Saturday, November 1, 2008

1915 - 1949: The Jack Reynolds Era

A History of Ajax
by Menno Pot

The first domestic trophies

In 1918 the atrocities of the trenches of the Great War were as close as southern Belgium and northern France. Certain foods and goods were rationed in The Netherlands. Meanwhile, Ajax celebrated their first 'over-all' championship of The Netherlands. A second title followed a year later, this time secured without a single defeat. The man largely responsible was the successor to John Kirwan: Jack Reynolds, an Englishman. He would be in charge of Ajax for no less than 25 seasons, only interrupted by three years at city rivals Blauw-Wit ('Blue-White') and five years in a German POW camp during World War Two.

Before Jack Reynolds, Ajax was just one of Holland's football teams. After Jack Reynolds, Ajax was the standard-bearer of Dutch football, having won eight national titles and the first Dutch national cup. Reynolds' strict, school teacher-like approach inspired a diligent striker from his squad, who made his debut in the first season of football after World War Two: Rinus Michels, who was to become Ajax's coach twenty years later, in 1965, and lay the foundation for the 'Golden Ajax' team of the early 1970s.

Football with wingers

Reynolds' was far ahead of his time, and his well-defined football philosophy provided the foundation for the professional club Ajax was to become. The Ajax philosophy focused on attacking, skill and speed. Football with wingers. Jack Reynolds introduced the typical Ajax style of play that made 'Ajax' synonymous with attacking football. It would continue to define the club long after his death in 1962. The long stand opposite the main stand of new De Meer stadium, which Ajax started playing in 1934 and was situated some two miles farther down Middenweg, was named after him in 1965.

Birth of an everlasting rivalry

9 October, 1922, was a remarkable day in the Reynolds era, as it was the first time for Ajax to play against a team from Rotterdam, called Feyenoord. Ajax won 2-3. Or so they thought. Feyenoord, however, filed a complaint against referee Boas, who allowed Ajax's third goal, whereas the Rotterdammers claimed that ball had not crossed the line. Football association NVB decided to disallow the winning goal. Final result: 2-2. Ajax protested for many months, in vain. Later that season, Ajax was the first winner of an Ajax - Feyenoord confrontation (2-0), but the Rotterdammers finished second in the table, one point ahead of Ajax. The turbulence of 9 October, 1922 would never end.

The most famous player of pre-war Ajax - and probably the whole of The Netherlands - was Wim Anderiesen Sr., midfielder from 1925 to 1940, who earned 46 Oranje caps, a pre-war Dutch record. With him as one of the main players, Ajax created an excellent reputation both in and outside Holland, but he couldn't keep the first confrontation with a real European top opponent from becoming a disaster. Ajax started optimistically against Rapid Vienna, from Austria, but had apparently overrated its own power. The 16-2 margin still stands as the most lopsided defeat in club history.

The War and the Jews

The history of Ajax during World War Two, the story of Eddy Hamel (the first American ever to play for Ajax) and Ajax's much discussed reputation as a Jewish club, are described in the book Ajax, De Joden, Nederland. Its author, Simon Kuper, granted Ajax USA exclusive permission to translate the book into English. [Add link.]

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