With Klaas Jan Huntelaar as a starter and Robbert Schilder as a substitute, Ajax could not defeat first-division side HFC Haarlem in a friendly match on Wednesday. After a short but hard training camp on the Dutch coast, Ajax drew 0-0 in Haarlem. ,,I have but one explanation, and that is that we have trained hard seven times in the past few days'', said Ajax coach Danny Blind.
Ajax had the same problem that the side had during the preseason camp in De Lutte in July. In the exhibition matches during the training week, the team had their difficulties with the amateur opponents, with the players being exhausted from the rigorous training schedule.
It did not surprise Blind that Ajax had some trouble with the opportunistic play of Haarlem. The Ajax boss had talked to some of his players, 'the guys that won't cry for their mothers very soon', as he later said. ,If these guys tell me they are tired and feel the effects of all the hard work of the last days, I know they're not lying'', said Blind who earlier in the day had run his team through a tough beach training.
In the only friendly that Ajax play in the short winter break, Blind started with latest signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar up front with Markus Rosenberg behind him and Urby Emanuelson on the left flank. On that position, Blind is looking for someone to replace Wesley Sneijder, who is suspended for Sunday's match against NEC. Robbert Schilder is another player who could fill in that role, as he proved during the 22 minutes he got to play. With number 33, Schilder, who came over from Ajax 2, made a solid debut in the first team.
Blind: ,,Robbert is a good player, he plays on instinct. Normally I don't like to change much, but with most of the guys being fatigued, I gave Robbert a chance. In the upcoming period, he has to show where he plays best; as a central defender or left midfielder.'' There is no confusion about the position of Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The goal-getter who came to Ajax from sc Heerenveen, will play as striker, with possibly another forward right behind him. Huntelaar was fairly pleased with his first appearance in the Ajax strip. ,,It's a pity that we didn't win and we have to play better, but that was not what tonight was all about. This was part of the preparation for Sunday, that's when it matters.'' The stay in Santpoort and the training sessions in Zandvoort were for Huntelaar important to get to know his new team. Ajax play quite differently from Heerenveen, he acknowledged. ,,Of course there are differences, but they are not huge. We just have to get used to each other.'' Blind showed confidence in his new striker: ,,Klaas Jan has played enough matches in the past year and a half to know what he can do. I did not need this match tonight for that.''