Ray Atteveld Interview: 'Everton Looked After Me Like I Was One Of Their Children'

Ray Atteveld sets the record straight on his Goodison Park strip, remembers being pulled down a peg or two by Dick Advocaat, and details a fascinating footballing odyssey around Europe and Asia since he had to ‘get out of Holland’ in 2011.

This interview first appeared in Everton's matchday programme during 2019/20.

Former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra described his first experience of Premier League football as “like being in a washing machine”.

A conversation with Raymond Atteveld produces the same dizzying sensation.

But if the speed of your spin cycle is measured in its revolutions per minute, Atteveld’s greased-lightning chat across one spellbinding hour delivers more stories than you could ever count.

Dutchman Atteveld is unflinchingly honest. Funny, too.

He joined Everton from HFC Haarlem in summer 1989 and is guffawing as he recalls the episode which follows him from his three years on Merseyside.

As Everton’s players circled the Goodison Park pitch for their end-of-season lap of appreciation, Atteveld rushed to the Gwladys Street.

By the time he was done, the midfielder-cum-full-back was dressed only in his underpants.

Atteveld, though, is ready to shred the image of him as a bold exhibitionist.


“Neville Southall did me over,” he laughs.

“He told me he had an offer from Barcelona, they’d given him a blank cheque and it was going to be his last match.

“He said to go with him after the game so we could throw our shirts in the crowd for him to say goodbye.

“I went right up to the fans but Neville threw his from further back, he knew what he was doing.

“The fans grabbed my shorts and shoes. I thought, ‘Okay, take what I can give’.

“But I had to fight to keep on my underpants and that was something I did not expect.

“Neville never did have an offer from Barcelona.”

Atteveld imagined he was being pranked when he answered the phone at a training camp with Haarlem in Czechoslovakia.

Indeed, the circumstances smacked of a wind-up. Atteveld was asked by the hotel receptionist to take a call for the club, then picked up to hear a voice saying Everton would be watching him later that night against Slovan Bratislava.

After reassuring himself no gleeful teammates were poised to leap from behind the furniture, Atteveld considered the prospect of fulfilling a “dream”.

Trying to impress a face in the crowd – Terry Darracott in this instance – can interfere with a player’s performance.

Did it bother Atteveld? Another laugh.

“Well I got sent off after 78 minutes,” he says.

“It was a local referee, so nobody took it seriously.

“Everton saw through what happened.”

Atteveld didn’t want for confidence.

He is the son of a professional footballer who “made it pretty clear” Ray should ditch his ambitions to play top-level tennis – Atteveld competed internationally and won the Amsterdam Championships – to concentrate on making the grade with Haarlem.

Young Raymond hardly needed much convincing.


“I slept with my football shoes in the bed when they were new,” he says. “I loved football.”

For the second half of Atteveld’s four years in Haarlem’s first team he was managed by future Holland boss Dick Adovcaat, who suspected the player was becoming too big for those ‘football shoes’.

“There was one period I was becoming pretty successful and did too much talking for his liking,” says Atteveld.

“Advocaat started ignoring me. I was sensitive and it influenced my game.

“After three weeks I went to see him. He said, ‘You suddenly think you’re a superstar’.

“In England you would say I was becoming a little bit cocky.

“He was right… he pulled me down and it worked.”

Atteveld admits he initially drowned under the “speed and tempo” of English football but, at 22, owned the poise to accept he needed time to locate his bearings.

He had more trouble getting his head round the post-match food.

“Fish or chicken and chips, I’d never seen anything like this,” he laughs.

Off the pitch, Atteveld paints a picture reminiscent of a university fresher feeling his way into the world.

“It was my first time living alone,” Atteveld begins. “I mixed my coloured and white washing so ended up with a pink shirt.

“I had food I couldn’t cook.

“But Everton looked after me like I was one of their children.

“They organised my house and got a satellite up for Dutch television.

“I had other things to learn, I was on the phone to my mum asking how to wash and cook and clean the Brussels sprouts.”

Atteveld made his debut in a 2-0 Goodison win over Coventry City five months after arriving and counts it among his standout English memories.


Everton’s 4-4 FA Cup draw with Liverpool – “The game of the decade,” reasons Atteveld – belongs in the same bracket.

