Frank de Boer successfully completed his first two tasks as Ajax’s interim coach on Tuesday evening. Scarcely 24 hours after reporting for duty, he held his first press conference on the eve of the critical Champions League duel in Milan. De Boer looked ahead confidently in San Siro.
“Whoever knows Frank de Boer, knows that he’s true and true Ajax”, as the clock struck 8p.m. in the deserted AC Milan stadium. With that chant, some of the 1.800 Ajax supporters who had made the trip heartily welcomed the new coach. Things can move very fast. Almost 24 hours earlier, Martin Jol’s departure as Ajax’s head coach was made public, and De Boer was ‘only’ responsible for Ajax A1. But, a day later, De Boer is the one who must get Ajax ready for the duel which will determine whether or not the club will make it through the winter in the Europa League.
A half hour earlier that evening, De Boer experienced his baptism by fire from the international media. In the full press room in San Siro, he met the reporters with a smile. The duel against Milan was briefly discussed, but the bulk of the conference was about his first hours as Ajax’s new head coach. In front of nine cameras, he recalled the bizarre 24 hours he had just had. “I woke up at 6.30 this morning, and, after many delays, we arrived at the hotel at 6p.m. Obviously, that’s not great preparation, but I still believe in us.”
De Boer isn’t making many changes to the selection for the game, including captain Luis Suarez. “It’s safer to not make too many changes in the line-up. It wouldn’t be wise to do that so fast. I’m relying on Danny Blind quite a bit; he knows this selection through and through.”
Regarding his quick promotion from A1 to Ajax 1, De Boer said: “It’s actually very surprising that I’m here right now. This isn’t the path that was originally discussed with management. Of course, the role of head coach was always my goal, but I didn’t expect it to happen so fast.” But he starts his new job confidently. “I think I’m ready for this. Fortunately, there are many good people in the club who can help me, and who I trust.
Above all, I know the club through and through. I’m truly Ajax.”
De Boer admitted that he was aware of the pressure with Ajax, but says that he can handle it. “For many years, I played top level football with Ajax, Barcelona, Glasgow Rangers and Galatasaray. I know what pressure is. I’m ready for it.” He continues: “In the last two and a half years, while I’ve been with A1 – and of course, assistant national team coach – I’ve gotten the feeling more and more that I want to be head coach.”
Earlier that day, AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed in a press conference that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and heavy hitters such as Gattuso en Zambrotta would start off on the bench on Wednesday night. He also said that, even though Milan is through, that they are going for the win.
Under the watchful eye of Ajax management, De Boer emphasized what is important for Ajax. “As I said this morning, it has to become fun again. I missed that against NEC last Saturday. There was a kind of resignation in the air. I blame the group for that. We need to work hard together to start enjoying ourselves again. To start with, let’s assure ourselves of a spot in Europa League after the winter break. I want to see Ajax fighting for it.”