Co Adriaanse gave a passionate lecture to the country’s top coaches at Hamdpen Park on Thursday.
One of Dutch football’s most experienced coaches gave an invaluable insight into the legendary Ajax Academy, where he worked for five years, to a captivated audience at the Scottish FA’s latest Coaching Convention.
Adriaanse has an impressive CV, incorporating two spells with the legendary Amsterdam club, as Academy Director and Head Coach. He took Willem II from the lower reaches of the Eredivise to the Champions League and catapulted AZ Alkmaar from a similarly lowly status into the highest echelons of Dutch football.
He became the first coach to win the league and cup double with Porto since Jose Mourinho, took the title in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg and more recently worked in Ukraine and Qatar.
After Celtic’s invigorating win against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, Adriaanse endorsed the Scottish FA’s Performance Strategy, overseen by his countryman and former ADO Den Haag assistant coach, Mark Wotte.
“When I watched Celtic’s performance and result on Wednesday, I wondered if there was any need for me to come over and speak any more,” he joked. “That result shows what can be possible with the right spirit, the right motivation from the manager and the right execution from the players.
“It has shown that Scottish football is still able to compete. I have been involved in coaching for 30 years and remember the great Scottish sides and Scottish players from the 1960s and 70s. Things have maybe taken a downturn since then but with the Performance Strategy and with results like Celtic’s, it shows that the situation can always improve. You can also see with Rangers, who are attracting more than 40,000 fans in the third division, that the passion is alive and well in Scotland.”
Adriaanse provided a masterclass in management techniques, honed during his time in the famous Ajax system, and took part in a Q&A with the audience, among them the Scotland Interim National Coach, Billy Stark, the National Youth Team coaches, Ally McCoist and his Rangers backroom team, Chris McCart, Celtic’s Head of Youth and his team, Kenny Shiels, the Kilmarnock manager, Stuart McCall and Kenny Black, and representatives from all Scotland’s Performance teams.
Adriaanse’s presentation revolved around his TIPS philosophy. “Technique is the most important quality of all. It is what Ajax focus on from the age of eight, when players first come into the system,” he said. “Intelligence is also hugely important. It happens over time but at Ajax, it was Rinus Michels who developed Total Football. For example, a right-sided defender can also play left attacker and by trying out those positions he can then understand his own position more and be versatile enough to play many positions.
“Of course, Rinus was helped by having Johan Cruyff on the field, who was arguably the most intelligent footballer of all. Personality, or psyche, is also key: in Holland we have had many players who were good players, but did not have the right psyche, and did not become great players. The right personality, the right psyche, can be the difference between a good player and a great one. Speed and strength are the final parts of the TIPS philosophy. Maybe years ago you could be a great player without speed and strength but not now.
"Take Yaya Toure of Manchester City: he has great technique, is a very intelligent footballer and has the right psyche. He is also very strong. Today, you need to have all these attributes.”
Adriaanse also discussed the ‘bootroom’ mentality that remains fundamental to the Ajax system, with the Head Coach, Frank de Boer, operating at the top of their coaching pyramid with a host of Ajax alumni: Dennis Bergkamp, Jaap Stam, Marc Overmars, Edwin van der Sar, Wim Jonk, and Brian Roy.
“It is very important that at all levels you have coaches who are specialists in their areas: van der Sar is not only a great goalkeeper but can pass from defence. Overmars and Roy have the skills to impart, Jaap Stam was a terrific defender, Bergkamp also has great balance and technique. For Ajax, it is important that the coaches are also still fit enough to do the work with the players of all ages.”
Mark Wotte was grateful for Adriaanse’s attendance. “He is one of the most experienced coaches in Dutch football for the past 30 years and I was delighted he could share his journey with Scotland’s best coaches,” he said. “He is a very passionate coach and that came across during the seminar. Also, he was a pioneer, inventing the Christmas Tree formation of 4-3-2-1.
“The Scottish FA Performance Strategy is all about creating and developing a culture, The Scotland Way, and we are committed to doing that in a 4-3-3 formation. Ajax have their own philosophy and while we want to establish our own, through the Regional Performance Schools and our National Youth Teams, it helps to have a better understanding of the best philosophies around.”