Kay Smits: “Going to Kiel would be a reward for all our hard work”Article
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FEATURE: Having returned from EHF EURO 2020 qualification matches with the Netherlands, Kay Smits is ready to help TTH Holstebro reach the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals
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Kay Smits: “Going to Kiel would be a reward for all our hard work”

Whilst female Dutch players have been a common sight in Danish league clubs for many years, players from the Netherlands have been scarce in the men’s league.

Kay Smits is an exception.

Before this season, the 21-year-old Dutch international joined TTH Holstebro from 2. Bundesliga club Wilhelmshavener HV as supplement to Denmark international Peter Balling in the right back position.

After returning from EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers with the Dutch national team, he is ready to help Holstebro reach the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals by eliminating Grundfos Tatabanya in the upcoming quarter-finals.

So far, the young Dutchman is happy with his first season in Denmark.

“It has been a great first year for me so far and it has been a step up for me after coming from the 2. Bundesliga, so I feel I have developed a lot. It is also a plus for me that TTH are playing in Europe.

“It has been great to play these European matches and I have learned a lot from playing them,” says Kay Smits, whose performances have also pleased head coach Patrick Westerholm.

“Kay has done very well, not least considering the fact that he has come to a new country, where he did not understand a word of the language.

“I remember only too well, what it was like for myself to come from Finland to Kolding here in Denmark and not understanding a word of what the coach said, so we have been very cautious about helping Kay settle in.

“He has definitely been a good signing for us. He still needs to develop a bit in the physical aspect of the game, as it is obviously more physical in the Danish league than in the 2. Bundesliga,” says Patrick Westerholm.

Alone in his position

Lately, Kay Smits has been handed an even bigger opportunity to develop in the Danish league, as he is all alone at right back at the moment, after his experienced teammate Peter Balling is out injured for the rest of the season.

“At the start, that was actually a problem for me, as I had just returned from an ankle injury myself.

“Now, however, I see it as a chance to really show what I can do as I get to play all of the games and as Patrick Westerholm wants to play the kind of handball I like, this is really great for me,” says Kay Smits, to whom the most exciting part of the season has only just started.

“This is the time of the play-offs in the Danish championship and the quarter-finals in the EHF Cup, and I am looking forward to it all,” he says.

"We definitely have a chance"

“Going to Kiel would just be awesome. Playing in front of 10,000 spectators or more in that big arena and against of such high level would be great. It would be a reward for our fine season and for all the hard work we have been doing throughout the season.

TTH were already in the EHF Cup Finals once, at the event’s first edition in 2013. The Danish club finished third in Nantes.

This season, the last hurdle between TTH and emulating the 2013 achievement is Grundfos Tatabanya KC.

The Hungarian team, who won Group B, will be visiting the Gråkjær Arena of Holstebro on Saturday with the return match in Györ one week later.

“Of course, Tatabanya will be a new acquaintance for us and they obviously play a different kind of handball compared to what we are used to in the Danish league.

“That also makes it a bit difficult to judge our chances, but actually I do not see why we cannot beat them.

“We made some great performances during the season and if we can reach that level again, we definitely have a chance.

“The fact that only those two matches separate us from Kiel will definitely be a huge motivation to us,” concludes Kay Smits.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor