Cape Town - It may be through necessity rather than choice, but Ajax Cape Town are once again hoping that their youth academy can provide the seed for success in seasons ahead.
As coach Roger De Sa heads into his first full season in charge of the Urban Warriors, weighing heavily on his mind will be how to find a way to introduce as many Ajax youth team products into the team without compromising results.
Club boss Ari Efstathiou accepts that there are big challenges ahead, and as such is not putting too much pressure on De Sa, whom he hopes is the right man to get the best out of a youthful squad.
“Ajax proves that without a doubt, clubs without youth academies have no future. Of the current 26-man squad, 18 players have come from our youth academy,” Efstathiou said on Tuesday.
“Out of the 384 odd players that have gone through the academy over the past 15 years, just under 100 have gone to the Premiership, or better. Obviously having a youthful squad with little experience, the challenges are so much bigger.”
Efstathiou says he is aware of those challenges.
“You can't expect to be challenging the big guns, but we will always be a surprise package. Three times in our history we have ended up second in the league, twice losing on goal difference.
“Our average age this year is 22-years-old. The more I tell Roger 'just give me someone experienced', he just tells me give me the young boys, 'they listen better'.”
The last couple of seasons have seen the Cape side coming dangerously close to the relegation zone, rather than challenging for trophies.
But Efstathiou is hopeful that the situation will change in the not too distant future, despite the club having lost its main sponsor, while also regularly seeing its best players heading north to Gauteng, if not overseas.
“It would be unrealistic to bring in a coach and tell him you want to win the league, as much as you want to,” Efstathiou said.
“But as a board we said we definitely want to challenge for honours, but it would probably be next year or the year after, although probably not this year.
“We want to try and do it with our youth academy players. But I think Roger's mandate is to get us a good top eight finish.”
De Sa knows that the expectations placed on him by the club's bosses are not unrealistic, but a highly competitive individual by nature, the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper still expects to see his team approaching each game with a winning mentality.
“Coaches are always asked what their mandate at a club is. I have a simple philosophy... try and win every game,” De Sa said.
“There is no other way as a sportsman. It doesn't matter what it is. If I start a race, I want to win the race.”