JOHANNESBURG – With their “reconstruction phase” over, Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic is banking on his newbies to help end the team’s barren streak.
Two seasons after having a disastrous season in which they finished 11th in the Premiership standings, Sredojevic has got them back to their heavyweight status.
However, during that period they have had nothing show for their hard work, and the best they could do was the runners-up spot in the Premiership and Telkom Knockout.
However, with Sredojevic approaching his final season with the team, the time of playing mesmerising football while the trophy cabinet gathers dust is over.
After all, the discerning Ghost would be pleased if their team was scooping trophies week in and out, instead of man-of-the-match awards on match day.
In ensuring that the team ends its five-year barren streak, the club’s management, led by Irvin Khoza, has put everything into place to ensure that there are enough personnel to compete for silverware, signing no fewer than nine players to bolster the squad for the new season.
The influence of assistant coach Fadlu Davids, who was previously with Maritzburg United, came to the fore with Bucs signing Siphesihle Ndlovu and Fortune Makaringe from the Midlands-based side.
“We have recruited players who have been missing in the puzzle of our mosaic,” Sredojevic said after his team defeated sworn enemies Kaizer Chiefs 2-0 in the Carling Black Label Cup on Saturday.
“The fact is they have come with similar problems (of fatigue), as the coach (Ernst Middendorp) has mentioned. I’ll say that we are looking at them to adjust to our game model, but they could not just come and fit seamlessly in the team. The players have earned what they deserved and others still need to work very hard in order to understand the team’s game model.”
On Saturday, while Pirates continued their dominance over their old rivals Chiefs, Makaringe realised his childhood dream, donning the famous black-and-white jersey in front of a sold-out crowd.
However, that encounter meant a great deal to Giyani-born centre-back Justice Chabalala. With the starting line-up of either side selected by the supporters, the lanky defender made his return for the Bucs, having spent last season kicking his heels in the stands or being demoted to the first team. Despite being impressed by Chabalala’s performance, Sredojevic said it would take time for him to get back into the starting Xl.
“When you talk about Justice Chabalala, he has shown an amount of loyalty to the team, especially having attracted interest from other teams,” Sredojevic said.
“He has been a generator of positive energy in the team. And having been voted by the supporters, it’s not an accident. They recognise the big heart of the man from Giyani. We are extremely happy as the technical team that the players have helped him to adjust to the challenges that this game is bringing.
He has knocked on the door, but at the same time we have no right to judge him after one game as the finished product.”
Pirates will open their Premiership campaign against Bloemfontein Celtic at home on August 3.@Mihlalibaleka