Ajax goes to work in England as of Friday. Coach Frank de Boer’s men will train there until next week Wednesday. In addition to that, two practice matches take place on Saturday, and Tuesday, against Southampton and Norwich City respectively, both of which are playing in the Premier League next season. Three years ago, Ajax played ‘The Saints’ as well during their preparation period.
The match against Southampton is a meeting against an old foe. During the preparations for the 2009-2010 season, the two teams met during the stride for the Ted Bates Trophy, named after the legendary former player, manager, and chairman of ‘The Saints’.
With a 1-4 win and a trophy in their pocket, Ajax returned home. Although at that at that time, Southampton was playing at the third level of professional football. But it was the home team who took the lead thanks to Joseph Mills’ opening goal. After Kennedy Bakircioglu and Luis Suarez missed a few opportunities, it was the Uruguayan who forced the tying goal before the break with an easy penalty shot.
In the second half, it was again Suarez, Toby Alderweireld and Marvin Zeegelaar who secured the win for the Amsterdam team. Especially the latter enjoyed his goal in St. Mary’s Stadium. “Scoring is great, especially in an Ajax 1 match. When that happens here in England, in beautiful stadium like this, it’s extra great.”
After the meeting against Southampton – which has climbed two levels in the past years – Ajax will meet Norwich City the following Tuesday, a team which ended up in twelfth place last season. Grant Holt has been the key player with ‘The Canaries’ for the past seasons. The 31 year old forward has been named Player of the Year for the last three seasons. Manager Chris Hughton has a tight team at his disposal, without the contribution of so-called big names.
After the trip to England, De Boer has five days to get his team ready for the match for the Johan Cruijff Plate against cup winner PSV. One week later, the season opener against AZ is on the agenda.