Mitchell Dijks has been one of the academy’s biggest surprises during this pre-season. The physically strong defender has been remarkable as a stoic left back, and seems to be close to earning a permanent spot on Frank de Boer’s selection.
“Wow, that was a tough game. Definitely something different than A1. At first, I had to get into it against Southampton. Because that right back was always coming up. I got an earful from the coach. In those instances, I need to communicate better with Derk Boerrigter. I need to learn to coach better.”
Mitchell Dijks has only just left the Ajax locker room in St. Mary’s Stadium, and the first experiences have already been shared. Very enthusiastically. Southampton had just finished being the Amsterdam team’s sparring partner. In a flat match, The Saints were defeated 0-1. Last season, under coaches Fred Grim and Ronald de Boer, Dijks was still playing with Ajax A1. Highlights: winning the national title for A juniors and reaching (and losing) the finals of the NextGen Series. Almost three months later, he’s in the starting line-up against Premier League club Southampton. And – who knows – perhaps he’s even ready to start in the match against PSV for the Johan Cruijff Plate.
“What I do know is that I’m still in the selection up until the PSV match”, says Dijks in the St. Mary’s catacombs. The tone encouraged. And hungry. “We’ll have to see whether I stay with the A-selection. I’m taking it day by day.”
The 19 year old native of Purmerend is living proof that an Ajax talent’s career can take off very fast. Before the game against Southampton, De Boer announced that the starting line-up would roughly be kept the same for the upcoming clash against PSV. Dijks seems to have seamlessly made his way into the team as left back. The more central role of Daley Blind, and Nicolai Boilesen’s calm return are working Dijks’ favour for the time being.
“I was actually supposed to join Jong Ajax for this season” , says Dijks. A phone call from Frank de Boer put the teenager on a different path. “At the end of June, he called me and asked me to come to the club as soon as I could. I actually was still in bed when the coach called. My mother started to scream when she heard the news. I packed my things quickly and drove about 200km per hour to Ajax. Alright, maybe it wasn’t that fast. But now I’ve been with the first team for 3,5 weeks. I’m really happy with the experience in Southampton, too.”
Dijks’ progression is extra special as he’s only been an Ajax member for three years. Before that, he took up arms for FC Purmerend and FC Volendam. “ I’ve played pretty much everywhere at the back, I’ve even been a keeper once”, remembers the left back. “Now I’m enjoying each day I’m experiencing. Do you know what the highlight has been so far? The goose bumps I got when I ran onto the field hand in hand with a kid before the home match against Celtic. Unforgettable.”
The training camp in England gives Dijks a new opportunity to gain precious football experience. In the place where Frank de Boer himself broke through as an Ajax player once, Dijks also had the chance to show what he can contribute. “I’m happy with how this week has gone. Everything is well arranged and I’ve been received really well in the group. Just recently, Theo Janssen told me: ‘you’ve found your place in the team’. And when Vurnon Anita tells me before a match that I just have to ‘do my thing’, that’s amazing to hear. Although it may not seem like it, I really need to hear words like that.”