Published: 15/09/2013 08:29 - Updated: 15/09/2013 08:52

County import gets to grips with Scotland: 'People are harder here!'

Written byAlasdair Fraser

Melvin De Leeuw believes he has plenty to offer Ross County. Picture: Alison White SPP>
Melvin De Leeuw believes he has plenty to offer Ross County. Picture: Alison White SPP>

MELVIN de Leeuw believes he is ready to make a much bigger impact at Ross County as he settles into life in Scotland.

The 25-year-old is the eldest of four Dutchmen recruited by the Dingwall club this summer but admits it has taken time to adjust to the move away from his native Holland.

So far, the midfielder has managed just one start for County — in the 4-0 defeat away to St Johnstone — along with four substitute’s appearances.

It is a scenario mirrored among his countrymen.

Darren Maatsen made a stunning impact with a goal in the opener at Celtic Park, but has been used sparingly since being subbed at half-time in the poor home defeat to Partick Thistle.

Midfielder Marc Klok is yet to feature for the first team, while Kevin Luckassen has started four times in attack but is yet to score a competitive goal.

While still on sharp learning curve, de Leeuw took heart from a bright 35-minute contribution from the bench at Easter Road — and insists there is much better to come from him.

The playmaker, who helped SC Cambuur win the Eerste Divisie title and promotion to the Dutch top flight last season, said: “I’m finding it good at Ross County. It’s getting better and better.

“In the first two months, you have to settle in, but I feel settled now and I know what the team want and what the gaffer wants.

“You can talk all you like about what you will find when moving to a new country and a new league, but you have to experience it in real life.

“I didn’t start the last two matches, but I came off the substitute’s bench and my feeling is good. I feel ready to give more to the team.”

While acknowledging difficulties since swapping the Friesland district of the Netherlands for the Highlands, de Leeuw insists he is enjoying the County regime.

But he does welcome a first visit from parents, Leon and Anna-Marie, for this Sunday’s live televised clash with Dundee United at the Global Energy Stadium.

De Leeuw said: “My parents are coming over from the Netherlands for the first time this weekend to watch the team, which is nice.

“When they aren’t here, they always watch the games on television or the laptop.

“It is actually their first ever trip to Scotland. It means a lot to me to have them coming over.

“I’m now two months into my Ross County career and I haven’t seen them for a while.

“It will maybe give me an extra boost in my performance if I play against Dundee United.

“Life is basically the same for footballers everywhere, with a few little differences in every country.

“But it does take a little bit of time to settle in.”

De Leeuw admits the image of the Scottish football remains fairly poor back home in the Netherlands, with most picturing the game here as a comparatively primitive and feral pastime.

His introduction at Ross County, though, quickly changed his own perceptions, at least regarding the style of play favoured by his new club

De Leeuw stressed: “In Holland, the emphasis is on playing football and that’s what the manager here likes us to do.

“Normally, back home, they think of Scottish football as a bit kick and rush.

“But we see every day on the training pitch how the gaffer wants us to play football. His style is the same as it is in Holland.

“Here it is just a little bit more physical than back home — people are harder here, basically!

“Hopefully, that will only add to my game and help make me a better player all round.

“Some of the teams play more long balls, so you have to get more physical, make your headers count and be strong with your upper body. That’s very important here in Scotland, I think.

“The four of us Dutch boys, if we want to do well, have to train hard for it. We’re doing that and we feel we can get better and better.

“You must be smart about it, though. You can’t spend all of your time in the gym.

“If you can be smarter than your marker, it’s good, but the work in the gym also has a place.”

De Leeuw will remain patient in his quest for a first team breakthrough but does believe he can contribute immediately if called upon.

He added: “It’s a long season and I think all of the Dutch lads want to play now and in every match, like all the players here.

“But we also know we have to show it on the training ground. We need to show we are not just worthy of a place on the bench but in the first eleven.

“When it comes, you need to be ready to take your chance.

“I feel I am improving all the time at the club. In the last game against Hibs, particularly, I got a good feeling.

“But I can do more, that’s my feeling. I’m confident I can make assists, score goals and do my job well.

“If I do that when I come into the team, then I can stay there.”

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