Dwight Tiendalli : Swansea City fans have yet to see me at my best
MARTIN Jol is one of the few Premier League managers who knew who Dwight Tiendalli was before his move to Swansea City.
The reason? In the 2009-10 Eredivisie season, Jol's Ajax team missed out on the Dutch title by just a point to FC Twente, a side in which Tiendalli was a back-four regular.
"I played against him (Jol) a lot of times," Tiendalli says.
"We won the title with Twente with Steve McClaren, and a couple of cups, and we played a lot of good games.
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"Hopefully we can get the better of him again at Fulham. We will try our best and I am confident we can win."
Twente's success of a couple of years back was a career high point for Tiendalli.
He had previously played for Utrecht — former club of Michel Vorm — Feyenoord and Sparta Rotterdam, but it was under McClaren's tutelage that he enjoyed his most rewarding spell.
In all Tiendalli spent three years with Twente before they released him at the end of last season and he was left searching for a new club.
It was not until after the transfer window closed that the call came from Michael Laudrup, who was in need of defensive cover following Neil Taylor's season-wrecking ankle injury.
Tiendalli arrived as a left-back — albeit a right-footed one — but it has been as a right-back that he has impressed in Swansea colours.
Laudrup was not exactly overwhelmed with strong defensive options when he scoured the list of free agents back in September.
But on the evidence of Tiendalli's early steps in English football, the Swansea manager made a very smart call when he turned to the 27-year-old Dutchman.
Tiendalli has had to be patient since arriving in Wales, having to wait until December 1 for his Premier League debut to come as a substitute at Arsenal.
It was a decent place to start.
Before that Tiendalli had played only two Capital One Cup games, at Crawley Town and, more memorably, Anfield.
He had been quietly impressive in all those appearances, though, as well as in the League Cup triumph over Middlesbrough which followed not long after the Arsenal success.
So there was no great panic when it became clear that Tiendalli's full league debut would come at Tottenham Hotspur because of Angel Rangel's calf injury.
Having featured in the 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane, Tiendalli played his part in the draw with Manchester United and then celebrated a clean sheet at Reading on Boxing Day.
"I think I've done well," he says, "but that it could always be better.
"I'm not a guy who just sits back and says 'yes, I've done well'. You'll never hear that from me because there are always things to work on.
"I think Swansea fans are still to see me at my best."
That is encouraging news, for Tiendalli has already done enough to suggest that he is a candidate to be a regular starter at the Liberty and not just a back-up player.
Rangel has been Swansea's regular right-back for years, but Tiendalli gives Laudrup a genuine alternative in that position.
Plus, of course, he could take over at left-back if Ben Davies, the best breakthrough act of Swansea's season, ever shows signs of weariness.
"I don't know if I have made it difficult for the manager, that's up to him," Tiendalli says.
"All I can do, and what I have done, is my job. That is to defend well firstly but then make sure you also support in the attacking game.
"That's not just in matches, but to show it in training as well. But the most important thing is the team and we will see what the manager will do.
"This is an important period for the team and it is important for every player to play their part and do their job. That's what I've tried to do."
The likes of Ferrie Bodde and Dorus de Vries may be no more, but Tiendalli is part of a strong Dutch contingent at the Liberty these days along with Vorm, Kemy Agustien and Jonathan de Guzman.
In fact, Swansea became only the fourth club in Premier League history to include four Dutchmen in their starting line-up when they drew with United last weekend.
Chelsea did it in 2000 and again in 2002, while Middlesbrough fielded a quarter of players from Holland in 2004.
"I didn't know that stat," Tiendalli admits.
"But we have a great mix of players and nationalities here.
"Everyone knows about the Spanish guys in the side, but we have also a lot of Dutch guys and we have local guys like Ben.
"They are just as important, and then there are the English guys.
"We all add to the mix. There are lots of nationalities but it all blends well."
So well that Swansea sit ninth in the table ahead of New Year fixtures against Fulham and Aston Villa, two sides who are struggling for form.
If Laudrup's men could pick up two results in the next few days, they will be beyond the 30-point mark on January 1 — and that would be quite remarkable.
Tiendalli reckons Swansea's continental, passing style makes it easy for players like him to settle in SA1.
And he hopes Jol's Dutch roots will mean a battle of two teams who want to play stylish football at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
"It will be more of a game that we are used to perhaps and in my opinion it's better for us to play against a team who also wants to play football because Reading was not my style," Tiendalli says.
"I don't like it when you see 11 people in front of you and it makes it very difficult for us.
"But I think Fulham will play football and that's better for us because we can have some space to play."