JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates’ coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic admits that the "ghost" of last season’s disastrous campaign still haunts the club.
The Buccaneers tend to drop back after taking a lead, driven by fear of not wanting to fail rather than being pushed by the ambition to win.
That’s why they haven’t been able to kill off the three Absa Premiership matches they have been involved in.
Pirates fell into the trap of dropping back in numbers in the 1-0 win over Ajax Cape Town on Tuesday, just like they did against Baroka FC and Chippa United before.
Even the fans were wrapped in that fear, only singing with confidence just before optional time ended, even though Pirates were ahead nine minutes into the match and were comfortable throughout against a timid Ajax side.
“I will talk as a person who has been a supporter of this team from way back and is now the coach,” Sredojevic said. “The ghost of the past is chasing us and in a way is still present in the team.
"We want to chase away that ghost. It would have been much easier if one of those goals (the two that were ruled offside) stood because we would have played in a different way.”
Sredojevic continued: “However, it was deep in the minds of the players that they had only scored one goal and subconsciously this pushes you back to sit and protect this small credit that you have earned and not throw it away.
"The ghost of the past is that this team has conceded so many goals in the dying minutes of matches. There’s no better way of getting confidence and lifting the quality of performance in football than winning. We need to make winning a habit.
"Once it becomes a habit and we are in the winning mode, then we will start to play the way we want to play, with more confidence and entertain the fans.”
The Buccaneers play with some degree of confidence when they go forward thanks to the freedom that Sredojevic has given the players.
Their only setback is the mental block that comes in crucial moments, which is why it’s important that they exorcise the ghost of last season.
The Serb dispelled the notion that the players had formed cliques which was the foundation of the cabal that drove coaches away. That was the prevalent story line before he replaced Kjell Jonevret who lasted for a few months just like Muhsin Ertugral.
“Orlando Pirates is not an ordinary case,” Sredojevic said. “It is like performing a neurosurgery. A neurosurgery demands that you delicately dissect it and analyse the situation from all angles.
"We are doing everything possible from the point of management and players. If I was swayed by certain information that I got before I joined the club, I thought that I was entering in the den of devils.
"No! Believe me. These boys are not the way they have been presented. They are really determined and want to turn the corner. They are working hard and want to turn the corner to prove that they aren’t at Pirates by accident.”
Pirates will face their biggest test so far on Friday in their clash with the high-flying Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium.