Johannesburg - Wits coach Gavin Hunt says Matthew Booth’s retirement has come as yet another blow to his plans for the new Premiership season.
Speaking to the Sowetan newspaper on Wednesday, Booth, 37, said he turned down an offer from Wits to extend his contract and as a result has opted to call time on a stellar career.
But the veteran defender’s announcement did little to ease concerns for Hunt and the club, who are facing an exodus of defenders before the new season kicks off in August.
“We’ve lost all our defenders, which is a major blow, we had a great defensive record and Matthew was a big part of that and he played an integral part of that last season,” Hunt said on Wednesday morning.
“We’re going to have to pick up the pieces and take it from there.
“I’ll build another team and we’ll start again.”
Hunt will have to make do without his former Bafana Bafana hardman, while also bidding farewell to another central defender, Kwanda Mngonyama, who returns to Mamelodi Sundowns after spending the 2013/14 season on loan with the Clever Boys.
A third defender, Onismor Bhasera, has also been linked with a move away from the Johannesburg outfit and Hunt could be faced with a massive task in plugging the holes left by Booth and others.
Nevertheless, Hunt was full of praise for the lanky centre-back, who boasts a Premiership winners’ medal with Sundowns in 2000, as well as the experience of more than five years playing in Russia.
“He’s been thinking about it for some time now. It’s sad news for any footballer to pack in, but we all can’t play forever,” Hunt said.
“He’s had a fantastic career, so rather look at the highlights of his career and what he’s done and he’s been a real shining light in South African football.”
The announcement will come as further evidence to Hunt that his coaching career has long-since been cursed with bad luck and player exits, having earned the unenviable reputation of becoming a coach forced to rebuild his squad before the start of every season.
The former SuperSport United boss steered Matsatsantsa to three Premiership-winning seasons in succession between 2008 and 2011, only to be hit with player exoduses to fellow top-tier clubs year after year.
“We start on Tuesday [with pre-season preparations] and there will be a lot of changes again.
“Every team I seem to touch… there are so many changes every year so it’s difficult for me.”