Heitinga swats away questions about his future after Ajax lose cup final

John Heitinga with his head bowed after Ajax lose the cup final on penalties. Photo: ANP/Maurice van Steen
John Heitinga with his head bowed after Ajax lose the cup final on penalties. Photo: ANP/Maurice van Steen

Ajax’s interim coach John Heitinga has dismissed speculation about his future in the wake of the club’s defeat in the KNVB cup final.

PSV’s victory on penalties came the week after Ruud van Nistelrooy’s side beat the Amsterdammers 3-0 in Eindhoven to install themselves as favourites to take the second Champions League spot, in which case Ajax will have to settle for Europa League football next season.

Asked whether he would still be in post after the end of the season, Heitinga replied: ‘I don’t know. They’re working hard behind the scenes. I’ll know it when I hear about it.

‘I’m working on the basis that they’ll take the right decisions. We’re in talks. If there’s information I’ll tell you [the media]. I’m getting a bit sick of this question.’

Heitinga, 39, took over as head coach in January, having previously coached the youth team, following the sacking of Alfred Schreuder. At the time the team had sunk to fifth place in the league after seven matches without a win, culminating in a 1-1 home draw with Volendam.

The former international defender initially stabilised the team, winning his first eight league matches and reaching the cup final, but Ajax also went out of the Europa League to Union Berlin and lost a crucial top-of-the-table clash with Feyenoord 3-2 in Amsterdam.

Midfielder Davy Klaassen said the uncertainty around the coach’s future was having a negative effect on the team.

‘It’s never good, for John or anyone else,’ he said. ‘I’m sure people are working hard so that we can help Ajax rise again.’

Heitinga also admitted that his team had not practised penalties before the cup final, which was decided by a shoot-out in which Ajax missed three of their five spot-kicks.

‘Do I regret it? No,’ he said. ‘Why not? A lot of young kids with potential had come on during the game. We had a list, but some of our penalty takers had been substituted because they were exhausted. It’s a lottery.’

Van Nistelrooy said his team had practised taking penalties before the final and studied data on Ajax’s penalty takers to see how often they scored and which side of the goal they preferred to shoot towards.

But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker said shoot-outs still involved a high level of chance. ‘I shared things from my own experience and we practised. It’s never the same as during a match, but we took in everything we could.’

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