Ajax coach John Heitinga out as team's manager after worst finish in 14 years
Ajax manager John Heitinga will not continue in his job for next season, the Amsterdam football club announced in a statement on Thursday. The former Ajax player and Dutch international footballer held the position for just a few months leading the club's top men's team, which wound up in third place in the Eredivisie. That was their worst finish in 14 years.
"After the departure of Alfred Schreuder at the end of January, Ajax agreed with Heitinga that he would be head coach for the remaining matches of the 2022/2023 season," the team said. Ajax was in fifth place and seven points behind Feyenoord when Schreuder was fired. Heitinga helped turn the team around, leading Ajax in his debut on January 29 against Excelsior to their first Eredivisie victory since October 22.
In the Eredivisie, Heitinga finished with a record of 11 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses, including the team's final match at FC Twente. Important losses against Feyenoord and PSV, and draws against AZ Alkmaar and Go Ahead Eagles meant the Amsterdam team wound up in third place. As a result, Ajax will out on the Champions League next season, and will start their European campaign in the Europa League play-offs. PSV kept ahead of Ajax, and Feyenoord took the top position, meaning they will both enter the Champions League.
The club's CEO, Edwin van der Sar already announced his resignation from the team. It was the latest in a series of high level departures from the team, particularly since last December.
"I have told John this afternoon. On a personal level, this was a tough decision and it was not easy to tell him," said Director of Football Sven Mislintat on Thursday. "John got on board to help the club in a difficult time, and he did that full of dedication," he continued. "But I have concluded that Ajax needs a more experienced head coach."
Heitinga's squad played Union Berlin to a draw in the first leg of the Europa League knockout round play-offs this year, a disappointing home match with no shots on target. Union Berlin turned out to be too strong for the Amsterdammers, scoring three times in the second leg, despite an early second half goal from Mohamed Kudus.
Under Heitinga, Ajax won three more matches in the KNVB Cup, playing PSV to a 1-1 draw in extra time in the final. Ajax lost that match on penalties.
The 39-year-old also managed Jong Ajax in the Eerste Divisie for the better part of two seasons leading up to his promotion as interim manager at the top level men's team. He also spent four years with the Ajax under-19 team.