For the first time, the weather gods weren’t favourable to Ajax during their training camp. Sunday, the fifth day of the camp, was rainy, but the training took place during the afternoon, between showers. Martin Jol also took time to talk to the press accompanying the team.
The setting was unfortunately not on one of the terraces of the Pine Cliff Resort, which is the beautiful Portuguese venue where Ajax are staying this week. This rainy day, which follows four sunny ones, doesn’t allow for this. Instead, the chairs are gathered around the open fire, setting the scene to meet with a delegation of Dutch journalists. After winning quiz evening as part of "Team Vertonghen” the previous night, Ajax’s coach faces questions of a different nature this afternoon.
The rain beating against the windows doesn’t faze Jol. Except for an earlier planned run along the golf course, which was called off due to the weather conditions, the coaches program hasn’t been hindered. “You can look at everything two ways: the glass is either half full, or half empty. In our case, it’s half full, because right now, we’re better off than people are in the Netherlands. The weather isn’t good right now, but we’ve been able to do some solid work in the last few days.”
Jol has other things to worry about since last Saturday. Marko Pantelic’s departure is the only damper on an otherwise successful training week in Portugal. The Serb got injured last Saturday during the Ajax – Ajax Amateurs practice match (7-0). He left Pine Cliff Resort early on Sunday morning to travel to his home country to have his injured right hamstring examined and treated. “A tear is a different story than a sprain. They will do an MRI, and we’ll hear what the situation is. If it’s a tear, it could take weeks to heal. I’m still hoping he’ll be back within a week.”
One week before competition resumes against NAC Breda, Jol says there is no issue with the forwards. “We haven’t brought a young forward like Castillion for nothing. And we also now have our young Korean forward Suk. They’ll need to fight it out to determine who will make appearances the squad.”
On Kenneth Vermeer’s birthday – he was celebrated with a cake and a song from his colleagues – Ajax’s trainer takes a moment to discuss the development of two new players, Eriksen and Castillion. Both players made their debut against the Ajax Amateurs. “He’s fitting in well”, said Jol of Eriksen. “He joins in with everything, and is comfortable with the level. With Castillion, I want to get to know him better. He still needs to develop. In that respect, Eriksen is a bit more mature, but he’s still very young at 17. Physically, for sure. But he’s mature. The important thing now is that he’s constantly looking for new challenges. That’s important for him.”
Jol wants to introduce Eriksen slowly. The talented Danish player will be part of the first team more often. “I think that I’ll let him train more often, and include him in the squad once in a while. But I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. On the other hand, if he would happen to have a good substitution, that could bring him further.”