JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns’ recent signing Lyle Lakay is grateful that his “engine-capacity" has allowed him to fit like a glove in his new home and role at the Chloorkop-based side.
Upon his arrival at Sundowns this season, coach Pitso Mosimane converted him to the modern wing-back position. At his former club Cape Town City, he was a offensive player. Lakay has grabbed the opportunity with both hands so far as he’s started all domestic matches, while keeping previous seasons’ regular Tebogo Langerman on the bench.
“When you play on the wing, it’s normally attack first and defence after," Lakay said. “But in this position, it is the opposite. But for me, I think what helped me more is because I have the engine to go up and down. As a full-back, you want to support backward and forward. It was not a major adjustment, but I had to have the mindset that you defend first and attack afterwards."
Even though the 26-year-old footballer has got the nod ahead of Langerman, Siyabonga Zulu and Mosa Lebusa in the past three matches, he’s not getting carried away. He understands that with the congestion of the season's fixtures, he’ll have to share the workload with the other players.
That will start this Friday in the Caf Champions League away to Wydad Casablanca. Lakay is not registered for his new team’s continental football campaign because he is cup-tied after featuring for City in the Caf Confederations Cup preliminary round early this year.
“I wouldn’t know whether I’ve cemented my place or not, that’s the coach's (Mosimane) decision," he said. "The season is long, so I’ll probably share the workload with the rest of the guys. So far, so good for me but I can’t say muchwhether I’ll be a regular or not."
The Cape Town-born wing-back is not an unknown to top-flight football having had spells with Supersport United, Bloemfontein Celtic and recently City. However, his career didn’t quite take off as many had anticipated in the past few years due to inconsistent performances. As a result, it came as a bit of a shock to some members of the football fraternity when they learnt of his move to the Brazilians.
“At Supersport I was young and not mature enough. While, at Celtic, I was still finding my feet and I think I even made the CHAN squad at some point," Lakay argued. “But when you're talking of living up to expectations, I think I am at the right club now. If you look at players that were here, they’ve gone to Europe, from Keagan Dolly (Montpellier HSC - France), Bongani Zungu (Amiens SC - France) and recently Percy Tau (Brighton & Hove Albion - England)."
He added: “For instance, Dolly left the club, went to Ajax Cape Town, came back and then went to Europe. So, if I listen to the coach's instructions, I could be the player that I want to be."
Meanwhile, Mosimane has applauded how quickly Lakay and Lebohang Maboe (another new signing) have adapted to the club’s demanding programme considering that some of their predecessors took longer, while others even left the club early.
“If you don’t swim, you are going to sink here," Mosimane insisted. “When you are here, you are on an international programme, so you need self-discipline. It’s really a jungle here."