6. Football Icon : Ajax Academy
Further to our series upon World Football , today we cast a glance at the Ajax Academy supply line which had turned a – with respect ; Small to Middle-Size Club , as regards Average European Gates , into one of instant Global Renown . Ajax F.C. have utilised what is now known as , The Academy System for over 40 years , in the process winning 5 European Cups and becoming elevated to the very top table of World Football.
The Ajax Club was Formed on 18 January 1900 , in Amsterdam , by its 3 Founding Fathers , Foris Stempel , Carel Reesner and Johan Dade , their 2nd such attempt , following the ill-fated F.C. Ajax . They named the Football Club after the Mythical Greek Hero , Ajax , whom fought the Trojan War in , The Illiad . In addition , most analysts concur that , as , in the story , Achilles died at his own hand – thus , as opposed to his Cousin , Comrade and Rival as a Greek Uber-Hero , Ajax , whom was vanquished , Ajax died undefeated . The Club acquired various Monikers , or Nick-Names , De Godenzoren ; Sons of the Gods – Logical really ; The Amsterdammers – again , but also Ajecceden de Joden ; The Jews – the Stadium was based in a Jewish area .
The Club continued throughout the Amateur Era , and , in an unusual #St. Domingo-Link , the First Official Manager of Ajax Amsterdam , was an Irishman , and Ex-Evertonian , Jack Kirwen – 25 games , Four Goals over 2 Seasons , For Everton FC ; whom later looked to Football Management as a Career , and though never having played for the Club , found a Spiritual Home at Ajax . Kirwen was Manager between 1910-1915 , and led the Side to The Dutch , Second Class , Title , and their inaugral promotion to the Top Flight of Football in Holland . Though , bizarrely , with the Western Front able to be heard , Dutch Soccer continued throughout World War One . Meanwhile , Kirwen departed to be replaced by Jack Reynolds , his erstwhile assistant , whom himself would become an Ajax F.C. Icon .
By 1918 , Reynolds had won the Eredivisie , and indeed retained it the following Campaign . Ajax were now a recognised Football Club . A proper one . Moreover , Reynolds was a Zealot as regards , How the Game Should Be Played . He termed it , ” Totaal Voetbal ..” , Or Total Football . In order to fully grasp Reynolds’ concept , one must be aware of the equipment prevalent during the period . Boots , more akin to going to War than playing Footy , a Ball , ultra absorbant and more akin to an circular Anvil – when wet , than Sporting Miscellany , and Pitches , more Bog than Bowling Green . Under these conditions , the Englishman devised a system which primarily focused upon the optimum utilisation of Space , but moreover , an inherent aspect of the concept focused upon Players , and their abilities . Jack Reynolds’ vision was for any Outfield Player , in any given situation to be able to temporarily , ” Drop In ” , to a Colleagues role – yet do so whilst fulfilling all tactical criteria . Certainly , Reynolds adopted the embryonic idea and proceeded to construct a Football Club with it as its Ethos . From the early 1920′s onwards , Players were purchased, where necessary , but more importantly , Brought Through , educated in the Totaal Voetbal mindset from Youngsters , with a view to their being as prepared as possible to slot into the Ajax First Team .
The 1930′s would see the next stage of the Club’s development , as they became Serial Challengers and beget their first real Superstar , Wim Andreisen Snr. Indeed , so successful were they , Between The Wars , that the period is referred to as ” The Golden Age ” – an Historical reference concerning the 17th Century apex of Dutch Republic . Still competing at Regional , then National levels , Ajax continued to Monopolise the Silverware during the Century’s 3rd decade . 1930-32 , ’34-’37 and 1939 Regionally , and Nationally , 1932 , 1934 , 1937 , and 1939 – #St. Domingo link 2 – we were Both Champions at the outbreak of W.W. 2 . Indeed , Ajax were now the predominant Football Club in Holland , and it was during the 1930′s that the Rivalry with Feyenoord – of Rotterdam , sprung up . Moreover , they completed the construction of their first Purpose-Built Stadium , ” Het Amsterdam ” – named after the area of location , with the Olympic Stadium being used for really big games .
The 1940′s , with Reynolds’ Retirement – he had , with leaves of absence , been connected to the Club since 1915 , Ajax underwent a period of rebuilding . Nevertheless , it was during this period that the Biological aspect of Jack Reynolds’ work , Took Root . His ideas had become the Club’s Raison D’Etre . There was a methodology to which all areas of the Football Club adhered and worked towards .
Professional Football was finally allowed throughout The Eredivisie in 1954/55 , with Ajax Amsterdam becoming its inaugural Professional , Champions and subsequently competing – that is , qualifying for the European Cup , though ultimately being well beaten by the Hungarians , Vasaas FC , and again , after qualifying in 1960 , by Freidrikstad FK of Norway . More importantly , from a historical perspective , for the Club during this period were its Players . Sjaak Swaart , an , ” Academy Graduate ” – such as it was at that stage ; he would later become known as , Mr. Ajax , playing over 450 games ( 461 ) in 17 years , for de Godezonen . However , even more significant , in the long-term , was the , then , rather non-descript Midfielder , also an , ” Academy ” Man , Rinus Michels . A Grafter is often the most kind term applied to Michels’ Soccer Skills , but he was appointed as Manager in 1965 , as replacement for Vic Buckingham . Michels would instill Reynolds’ Concept literally , from the Grass Roots of the Club right through to its First Team . He took over a Team of perennial relegation strugglers , utilized the undoubted talents of Home-Grown Players , such as Johann Cryff and Johann Neeskens , and basically started a ” Revolution ” in the Coaching of Professional Footballers .
His system became known as , ” Total Football ” , and Michels raised eyebrows when , early in his tenure , he sacrificed established Players , primarily , Fritz Soetekouw , whom Michels felt would or could not adapt to the New System . Soetekouw’s Own Goal in the European Cup Quarter Final – versus Dukla Prague , in 19966/67 , had seen the Dutchmen eliminated .
The following Season , as Michels Mandate began to take hold . Ajax Amsterdam romped to the Title scoring a Record 122 goals in the process , of which , 33 were from the 20 year old Johann Cryuff , as they also secured a Domestic Double for the first time in their History . They also won the Eredivisie in 1968 , and the subsequent Campaign reached their inaugral European Cup Final , playing A.C. Milan at the Siantiago Bernabeau in Madrid . Unfortunately , they fell foul of the Milanese famed , Catanaccio , methodology and were easily defeated 1-4 . The loss was a catalyst for Michels to refresh the Side , with a few High Profile departures . Nevertheless , they lifted the Dutch Title once more , in 1969/70 , winning 27 games from 33 , and also reached the Semi-Final of The Inter Cities Fair’s Cup . However , it was to be 1970/71 that would see the zenith of not merely Ajax History , that of Total Football , but some still argue – contemporary Barcelona accepted , European Football per se .The Side , led by Cruyff , are Runners Up in the Title , win the Dutch Cup and go on to overcome Panathaniakos of Athens – whom had dubiously defeated , #St. Domingo link 3 ; Everton in the 4th Round ; 2-0 as The Hollanders mount the 39 steps of Wembley , to – after losses in 1966 and 1969 ; lift The European Cup for the first time .
Michels departed de Meer in 1971 , with the Team on the very precipice of greatness , to Manage Barcelona . The Ethos , however remained utterly endemic throughout Ajax Amsterdam , as meanwhile , on-the-field the First XI were nothing short of awesome . In 1972 they collect a European Treble of , European Cup , League Title and the KNVB Cup . The subsequent Campaign , they returned to triumph in both The European Cup and Eredivisie . However , they received a heavy blow as Cruyff followed Renus Michels to Catalonia . This , hardly surprisingly affected the success of the Team . Indeed , it was quoted as , the end of , .. ” The 12 Apostles ..” – as the 1969/73 Side were termed . Cruyff was to return as Manager in 1985 . He held true to the attacking principles of his Mentor , as Ajax score 127 goals with 37 from Centre Forward Marco Van Basten . He also reached 2 consecutive European Cup Winner’s Cup Finals – winning the first , then departing immediately before the defeat to K.V. Mechelen .
The 1990′s saw the advent of the , Louis Van Gaal Era . Van Gaal won the EUFA Cup in his Debut Season , which then saw the departure of the Team’s two Stars , Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk , to Internazionale di Milano , Van Gaal looked away from Amsterdam to locate their replacements , as Jari Litmanen , the Finn , and Nigerian , Finidi George arrived and Frank Rijkaard returned from A.C. Milan and added genuine quality to the Heart of the Defence . In 1994/95 Ajax triumph in both the Eredivisie – indeed , were unbeaten , and in the – as it was now termed , The Champions League Final . They enjoyed a , 1-0 victory over A.C. Milan , as Rijkaard played his final game for the Club against his erstwhile Employer’s . The winning goal was scored by a 19 year-old Patrick Kluivert . Moreover , 9 of the European Cup Starting 11 were products of the Club’s Academy System , and would go on to represent some of the Biggest Clubs in Europe and earn The Amsterdammers huge income in the process . The following Campaign they once more went on to reach The Champions League Final , only to be beaten by Juventus on Penalties .
The departures , over the next few Seasons – in the wake of the Bosman Ruling , went as follows ; Clarence Seedorf , 1995 ; 1996 ; Kanu , Edgar Davids , Reiziger , Finidi George . A Year later , Kluivert , Marc Overmars and Winston Bogarde . 1998 ; Ronald and Frank De Boer , Edwin Van Der Saar and Jari Litmannen in the Century’s final year . The ensuing decade has seen a Revolution as regards Football Financing Globally , and as such , the Eredivisie , and thus , the International Renown of Ajax Amsterdam suffers as a result . Nevertheless , they remain true to the Principles of their Fore-Fathers which , by regularly providing Players for the First Team from within the Organisation , conceptually , gives them a fighting chance of overcoming the Monetary Odds .
The Ajax Academy of 2011 , is obviously , State of the Art , yet adhere to not only the broad application of Michels Vision , but remain advocates of the 4-3-3 System . Renus Michels idea was all about the utilisation of space . Unconcerned about traditional , Chalk Board , positions , Winger rigidly staying wide , etc . Michels espoused that Soccer is a fluid game . Situations evolve . Thus , any Player on any given day can find himself in a variety of scenarios . He must therefore , be able to cope . Another facet of Michels’ Hypothesis was , ” Letting the Ball do the Work ..” . Anyone whom witnessed the Cryuff / Neeskens / Krol , side would concur that their innate abilities , when allied to the system , produced Football to a level that can genuinely be termed , Beautiful . Anyone doubting my opinion , .. You-Tube is your friend ,..
Indeed , the methodology used by the Dutchmen is termed ; T.I.P.S. This acronym stands for , Technique / Insight / Personality / Speed . Each aspect has 10 criteria . ” P , and , S ..” , are genuinely innate properties , but ” I & S ” , can always be developed further . Moreover , each Player owns an , ” Ajax Passport ” , within which all Training and First Team Achievements are noted . There are also , what are known as the , ” House Rules ” , of Training , and Behaviour . Furthermore , Ajax strives to , .. ” Keep Football recognisable , attractive , offensive minded , creative , fast and with flair … The Ajax Academy is regarded as , ” The Breeding Ground of Dutch Football ” This Ethos was adopted as a Mission Statement , by various degrees , since the 1940′s by the Club , but was also taken on-board by the K.N.V.B. . This was particularly the case under Michels Leadership when in fact , he actually Managed Ajax and the Dutch National Team simultaneously .
The contemporary Academy , with an Annual Budget of 4.5m Euros , and has 240 Players , within 14 different Teams ranging over age groups from 7 to 19 years of age . Furthermore , the Amsterdammers have been proactive , indeed among the very Vanguard of Clubs establishing Academy’s Abroad . 2 of these Ajax South Africa , and Ajax America , have produced ,- #St. Domingo link #4 ; Steven Pienaar , and Aaron Mokoena as tangible direct results .
The system of Youth promotion , allied to a consistent 4-3-3 methodology , intertwined with a group of Players , hypothetically comfortable in possession in any given area of the pitch , has led to not merely success on the field , but also the Financial Spill-Over Effect , allied to greatly contributing to the success of the Dutch National Team . In addition , they have become the Standard Bearer among Professional Football Academies , with Clubs , big and small , from all over the world adopting it as a very Blue-Print for success .
Look after Your Peoples .
Peace Out .
One thought on “6. Ajax Academy”
great read LCAB, cant wait to tell my dutch mate who is a massive ajax fan that their first manager was an ex blue, ha ha and we live in ireland as well he gonna be sick… shame about the blues tonite roll on tamworth saturday… barkley hatrick???