CAPE TOWN – Coach Eric Tinkler is determined that Maritzburg United won’t be among the relegation candidates in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) this season.
When the former Bafana Bafana midfield strongman arrived to take over at Maritzburg last season, the club was in dire straits – at the bottom of the PSL standings and looking favourites to be relegated to the First Division.
But Tinkler got to work, organised the squad, got the players to buy into his vision, and they managed to avoid the drop by winning the promotion/relegation playoffs to retain the club's PSL status.
Tinkler is no stranger to adversity. He understands that football is never smooth-sailing and, as a player or a coach, an individual has to take the rough with the smooth. As a player, he experienced all these emotions during his various stints at overseas clubs – and now, as a coach in South Africa, he’s had to also accept all the ups and downs.
But he’s never backed down from a challenge. Now, as the 2019-2020 PSL season looms, Tinkler has put last season’s struggles behind and he’s motivated to ensure that Maritzburg have a season to treasure this time around.
With this in mind, the 48-year-old coach has set about rebuilding his squad, especially in the light of the KwaZulu-Natal team losing two of its best players to Orlando Pirates (Fortune Makaringe and Siphesihle Ndlovu).
This week, Maritzburg unveiled three new signings – New Zealander Dan Morgan, Micah Lea’alafa from the Solomon Islands and former Ajax Cape Town and Bidvest Wits midfielder Daylon Claasen.
The new men join Tinkler’s other new acquisitions, including Judas Moseamedi, Gabriel Nyoni, Kwanda Mngonyama, Phumlani Ntshangase and Yusuf Jappie.
Even more importantly, Tinkler is ecstatic that promising young midfielder Keagan Buchanan has recovered from a serious ligament injury and will be ready and available this season. Already, the coach is consoled with losing Makaringe and Ndlovu because he has earmarked Ntshangase and Buchanan to fill the void.
As for the players brought in this week, club boss Farook Kadodia was able to shed more light on why they were signed.
“Dan Morgan will give us the attributes required in the left-back position, and this will increase the coach’s options in terms of defensive formations as the season progresses. He comes with a good pedigree and will also be an asset when defending set-pieces,” Kadodia told Maritzburg’s official website.
“Micah Lea'alafa is an attacking midfielder or winger and we believe he will be a good fit for the team and combine well with the other midfielders we have. He will provide the X-factor we’re looking for in the front line.
“Daylon Claasen is a player who comes with both European and PSL experience, and someone the coach believes will suit our style of football. A creative player with superb technique and vision, he will complement the attacking players we have at the club.”