Tag: Marcel Keizer

Marcel Keizer and his to-do list

Peter Bosz left Ajax for Borussia Dortmund and Ajax signed youth coach Marcel Keizer for the top job. Who the F is Marcel Keizer?

Wilco van Schaik saw it all happen. The general manager of FC Utrecht (next season at NEC Nijmegen) was responsible for technical affairs at amateur club VV Nijenrodes when they had to appoint a coach back in 2002.

“Marcel sent a letter and was one of the three remaining candidates. He made a good impression from the start. Driven, knew what he wanted and a clear vision of how to play and train. He was confident and didn’t fear taking on a group of experienced ex pro footballers. He was convinced he was our man. And in the three seasons he was here, he delivered.”

Van Schaik explains Keizer’s strength. “He made the group into a team. Young and old. He was very people oriented but tough if he had to. He was patient, he was creative using the limited resources we had and he took the time to make players better. And he could inspire them to work harder.”

keizer ajax logo

Keizer left after three years to coach UVS Leiden, another top amateur club. “We still think highly of him at the club. He’s accessible, open and has that Amsterdam bravado. He is an independent thinker too but always open for other opinions. The key thing with him: he’s always close to the group, to the players. Players adore him, for his know-how and commitment but also because he’s a really empathic human being.”

Despite all this, Van Schaik also sees challenges: “He will have to battle the perception out there. He’s seen as a nobody. And he still needs to convince at that level and deal with the senior top players. Every coach can have a bad spell. Look at Cocu this season, Gio van Bronckhorst last season. And Ajax didn’t win anything this last season so the pressure will be on. But success is makeable and I think Marcel will have to work hard. But he’s good at that.”

His first job in pro football was with Telstar. “We followed him since his promotion to the top amateur league with Argon. When we met, he had this laptop to show his vision and ideas. He was very driven and quite confident. He’s a real crafstman and breathes football. And he has humor too. Marcel is constantly looking to improve, the team but also himself. And it showed at Young Ajax. He really made a difference there.”

Ajax 1988

Ajax 1988 under Kurt Linder. Marcek Keizer is at the back, second from the right (next to Frank de Boer). Other big names: Jan Wouters, John van ‘t Schip, Bryan Roy, Rob Witschge and Danny Blind.

Telstar goalie Varkevisser: “He was clear in what he wanted and direct and tough. He didn’t care whether you were a junior or an experienced veteran. If you slacked, he’d be in your face. Everyone knew the drill. I think Marcel will have it easier at Ajax to be honest. At our level, he lacked options to work with the team or change things. At Ajax, he’ll have more resources.”

Keizer had a step aside from coaching in 2014, when he became technical director at Cambuur, the club where he played most of his pro football. But that stint only took 12 months. “He missed the grass. He needed to work with a team every day.”

FC Emmen was his next station. Still Jupiler League level. Chairman Ronald Lubbers: “We wanted a coach who thought in ball possession and positioning. He would drill the team day in day out, passing, kicking, moving. But he was also a pragmatist. FC Emmen is not Barcelona. I think he did very well here but when Cambuur – his club – was in trouble he simply couldn’t resist.”

KEizer as cambuur player

Keizer in the Cambuur jersey

His first and only adventure in the Eredivisie. He took over from the assistants who had taken over from Henk de Jong, who was fired due to bad results. Cambuur manager Van der Vegt: “It was a simple solution. We knew him, he knew us, the players… He would be the only man capable of taking the team for the last games and squeeze everything out of them.”

But it wasn’t to be. Keizer signed for 2,5 seasons but got relegated with Cambuur. In 11 games, Cambuur only won 5 points and Keizer and Cambuur parted ways. Player Martijn Barto: “I look back at this period with a positive feeling. It was simply too little too late. The squad was mentally broken already. We needed more time with him, but we simply didn’t have the time.”

Ajax, his first club and big love (legend Piet Keizer is his uncle) called and Keizer went. Edwin van der Sar: “He had everything we were looking for. Right age, good experience at different levels and Ajax DNA. We want the coach of Young Ajax to be instrumental in prepping the lads for the big game. We think Marcel is the man for the job.”

Marcel Ajax

Keizer played a handful games in Ajax 1

And he delivered. Young Ajax was a swinging football machine. His predecessor Jaap Stam thought and coached as a defender. Result driven. Keizer wanted his team to play the forward press, with aggression and dynamic interplay. This led to a number of gala productions, last season and many goals. The only downside for the team that finished second (!) in the Jupiler league: too many players would go in front of the ball resulting in 54 goals conceded in 38 matches…

One of the key issues a coach of Young Ajax (or Feyenoord, PSV, etc) has: it’s like a pigeon nest. Players would have to leave to go with the first team. Or injured first team players needed to play to get match fitness. But A junior players were also supposed to be given minutes in the team so consistency is a challenge. Keizer never complained about this and when Bosz needed 33 year old Westermann to play in Young Ajax, Keizer would comply. Ajax’ management liked that aspect in him.