So, too, Everton entering the pitch at Leeds United’s Elland Road and receiving a welcome so hostile Atteveld banked it in his mind.

“Leeds came flying out after us to Eye of the Tiger,” says Atteveld.

“The crowd went bananas. I was thinking, ‘What… is going on?’

“I thought it would be a good tactic to influence opponents when I started coaching but today’s rules stop you doing it.”

Atteveld’s transition from pitch to touchline came after he broke his leg playing for ADO Den Haag – the side he joined following two years with FC Groningen – “which wasn’t helpful”.

He was already minded to quit playing, so manager and ex-Holland defender Rinus Israel advanced a proposal.

It is relevant that Israel’s popularity rating among his players, Atteveld among them, was through the floor.

“The coach said I could work with him but if I took the job I would not play anymore,” says Atteveld.

“He was an old-style boss and we had our opinion about him.

“I will never forget my teammates’ faces when I told them I would be his assistant… they called me all sorts.

“The players tried everything with me. I had to be tough with them.

“After two weeks they understood they would not come between us.”

Atteveld and Israel formed a potent alliance and took ADO into the Dutch top-flight as second division champions in 2003.

But it was with Huub Stevens, Atteveld’s old manager at Eredivisie upstarts Roda JC Kerkrade, that the former Everton man’s coaching career took flight.

It is right to reflect first on Atteveld’s season as a player with Roda.


He joined in 1994 after time with Bristol City and Zulte Waregem – his season in Belgium ended in relegation after the players got a rise for achieving European qualification but “didn’t work harder for their money” – and had the year of his life.

Roda lost only twice in the league but finished runners-up to European champions Ajax.

“I was back in Holland this summer for a reunion of that team, which tells you all you need to know,” says Atteveld.

“When Ajax played in Europe we organised a barbecue or meal to watch and see what we could learn for next time we played them.

“We had shrewd players in every position, we were focused and it was an incredible time.”

Stevens returned to Roda as manager in 2005, appointing Atteveld his right-hand man 12 months later, then championing his sidekick’s credentials for the top job when he left for Hamburg in 2007.

“I was very lucky,” says Atteveld.

“Stevens let me lead a lot of sessions.

“He interrupted twice.

“I said, ‘Don’t interrupt me, talk to me in the dressing room’.

“He made it clear, ’Ninety-five per cent of the time, I will give you space. The other five per cent, you accept it’.

“I said, ‘You’re right’.”

Stevens gave his successor the lowdown on club politics – “Who wants to sit in the coach’s chair, who pushes you” – before Atteveld led Roda to ninth in his one full season.

They boasted the country’s second-best record in the calendar year of 2007.

An iffy start to 2008/09, however, was all it took for Roda to fire their boss.

Atteveld is a big character, loud, confident and authoritative, which feeds into the preconception he’d have brushed off his dismissal as a vagary of the sport.

“No,” he says. “It was very tough to digest.

“I had to analyse everything. I am self-critical.

“Sometimes you are too open and your relationship with players should be more distant.

“The guy who sacked me asked me to come back this summer, can you believe that?”

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04:02

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Atteveld hasn’t lived in Holland since 2011 when he joined AEL Limassol in Cyprus as boss via a second managerial job back at ADO Den Haag, where he stayed 14 months after joining in April 2009 and inspired a daring Eredivise relegation escape.

We can look at Atteveld’s life today to understand how the earth has shifted under his feet in the intervening eight years.

Atteveld lives in Israel with his Kazakh wife and oversees the academy at Maccabi Tel Aviv, while managing offshoot team Beitar Tel Aviv Bat Yam.

“I was in a divorce and done with Holland, I had to get out,” says Atteveld.

“A Greek guy who had done deals with Rangers approached Advocaat [who managed at Ibrox] for advice on the Limassol position and Dick bounced the ball to me.

“I had no job, so I went.

“I thought maybe I could jump start to somewhere like Greece.”

Atteveld barely had his feet under the table when word reached him AEL had, essentially, double booked.

The club feared initial target Pambos Christodoulou would reject their offer and appointed Atteveld, only for Christodoulou’s signed contract to drop on the doormat soon after.

