Deventer is home to the wonderfully named Go Ahead Eagles, four times Dutch champions. Set on the banks of the River IJssel, between Zwolle to the north and Arnhem to the south, Deventer centres around a pretty, historic centre, ringed on three sides by water.
De Adelaarshorst, Go Ahead’s ground since 1920, is in a residential area north-east of town.
An important trading and industrial centre, Deventer was an early starter in the Dutch game as well as a later pioneer. The first local club, Be Quick, was founded in 1902, three years before the Dutch FA insisted on a name change – another Be Quick already existed, in Groningen. Strictly speaking, the Go Ahead club that resulted from this bureaucratic untangling became amateur in 1971 when expat manager Barry Hughes suggested ‘Eagles’ be added to the name of the professional team.
During this time, players were coming through from the club’s academy, set up by seminal Czech-Dutch coach František Fadrhonc in 1962, the first in Holland to accommodate lodging youngsters.
Once trained on-site, these footballers soon flew the nest. In modern times, Deventer never became a major player at home or abroad – all four of Go Ahead’s titles had come before World War II. While nearby Arnhem and Enschede have accommodated the likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester City over several decades of European competition, Go Ahead provided Celtic with one of their easiest away trips, a 6-0 victory at De Adelaarshorst in 1965.
With Go Ahead spending more time in the second-flight Eerste Divisie than the prestigious Ere, this solitary European appearance looked like the only time Deventer would be granted any kind of role on the international stage. Even the only time Holland played at De Adelaarshorst, a World Cup qualifying fixture in 1973, it was officially a home game for Iceland.
This changed in 2015 when Go Ahead were offered a place in the Europa League – at the expense of Twente Enschede. By chance, with De Adelaarshorst being renovated, the game with Ferencváros was played in Emmen, a considerable distance away by the German border.
As for Go Ahead’s domestic standing of late, PEC Zwolle, their opponents in the IJsselderby, have dominated this fierce fixture since the mid-1990s.
As everywhere in the Netherlands, local transport runs on the OV-chipkaart system, also valid for trains. Deventer station is on the north-eastern fringe of the historic centre, on the stadium side of town. Everything in the town centre is walkable, though you’ll need a bus for the stadium.
For a local cab, contact IJssel Taxi Deventer (IJTD) on +31 570 74 75 76.
Comfortable, mid-range hotels dot the town centre. Right on the main square, the Hotel Royal is the most venerable in Deventer, with an old-school café (and TV sport) and 20 guestrooms – though you’ll find a little more comfort at the Hotel de Vischpoorte a small collection of studio apartments by the river.
Back in the town centre, Hotel De Leeuw, is a cosy, family-run spot in a 17th-century building with a souvenir shop attached, its products with the same Hanseatic theme that features in all nine rooms. Close by, the Hotel Gilde is a three-star in the Fletcher Group, who have affordable lodgings across the Netherlands.
For a real budget stay, the Bed & Breakfast Deventer is convenient for both station and town centre. The friendly owner is happy to provide local tips over the breakfast table.
Terrace cafés and restaurants line Deventer’s main square of Brink – you’ll find more bars down the sidestreets, particularly Polstraat/Boterstraat towards the river.
The 2015 closure of the long-established and revered De Boemel pub also moved the bar scene off the main square, though Flavour and De Hip still offer late-night fun. Both are music-oriented, Flavour with TV football at the end of its long bar counter, pool tables as well, De Hip done out with photos of Johan Cruyff.
Leading candidate for best bar in town is De Heks, ‘The Witch’, with 25 beers on tap, more than 100 by the bottle and a busy, chatty atmosphere all night. The other would be the down-to-earth Cross Roads, on the corner of Graven and Papenstraat, a rockers’ bar with a big screen for football and Go Ahead scarves among the vintage beer ads on the back wall – older fans gather here to watch the match, listen to a few Muddy Waters tunes and play carombole billiards.
Finally, the Burgerweeshuis is a live music venue with a separate bar and decent range of beers.