Dutch football from Ajax to the Zuider Zee
When Fulham and FC Twente played their opening Europa League group game at Craven Cottage in September, Martin Jol and Co Adriaanse looked to have put aside any past animosity. But at full-time, the handshake that never was showed that their two-decade relationship still had some residue of frost – a distance that’s never been personal, but philosophical.
After a pulsating end-to-end affair ended in a 1-1 draw, Andy Johnson’s opener being cancelled out by Luuk de Jong, it was the picture at the end of Jol approaching his one-time manager and being left standing there that spoke a thousand words.
Detached Cottage: Jol and Adriaanse in September
“I have nothing against Co,” Jol had said before the game. That was a stark contrast to his first month as Ajax manager, when Adriaanse took to the airwaves as a pundit to add a dose of his famous constructive criticism, focusing on Jol’s preferred attire on the bench, a baseball cap and tracksuit, which he deemed “unworthy of Ajax”.
To Jol’s credit, he took it in his stride and simply retorted that Adriaanse had had his own style when on the Ajax bench – reminding him of his ill-fated time in Amsterdam. Adriaanse, not one to let things go, moved on from the fashion policing to critiquing Jol's choice of tactics and style of play.
During the review of the same game – the 4-3 loss at PSV Eindhoven on 16 August 2009 – the choice to move Jan Vertonghen into midfield irked Adriaanse, to which Jol responded that the Belgian is more than capable of filling the role and all his criticism showed was his ignorance of the current Ajax players as a result of being away from the Netherlands for so long; Adriaanse left AZ in 2005 and coached in Portugal, Ukraine, Qatar and Austria before coming home to Twente this June.
HALF-TIME ORANJE, 29 June 2011: 'Psycho Co' Adriaanse back in the Dutch big time
More recently Adriaanse reiterated his belief that Jol never ‘expressed’ the desire to play football from the Dutch school. He’s not alone in that line of thinking, although it does come out as very righteous and narrow-minded to suggest it’s compulsory to play a single brand of football used by his predecessors who happen to share the same nationality.
Indeed, it's a bit rich coming from Adriaanse, whose own demise at Ajax in 2001 was partly caused by his bitter admission that he didn’t have the right players to play 4-3-3 (and partly by his falling out with the fifth column whose shadow presides over the club – a fate that would also befall Jol a decade later).
Adriaanse at Ajax (column not pictured)
At the various Dutch clubs Jol has managed, expansive free-flowing football may have played into opposition hands – given that at Roda JC and RKC Waalwijk he was always either fighting a relegation battle or consolidating mid-table status. The pragmatism he introduced enabled his Waalwijk side to enjoy one of their best spells in the top division, as well as tasting European football.
It’s often the case in the Eredivisie that lowly sides try to take the game to their superiors – which frequently has detrimental consequences in the shape of a drubbing. This was highlighted by former AZ captain Stijn Schaars, now at Sporting CP in Lisbon, when comparing the differences between the respective top flights in Portugal and his homeland.
Once Jol moved to the Ajax goldfish bowl in 2009, many observers saw it as an interesting choice given he was interviewed alongside Frank Rijkaard and Morten Olsen. Rijkaard had played for Ajax and coached Barcelona, whose vision is akin to the style Ajax have always tried to propagate, while Olsen had already enjoyed a successful late-90s season at Ajax before leaving due to internal differences (again, a victim of the fifth column).
It's noteworthy that Adriaanse was also on the shortlist – and was bypassed for one of his ex-players. Jol played under 'Psycho Co' for one season at ADO Den Haag, where they initially fell out over tactics.
It’s no secret that Adriaanse felt he had unfinished business with the Dutch giants. A former youth team coach under Louis van Gaal, he felt he was more qualified to be at the helm than Jol, who like Olsen is one of the club's few non-Amsterdam/Ajax-associated managers over the past 30 years. In truth, Jol's outsiderness quickly became a stick to beat him with whenever the club entered a sticky patch.
So it was no surprise that Adriaanse was one of the leading disapproving voices regarding Jol’s tenure in his final months. His choice of playing a 4-2-3-1 reliant on counter-attacking, coupled with what at times was a 4-4-2, was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the likes of Marc Overmars, Johan Cruyff and Frank de Boer and the call for change was intensified.
"He's here! Hide!"
Before Ajax’s opening Champions League game against Lyon, defender Toby Alderweireld also entered the debate, criticising Jol for basing the team around one or two players (notably Luis Suárez). By contrast, current manager De Boer's more fluid approach suits the team better.
As Adriaanse and Jol prepare to meet again in Enschede, you would be hard-pressed to find two more completely different Dutch managers in their outlook. Jol has since said he’s learned to appreciate his former coach despite their differences as coaches and people, whilst Adriaanse has stressed that regardless of not being friends he wouldn’t call Jol an enemy.
After the scintillating football both their sides put on, we can enjoy the return game at De Grolsch Veste – if only for more wars of words, or the chance to see a handshake.
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