Next Maestro off the Dutch Conveyor Belt

Here is Stuart Griffiths with his view of the newest Dutch maestro on the block – Ajax’s Riechedly Bazoer.

By Stuart Griffiths.

Even before joining Ajax from their fierce rivals PSV in 2013, Riechedly Bazoer had already attracted attention from Europe’s elite.

If not for his mother intervening, Bazoer could today be playing for the blue side of Manchester, having been offered a 3 year deal by the then Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini.

Still only 19, it has been a quick rise through the ranks for the Dutch wonderkid, having already represented The Netherlands at International level and Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.

His first Ajax goal came on 19th February 2015 in a 4-2 victory over FC Twente. He has 5 goals to his name so far this season, which includes a right-footed thunderbolt against Eredivise arch-enemies Feyenoord, which subsequently turned out to be the match winner.

Many in his native homeland see Bazoer as a holding midfielder, protecting the back four which he has done with great maturity at such a young age within this vastly inexperienced Ajax team. This key role allows the likes of Davvy Klaasen and Nemanja Gudelj to advance and support the front three.

Having said this, Frank De Boer has occasionally played him in a more advanced role. In an interview with Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf, De Boer was asked of the reasoning behind this decision.

“He is so talented. I see him as a major force in the future of Ajax and Dutch football, I was just saying to Dennis (Bergkamp) he plays so free and uninhibited. He is so fast and powerful.” He said.

I’ve witnessed Riechedly playing a few times this season and he immediately stood out on each occasion. His strength on and off the ball caught the eye, with this undoubtedly helped by his six foot frame.

Recently, football-oranje caught up with former Ajax youth coach Fons Groendijk and he envisioned the young midfielder as the ‘Patrick Vieira of Ajax’, as he has an ability to drive forward with the ball at great speed and has extremely quick feet for a large man.

With a passing accuracy of 86%, it’s easy to see why he is so increasingly sought after. This accuracy has seen him create numerous chances this season, assisting in 3 goals and creating 19 chances for his teammates, according to

In a recent match against Vitesse Arnhem, he had one of his best games in an Ajax shirt scoring the only goal of the game, creating 3 chances and completing 91% of his passes.

With The Netherlands missing out on the European Championships this summer in France, whilst many of the current squad seem to be coming towards the end of their International careers – Bazoer looks finely positioned to cement his place in the team.

Matters are helped further with the oranje adopting a similar 4-3-3 formation to Ajax that includes his favoured holding midfielder position.

The position is currently occupied by Daley Blind in the national team, but with Blind now playing centre-half for his club and his versatility across the pitch a well-known attribute, it will only be a matter of time before we see Bazoer taking up the defensive midfielder role, and potentially making it his own.

As to where life after Ajax takes him – your guess is as good as mine. According to recent reports, Barcelona have had him watched numerous times this season and Luis Enrique has him pinned as an ideal replacement for Sergio Busquets – should the long-serving Catalan choose to try pastures new this summer.

He has also been linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League, with talk of Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain, Manchester City Sporting Director, meeting his agent in Amsterdam a fortnight ago.

Personally, I’d like to see him continue to apply his trade at Ajax before making a move. If a move to Manchester City does materialise, the guidance of Pep Guardiola would allow Bazoer to prosper and develop much like Sergio Busquets all them years back at La Masia and Barcelona B.

Whatever comes of him this summer, The Netherlands will be glad to know they have a young prodigy from Utrecht to build their new era around.


Groundhopper: Deutschland/Holland ’16

Here is Ian Bradshaw’s account of his Groundhopping weekend in Germany and Holland, where he managed to fit in three matches, in three days.

By Ian Bradshaw.

Since my two live quite a distance away with their mum and only spend every-other weekend with their dad, I get the chance to follow football pretty much when and where I please these days – albeit, I’d rather that wasn’t the case.

As a Liverpool season ticket holder since 1984, my allegiances are obvious, but I don’t mind taking in other fixtures to chalk off a few grounds in the process.

My birthday weekend in early February 2016 was throwing up some promising opportunities for a weekend away in Europe – although the Bundesliga fixture generator had still to spit out the most opportune of weekends that suited my needs best.

Düsseldorf looked the place to best locate myself, and with home fixtures at Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Düsseldorf up for grabs, it seemed a sensible choice to consider booking flights prior to the games being announced.

I also chanced a look at the Dutch fixtures. They threw up the prospect of Ajax v Feyenoord – already confirmed as Sunday 7th February.

Then came the German fixture confirmation – it read:

  • Friday 5th February – Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen
  • Saturday 6th February – Schalke 04 v Wolfsburg.

My weekend was well and truly made.

Outward flights were booked from Manchester to Düsseldorf and inward back from Amsterdam to Manchester, with 2-nights accommodation in the Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof Ibis to facilitate an early start to Amsterdam on the Sunday morning.

Match tickets were eventually secured for all three, with fantastic value for money compared to the current pricing strategies of English top tier football.


Goal Frenzy Greens

Borussia Monchengaldbach 5 – 1 Werder Bremen
Borussia Park, Friday 5th February 2016 k.o. 20.30
att. 51,144
Ticket: €44,50 (circa. £34)


Monchengladbach ticket


This was to be a new ground for me and I jumped a train from Düsseldorf Hbf over to Monchengladbach Hbf, and then buses are laid on up to Borussia Park.

Borussia Park is quite the sight as you approach in the dark, with the modern concrete structure and roof under lit with the green of BMG.


Monchengladbach Stadium 2


Memories came flooding back of being allowed to stay up as an eight year old to watch the 1977 European Cup Final in Rome on the telly, as I watched my idol Kevin Keegan and the rest of the mighty reds pit their wits against the strength of the Bundesliga in the form of Bertie Vogts, Rainer Bonhof and Wolfgang Knieb among others.

Having purchased a bratwurst outside the ground for €2,90, I had a mooch round the fan shop. I’d already purchased a memento scarf and pin badge online, however, to save lugging it around Europe.

bier in the ground was €4,10, and it went down well given the wind’s occasional icy slap in the face.


Monchengladbach Stadium


The game finished 5-1 to the home side as they produced some scintillating form to record their first points following the Bundesliga winter break, following a 3-1 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund and a 1-0 loss away at Mainz.

I’d expected a little more from Bremen, who’d recently impressed me on TV with a 3-1 away win at Schalke 04. Nevertheless, the entire game was played out in the usual entertaining atmosphere of German football, chants and fans bouncing up and down for a ninety-minutes solid.

Post-match, I caught the bus back into Monchengladbach and the connecting return train to Düsseldorf saw me arrive the hotel bar for 23.30.

Highlight: Apart from the game with 6 goals? A drunken German with more than a 90% passing resemblance to Joe Jordan, entertaining passengers with an impressive stumble and fall flat onto his face on the platform at Neuss on the return journey to Düsseldorf.


Taming of the Wolf

FC Schalke 04 3 – 0 Wolfsburg
Veltins Arena, Saturday 6th February 2016 k.o. 15.30
att. 61,481
Ticket: €41,50 (circa. £32)


Schalke ticket


It was a mid-morning start on Saturday, as I jumped the train to Heinrich Halle Strasse. A brisk walk through the Aldstadt down to the Rhein, and a walk along one of the main water arteries of Central Europe followed it.

I made the journey back to Düsseldorf Hbf for a train to Gelsenkirchen, which is free with a match ticket, if you travel on a regional train.

Having already attended a game at Schalke, the prospect of going again was a real attraction for me. As a stadium, from the outside it resembles an out of town office building, clad in reflected glass, which actually belies the fact that a truly magnificent football stadium is housed inside.

The concourse outside offers bratwurst at €2,95, though concessions inside the turnstiles – unlike BMG – require the purchase of a fan card.


Schalke Stadium


My seat was up with the Gods, back row of Block 55 – which seems to be the area of the ground set aside for day visitors, having sat in the vicinity previously.

An entertaining start saw Julian Draxler roundly booed following his recent defection to Wolfsburg and not before long business as usual was restored as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar notched the hosts ahead. A second was added ten minutes later from a sweetly hit direct free-kick by their industrious midfielder, Jonathan Geis.

I’ll own up now, given Schalke was a pig to get away from last time, I chose to leave with five minutes still on the clock. And, without knowing the German for Sods Law – Schalke netted a third before I’d got down the steps through Alessandro Schopf strike.

To compound matters, back at Gelsenkirchen I foolishly boarded an Inter City train to Düsseldorf and was clobbered for a €23,00 for a single ticket.

Once back at the hotel, I had a few biers, quick wash and set out into the Aldstadt for a few of the local altbiers. 

Highlight: seeing glimpses of the old 1973 built Parkstadion behind the hotel complex between that and the new stadium – with an immaculate pitch it is still used for training matches nd then watching the Nordkurve in full cry before and during the game.


De Klassieker

Ajax 2 – 1 Feyenoord
Amsterdam ArenA, Sunday 7th February k.o. 12.30
att. 51,875
Ticket: €59,00 (circa. £45)


Ajax Stadium


Early start for this as I caught the 06.56 ICE train to Amsterdam Centraal, which was €19 in advance on the DB website.

Arriving in Amsterdam, I threw my bag in a day locker for €10 and had a brief walk around, before jumping the train up to Biljmer for the ArenA. I had to collect the ticket I purchased in advance from the main entrance adjacent to Gate E – with which I received a complimentary Ajax scarf.

Once in my seat, there was a pre-match presentation to Johnny Heitinga who’d recently retired. He received a silver club platter and an F-Side baseball jacket before making the walk around the pitch with his two children.

The notorious F-Side, located behind the goal, showed their appreciation by lighting fireworks to honour the former Everton player.


Ajax Heitinga


Whilst away fans are prohibited for this fixture, this didn’t translate onto the pitch with the early exchanges a real blood and thunder affair, the type associated with a fierce derby where commitment to the cause takes precedent over footballing competencies.

When Feyenoord scored first through Jens Toornstra, an eerie silence fell around the ground. Ajax quickly restored the balance with a fine move concluded by some deft footwork by Amin Younes who slipped two defenders in shimmies to slot the ball into the far corner, out of reach of the keeper, and in off the base of the post.

