by ourselves and others. Perhaps you're considering a trip yourself. It's likely that most, if not all readers of this article will have not been to Eindhoven. So I thought I'd share my trip with you to show you how easy it is to get there and to get around.
Questions you may have will likely include;
How can I get to Eindhoven?
How do I travel around in Eindhoven?
Where should I stay?
Can we watch games?
How many days should I go for?
From reading the below, I hope it will become clear to you. Each coach has different circumstances, and finding a few days to get away during the middle of the season can prove to be problematic. We're busy people, with games and training coming thick and fast. The first thing to know is that it is absolutely worth it to take a few days off and head to Eindhoven. Someone else can run the session, someone else can take the game. If you're worried it won't be as good without you there, maybe it won't be, but it's not the end of the world, and what you'll learn at PSV is so beneficial to yourself and to your players. The second thing to know is that the level of English in the Netherlands is amazing. Many speak like native speakers, with some of the Dutch even having a twang to their accent, like they could be from Liverpool or Birmingham. There was one bartender who had worked for so long with Irish people that he had developed an Irish accent himself. The third thing to know is that Eindhoven is a very safe place. You can walk alone at night. Obviously don't be naïve and flash your cash when walking down dark alleyways, but it is a very safe place.
With that being said, let's get into the itinerary.
It took forty minutes for me to get from London Gatwick to Amsterdam Schiphol. Blink and you'll miss it. The return flight was fifty minutes. Gatwick is about an hour and a half for me by car, and I left the car at the Gatwick long stay car park, which has a shuttle bus every few minutes to the terminal. Eindhoven does have an airport, but I couldn't find any flights that worked for me. Either they were way more expensive than flying to Amsterdam, or the English airport was too far away.
I flew with EasyJet, who although aren't as bad as Ryanair who charge you for inhaling and exhaling, if you're not careful, the costs can increase over silly things. I was only going for four nights, so could fit everything I needed in a backpack, which went under the seat in front (barely, but it was only a short flight).
The flight to Amsterdam was Sunday morning. I wanted to fly out early so I could catch a game somewhere before taking the train to Eindhoven. The return flight to London was early on Thursday morning, because I needed to get back for sessions, but this is where I messed up. I went to a match on the Thursday evening, and would not have time to get to the hotel to retrieve my luggage after the game, then back to the train station, and then up to Amsterdam. With the options in front of me, I decided it was safer to go straight from the game up to Amsterdam. The only issue would be taking my luggage to the game. Luckily, the Netherlands has quite a lot of storage lockers. I left my bag safely in the lockers at Eindhoven Centraal, went to the game, and grabbed it after before taking the train to Amsterdam for the flight home.
This meant arriving at Schiphol at two in the morning, which I would not recommend. It's hard to find somewhere to lay down and get some sleep, as most seats and benches have been constructed with the idea of preventing people sleeping there. They're odd shaped and have lots of arm rests, so you can't be horizontal. My flight was at nine in the morning. Again, silly me, as there were also flights at seven and eleven. Flights from London to Amsterdam are so frequent, I should have picked a later one, as I still would have had plenty of time to get back for my sessions. I tried to change my flight while in the airport, but that would have cost more than both flights combined. If I'm ever going to be in this situation again, I found out when I arrived that Amsterdam has an airport hotel which lets guests sleep in a private room with a shower for only a few hours. Perfect if you've got four or five hours to kill in the middle of the night.
Yotelair is a hotel inside the terminal. This means it's after the security checks. All you have to do is wake up and walk to your gate. I just put in a random date, Tuesday December 12th in the afternoon for four hours. Your options are a pod, a queen bed, or a family room. Individual options cost between £95-£110.
Ajax 4-1 Heerenveen
While in a country known for its excellent football, why not try to catch a game? PSV were playing on the Saturday, and I couldn't travel until the Sunday. I searched for Eredivisie games, had a look to see where PSV Vrouwen were playing, and with the options available, thought that Ajax would be the best choice. Initially I thought about going to my hotel in Eindhoven to dump my bag, but two trips would be costly in time and money. Fortunately, there are lockers at Schiphol airport, which is great for those with time to kill in Amsterdam, who can leave their luggage and go to explore. Even more fortunately, there are lockers right outside the Johan Cruyff Arena.
As you can see from the picture, even when Ajax are struggling, the stadium is still packed. So how do we get tickets? It's hard for foreigners to get tickets to games, but not impossible. They've put a few extra hoops in the way, because Dutch football has had a lot of hooligan problems in the past. Most Ajax games are sold out, meaning that purchasing a ticket in general sale is nearly impossible. Fortunately, the club has an official resale option for fans. Season ticket holders who might miss a game will sell their seat, and people like me can attend a game.
