|06 May||AZ Alkmaar||6 - 0||PEC Zwolle||AFAS Stadion|
|29 Apr||Ajax||3 - 0||AZ Alkmaar||Amsterdam Arena|
|18 Apr||AZ Alkmaar||4 - 3||Vitesse||AFAS Stadion|
|13 Apr||SC Heracles||0 - 3||AZ Alkmaar||Polman Stadion|
|07 Apr||AZ Alkmaar||2 - 3||PSV Eindhoven||AFAS Stadion|
Alkmaar Zaanstreek, better known as AZ Alkmaar or simply AZ, is a professional football club from Alkmaar and the Zaanstreek, The Netherlands. The club plays in the Eredivisie, the highest professional football league in the Netherlands.
AZ was founded on 10 May 1967 as AZ '67, the result of a merger of Alkmaar '54 and FC Zaanstreek. FC Zaanstreek was formed in 1964, continuing the professional adventure of the Kooger Football Club (KFC). KFC had been founded in 1910, had nearly become National Champion in 1934 through a narrow loss to Ajax in the finals, and had been professional since 1955.
In 1964, the brothers Cees and Klaas Molenaar, former players for KFC and owners of a growing appliance store chain, sought to create a powerful football team in Zaanstreek by merging the two local professional teams: KFC and Zaanlandsche Football Club.
After this merger failed, they successfully merged KFC (now "FC Zaanstreek") with Alkmaar '54; the team would be based in Alkmaar. Partially through the hiring of expensive foreign players, the new club soon acquired large debts.
Fortunately in 1972 the Molenaar brothers bailed it out and invested heavily in the club, to the point that AZ '67 were successful in the late seventies and early eighties, regularly playing European football from 1977 to 1982 whilst also winning the Dutch Cup three times over that period.
After four close league campaigns AZ finally became Dutch champions in 1981, they were the only team other than the "big three" (Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV) to do so in a 44-year period spanning from 1965 to 2009, when AZ once again won the league title. They won the 1980–81 season with overwhelming power, winning 27 of 34 matches and only losing once whilst scoring a club record 101 goals and conceding just 30 goals.
The same season AZ reached the final of the UEFA Cup, losing 5–4 on aggregate to Ipswich Town. The next year in the UEFA Champions League they lost in the second round 3–2 on aggregate to Liverpool.
Georg Keßler was AZ's manager over most of these years (1978–82), while star players included: Kees Kist the club's highest ever goalscorer with 212 goals and the first ever Dutchman to win the European Golden Boot in 1979 when he scored 34 goals in a season; Jan Peters who played 120 games for AZ during this period scoring 30 goals from midfield; Hugo Hovenkamp played 239 games in defence for AZ from 1975–83 as well as receiving 31 caps for the Netherlands from 1977–83 and playing each game in Euro '80 while an AZ player. John Metgod spent six years at AZ playing 195 games as a defender, scoring 26 goals including a goal against Ipswich Town in the final of the UEFA Cup. Like Hovenkamp, Metgod was included in the Netherlands squad for Euro '80; The Danish forward Kristen Nygaard who spent 10 years at AZ scoring 104 goals in 363 games between 1972 and 1982.
The club deteriorated after Klaas Molenaar left the club in 1985 (Cees died in 1979). AZ were relegated in 1988 from the Eredivisie.
The involvement of businessman Dirk Scheringa in the mid 1990s marked the revival of the club as AZ returned to the Eredivisie in 1998.
After a 22-year hiatus from European football AZ appeared in the 2004–05 UEFA Cup advancing to the semi-finals. The second leg of the semi-final against Sporting CP had a heart-breaking conclusion, when Sporting scored in the 122nd minute (2 minutes into stoppage time) to reach an aggregate score of 4–4, Sporting advanced to the Final thanks to the away goals rule. In the same season AZ finished third in the Eredivisie, qualifying for the UEFA Cup again. These were great achievements for the club which does not have a similar sized fanbase relative to Eredivisie and European rivals; AZ's home ground until the 2006–07 season, the Alkmaarderhout, had a capacity of only 8,390.
In the summer of 2006, the club moved to a new 17,000 capacity stadium AZ Stadion.
