At Friday’s press conference, Frank de Boer had many compliments for colleague Foppe de Haan. Under the leadership of the 72 year-old Friesland native, sc Heerenveen has found its way back to the top. “You can definitely see Foppe’s hand in this, and that deserves a big compliment”, said De Boer about his fellow coach, who will be in the ArenA on Saturday evening with his team.
“I think it’s amazing that someone at his age exudes so much energy”, continued De Boer. And then, with a grin: “The same goes for Sjaak Swart, who still plays with us, stumbles along with us, and is always swearing at us about how bad things are.”
The Ajax coach then started discussing Saturday’s opponent, who has won nine points in the last four games. According to De Boer, this is the result of several key changes that De Haan has put in motion. “One important point is that he’s brought Van den Berg back to the centre. That’s a leader. In addition to that, Larsson has had a pretty free role in a few matches. Foppe is making Heerenveen play in a more compact way. We know that he demands his players to be very fit, to work very hard, and not to complain. Just play the ball out to the front.”
De Haan had tears in his eyes at the press conference following the team’s 3-0 victory against Roda JC last week. The coach had enjoyed the game so much that he had become emotional. De Boer understands. “If you’re lucky enough to make a living from your hobby, and have been able to do that your whole life, then you have that dedication. Foppe most probably had felt responsible for the fact that the club wasn’t doing well. And when you work so hard, and see that things finally start to turn around, I can definitely imagine that it’s emotional.” De Boer himself wouldn’t burst into tears so quickly, as he said afterwards. “But I am an emotional guy.”
De Boer was asked specifically asked about two players at the press conference: Arek Milik and Mitchell Dijks. De Boer expressed special satisfaction at the development of the latter. “Right now, he’s one of the best left backs in the Netherlands. He’s a guy with lots of potential and a good height. I’ve heard that he has the muscle structure of a sprinter. You wouldn’t expect someone of his height to be so fast. He also has power and a good cross.”
Milik also received praise from his coach, although De Boer also commented on his points for improvement. “There’s no doubt that he can score goals. But at Ajax, we need strikers who can do more than score goals. We’re looking for players who can be a target man, and who can be imposing. You can’t just go deep. The combination is getting better and better. We’re happy with that development.”
According to De Boer, the only focus for Ajax right now is the match against Heerenveen, and his team isn’t yet concentrated on the European match against Molde. “The most important thing is that we win the championship and assure ourselves of playing Champions League. We’re only focussed on Heerenveen. If there were only three days between the matches it would be different, but we have five days to prepare for Molde. That should be enough.” And about the team's European opportunities: “Everyone knows that the chances are slim.”
On Sunday, the day after Ajax – Heerenveen, De Boer will celebrate his five-year anniversary as Ajax’s head coach. The coach looked back and discussed his personal goals. “Winning the Europa League or Champions League will be difficult. It would be amazing to win the double, but it’s not going to happen this season. The first title, the thirtieth, is still sharp in my memory. It would be great to win another championship. Every title is great.”
Tickets are still available for Ajax - Heerenveen (Saturday, 20:45). Open ticket sales are in effect. Tickets can be ordered via the link below.