CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City boss John Comitis is acutely aware of the pitfalls of second season syndrome - and he has drummed home to his squad the dangers of complacency as they prepare to get the 2017-18 campaign under way.
City host Polokwane City in a MTN8 quarter-final tie at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3pm kickoff). Last season, the Capetonians surprised all and sundry with an energetic, excellent debut season, but the challenge is expected to be even greater this time around.
Leicester City in England are the perfect example: After winning the English Premiership, they slumped to ordinariness the following season - and it is this kind of implosion that City, and Comitis, are determined to guard against.
“We know that it will be much more difficult this season,” said Comitis. “But we are confident the team will do well again In terms of what I’ve seen, I think we are 35-40 percent better prepared than we were this time last season. But, as I told the players, that is still not enough.
"As far as I am concerned, what is more important is that the players need to give the same commitment, co-operation, team work and fight that they did in the last campaign.
“We are also aware of the need for the team to be just as disciplined this season. This squad, including the new players we have added, have unbelievable attacking quality.
"They are an exciting team when they go forward, but I have stressed to them in my talks that we have to be just as good when it comes to defence, structure and discipline.”
Last season’s head coach, Eric Tinkler, performed wonders at the helm - and, while many may think the new man in charge, Benni McCarthy, has big shoes to fill, and a lot to live up to, Comitis differs. In fact, the charismatic club boss has put absolutely no pressure on McCarthy for the season ahead.
“Obviously, we set a benchmark last season by finishing third, but the mandate given to Benni is to keep us in the top eight this season,” said Comitis. “We will be patient with the coach, who is in his first season in charge. I can assure you that Benni won’t be judged by this season, it’s far too early to do so.
"But based on what I have seen from the squad, and how they’ve gone about things, I still believe we will be pleasantly surprised. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would be disappointed if we don’t finish in the top five.”
Squad wise, Comitis has promised to add one or two more players before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. He’s weighing up a few foreign options, especially African internationals who can add experience and quality to boost the Cape club’s campaign in the Caf Confederation Cup later this season.
The other aspect Comitis is keeping a close eye on is the training facility.
“I think the City of Cape Town is fully aware of the time line,” he said. “There can be no excuses this time.”