The past handful of seasons will not exactly be known as Golden Years in the history of Ajax.
The results were meager, considering the reputation of this great club. A frequent change of trainers and a continuous stream of new players came and left again. Most of whom weren't even Dutch, let alone from Amsterdam.
Ajax was losing it's identity. Where were the players who had gone through Ajax' own great and internationally famed schooling-system? Where were the people at the top, who had a long history in the club? I'm sure many fans of Ajax, like me, lost heart and felt Ajax is Ajax no longer. The players couldn't become a team and the directors, least of all those in charge of football-technical-matters, couldn't inspire, as if they were missing the Holy Fire.
I think this process of losing identity was set off when Ajax' shares became trade-able at the stock-exchange and making profit became priority number one. Staff were no longer seasoned club-members but qualified managers from outside, up to the technical director, who has to decide on player-management.
Under this new management, the attitude towards young players from the Ajax-school looks to have changed considerably. Many never even got a chance to play in the first team and if they did get one, patience was limited and soon staff would decide they weren't good enough and the young player had to search his luck elsewhere. Only some real great players like Babel, Sneijders, Van der Vaart, De Jong and Heitinga survived in the first team. But they were only a few, so the team had to be filled up with players from outside. And here technical management hasn't always been very successful in the past years. All these new players, coming and going - as they were also soon disqualified again (after all economics demanded for cheap rather than renowned players), led to the team-spirit going amiss and many sad and frustrated fans.
Till early this season an investigation-report was made public, made by some seasoned club-members and after that the spirit was out of the bottle. First, the head of the technical director rolled as well as that of the general director and the president. Now the presidium is consisting of long-time Ajax-members again and there are new directors.
Johan Cruijff, Ajax' most famous and loyal member, allowed himself to speak again (he curfewed himself under the old set of governors as he felt he was speaking to deaf ears) and he had a voice in contracting Marco van Basten as the trainer for the new season.
Marco Van Basten, one of the most famous sons-of-Ajax as a player, with whom, as a striker, Ajax won the European Cup-winners-Cup and who has been a successful trainer of the National team of Holland the past four years. He has an outspoken opinion, he likes attacking-football, which is typical for Ajax too (the Amsterdam fans hate the defending style of so many Italian teams) and he has the courage to stand up to anyone and demand for the players he needs, regardless of economics. He has earned the respect needed to silence the money-greedy-managers. His appearance in a few weeks time on the training-fields of Ajax makes our Ajax-hearts beat faster again...
I'm sure many fans are hopeful for the Ajax-fire of old to return and frankly: we can't wait to see that happen as this sloppy period lasted all too long.
Personally I hope that the Ajax-schooling-system will regain it's stature in the club. Because it was that system, with players playing for Ajax since they were kids, that made us all so proud and that made Ajax a club with a powerful beating HEART!
Ajax is one of the great clubs of Europe, being four times European Champion. Only to be bettered by Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool and only to be equalled by Bayern Munich.
Since 1998 Ajax has only been national Champion twice (2002 and 2004). A low tide for the club.
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