Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Stekelenburg axed by Ajax in a week that was always going to be full of Double Dutch

Dutch too much: Maarten Stekelenburg is gone
MAARTEN STEKELENBURG’S umimpressive reign as head coach of Ajax Cape Town came to a grinding halt yesterday in what has been a distinctly dodgy week for Dutchmen in the PSL.

Even before compatriot Johan Neeskens was subjected to violent vuvuzelas after his Mamelodi Sundowns lost at Moroka Swallows on Sunday, Stekelenburg was vividly vilified by Urban Warriors fans in Cape Town on Saturday following a shocking 5-1 defeat at the hands of promoted AmaTuks. It was always going to be a week of Double Dutch.

Ajax CEO George Comitis told us on Saturday night: “We need cool heads, this is not a time to panic,” but he had changed his tune yesterday, telling the pen-wielding crowd assembled for Stekelenburg’s public execution: "As of today, Maarten is no longer our head coach. Sometimes you have to shake it all up. We needed to change before it was too late.

“It was a tough decision that we made over the past 19 games, we will find ourselves in trouble if we don't fix it now. We haven't decided on his replacement yet, we will look for someone with Dutch influence and SA experience."

Former Sundowns boss Hristo Stoichkov, Dutchman Ruud Krol and 1996 Afcon winner Neil Tovey are possible names to conjure with but the mother club in Amsterdam may have another obscure youngster or ailing veteran in mind.

Stekelenburg has struggled since he stepped in to the sizeable shoes of Foppe de Haan in 2011, a fact confirmed by Comitis, who said hopefully: "We would look at bringing back someone like Foppe, but we have no decision yet."

Former Head of Technical affairs and current chief scout, Jan Pruijn, get his chance to impress when he takes charge as caretaker against rock-bottom AmaZulu on Saturday. Wilfred Mugeyi will assist against the only side below Ajax in the current PSL standings.

Stekelenburg, just 39, was always a gamble. Cape Town was his first senior coaching post after an unremarkable playing career with  Dutch lower league sides SV Argon, SV Huizen and Amsterdamsche FC were followed by numerous coaching qualifications, a job at the Ajax academy in Amsterdam and a stint as De Haan’s youth development manager in the Mother City.

Comitis admitted: "Maarten lost the belief of the board. We believe were we need a more experienced coach because he is dealing with more experienced players. We have a three-year plan with the current squad.”

Exactly what that plan is remains unclear. In six games this season they had won once before Saturday’s Aubrey Ngoma-inspired hammering.

Neeskens, attacked at Dobsonville on Sunday, remains in place before Saturday night’s win-or-flee clash with Platinum Stars at the Lucas Moripe Stadium. General manager Kenneth Makhanya and Technical Head Trott Moloto issued a joint statement on the Sundowns website yesterday saying: "The issue of the coach's position with the club is hypothetical as it has never been discussed.

"Sundowns wishes to record that reports that he is facing the chop are without foundation, and management has given the coach full support to pursue the objectives of the club.

"No ultimatum has been given to the coach, or anybody, and Mamelodi Sundowns is confident that the club will turn the corner. Clubs the world over go through rough patches, but come out much stronger.”

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