The second half saw Ajax take, and ultimately retain the lead, through a fine long-range strike by their highly rated box-to-box midfielder, Riechedly Bazoer.

The scenes at the end left you in no doubt that Ajax thoroughly revelled in finally beating the staunchest rivals for the first time in four meetings – following two draws and a defeat in the preceding fixtures.

Highlight: an impressive pyro / smoke bomb display by Block 404 Check, saw black smoke hang over the pitch for a good 10 minutes, despite the roof being wide open.


Ajax Stadium 2


All in all, a great trip and one that will live in the memory for a good while. Work took some doing on the Monday, though.

Football Protests: Do they work?

Here is Ed Wade with his summary of the most influential Football fan protests.

By Ed Wade.

It doesn’t take much to make fans voice their opinions when they get disgruntled, be it with the owners, manager or players. If something isn’t right, it’s not long before we see a march to the stadium, a banner outside the club, a written letter to the board of directors or even a stadium walk out.

We have most recently seen the likes of Liverpool have ticket prices lowered as a result of a stadium walkout, whereas Charlton Athletic will have to see if the weekend’s ‘Coffin’ protest against the club’s owners comes to any fruition. But how often does the protesting actually work?

  1. Liverpool fans reduce ticket price

With the growing amount of money in the Premier League including a new £5-billion-pound TV deal, fans across the UK are sick and tired of paying extortionate ticket prices. For Liverpool fans, £77 was the highest priced match day ticket and it was simply too much. The Kopites staged a mass walkout during their home game against Sunderland during the 77th minute and got their reward. The club Fenway sports group who are the club’s owners lowered the price to £59 and issued a statement of apology. Since then the Premier league has put a cap on prices for match day away tickets at £30. Score one for the fans.

  1. Seville protest the splitting of La Liga television money

The start of the 2016/17 season will see the television money of La Liga split fairly for the first time. With Spanish clubs negotiating their own deals in previous seasons, Real Madrid and Barcelona would take home the lions share, leaving the other La Liga clubs fighting over the scraps. In 2012 this became too much for Seville fans, who had a home match against Levante delayed, so that Spanish broadcasters could show a post ‘Clasico’ press conference. In protest of their treatment, Seville supporters bombarded the pitch with tennis balls. It has taken years to click but finally we will see a more even split of finances amongst Spanish clubs.

  1. Ajax fans wait until the 14th minute to enter stadium

During a champions league game in 2010/11 season, the famous Ajax VAK410 waited until the 14th minute (club legend Johan Cruyff’s number) before taking their seats against AC Milan. Supporters of the club were unhappy at having to fork out 80 euros for a ticket. Banners read ‘against modern football’ as the spectators expressed their views. Unfortunately, the protest didn’t work as UEFA fined Ajax for misconduct and prices remained just as high.

  1. Swedish fans stay silent over crowd rules

During a derby between Swedish giants AIK and Djurgarden in 2011, supporters of both clubs remained in total silence for the first 10 minutes of the game. The fans were protesting against the Swedish FA who had warned that attending football matches could be dangerous and wanted to prove just how much live games would miss the supporters. Such was the silence, you could hear conversations between players. The FA never a blind eye and didn’t really take any notice.

  1. Manchester United supporters try and get a new manager

It was always going to be a difficult job to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. David Moyes endured a torrid time at the club and was a dead man walking for much of the campaign. Fans were so unhappy with performances at the club, they flew a plane over Old Trafford during a game with Aston Villa, costing £840 with a banner reading ‘Wrong one – Moyes out.’ The Scot didn’t last till the end of the season and was sacked with three games remaining.

  1. A chicken goes wild at Ewood Park

During a relegation six pointer between Blackburn and Wigan in 2012. A 23-year old Rovers fan Anthony Taylor released a chicken with a Blackburn flag wrapped around it onto the pitch. It was a clever move as fans were unhappy with the club owners Venky group who, had made their money, you guessed it, by poultry. Things didn’t get better for the club as they lost the game and were relegated to the championship, with the same owners still there.

  1. Brazil protest its own World Cup

With Brazil set to host the 2014 World Cup, masses of public funding was used to build new and adequate stadiums. Brazilians were unhappy considering some of the more pending issues in the country such as housing and schooling, were often ignored. Brazilian authorities ended up firing tear gas during riots in Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. There were continuous protests during the tournament, which also saw the ITV studio windows receive a battering. From a footballing perspective it was a massively successful tournament but the protests did very little in terms of funding change

  1. Luis Figo gets a head thrown at him

Luis Figo was labelled Judas after his transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000. The Portuguese star had spent five years at the Nou Camp and was a firm fan favourite. That love turned to hatred during the Clasico in Barcelona, though, as amongst all the booing and missiles Figo received, he also had a pig’s head launched at him whilst taking a corner. Figo never complained about Barcelona fans afterwards and really kept his Poker face to remain cool. The Referee suspended the game for 13 minutes, fearing for the safety of the players.


Football supporters are such a key part of the game and make for the whole dynamic of how the game is played. With the game always changing it will be fascinating to see what else supporters have up their sleeve.


See also – 


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