Keizer jong ajax

Keizer coaching Young Ajax

Of course, with Keizer Ajax does not have a lone wolf like Peter Bosz, who’d go his own way with assistant Hendrie Kruzen. Marcel will play the game within Ajax and pay respect to the different power centres within the club.

Keizer is also supposed to guide young talents like Kluivert, Nouri, Van de Beek, Eiting, De Jong, Cerny and De Ligt into the Ajax 1 team. Players he worked extensively with.

He has his work cut out for him and the following to-do items will be on his list:

– Keep Klaas Jan Huntelaar happy

When the Hunter was signed to return to Ajax, Marc Overmars was quite clear: “Dolberg is our first striker and Huntelaar his replacement.” But Huntelaar said: “My role is clear, but I didn’t come to retire!” This quote can be explained in different ways. Huntelaar will know Dolberg built up a lot of credit. We do know however, from his time at Oranje, that Huntelaar is not a very happy bench-warmer. A good job for Marcel Keizer: keeping Huntelaar happy!


Winston Bogarde and Michael Reiziger will take on Young Ajax now

– Pick a new captain

Davy Klaassen was the undisputed captain of the team. But, he’s off to Everton and Keizer will need to select a new skipper. Lasse Schone? Or will he lose his spot this season? Joel Veltman? He might be on his way out, to Crystal Palace. Nick Viergever? Well, his position is not a certainty either. So maybe Hakim Ziyech will be crowned Ajax’ new leader after playing there only for one season.

– Bring the youngsters in

The Ajax fans are drooling about the sheer possibility of seeing Nouri, Van de Beek and De Jong in the first team. Yes, they impressed in the Jupiler league but this is a big step up. It’s up to Keizer to guide the process properly.

– Be yourself, but set the tone

The first weeks are key for Keizer, as with any job. The stories about his (lack of) status are known by now (see above) but within Ajax, people are convinced. He will have to make an impression from day 1, working for the most successful club of the country. And be clear: to players, media, staff, management and the different “forces” within the club (ex-players, sponsors, amateur section, youth system).

– Keep the Bosz game going but win something

This might be a tough one. Bosz left due to clashes with Bergkamp and Carlo L’Ami but he did play adventurous and got far in Europe. But…didn’t win silverware. Keizer will be expected to improve on Bosz’ game and to win something. A tough task…


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The Ajax Saga

It came as a surprise to many. Peter Bosz to leave Ajax after only 1 season! The man who brought creative football back to Amsterdam, who was ballsy enough to renovate the whole team and who brought Ajax back to the European top. How could Ajax let this happen?

Ajax followers and insiders knew what was happening behind closed doors. Throughout the season, the marriage Bosz-Kruzen and Ajax was a marriage of convenience.

Ajax needed to get a coach in with a football vision close to Cruyff’s and preferably a Dutch one. There weren’t many candidates. John van de Brom was weighed but felt too light. Jaap Stam had just gone on his own adventure. John van ‘t Schip took a sabbatical to be with his dying father.

bosz davey press

Peter Bosz: “Who? Tiju/Emanuel? Where did he play?”

Bosz needed Ajax to fulfil his own ambitions: reach the European top. As Vitesse coach, you don’t reach the shortlists of top European clubs. No matter how well you perform. His stint in Israel gave him at least a chance to get to Champions League level. Otherwise, the door to his beloved Feyenoord was closed with Gio firmly at the helm and Bosz’ history as less than successful technical director fresh in people’s memory.

Bosz was never cheered like Frank de Boer or say, Ronald Koeman in Amsterdam. Peter Bosz was an important Feyenoord midfielder and per definition suspect in the Arena.

And while the world outside of Ajax showered him with compliments for the second season half and the European campaign, the Ajax management had plenty to complain about with Bosz.

Ironically, Borussia Dortmund called Ajax for permission to negotiate with Bosz in between to evaluation sessions, Ajax was going through with Bosz and Kruzen.

bosz spijker

Hennie Spijkerman: “Dortmund is thata way!”

And it didn’t go well. Yes, Ajax was happy and proud of the European performances and the upward trend in performance domestically.

But the Ajax management (Van der Sar and Bergkamp in particular) had some serious questions about certain aspects of Bosz’ management.

On the other end of the ledger, Ajax criticised Bosz for not winning a trophy. Sure, the finals in the EL was great, but that would be a one off. Why didn’t Ajax perform better in the National Cup (early exit vs Willem II). And clearly Ajax had one draw too many to crown itself champions. Points lost in the first months of the season, months inwhich the headstrong Bosz ignored the notes of Frank de Boer. The success coach – 4 titles! – had advised Ajax to move on from Bazoer and El Ghazi, who were “difficult to coach”. Bosz ignored the advice and used the two in the start of the season. Ajax was keen to sign Hakim Ziyech but the new coach said he didn’t need him. “We have enough good midfielders”. But when Bosz lost the CL qualification game with a suicide tactics and thereby lost out on millions for the club, he quickly accepted the signing of Ziyech, who joined Ajax when they’d already had a 6 point gap with Feyenoord.