AZ had a very good 2006–07 season, despite ending in disaster. Going into the last game of the 2006–07 season, AZ led PSV and Ajax by goal difference in the Eredivisie, but ended up third after losing their last match against the now relegated and bottom of the table Excelsior, playing with 10 men for 80 minutes. Furthermore AZ lost the KNVB Cup final to Ajax 8–7 after a penalty shoot-out and also lost to Ajax over two play-off games for the Champions League. After the season, key players like Tim de Cler, Danny Koevermans, and Shota Arveladze left the team.
A remarkable run ended in the 2007–08 season; AZ lost a group game against Everton 3–2 in the UEFA Cup which ended an unbeaten run of 32 home matches in European competitions, a record which ran from 1977 to 2007. Also on this season AZ performed so badly (first round loss in the KNVB Cup, elimination from the UEFA Cup group stage and 11th place league finish), that team manager Louis van Gaal felt obliged to hand in his resignation in March 2008. However, after protests from the players and directors, van Gaal withdrew his resignation.
The 2008–09 season had an unpromising start with two defeats against NAC Breda and ADO Den Haag. However, starting with a 1–0 victory over defending league champions PSV, AZ didn't lose a game in the next 28 matches, including a run of 11 matches where AZ did not concede an opposition goal. Three weeks before the end of the season AZ became Eredivisie champions beating nearest rivals Twente and Ajax comfortably. Being league champions, AZ qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the second time, but only took four points from six matches and finished bottom of their group.
Ronald Koeman succeeded Louis van Gaal after the 2008–09 season. Van Gaal had already left for Bayern Munich after becoming league champions with AZ. Koeman became the manager for AZ on 17 May 2009. On 5 December 2009 AZ announced that Koeman no longer was in charge of AZ, after losing 7 of the first 16 games in his reign. Former Rangers and Zenit St. Petersburg manager Dick Advocaat took over for the rest of the season. Under Advocaat, AZ achieved some good results and secured European football for the next season.
For the 2010–11 season AZ appointed Gertjan Verbeek as their new manager. AZ finished the 2010–11 season in 4th place, securing Europa League football for the next season. In the KNVB Cup AZ reached the last eight, where they were beaten by rivals Ajax with 1–0. AZ finished third in their Europa League group, thus not qualifying for the knock out round.
The 2011–12 season AZ finished the Eredivisie in 4th place and performed significantly better in cup competitions, reaching the semi-finals in the KNVB cup (losing to Heracles Almelo after extra time) and the quarter-finals in the Europa League, ultimately losing to Valencia after beating Udinese, Anderlecht, Malmö FF, Austria Wien, Metalist Kharkiv, Aalesund and FK Baumit Jablonec.
On 21 December 2011, during the quarter-finals of the KNVB Cup, a 19 year old Ajax fan entered the Amsterdam ArenA pitch in the 36th minute, with Ajax winning 1–0, attacking AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado. The fan slipped and Alvarado kicked the fan twice, which led to the goalkeeper being sent off. Following this, Gertjan Verbeek ordered his players to leave the pitch for the dressing room in protest. Later, the match was played again on 19 January 2012, with Alvarado's red card rescinded. AZ won the match 3–2.
The 2012–13 season started in the Europa League with a qualifying play-off round against Guus Hiddinks Anzhi Makhachkala, AZ were hammered 6–0 on aggregate. Disappointingly AZ finished the Eredivisie in 10th place, however AZ won silverware by winning the domestic cup after beating PSV 2-1. Winning the KNVB Beker AZ automatically qualified for Europa League football despite finishing the league in tenth position and out of the league's Europa League play-off system.
In September 2013, just a day after emphatically beating PSV, then league leaders, Verbeek was dismissed as first team manager by the club due to 'a lack of chemistry' between the management and players. He was replaced by Dick Advocaat for the rest of the season until a permanent replacement was found. Advocaat took AZ to the semi-finals of the KNVB Beker, the quarter-finals of the Europa League and 8th in the league, ultimately losing to FC Groningen in Europa League play-off final round (their 58th game of the season, a club record).
The 2014–15 season started with a new manager at the helm, former SC Heerenveen manager and Ajax player Marco van Basten.
Yves de Winter