Vlemmings made it clear what he thought of Beenhakker’s involvement when the time came for him to take centre stage. Beenhakker had expressed a willingness to offer Vlemmings advice and action with respect to the first team if the caretaker was receptive to it. ‘It would be mad for me not to use so much experience and expertise,’ admitted Vlemmings.
Vlemmings then moved onto Sunday’s visit to Ajax. Vlemmings confirmed that Theo Lucius would return to the match-day squad, after weeks on the sidelines with a rib injury. ‘We said we’d only take him if he can train without pain. And he can.’ Serginho Greene may also be available for the big game, after a long absence. Giovanni van Bronckhorst is a doubt though. The skipper missed squad training on Friday.
Vlemmings observed that the situation around Feyenoord has calmed down a bit after the disappointing first half of the season and a tumultuous January. ‘When you compare the situation round the away game at Heerenveen with now it’s a world of difference,’ said Vlemmings. ‘The squad, the supporters... everyone in and around Feyenoord has come a lot closer together.’
Sunday’s opponents on the other hand are in the midst of a mini crisis themselves. Vlemmings expects that not to play a role at the Amsterdam Arena though. ‘You never know how things will pan out in matches like this one. The start of the game determines how it develops.’
Vlemmings and his team have taken confidence from recent matches against Sparta Rotterdam and FC Groningen. A four-point haul and two clean sheets were two very positive aspects. ‘I’m seeing more and more of what we’re training on in the matches,’ said Vlemmings. ‘The most important thing is that Feyenoord is a unit again. We’ve had a real team in recent matches. The fans have latched on to that and we really need that support.’
Expectations were high in Amsterdam at the start of the season. Marco van Basten was appointed to win silverware and the former centre forward at De Meer invested in three costly strikers. Miralem Sulejmani, Darío Cvitanich and Ismail Aissati joined Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Luis Suárez to give Van Basten some very exciting up-front options.
The first half of the season went pretty much to plan, save an embarrassing cup exit at the hands of Volendam. Ajax survived the group phase of the UEFA Cup without really breaking sweat and, while AZ were ahead in the Eredivisie, the difference was minimal.
Ajax initially appeared to come out of the winter break in fine fettle, beating NEC in Nijmegen, but then things started to go pear-shaped. Huntelaar had made the switch to Real Madrid in December and when the going got tough suddenly Ajax’s young squad lacked the players to see them through. The result is one measly point from the last four league games.
1-0 defeats to FC Groningen and sc Heerenveen were followed by an awkward draw at home to Heracles Almelo after the visitors had taken a two-goal lead. Van Basten would have been hoping that would put hairs on the chest of his young players, but in the next match at Arnhem Ajax were given a hiding as Vitesse ran out 4-1 winners.
The poor run of form generated quite a bit of displeasure in Amsterdam. Supporters took to the training pitch on the Friday before the Vitesse game and demanded a meeting with club management about Ajax’s diminishing title chances. Ajax now trail AZ by 14 points, which means another league championship is all but out of reach.
After defeat in Arnhem, the fans sprang into action again. The club coach was besieged by dozens of supporters when it arrived back at the Arena. That was followed a day later by a meeting attended by Van Basten, technical manager Danny Blind, general manager Rik van den Boog and various supporters representatives, which managed to clear the air for the time being.
Ajax – Feyenoord
Sunday 15 February, 12:30 at the Amsterdam Arena
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Lucius, Bahia, Leerdam; El Ahmadi, Tomasson, Fer; Slory, Makaay and Biseswar.
Ajax: Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel, Wielaert, Vermaelen; Gabri, Anita, Sulejmani, Vertonghen; Sarpong, Suárez and Emanuelson.
03/02/2008 Ajax - Feyenoord 3-0
04/02/2007 Ajax - Feyenoord 4-1
28/08/2005 Ajax - Feyenoord 1-2
14/11/2004 Ajax - Feyenoord 1-1
30/11/2003 Ajax - Feyenoord 2-0
21/09/2008 Feyenoord - Ajax 2-2
11/11/2007 Feyenoord - Ajax 2-2
22/10/2006 Feyenoord - Ajax 0-4
05/02/2006 Feyenoord - Ajax 3-2
17/04/2005 Feyenoord - Ajax 2-3
BIG MATCH FACTS
Ajax and Feyenoord meet each other in Amsterdam for the 54th time in the Eredivisie (the clubs have also met in playoffs). The Amsterdammers have won 28 matches, while Feyenoord have 11 victories. The fixture has ended in a draw on 14 occasions.
Serginho Greene is in contention to make his 200th league appearance (Eredivisie and second tier).
Feyenoord last took all three points in Amsterdam on 28 August 2005. Angelos Charisteas scored for Ajax, but goals by Salomon Kalou and Dirk Kuijt won the game for the visitors.