Ajax seek new coach after releasing Heitinga

AFP , Thursday 1 Jun 2023

Amsterdam's Ajax are hunting for a new head coach after announcing Thursday that they will not renew interim boss John Heitinga's contract following a string of failures.

Amsterdam s Ajax interim coach John Heitinga. AP

The former Dutch and Everton defender, 39, was named Ajax caretaker coach in January for one season after Alfred Schreuder was axed due to a poor run of form.

It is the second high-profile change at the Amsterdam powerhouse this week, following Edwin van der Sar's announcement on Tuesday that he was resigning as chief executive.

Once-mighty Ajax failed to qualify for the Champions League after finishing third in the Dutch top-tier league behind Rotterdam's Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven.

"Ajax has informed John Heitinga that the club will be looking for a new head coach for the first eleven," Ajax said in a statement.

"John stepped in at a difficult time to help the club and he did it with full conviction," Ajax football affairs director Sven Mislintat said, adding the club was "very grateful."

"But I have come to the conclusion that Ajax now needs a more experienced trainer for the group," Mislintat said.

Heitinga reluctantly took over as head coach after Schreuder was axed and started with promising results, winning seven top division games.

Under Heitinga, Ajax moved from fifth to third pace in the Eredivisie standings.

But the team's form waned and Ajax were unceremoniously dumped 3-1 on aggregate from the Europa League by Union Berlin in February.

Their third-place league finish was the final straw for a storied club that has four European cups to its name.

Ajax's fortunes have flagged since the departure of Erik ten Hag for Manchester United in April 2022.

"It was a difficult period," Mislintat said, adding Heitinga "has learnt a lot in recent months and we would like to play a role in his further development, keeping him associated with the club."

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