And in the first months, Bosz played Ziyech as right winger and criticised the playmaker at every opportunity. Publically.

As has been recounted here a couple of times, Bosz finally did find the balance he wanted, with Schone on #6 and Veltman as right back and young upstart Dolberg as #9 (after Traore failed on that spot), but it was a bit too late. By then Ajax had a massive mountain to climb.

dennis coach

Bergkamp: “Daley, don’t listen to what Bosz says….”

The Ajax management praised Bosz’ home performances vs Schalke and Lyon but also criticised the performances vs Kopenhagen and the away games vs Schalke and Lyon, claiming that tactical choices made by Bosz exposed Ajax to an potential exit. Sheer luck determined Ajax’ march to the finals. Both Schalke and Lyon could have scored twice early in their home games and lucky bounces resulted in Ajax pulling through.

On top of that, one of the key criticisms was Bosz’ people management with the backroom staff. Dennis Bergkamp does have an awkward role within Ajax. He wears three hats: he’s assistant coach, he’s part of the management team and he has the mystical job of Culture Guardian. And Bergkamp and Bosz did not have a warm working relationship, to say the least. Dennis the Menace sat next to De Boer on the bench during Ajax matches, but Bosz relegated the Arsenal legend to the stands on game day. This pissed Bergkamp off so much, that he wouldn’t travel to away games anymore.

Carlo L’Ami and Henny Spijkerman can be considered true blue Ajax coaches. They have been around for a spell and are considered highly valuable within Ajax. Bosz and Kruzen did not have a good relationship with them either.

So much so, that Bosz in the winter break already announced that in the next season, he wanted to change the organisation structure. He wanted Spijkerman and L’Ami in a different role and bring more of his own people in.

Bosz Sar

This appeared to be the straw for Edwin van der Sar. He put his foot down and declared that the coach needs to coach. He can bring in one assistant coach and that’s it. Bosz was adamant that his way should be The Way. Did I mention he’s not unlike Johan Cruyff?

So when Ajax was evaluation the season and Dortmund called, Van der Sar gave Dortmund permission to talk to Bosz. The former Oranje international saw this as a sign that the support for him and Kruzen was lingering and it would be better to go for the exit.

Dortmund ended up paying a 5mio euro fee for Ajax to release Bosz and it appears all parties were relieved for this situation to occur.

It became quite clear that the new man for the job was already found. Yes, the names of Ten Cate, Roger Schmidt, Erik ten Hag (FC Utrecht) and Jaap Stam (Reading) popped up, but Ten Cate immediately announced he wasn’t in the market. Schmidt accepted a lot of yuan from China and Stam was keen to finish the job at Reading.

Marcel Keizer was the dream candidate for Ajax from the start of this process.

In keeping with that amazing tradition at Ajax, that youth coaches move up when the top job becomes available. Like Cruyff was also able to bring into Barcelona in recent years (not always). Guardiola, Vilanova, Luis Enrique as examples. At Ajax, the illustrious Beenhakker, De Mos, Van Gaal, Wouters, De Boer…they all came from a stint at Jong Ajax to take the reigns and most of them were incredibly successful.


Marcel Keizer – no nonsense

Marcel Keizer is exactly the right guy to step into that role. He has Ajax in his DNA (his uncle was Piet Keizer, Marcel played for Ajax up until the senior team, together with Bergkamp and the De Boer bros). Keizer even has a Feyenoord-Ajax on his resume but didn’t play more than four matches in Ajax 1. Most of his career he played for Cambuur Leeuwarden. But as a youth coach, he impressed. His Jong Ajax finished second in the Jupiler League and he successfully integrated talents like Nouri and De Jong into his team and prepared them for bigger things.

He knows the Ajax housestyle, he’s well liked in the club, he is direct and loathes politics. And on top of that, he’s a close friend of Dennis Bergkamp.

He will need to guide Ajax through the next phase, in which players like Schone and Viergever will have to make way, where Klaassen, Traore and possibly Dolberg and Sanchez will move on. Where Keizer will be able to integrate some of his young talents into the Ajax 1 team (Van de Beek, De Jong, Nouri).

I wish Peter Bosz all the best at Dortmund. It’s exciting to have a Dutch coach back at CL level. I think he’ll fit nicely in Germany and he knows the Bundesliga and the German culture well.

I wish Keizer all the best with Ajax. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has the ability to remain at Ajax for many years, in close cooperation with Bergkamp. I wish to see more talents come through, and I like to see Tete, Riedewald, De Ligt, Nouri, Van de Beek and De Jong make it to the Dutch National Team.

I wish them the National Cup every season, as long as Feyenoord wins the title…

Bosz Borus

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