Owen da Gama, head coach of Highlands Park, knows his team faces a tough challenge this season. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Owen da Gama is the realistic type, his experience of the country's top two leagues having taught him that the National First Division and the Absa Premiership are two different kettles of fish.

And so as he prepared to lead Highlands Park in their return to the elite league, the former Bafana Bafana assistant coach was not about to make silly pronouncement about how the Lions of the North will set the Premiership on fire like they did in the second tier division. “I don’t think we’ll be the same team as we were in the NFD," Da Gama explained.

To the uninitiated, Highlands Park were rampant in the NFD, Da Gama's team winning the division at a canter through scoring a massive 69 while letting in a miserly 13 to finish on 69 points. But there will be no such in the top league, Da Gama knows. “One thing that we know is that we respect the PSL. It’s of a very high standard and we respect that," he added.

Da Gama is essentially saying that unlike in the NFD where it is a free for all and the team that can run and attack the most often prevails, in the elite division tactics rule. "The PSL is more tactical and technical, so we’ll have to adapt to that. I can’t see us ending top of the league next season but maybe in six years, we can get that right. It’s all about growth," he said.

Given that they went immediately back to the NFD following their first promotion two seasons ago, the Tembisa-based outfit are eager to avoid the one-season syndrome. To this effect they have raided the transfer market to beef up their squad with a massive 12 new signings.

These new signings were unveiled at the club’s home-ground, Makhulong Stadium, on Wednesday. Experienced defender Bevan Fransman and former Bidvest Wits goalkeeper Kyle Peters were the familiar faces apart from the group of youngsters who’ve been playing in the NFD while two are African imports. Da Gama believes Fransman's acquisition was 'right'.

“Sometimes you don’t bring in the best player but the right one. In Bevan we brought in the right player. If you compare him to any defender at his age, he stands above head and shoulder with regards to injuries and all. He’s a clean, quality player."


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