Ajax, it’s time you grew a pair ...

A back- to- ba­sics ap­proach for a win- at- all- costs clash in the city

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ROD­NEY REINERS

THE strug­gle con­tin­ues for Ajax Cape Town when they host Su­per­Sport United in a PSL fix­ture at Cape Town Sta­dium tonight (8.15pm kick­off).

Con­sid­er­ing the con­text within which the Cape club finds it­self, vic­tory is with­out doubt of great im­por­tance.

Win­less af­ter seven games (six in the league and one in the Telkom Knock­out), the sit­u­a­tion is des­per­ate for Ajax and their new head coach, Stan­ley Menzo.

Menzo, though, will only start work on Mon­day. For tonight’s fix­ture, he’ll watch from the stands, while as­sis­tant coach Mich d’Avray picks the team and runs the show from the bench.

In Su­per­Sport, though, the Ur­ban War­riors are up against a high-qual­ity op­po­nent. The struc­tured ap­proach of Mat­sat­santsa’s coach, Stuart Bax­ter, has fi­nally seeped into the play­ers and they are play­ing the foot­ball ex­pected of the top- class squad they have put to­gether.

Bafana Bafana mid­fielder Dean Fur­man is back to his best af­ter a dip in form last year, Kiwi Jeremy Brockie has his scor­ing boots laced up again, and winger Thuso Phala, con­tin­ues to cause havoc in op­po­si­tion de­fences.

So, as Ajax head into tonight’s win-at-all-costs clash, let’s ex­am­ine a few facets they need to fo­cus on... Re­vert to the Ajax way THE foot­ball that at­tracted fans to al­ways rally be­hind Ajax was a smooth-pass­ing, con­fi­dent- in- pos­ses­sion style of play. Of late, this has been miss­ing.

In the de­feat to Wits on Wed­nes­day, the Cape side gave the ball away so of­ten it was painful. They would fight to re­gain the ball, then turn pos­ses­sion over in sec­onds, al­low­ing the Clever Boys to con­stantly ex­ert pres­sure on their de­fence. In essence, Ajax have to start keep­ing the ball again. Go back to the ba­sics WHAT was most shock­ing about the per­for­mance against Wits was the shoddy touch and tech­nique of some Ajax play­ers. This is the most ba­sic as­pect of the sport that sep­a­rates a pro­fes­sional from an ama­teur and if there are foot­ballers at Ajax still strug­gling to con­trol the ball, then they shouldn’t be play­ing at this level. On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, it was the poor first touch that sur­ren­dered pos­ses­sion to Wits, and they were able to launch at­tack af­ter at­tack by cap­i­tal­is­ing on Ajax’s school­boy er­rors. Grow a pair and han­dle the pres­sure PRES­SURE, there’s al­ways pres­sure in ev­ery game – this is a mantra the Ajax play­ers need to con­stantly re­peat. To play in the PSL, the high­est level of club foot­ball in the coun­try, is no Sun­day af­ter­noon stroll in the park. It de­mands foot­ballers to per­form un­der pres­sure, and yet as things are un­fold­ing at Ajax, it’s clear the play­ers are buck­ling un­der the stress.

Hence their haste in pos­ses­sion, lapses in con­cen­tra­tion, treat­ing the ball like a hot potato, and their com­plete lack of com­po­sure in front of goal.

They have to get used to the fact that pres­sure is a con­stant pres­ence and, as a team, Ajax are go­ing to have to ac­cept the par­lous po­si­tion they are in, man­age it, and be fear­less and un­flinch­ing in their ef­forts to turn things around. Where’s the pride in per­for­mance? ANY foot­baller, any team, whether it’s in a so­cial league or in an in­ter­na­tional, is keen to give of the best – noth­ing less. It’s the na­ture of the game as play­ers want to im­press, to ex­hibit their skill, courage and team ethic, in or­der to con­trib­ute to a per­for­mance that de­liv­ers a win.

This is pride in per­for­mance, the knowl­edge that when the ref­eree blows the fi­nal whis­tle, when the play­ers troop off the field, the player can feel sat­is­fied that he has given his all, not just for the ben­e­fit of the team or the club, but for him­self. How many Ajax play­ers are able to say this af­ter the open­ing seven games played? Not too many, I pre­sume.

HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT? The likes of Prince Nx­u­malo need to give their best and show some pride in their per­for­mance.

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