Mitchell Dijks has become an immediate fan favourite with his all-action displays since joining Norwich City on loan from Ajax last month. His thumping header to earn the Canaries a valuable point recently at Wigan Athletic underlined the strapping defender’s instant impact in his early games.
The powerful 6’4” left-back was labelled “a beast” by both Manager Alex Neil and Cameron Jerome after making his English footballing debut in the 1-0 victory at Cardiff City. The former Holland U21 international has followed up with impressive performances in Norwich’s 5-1 thumping of Nottingham Forest and 2-2 draw against EFL Championship leaders Newcastle United at Carrow Road.
Talking to OTBC, the official Matchday Magazine of Norwich City, Dijks, who celebrated his 24th birthday last week said, “I hope that we will be promoted as we have a good squad and a lot of good players”. He is already focused on ending the season with a trip to Wembley after studying photographs of the Canaries’ Play-Off Final triumph against Middlesbrough two years ago. “I saw a lot of pictures from that game. It’s a fantastic stadium and I hope that we will be there”.
The ease in which Dijks slotted into Neil’s line-up for the meeting with a rugged Cardiff City side was all the more creditable given that almost eight weeks had elapsed since his previous Eredivisie appearance for Ajax on 11 December. “This was my first game for a long time, and also my first in England so yes, for me it was tough, really heavy. When I’m fully fit I will do more running over 90 minutes, but for now, I’m still getting fit”.
Dijks was born in the small Dutch city of Purmerend. He began his career in the youth ranks at FC Volendam which at the time was partnered with Ajax. He enjoyed early success in the Ajax youth set-up and was 19 when he was handed his League debut by Frank de Boer in a 6-1 Eredivisie victory away at NEC.
He went on to make 6 League appearances in the 2012-13 season for Ajax helping them land the Dutch title. The following season he was loaned out to Heerenveen where his team-mates included fellow Canary new-boy Yanic Wildschut.
Dijks had a tough start at Heerenveen when he was red-carded twice in this first four games but he settled down and went on to make 24 League games over the season.
It looked as if his Ajax days were over when in August 2014 he was transferred to Tilburg-based Willem 11 but his old boss at the Amsterdam ArenA was so impressed by his progress that he re-signed him in June 2015.
As an established first-teamer, Dijks worked with assistant boss Dennis Bergkamp, one of several golden-oldies who are currently involved with Ajax. “Bergkamp is a little bit quiet and modest. He’s a hero and a good guy, yet he is so quiet. But we have also had Frank de Boer, we have Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar. There are some big names at Ajax”.
The now fully-fledged Dijks played almost 40 games for Ajax last season but it ended in bitter disappointment when they were pipped to the Eredivisie title by rivals PSV Eindhoven on the final day. De Boer resigned three days after the De Graafschap match being replaced by Peter Bosz and this signalled another change in Dijks’ fortunes. He played regularly in the opening months of this season but more recently found Daley Sinkgraven as the preferred left-back.
Having been relegated to the subs’ bench is what brought about an initial loan-move to Carrow Road. “If I’m happy and get to play a lot then I will want to stay. Getting promoted is important for me and the Club, but for me playing a lot of games is also important”.
Moving overseas remains a major step for Dijks, even if Norwich is only a relatively short 30-minute hop across the North Sea from Amsterdam.
The presence of his old Heerenveen team-mate Wildschut has helped Dijks settle in Norwich. “He is a friend of mine and helps me with everything, including my English”, he says. “I’m a family man. My mother and sister live together in Purmerend and I have the option to stay here for longer, but I have four months to get used to it. Carrow Road is a lovely stadium and has a warm atmosphere, so I am looking forward to playing here”.