I had to download the Ajax app, then confirm my identity by uploading a headshot and my passport. Once that was approved, I was allowed to search for tickets, and purchased a seat for £40.
The area around the stadium is quite developed and modern. It's not located near the part of Amsterdam most of us know as tourists, and quite luckily, is located next to a fairly important train station, with trains that go direct to Eindhoven. Just to reiterate to those who want to travel for football, there is a train that goes direct from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, straight to Eindhoven, and one of the stops along the way is at Ajax. These trains run every half an hour or so. Outside the ground are lots of shops and restaurants, a mall, and ample bicycle parking.
If you've got some time to kill, you certainly won't be bored at Ajax. And yes, it was a grim day, and my shoes were soaked.
Train to Eindhoven
Dutch trains are everything that British trains are not. If you're like me, being a coach outside of London, it means you're exceptionally car dependent. We just can't rely on public transport. It doesn't reach far enough, isn't regular enough, it's affordable, and there's no way we could haul all our equipment on it. This car dependency shapes how we think. It can be hard to conceive that in other countries they just get on trains and buses without thinking or checking a schedule. They are regular, clean, safe, affordable, spacious, pass train stations in convenient locations, and run very early and very late. It cost about £20 to get to Eindhoven from Amsterdam, and can take sixty to ninety minutes.
If you pay a little extra for first class, you'll even get USB chargers and a little extra legroom, with slightly comfier seats. Ticket machines are everywhere, have the option to order in English, with helpful staff dotted around if you need help. I used Google Maps to plan my routes, and the train information was always up to date.
Eindhoven Centraal is located right downtown, a five minute walk from most of the hotels, and a ten minute walk from the famous Philips Stadion, the home of PSV. There are shops and restaurants in and around the station, with the Co-op type store allowing me to purchase some snacks and breakfast. Eindhoven Centraal is also where the local buses are.
If you'd like to use the lockers at Eindhoven Centraal, they are beyond the electronic gates that permit access into the station. But do not fear, as you do not require a ticket to enter. Tap your credit or debit card on the way in, instead of your train ticket, and then tap it again on your way out. You will not be charged for doing this.
Occasionally, you do have to be aware of PSV fans celebrating a win.
Getting Around Eindhoven
Walk. Eindhoven is flat and safe, with plenty of footpaths. The PSV training ground is located on the edge of town within a forest, making it feel like being at a Center Parcs. It took about an hour for me to get from my hotel to the training ground on foot, which provided some refreshing, pleasant walks. The training ground to the city centre was also just short of an hour, I believe taking me around fifty minutes. This would be where most of the hotels are, as well as the stadium, the shops, bars, restaurants, and the train station.
Bicycle. Pretty much everyone rides a bike. The bike lanes are usually separate from the roads, meaning less interference from cars. The lanes are open and direct. You'll notice it's very quiet in Eindhoven, and feels so fresh, because the vast majority of people are on two wheels instead of four. Bikes can be rented for £5 per day using an app, and picked up in lots of convenient locations.
Bus. The buses are so regular that people weren't checking schedules. Yet, they can still be found on Google Maps, on the electronic signs in the bus station, and the stops and their timings can be viewed while on the bus via the televisions. Accompanying these televisions on the bus is free Wi-Fi and USB chargers. Think of all the things you can now do on your commute! Even late at night, there were buses going past my hotel every twenty minutes. The bus drivers spoke English, and in order to pay, you just tap your card on the way in, and again when you get off at your stop.
As demonstrated in the photos above, it's common to see lanes separated into pedestrian for walking, bicycles, buses, and private vehicles like cars. It minimises traffic, gives priority to those more environmentally friendly transport methods, keeps everybody safe, and provides fairly direct routes for travellers. Needless to say, I really prefer this method.
Taxi. Don't. A few of the guys had similar experiences. Taxis in Eindhoven are incredibly expensive. When I first arrived, I got into an argument with a driver and his friend. They told me a 5km ride when it was late and not busy would be £40. Google maps was telling me the journey would take nine minutes. Nice try. They pleaded with me, and said it was due to needing ten million dollars of insurance. I told them I'd take the bus, paid less than £2, and got to my hotel in a similar time.
If you do want to take a taxi, Uber exists there, and is much more reasonably priced.
Jong PSV 1-2 ADO Den Haag
On the Monday evening, at PSV's training ground, we were treated to a game between Jong PSV, and ADO Den Haag. Jong literally translates to Young. Jong are PSV's reserve team, providing a great platform for their talented youngsters to face-off against seasoned professional footballers. We're all aware that academy football can be too slick and polished. On this particular occasion, the Jong defenders had to deal with Henk Veerman, a thirty-two year-old forward, who weighs 90kg and comes in just 1cm short of two metres in height. That's a challenge you just don't get in academies.
