CAPE TOWN - Confidence is such a vital ingredient for a football club desperate to find some measure of consistency in its performances. Ajax Cape Town discovered this the hard and painful way. Bereft of self-belief and confidence in the opening few months of the year, the Cape PSL club tumbled down the PSL standings. In short, at the time, they couldn’t even buy a win.
Fast forward to the present, and it’s looking so much better at Ajax. All it needed was to get that first win under the belt - 1-0 against Highlands Park last month - and, as expected, it provided the dash of confidence that was sorely needed. Now, as Ajax prepare to take on Bloemfontein Celtic in a PSL fixture at Athlone Stadium on Saturday night (8.15pm kickoff), there’s renewed belief, fortitude and conviction in the squad. Two more victories have followed the Highlands triumph and the Urban Warriors are determined to maintain the momentum.
In the dark, difficult days Ajax experienced earlier this year, they required leaders with character to stand up and be counted. The team's young skipper, Travis Graham, has most certainly done that - so much so that the club’s head coach Stanley Menzo has been very complimentary about the manner in which the 24-year-old has carried himself.
And so, with three games to go to the end of the season, Ajax are confident, now that the squad is once again infused with confidence, that they can kick on and finish the season in the top eight.
“Everyone from the supporters, staff, owners and players are much more positive,” said Graham. “All of us, especially the coaches and players, have been encouraging each other instead of dampening our confidence. The team is on a high at the moment, hopefully we can continue with this form until the end of the season.”
In Celtic, though, Ajax are up against a tricky opponent. The Bloemfontein side come off a 0-0 draw with Orlando Pirates, and it’s also important to remember that they are still in a precarious situation at the bottom of the standings.
“It’s going to be a tough match and very closely contested,” said the Ajax captain. “Celtic aren’t in such a good position on the log, so we know they’re going to come out guns blazing. But, for us, the top eight is the objective. I think it’s definitely possible. We, as a club, just need to have the belief, and continue to encourage one another to turn around what has been a horrible season for us.”
On a more personal note, as pointed out by Menzo on a few occasions, Graham’s own performances have been outstanding. He has led by example, never shirking his duties on the field. His unselfish graft in midfield has, in fact, been the bedrock upon which the Cape side has been able to register a few wins and rocket up the PSL table.
“I think I’ve been in good form in the past few games,” he said. “I’ve been receiving good comments on how I’ve been playing. I will continue to work hard and try and maintain this form. It’s good for the team”
Graham’s form is likely to be even that more crucial for Ajax for the remainder of the season - because they will be without the influential 18-year-old Grant Margeman.
“Losing Grant is a big loss for us,” said Graham. "But, for him, playing in the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m happy that the club has released him.”