A player who shone briefly for Spurs had his career prematurely ended by a hip injury, just as it looked like he might have made a break-through at the club.
Starting his football career at NEC Nijmegen, Willem then moved to Vitesse Arnhem, where he did well enough to catch the eye of Leeds United. A tall man, his strength on the wing was his pace and upper body strength, but he did have a trick or two to use to get past his marker.The forward who was on loan at Leeds United last season signed for Tottenham in the close season of 1999, causing a furore in the process. His failure to sign permanently for the Yorkshire side and his subsequent transfer to Spurs has left some bad feeling in the Northern club's camp.
Formerly of Vitesse Arnhem, the player who can play midfield, on the wing or up front, had featured well in the Premiership. His play had shown speed and a good finish, with many attributes which will serve him well in England. Although he had a poor game when he appeared as a substitute at White Hart Lane for Leeds in the FA Cup replay last season, he had done enough to convince George Graham that he would be a valuable addition to the squad, costing around £1.5 million. Some mystery surrounded where he would play as he was featured out of his natural left-wing position. However, he had the ability to fill several roles which should have made it easy for him to slot in as and when necessary, providing options for the management and his quality was undoubted, as he had played in a Holland Under-21 side with the likes of Kluivert, Seedorf and van Bronkhorst.
After many months of frustrating injury, he finally made his league debut for Spurs by coming on as a substitute in the defeat by Sheffield Wednesday (22.1.2000). He has struggled to pick up the pace of the games he featured in and appeared lethargic. It may have been as a result of the hip injury he was carrying and he underwent surgery on it during the close season.
In 2000-2001, Willem had the chance to get a few first team games and showed fleeting glimpses of what he could do, but he faded from the game sometimes. In the reserves, he became a prolific scorer with two hat-tricks and some spectacular goals. It was hoped that he could transfer that form to the first XI and he came into the lime-light at the end of the 2000-2001 season with three goals; one away at Sunderland and two on the final match of the season at home to Manchester United. His brace against the champions (one a delicate volleyed lob over the keeper and the other a powerful low drive with little back-lift) showed he had good finishing skills, but needed to get more involved in the game to make a significant impact.
Unfortunately, this was to be his last appearance in a Spurs shirt, as doctors told him that his persistent hip injury would result in him being unable to walk should he continue playing. His retirement in October 2001 was a shame in one so young (aged 26) and especially as he was just looking to show his true potential in a Spurs shirt.
Willem returned to his former club NEC as a coach at their academy, subsequently carving out a career as a TV football commentator back in his homeland, while playing amateur football for Achilles '29.