In a repeat of the previous season, Free State Stars have sacked yet another coach just three games into the 2016/17 campaign, citing an “employment relationship that broke down” between the club and Frenchman Denis Lavagne. Simply put, the players just didn’t take to him.
It was just over a year ago that the Bethlehem outfit sent Kinnah Phiri packing following three straight defeats, replacing him with Ernst Middendorp, who only lasted a few month before he jumped ship and took the Maritzburg United coaching job in his attempt to save his old club from relegation.
Lavagne has endured a tough start to life as a Premier Soccer League (PSL) coach having to prepare the team in pre-season while the owners were negotiating a takeover bid with a consortium led by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Stars were beaten 2-1 by Chippa United in their Absa Premiership opener last month and followed that up with a credible goalless draw against rivals Bloemfontein Celtic in the Free State derby last week.
But it appears another narrow 1-0 defeat, this time to Golden Arrows last night, and the general feeling among players about the interactions with the coach was the last straw and preceded this Thursday afternoon’s announcement that Lavagne had been shown the door.
A statement from the club read: “In concluding the employment contract with Free State Stars Football club the head coach had agreed that the special nature of professional football and the need for excellent relationships to avoid the very real risk of disaster to the entire club, team, and all its stakeholders is such that if the employment relationship between the parties breaks down for any reason, but particularly if the head coach does not perform to the standards desired by the club, termination will be appropriate.”
Stars will confirm a replacement next week, with Themba Sithole taking over in the interim for this weekend’s league fixture against SuperSport United on Saturday in Umlazi and the clash against Kaizer Chiefs on Wednesday in Orkney.