Ajax held a training stage in England the past week. The team stayed at a country hotel in Hertfordshire, trained at the grounds of amateur club Aylesbury United FC and played friendlies against Queens Park Rangers and Luton Town.
,,It is always good to play matches in England in the preseason´´, said coach Ronald Koeman. ,,The facilities are good, the pitches are beautiful and the fans love our style of football.´´
Against Queens Park Rangers Koeman had to field a very young squad. The players who were active in Euro 2004 had just begun training and were not ready for a match yet. With interns Urby Emanuelson, Hedwiges Maduro and Rasmus Lindgren all receiving playing time alsongside other youngsters Daniel de Ridder, Nigel de Jong, Nicolae Mitea and Tom de Mul, Ajax gave a demontration in one-touch football. Playing in the real Ajax style, the visitors won 1-0 through a goal by Lindgren, who played very well in the second half.
Two days later the three intern went home to train with Young Ajax and Rafael van der Vaart, Johnny Heitinga, Wesley Sneijder and Zlatan Ibrahimovic made their first minutes of the preseason against Luton Town. The teamplay was maybe not as good as the previous match - although still of a very high standard - but the individual qualities made the difference this time.
With Van der Vaart and Heitinga playing the first half, Steven Pienaar scored after eight minutes and Wesley Sonck and Maxwell got the score up to 3-0 to Ajax before halftime.
In the second half it was Sneijder's and Ibrahimovic's turn to play. Sonck made it 4-0 off an assist by Ibrahimovic.
Koeman was happy with the players' performance in both matches and with the progress the side had made on the training pitch. ,,The regulars will play, but they know that other people are ready to replace them if necessary. We had a good stage here and now we are looking forward to the next level: playing the Amsterdam Tournament next week.''