Willem II returns to the Eredivisie after two seasons

After two seasons at the second tier of Dutch football, Willem II returns to the Eredivisie. The leader in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie secured promotion to the Eredivisie officially due to the draw at FC Dordrecht. Next week, the Tricolores will have the opportunity to crown themselves champions of the First Division for the fourth time.

With just one match remaining, Willem II currently has 76 points. Only in the previous promotion season (2013/'14) did the club earn more points in the league (they were champions with 79 points). With Willem II, the Eredivisie welcomes back an old acquaintance; prior to the 2024/'25 season, only eight teams have had more experience at the highest level since the introduction of the Eredivisie.

Most seasons in the Eredivisie

# Club Seasons











Sparta Rotterdam



FC Twente



FC Utrecht



NAC Breda



ADO Den Haag






Willem II


Difficult start

The signs of a successful season were not yet evident in the early weeks of 2023/'24. Willem II started the season difficulty, securing a victory against FC Dordrecht (2-0), drawing against FC Eindhoven (1-1) and FC Groningen (0-0), and suffering a defeat at home against arch-rival NAC Breda (1-4).

This led to the departure of head coach Reinier Robbemond, and even under interim coach Peter van den Berg, the team's performance didn't improve much: one win (against MVV 2-1) and one loss (against SC Cambuur 1-0). After six matches, the gap with league leaders Roda JC was seven points, and with a twelfth-place position, it seemed the Tilburg crowd might be in for a difficult season.

The 'savior' Peter Maes

However, everything changed with the appointment of manager Peter Maes. The Belgian head coach won his first six league matches in charge of Willem II, a feat that not only marked a milestone but also established the first such winning streak for the Tilburg side since 2014, when Jurgen Streppel led Willem II to promotion with a streak of seven victories among others. With twelve wins in fourteen matches, they took the top spot for the first time in round 14 and even ended 2023 as the winter champions in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie.

Head coach Peter Maes


As Willem II's results began to resemble those of a promoted team, the team also started to behave more like one. As seen in the graph below, under Maes, the team had a start where the opponent created better chances, but since then, they have been dominant for the majority of the season. The match against FC Dordrecht marked Maes's 31st league match in charge of Willem II. During that period, the club amassed a remarkable 68 points, nine more than any other team since his debut.

Build-up play

Willem II showcased themselves as a top team on both ends of the pitch this season. No team scored as frequently as Willem II (74 goals), while only FC Groningen (30) and Roda JC (32) conceded fewer goals (33). They achieved this with composed football; an impressive 79.7% of passes found their target, the second-highest percentage when excluding the Jong teams. Not surprisingly, only Helmond Sport (7) scored more often from attacks consisting of ten or more passes (or 'build-up play') in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie 2023/24 than Willem II (6).

Jeredy Hilterman

Willem II sealed their promotion with a late equalizer against FC Dordrecht, which encapsulates their season. It marked the 24th point the team earned after falling behind, with only ADO Den Haag securing more from losing positions.

An essential factor in that resilience this season was Jeredy Hilterman. The (joint) top scorer for Willem II since Ruud Boymans (27 in 2013/14) proved to be crucial with sixteen goals after a hesitant start. Moreover, Hilterman scored important goals. Not a single goal came when the difference with the opponent was already substantial.

Hilterman netted the equalizer five times, provided five lead goals, and increased the gap to two in favor of the Tilburgers six times. Additionally, Hilterman displayed an unexpected quality this season. He scored an impressive seven times with his head, the joint most of all players in the league. Furthermore, Hilterman proved he's more than just a scorer by delivering his seventh assist of the season against FC Dordrecht. With 23 goals and assists combined, he is rightfully the Tilburg MVP.

Raffael Behounek

While Hilterman provided goals up front, Willem II had an absolute stalwart in Raffael Behounek at the back. The Austrian played the full 90 minutes in 36 out of 37 matches for Willem II, and the only match he missed resulted in a loss. In those games, Behounek regained possession a remarkable 274 times, second only to Roda JC’s Boyd Reith in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie this season. Speaking of duels, Behounek engaged in many and came out on top frequently. Indeed, no player with at least 150 duels won a higher percentage of their duels this season in the First Division than Behounek, who can look back on a strong first year as a Tricolore (66.5% success rate).

Keuken Kampioen Divisie - 150 duels (2023/24)

# Player Club Duels Duels won %


Raffael Behounek

Willem II




Dennis Gyamfi

FC Den Bosch




Finn Stam

Jong AZ




Flor van den Eynden

Helmond Sport




Marvin Peersman

FC Groningen




Promotion is a reality for Willem II due to tonight's results. The Tilburgers have already played 1548 matches in the Eredivisie, and next season, they will prepare for their 47th season at the highest level.

Next Friday, the icing on the cake may come, as the Tilburgers could prepare for the championship match against Telstar. In the meantime, the Eredivisie congratulates all Willem II supporters on the promotion.

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