Thursday’s open training didn’t take place at de Toekomst, but on a nearby field, just across the parking lot. There weren’t many fans, but a notable former footballer was in attendance. Former English international Martin Keown stood at the side-lines.
Keown saw that coach Frank de Boer was on the Jong Ajax training field with a small group of A-selection players. The practice was moved to the other field so that the players wouldn’t be bothered by the disturbances around their own field that morning. The Toekomst’s main field – where the open trainings are often held – could thus be spared for Friday’s practice match between Ajax and Volendam. His eyes were mainly fixed on Dennis Bergkamp, his former team mate at Arsenal. “Bergkamp the coach”, he said with admiration, and a touch of surprise. Keown, who does see a coach in Bergkamp, spent a day at Ajax to interview his former team mate for the Daily Mail. What struck the 43 time England international at the combined Jong Ajax and Ajax 1 practice was the large number of former top football players who he greatly respected.
As often the case on Thursdays, specialists Jaap Stam, Wim Jonk, Bryan Roy, Dennis Bergkamp, John Bosman, Edgar Davids, Frank de Boer were on the field. Marc Overmars was missing. “That’s a shame. I would have loved to shake his hand. He’s a former team mate, too”, said Keown, who is currently working as a reporter.
With Danny Blind as an informant at his side, we watched Jong Ajax and Ajax 1 closed the practice with a scrimmage. With the exception of Ruben Ligeon on right back and Jody Lukoki filling in at the flanks, Ajax 1 was otherwise filled with the familiar selection players Kenneth Vermeer, André Ooijer, Vurnon Anita, Theo Janssen, Siem de Jong, Derk Boerrigter and Dmitry Bulykin on the grass. On the other team were selection players Nicolás Lodeiro, Miralem Sulejmani en Lorenzo Ebecilio.
A decent game ensued, which served as a forerunner for Friday’s practice match. Volendam will play a team combined with Ajax and Jong Ajax players. For the Jong Ajax players, it will be a great chance to show what they can do, because with many injured players and Van der Wiel’s suspension for the next competition match, coach Frank de Boer needs to figure out how he will arm himself to meet league leader AZ.
After the practice, Keown remained expectantly. He was bursting to shake Dennis Bergkamp’s hand once again. The grin which spread across Bergkamp’s face showed that he was just as glad to see Keown as the other way around.