Jong play in the second division of Dutch football. That's quite an impressive standard. For those who have been playing FIFA and Football Manager from way back when like I have, you'll be familiar with the names of some of the teams in their league this season, in addition to the aforementioned ADO Den Haag; Willem II, Roda JC, De Graafschaap, Groningen, NAC Breda, VVV Venlo, and Cambuur.
If we were to put this in English terms, imagine Manchester City's reserve team, full of teenagers, playing in the EFL Championship, against the likes of Leicester City, Leeds United, Southampton, Ipswich Town, Sunderland, West Brom, Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City, Millwall, QPR etc. I'm not debating the merits of whether reserve teams should be allowed to enter the English league system. Just simply demonstrating how it works in the Netherlands.
Attending this game was part of the PSV Interest Day. We had learned a little about the players, and were able to sit together with some of the PSV staff in the stands while watching. Personally, my brain was fried. The depth and quality of information we learned on Monday during the presentations meant there was no room left in my head to properly observe a football game.
PSV U19 2-0 Lens U19
On the Wednesday afternoon, before the senior teams met in the Champions League, the U19s met in the UEFA Youth League. It's a great competition that all Champions League qualifiers enter, and the schedule mimics that of the senior team. This means PSV's group for their senior team; Arsenal, Sevilla, Lens, is the same group for their U19s. It's great experience for the players, who compete against some of the best talent from other countries, while also learning what it's like to play Saturday-Wednesday, with international travel in between.
The match was hosted at the training ground, just as with the Jong game, except it was now two o'clock in the afternoon. The tickets are free, you just have to download it and show it at the gate. To my surprise, despite it raining cats and dogs, and it being in the afternoon, the game was so well attended, many people, including myself, spent large parts of the game standing.
The reason why PSV picked these specific dates for the interest days in November is because it was a very busy week with lots of games to watch. My only regret is being too mentally and physically tired to enjoy the games as much as I should have.
PSV 1-0 Lens
This experience is hard to put into words. I'll start by saying the tickets weren't included in the PSV Interest Day. I had to source those myself via a third party resale site, paying over £200 for the privilege. This is a well supported club, flying high at the top of the league, competing in their first Champions League campaign for five years, in a stadium that holds a capacity of 35,000, in a city with a population slightly less than Portsmouth (232,000).
The word privilege is key. It always feels a little odd attending a sold-out game as a neutral. It used to be that by purchasing a ticket, you'd taken away an opportunity for a true fan to attend. However nowadays, that "true fan" has sold their ticket for a huge profit to some idiot tourist like me. Nevertheless, the PSV fans and staff could not have been friendlier, telling me in perfect English to "enjoy the match." Like everyone at the academy, everyone in the ground made me feel welcome and included.
Matches like this are often cagey, and this was no exception. Luuk de Jong's thirteenth minute goal turned out to be the winner. Mexican favourite Hirving Lozano could have ended the game when 2v1 through on goal, but opted to shoot instead of playing the pass that would likely have been a guaranteed goal.
The atmosphere was very much like attending a rave, with the flashing lights, electronic music, and drunk Dutch football fans. The smallest city to ever win the Champions League (European Cup as it was back then) came out in force to support their club.
It's not a cheap place to stay. Some of the others were only there for two or three nights, shared rooms, and didn't fork out a small fortune for third party Champions League tickets. Travelling alone, for four nights, and watching the match meant that my budget for a hotel was severely limited.
I stayed here; Campanile Hotel.
Clean, cosy, warm rooms, and free Wi-Fi. An hour walk to the training ground, and about ten minutes by bus from the centre. It was on the outskirts of town, but due to the ease of walking and catching the bus, it was fine. It did the job and ticked most of the boxes.
A few of the others stayed here; Holiday Inn Eindhoven.
More expensive, but a far better location, being right in the city centre, surrounded by the shops, bars, restaurants, and a short walk to both the train station and the stadium. My trip to Eindhoven was quite last minute, with only a few weeks to prepare. And it's unlikely I'll ever get to see a Champions League game at the Philips Stadion ever again, so that's a few hundred quid I can save, and put towards a slightly better hotel.
Like most European cities, Eindhoven has lots of hostels, and lots of bed and breakfast options. Many of these are very close to the centre. What you choose is down to your budget and preference.
Hopefully by now you can see that getting to Eindhoven is quite easy, and that the city is a safe place with lots to do during your short stay. The people will take care of you, and you'll have a fantastic time. You have also likely read my thoughts on how amazing and beneficial it was to visit PSV Eindhoven, and I have a few more articles in me to add more detail and depth regarding the content of the PSV Interest Days. For now, if you plan on visiting in the future, hopefully this article has answered several of your questions. If it hasn't, feel free to reach out to ask more.