“So there was a problem,” says Atteveld.

“You need to know who thinks he is in power and who actually is in power.… you find so many quality people but others who try to stab you in the back.”

Atteveld remained in charge of a demotivated bunch for a few more months – “Some weren’t paid in that time and said, ‘You are the fourth coach this year… don’t count on me’” – and relied exclusively on the club’s under-21s to reach the championship play-offs.

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A combination of Atteveld’s joy with that team of novices and his two previous management experiences – in hindsight he rues a “silly decision” to reject a post as assistant to a miffed Stevens at Red Bull Salzburg in favour of the ADO job – convinced him to concentrate on coaching youngsters.

Outspoken Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen has a wide network of contacts and fixed Atteveld with a position overseeing the academy teams at Banants Yerevan in Armenia.

The next stopping point was Kazakhstan and three years of unprecedented age-group success in charge of Kairat Almaty’s development sides.

“I was having trouble getting my money in Cyprus,” says Atteveld of his AEL exit.

“I was not with family so could make decisions for me. Armenia was a unique experience, a country full of culture and warm people.

“In Kazakhstan, the two main cities [Almaty and Astana] are cosmopolitan and have everything. But the outside regions are poorer.

“The country is enormous. You might be on a train for 54 hours to games.

"Four teams stay in one location for a week to play matches, then for three weeks there is no game.

“For the people in those areas, to see a foreigner is extraordinary,

“They are fascinated by you, they’ve just met you and are asking you to their homes for tea.”

Atteveld had experience of swapping cultures and environments from his four years in England.

He favoured second-tier Bristol City over NAC Breda in Holland when he left Everton and remembers an earlier month on loan at West Ham as “like being in a completely different world”.

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05:34

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“Liverpool and Bristol have nothing in common,” he laughs.

“But I liked Bristol. I was single and the players looked after me.

“There wasn’t a day I was alone.”

A ruptured Achilles banjoed Atteveld’s season at Ashton Gate, limiting his opportunities to play in an exciting team sustained by the goals of Andy Cole.

The boss who signed him, Denis Smith, was axed into the bargain – but years of witnessing managerial churn never dissuaded Atteveld from giving the gig a go.

He joined Vitesse Arnhem in 1995 after quitting Roda because the chairman started flogging the crown jewels and had four bosses in two years with his new club.

“You always have this idea you can do it differently and better,” Atteveld admits, sounding a note which will chime with any number of managers.

After three years in Kazakhstan, Atteveld fancied the role with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

But he had someone else to consider.

“Yeah, he begins, “I had met my wife. She already had children, too.

“Kazakhstan is a beautiful country. The club [Kairat] had huge funds and complexes which made your jaw drop.

“But I wanted to take the opportunity in Israel.

“When a relationship becomes serious the other person needs to know what you might do.

“We discussed at the start that I might move countries.

“She made it clear that it was no problem, better today than tomorrow.”

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04:09

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Maccabi have a recent history of rifling through managers – 23 this century – but Atteveld has been in situ as assistant performance director for three years.

He’s added to his workload this term as boss of Bat Yam in the second tier.

“There are no teams to bridge the gap between Under-19s and seniors,” says Atteveld.

“We would loan out players but coaches could do what they wanted with them and not care about the consequences.

“We decided to send our talents to one club. I am coaching them and we are in control of everything.”

Atteveld’s side were 10th in a 16-team division after nine games, with two wins and four draws.

“I am impatient and there is pressure to win, even with a young team and the smallest budget,” he says.

“We play some quality stuff, though we’re still quite naïve.

“But we’re doing okay and the players are working so hard to get where they want to be.”

As a kid, Atteveld always wanted to be in England.

“I was even wearing Admiral shoes to copy the English players I saw on television,” he recalls.

“I came into Everton’s team at right-back. I had to support the winger, bomb on you call it, then get back. It was hard.

“The fans always gave me a boost, I loved Goodison Park.

“I’d slide tackle across the line and get pushed back to the pitch by the fans, saying ‘Well done, Dutchman’.

“When Everton came for me, that was the dream. I was always happy I made the right decision to sign.”

He has plenty more tales, Ray Atteveld, but stops before he hangs anyone out to dry.