Veltman: Initiation song more daunting than Bernabeu!

Dutch defender found life easier in a huge Champions League tie than singing in front of his Albion teammates.

By Charlie Hanson • 16 April 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Joel Veltman has impressed during his first campaign with Albion.

A Champions League round of 16 match at Real Madrid was easier to cope with for Joel Veltman than singing Bob Marley to his new team-mates.

The summer arrival from Ajax was a late substitute in one of the biggest upsets in Europe’s top competition when the Dutch giants knocked out the reigning champions on their own turf in 2019.

Despite the pressure of such a high octane game, getting up on stage to sing was more difficult for the defender.

“The first away game you have to sing, I sang Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. I did a horrible job, even though I know every word of it. I got the lyrics up on YouTube just before to make sure I knew them, I got up to sing it and I completely forgot all of it. It was terrible.

“It was awkward and funny. Everybody watches you, I was more nervous for that than playing in Ajax’s Champions League quarter-final at the Santiago Bernabeu a few years ago.”

That experience has proved to be invaluable for Veltman, with the competition's intensity close to that of the Premier League.

“The quality and the tempo is very high in the Premier League, it's the same as the Champions League. I played in the Champions League every three weeks with Ajax, now it feels like I am playing in it every week in terms of the intensity.

“That's something you have to get used to – around January time I felt like I had found my rhythm. I have had to play in a few positions and that’s something I have had to add to my game, but the rest I have found okay.

“You have to adapt to the gamesmanship as well, because I have always been the player to give a little push in the back or something like that! But you have players doing it back to you in every game in the Premier League. In Holland you can be smarter than your opponent to get the better of them, but here they know what you’re going to do already.”