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Richie Sadlier Speaks Powerfully On Dutch Bond With Louis Van Gaal

Richie Sadlier Speaks Powerfully On Dutch Bond With Louis Van Gaal
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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The Dutch squad came into this World Cup in a hugely challenging situation, with manager Louis van Gaal announcing his diagnosis of prostate cancer in April of this year.

Soon after came the announcement that the treatment had been successful, but the challenges posed to van Gaal will have taken their emotional toll on the Netherlands side.

Speaking on RTÉ ahead of the Dutch's last 16 tie with the USA on Saturday, Richie Sadlier spoke poignantly from his personal experience of playing under the late Ray Harford.

Harford, a coach at Blackburn when they won the Premier League in 1995, was a coach of Sadlier's at Millwall when he tragically died of cancer in 2003.

Sadlier spoke beautifully on the power of Harford's continued work while suffering from cancer, and said that van Gaal's strength in working on through his illness could be a unifying factor for the Dutch team.

Louis van Gaal: Richie Sadlier says Dutchman has unified squad

Ray Harford was one of Kenny Dalglish's assistant coaches for Blackburn's iconic 1994-95 Premier League title win, but fell ill during his time as a coach of Millwall. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, and died little under a year later - while still a coach.

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On Millwall's books at the time was Richie Sadlier, and he spoke on RTÉ this weekend on the power of Harford's connection with the squad, even through his illness:

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Ray Harford was a coach I had...he was diagnosed with cancer while he was our coach, and got a lot of treatment while he was our coach and, sadly, he died.

But I remember being around him when he was in the training ground. The impact of everything he said to us just increased massively, because you look at this fella and think "he's dealing with a lot" - when you're very ill, or in Ray's case you know you're time-limited, it makes way more impact that they have spent their time with you.

They're sitting talking with you about your career and what you could do in a football sense. There's that unspoken communication that you're not going to get a never-ending amount of chances to play for your country, in a situation like this. It must be a big, big motivating factor, as well as a unifying factor as well.

Louis van Gaal has been treated for cancer in recent months, and appears on the road to recovery after announcing the success of the treatment earlier this year.

Nonetheless, van Gaal's illness will have been a testing experience for the Dutch squad, who van Gaal is leading to the World Cup for the first time since 2014.

For a team famed for past issues in the camp at major tournaments, this Dutch team seem particularly unified in their goal of succeeding in Qatar. In a strange way, Richie Sadlier believes that Louis van Gaal's strength in recovery may have played a role in this:

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When we think of the Dutch squad in tournaments, we tend to think of some kind of unrest or disharmony...there is a noticeable absence of that. We're trying to guess why.

We know about the manager's health status, he's had a diagnosis of cancer and he had a lot of treatment last year. You would assume that that is a unifying factor for the squad.

I think if you have a central figure like your coach dealing with what van Gaal has been dealing with, or is dealing with, it would tend to focus your mind a little bit more. The  things that might split a squad, things you might complain about, or the things that might wind you up - when you're faced with somebody who's dealing with all the challenges that van Gaal is going through, I think you would find it in you to park it.

I think the country are behind the team a lot more at home - possibly because of that.

Sadlier accepted that there may be additional pressure on the Dutch team, as they will not want to fail van Gaal at such a pivotal moment.

Nonetheless, the RTÉ pundit's quotes were truly moving, and a touching tribute to the memory of the late Ray Harford.

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SEE ALSO: RTÉ Panel Discussion Goes Viral In Japan After Spain Win

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