CHIPPA UNITED chairman Chippa Mpengesi seems a lot more wiser this time around than when his side were first promoted to the Premiership.
He looks like a man who has taken the hard lessons learnt in their first gung-ho season in the top flight to heart, and is determined not to make the same mistakes that led to their immediate relegation shortly after reaching the big time.
This past season, as they wrapped up the National First Division title with a few weeks to spare, there also seemed to be a definite gameplan to get back to the land of milk and honey without going through the stress of the playoffs.
It was a calculated assault on the title, which relied heavily on their performances away from their Philippi Stadium home. And, as Mpengesi mentioned this week, it was a plan that would work better with less Cape Town-born players in the team away from home.
If one takes a look at the away record of some of the other Cape teams, who are loaded with predominately home-grown players, then the plan actually has some merit.
Milano United got off to a flying start at the start of the season following a plethora of home games. But they stuttered as soon they started to hit the road, and there was a period when they couldn’t even buy a result away from home.
The Grassy Park side led the standings by eight points during the first quarter of the campaign, but now they trail the champion Chilli Boys by 11 points going into the last round of fixtures on Sunday.
“If you look at our record, we performed much better away than we did at home. At home we always struggled, and we didn’t do well in the derbies. But outside Cape Town, in places like Gauteng, I think we only lost one game,” Mpengesi said.
“So I think that was the secret. I think it all comes back to building a squad. We made nsure that we got the balance right.
“Our experience has told us that Cape Town players are only good in Cape Town, but are not good travellers. So we tried to fill the squad with 80 percent of players from inland and it worked for us,” the Chippa chairman added.
Coach Vladislav Heric, who surprisingly replaced Ian Palmer at the helm halfway through the season, said they also approached their trips into some of the remote parts of South Africax a little differently than in the past.
Nine of the 13 matches Heric had to oversee after replacing the experienced Palmer were on the road, and, with a little bit of financial assistance from his chairman, he managed to successfully hatch a plan that brought him a gold medal on Sunday afternoon.
“It was going to be difficult to reach the objective that was given to me, which was straight promotion,” Heric said.
“I knew that I had to win the league away and I asked my management to travel to away matches two days before kickoff. I was very fortunate that the chairman understood that dynamic of the travelling, and he allowed me to do this.
“I could also travel with 20 players instead of 18, which other clubs couldn’t afford, which I know from discussions with other club coaches.”
FINAL NFD FIXTURES
(All matches 3pm)
Sunday: Santos v Blackburn Rovers (Athlone Stadium), Jomo Cosmos v Black Leopards (Makhulong Stadium), Witbank Spurs v Vasco da Gama (Puma Rugby Stadium), FC Cape Town v United FC (NNK Rugby Stadium), Roses United v Maluti FET College (Kaizer Sebothelo Stadium), African Warriors v Sivutsa Stars (Phuthaditjaba Stadium), Milano United v Chippa United (Grassy Park Sports Complex), Baroka FC v Thanda Royal Zulu (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium).