Well I'll be damned! Holland actually produced a solid defender!! (1 Viewer)

Slagathor

Bedpan racing champion
Jul 25, 2001
22,708
#1
INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY HEITINGA

Having finally recovered from a brutal knee-injury, Johnny Heitinga can finally talk about football again and not about his road to recovery. Being the defensive captain of the Amsterdammers, he’s looking to lead his squad to the championship title. In this interview, he’ll explain why Ajax will take over from PSV as Holland’s champion and why he doesn’t yet dream of Euro2004.



Just how happy are you that people talk to you about football again and no longer about your knee?

Extremely happy. The play itself, talking about football and living from match to match is something I’ve missed for fifteen long months. All that time I could merely speak about the game in general but now I’m part of the football world again and that’s something I’m very grateful for. I no longer have to say how long I think it’ll take me to regain fitness and how I’m feeling. That chapter is closed.

During your rehabilitation in Zeist you always came across very positive-minded. Was that a façade or is that how you approach life, with a positive view?
That was because I never worried about whether or not I would get fit again. I knew it was only a matter of time. Another reason was the stress-less environment and the friendships I made with other lads who were there for the same reason as I was. I was in Zeist with Zongo (Vitesse), Nieuwenburg (Ajax), Petö (NAC), Smolarek (Feyenoord) and Luijten (RBC). Smolarek and Nieuwenburg even became two of my best friends, we have contact on a regular basis. If you work with each other for nine months, you really get to know one another well.

It appears that, despite the injury, you’ve grown and become a better footballer.
Even if you’re injured you can develop as a football player as you have a lot of time to work on your weaknesses. At first, you train your muscles and work on your strength but later you can work on your ball skills and techniques again. My starting speed, for example, used to be only mediocre, speed was just never one of my qualities but now I regularly hear people say ”Heitinga, defender with pace”. I also improved my left leg, I can now receive the ball and give sharp passes with both legs. That’s something I really wanted to improve and physiotherapist Rob Ouderland of the FA really helped me with that. We’d train for an hour and then Smolarek and I would work 15 minutes solely with our 'lesser’ legs. You see, you don’t just go through rehabilitation to get fit again, you also go through it to become a more complete player. I improved and, perhaps more importantly, I came to understand that a footballing career only lasts about 15 years. I learned to put things in perspective and I now know how to enjoy what I do every single day.

What changed at Ajax in those fifteen months?
The squad is now much more young with all the youth-squad players added to the selection. That has its pro’s and con’s of course. The pro being there’s an opportunity to build a strong, tight team, the con being that young players more easily draw the attention of bigger, foreign clubs. There’s no security for the long run but we’re all eager and willing to fight and that’s important as well.

Isn’t the current Ajax squad too young though?
We do miss Jan van Halst, with whom I played in my first season at Ajax. He would kick you in the arse if you needed it but he would also give you a compliment if you’d done a good job. Before the match, he would smack you against the head so hard you’d turn dizzy but it worked really motivating. He made sure everyone was focused for the full 100%. Now that he’s gone, we have to come up with that focus ourselves and though we can usually do that without trouble, we sometimes still miss someone to smack us.

That’s where a fellow-player has more influence than a coach can ever have?
If you’re behind in the score and two of the lads step on the gas pedal, it creates a chain reaction through the team. The coach is constantly shouting his advice at the sidelines but it’s just not the same, when you’re out there, it’s up to you and that’s not always easy with a young squad like ours.



Koeman gave you a lot of defensive responsibilities though, didn’t he?
I have to make sure the backdoor is shut, the posts are guarded and the line will hold. I like that, I can do that. I’ve always been someone who speaks a lot on the pitch and even though I’m only twenty, this is my thing and I’ve been doing it for years already. It fits in my future plans as well; I want to become a more important player at Ajax but you can’t do that without taking extra responsibilities. I always give everything, even at trainings. Everyday 120% and sometimes, that will include the occasional kick or clash. Making sure everyone’s with it. We have some players who are from cultures where they take it easy on trainings but because we have a large squad, you can’t lay back a single moment, it could cost you your place in the team. I can deal with that but it sometimes creates a small problem like in the winter training camp where I had a quarrel with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s a very strong man and if you’re about to challenge him even with half strength you know you’re going to come out with pain. You can then either avoid it or give it all, I chose the latter and went in hard. He thought it was rather too hard and talked to me about it. We had a good talk and settled it, we’re colleagues after all and it’s part of the game, part of making each other better than we are already.

You often were the captain in the youth-squad, would you say you’re a born leader?
I’ve always been very serious about football and wanted to succeed as a pro, and I still do. Maybe that’s what the trainers liked in me. I also always want to win, I’ll do anything to accomplish that and I never give up.

All qualities that are uncommon amongst typical Ajax defenders. Not so long ago, Koeman even purchased the Belgian defender Van Damme because he needed a ruthless back.
That’s right and I’m still more an Ajax defender than he is. I’ve always managed more than well in the 4-3-3 system and I know when to go forward and when to stay back. Besides, I can be ruthless. Just ask around.

Why are there always so few really solid defenders at Ajax?
I couldn’t tell you. We had a really solid defence in the youth squad with Serginho Greene (now RKC Waalwijk) and Melvin Fleur (now RBC Roosendaal) where nobody was afraid to go in hard and earn a card if necessary.

Now you play with a Czech, a Frenchman, an American, a Tunisian and a Brazilian. Isn’t that difficult?
Well that’s all part of modern football. It’s not just like that at Ajax. From one side I wouldn’t mind if they re-enforced the rule that clubs have to use a certain number of Dutch players but on the other hand, the reality is different and we have to deal with it. It’s no good wining about the past, one must never linger.

Do we look down on defending in Holland?
That’s a tricky question. I don’t think that’s really the case but it’s obvious that there are more better midfielders and forwards in this country. Maybe because little children rather score goals than defend.

Isn’t it weird that people see you as Jaap Stam’s only worthy replacement?
I like it when people mention my name and Stam’s in one sentence but really, I’m not ready for such a task yet. I made a first step in reaching Ajax’s starting line-up but Stam’s level is still down a long road for me. It’s remarkable though that there’s apparently nobody between Stam and me good enough for Oranje according to analysts. Personally, I think Ooijer (PSV) does a great job but, oh well, it’s not up to me and either way, I’m still young and green. What do I know.



Defending is an honour. Where do you get your satisfaction?
When a forward scores a goal, he’s thrilled. When we keep the net clean, I’m thrilled. That’s how you should look at it. If I can keep a good striker from scoring for 90 minutes I’m satisfied but I don’t just want to mark a player, I want to be part of the match too and thankfully I can do that at Ajax.

Is that last demand maybe a problem for Dutch defenders? Having to be part of the attack?
We’re one of the few countries where that’s a demand, true. You won’t see a coach asking that in Italy or Germany. It’s not that they ask too much from defenders in Holland, we just have the opportunity to do more on the pitch and every defender should take advantage of that.

How possessed are you with your speciality?
I always pay close attention to defenders on TV but also when I was forced onto the stands due to my injury. Ajax were playing Milan in that period for example and watching Nesta and Maldini play was really something. They make it look so easy! Stam has that quality too, together with Nesta and Maldini, I rate him to be the best in the world.

Who do you talk with about your profession?
Of course a lot with Koeman and Krol, they’re former defensive stars and they teach me a lot. Krol was a sledgehammer and Koeman was a master in going forward. The two of them give me so much information I don’t even have to ask for anything else! They’ll come with tips and hints even before I thought about it myself. I also watch a lot of tapes of those two, watching great players is very educational.

Where does this passion come from?
I have that from my mother. She’s very passionate and a real fighter. She’ll never quit and she can’t handle loosing, just like I nowadays. The football talent I have from my father, he used to play for ARC Alphen aan de Rijn in the former Dutch Premier League (nowadays Eredivisie, ed.). Sports are important in our family, five of my uncles all played football, two cousins were athletes and of course we’re all Ajax fans! I’ll never forget how proud we were when I went to play for Ajax. My mum had arranged that I could take part in a training session for my eight birthday. Very exclusive because they normally never do that. I went to train and I never left! Sort of weird, looking back at it.

Will you become the new champions?
Yes, especially because we only have the Eredivisie to focus on. Being eliminated from the FA Cup and the Champions League is not a good thing at all but it has a minor pro in that we’re able to fully focus on the league. That added to the fact that we’re really hard to beat at home will make sure we win it.

How often do you think about the National Team and Euro2004?
I think about it when I hear yet another rumour but it’s something I’ll only earn through hard work and good performances at Ajax. That’s why doing well right now is all I’m focusing on.

Would you see it as a disappointment if you won’t be selected to go to Portugal?
No, not at all. I’m just happy to be back from my injury and being a starter at Ajax. I literally live on a daily basis, which is something I learned during my rehabilitation. The injury made me more emotionally aware, if you will. I care much more for things that happen around me nowadays, I don’t live in my own world anymore. When teachers get stabbed at school, villages disappear into the sea … who am I to daydream about the NT? Of course I want to go to Portugal, don’t get me wrong. It would be great to work with Jaap Stam and to see from up-close how he does his job but the National Coach will decide and whatever happens, I’m at peace with it.

Interview taken from Voetbal International magazine.
Translated by Erik.
 
Jul 12, 2002
5,666
#7
++ [ originally posted by Matto ] ++
Yeah I know :D

Wait, three? You're not still counting Frank de Boer are you?
:LOL:, no. I figure that we can count Heitinga, Stam, and Melchiot as real defenders. Melchiot may suck, but he's the most defensive Dutchman I've ever seen. And maybe, if hofland ever pulls his head out of his ass we'd have more.
 
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Slagathor

Slagathor

Bedpan racing champion
Jul 25, 2001
22,708
#8
++ [ originally posted by Rickenbacker ] ++
:LOL:, no. I figure that we can count Heitinga, Stam, and Melchiot as real defenders. Melchiot may suck, but he's the most defensive Dutchman I've ever seen. And maybe, if hofland ever pulls his head out of his ass we'd have more.
Yeah Hofland sunk from prospect to gutter material, didn't he?

Melchiot rules imo. Sure as hell better than that Johnson guy that sometimes plays in his position for Chelsea.
 
Jul 12, 2002
5,666
#9
++ [ originally posted by Matto ] ++
Yeah Hofland sunk from prospect to gutter material, didn't he?

Melchiot rules imo. Sure as hell better than that Johnson guy that sometimes plays in his position for Chelsea.
Melchiot rules? I think that you're being a bit biased there. The guy is not dutch at all, but maybe that's why I don't like him. He's a good solid defender, but he has no offensive skills whatsoever. He can't pass, shoot, make runs, or dribble. The guy just marks and tackles. It's a start, but he has a ways to go before he's good.
 

Fred

Senior Member
Oct 2, 2003
40,763
#10
++ [ originally posted by Matto ] ++
Yeah Hofland sunk from prospect to gutter material, didn't he?

Melchiot rules imo. Sure as hell better than that Johnson guy that sometimes plays in his position for Chelsea.
I'll have to agree with Ian you are being a bit biased.i dont think he's better at all that Johnson,they're equal defensively,but Johnson is much better offensively IMO.
 
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Slagathor

Slagathor

Bedpan racing champion
Jul 25, 2001
22,708
#11
++ [ originally posted by Rickenbacker ] ++
Melchiot rules? I think that you're being a bit biased there. The guy is not dutch at all, but maybe that's why I don't like him. He's a good solid defender, but he has no offensive skills whatsoever. He can't pass, shoot, make runs, or dribble. The guy just marks and tackles. It's a start, but he has a ways to go before he's good.
++ [ originally posted by fred weasley ] ++
I'll have to agree with Ian you are being a bit biased.i dont think he's better at all that Johnson,they're equal defensively,but Johnson is much better offensively IMO.
I agree that Melchiot sucks offensively but defensively he's a rock - the type of defender Holland doesn't have but sorrowingly needs.

And Johnson's defending is a little bit shaky imo. His crosses (when he goes forward) aren't all that good either!
 

Fred

Senior Member
Oct 2, 2003
40,763
#12
++ [ originally posted by Matto ] ++




I agree that Melchiot sucks offensively but defensively he's a rock - the type of defender Holland doesn't have but sorrowingly needs.

And Johnson's defending is a little bit shaky imo. His crosses (when he goes forward) aren't all that good either!
well he crosses better than a lot of right backs in the EPL IMO.
 

KB824

Senior Member
Sep 16, 2003
31,538
#15
Hey this reminds me.



What is Holland's projected lineup against the U S of A on Wednesday??


I also need to remind myself to tape the damn match.
 

gray

Senior Member
Moderator
Apr 22, 2003
30,096
#17
++ [ originally posted by fred weasley ] ++
what makes you hate the EPL so much.
Hey who said i hated the EPL? I simply don't think it's at the same level as some of the bigger European leagues.

It was funny that you mentioned the defenders in particular, because IMO that's one of the worst parts of the English game.
 
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Slagathor

Slagathor

Bedpan racing champion
Jul 25, 2001
22,708
#19
Fred - defensive wise I think the EPL is behind Italy, Spain, Germany and possibly even France.

Forward/midfield wise though, they're a solid, exciting league.
 

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