HE’S THE MAN OF EV­ERY MONTH!

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Bai­ley

IF ASKED to sell cal­en­dars, most foot­ballers would start preen­ing them­selves for a photo shoot – but Kjell Knops quite lit­er­ally flogged them while juggling a play­ing ca­reer in his na­tive Nether­lands.

In 2010, long be­fore he be­came a part of Bruno Ribeiro’s rev­o­lu­tion at Port Vale, re­al­ity struck Knops in the face af­ter he was re­leased by boy­hood club Roda JC.

But, in­stead of sit­ting around wait­ing for the phone to ring, Knops went to work as a sales­man while play­ing semi-pro­fes­sion­ally.

That work ethic stayed with him, even when he made the move to sec­ond divi­sion club MVV Maas­tricht a year later.

He was a cen­tre-back at the week­end and an ac­count man­ager for the Dutch Cal­en­dar Factory dur­ing the week.

Spon­sored

“It was re­ally hard to get a new con­tract, so I played semi-pro­fes­sion­ally in the third league in Hol­land,” ex­plained Knops, who also stud­ied fa­cil­ity man­age­ment dur­ing that time.

“I also went to work be­cause I al­ways knew there was life af­ter foot­ball and I wanted to get as much ex­pe­ri­ence as I could.

“Then, one of my old coaches asked me if I wanted to play in the sec­ond divi­sion, but still I wanted to work be­cause I thought ‘you never know, I could get in­jured or I could drop out of the game again’.

“So, I worked for the first two years at MVV Maas­tricht. We had train­ing in the morn­ing and then I used to work from one to five for the com­pany that spon­sored the team.

“I used to go in a com­pany car and sell their prod­ucts: cal­en­dars, posters, cards, every­thing you can think of that is made of pa­per.”

The only piece of pa­per Knops now needs to con­cern him­self with is Port Vale’s teamsheet – and Ribeiro has scrib­bled his name down for ev­ery game so far.

Knops, with the help of his agent, had to use all his sell­ing pow­ers once again af­ter tak­ing it on him­self to alert other clubs of his tal­ents.

“I didn’t know Bruno, but my agent got in touch,” he added.

“I think it was (as­sis­tant coach) Andy Smith. We sent a few videos. They liked what they saw and thought I was a good player.

“I’m 29 now and I wanted to go to an­other coun­try. It was a good age to go. When the chance came to go to Eng­land, I didn’t even have to think about it.

“League One is a good com­pe­ti­tion and the fans are very dif­fer­ent to those in Hol­land.

“The whole fam­ily lives by foot­ball. And, if you hit the ball over the stands in Hol­land, they shout at you. But in Eng­land they clap!

“I re­ally like that be­cause they al­ways show you sup­port.”

If a move from Maas­tricht to Stafford­shire was an un­likely one, then the cul­ture shock has been soft­ened some­what by the in­flux of for­eign play­ers through the doors at Vale Park.

Knops was the first of 17 sign­ings by new boss Ribeiro, and a dozen of those play­ers orig­i­nate from other coun­tries.

Sim­i­lar

On this sea­son’s ev­i­dence, lit­tle has been lost in trans­la­tion as, up to last week’s hum­bling at the hands of Bury, the Valiants had won three of five games in League One.

Knops added: “There are a lot of for­eign play­ers at the club, so a lot of dif­fer­ent lan­guages, but some of them speak English quite well. It’s been fairly easy to adapt.

“We have got to know each other in the last four weeks.

“The man­ager has been clear on the at­tack­ing way he wants to play and we’ve tried to do that in the game.

“When I came over to Port Vale it was im­por­tant that they wanted to play good foot­ball.

“That’s one of the main rea­sons I joined.

“Com­ing from Hol­land, we play a dif­fer­ent style to most teams in Eng­land, but I think it’s quite sim­i­lar to how we are try­ing to play at Port Vale.

“I like to be phys­i­cal, but I also like to play good foot­ball. I’m not a typ­i­cal de­fender.”

PIC­TURE: Pro Sports/ Mark Pol­litt

CAL­EN­DAR BOY: Kjell Knops sold sta­tionery to sup­ple­ment his foot­ball

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