JOHANNESBURG – Having been the victim of the “boo-boys” last season, Bernard Parker cut a diplomatic figure when he reacted to being the player with most votes in the starting line-ups for the Carling Black Label Cup.
While the old saying goes “goalkeepers mature like fine wine”, outfield players have endured the stigma of being deemed in the twilight of their careers when they surpass the age of 30, especially in the PSL.
Chiefs striker Parker, 32 at the time, found himself at the receiving end of negative criticism last season, many of the Amakhosi faithful saying his legs were done.
However, Parker took the criticism on the chin, and dragged his team to the Nedbank Cup final, despite finishing ninth in the Premiership standings. Aware of his work-rate, the Chiefs supporters publicly selected Die Hond (The Dog) to lead the team’s potent attack against old rivals Orlando Pirates in the Carling Cup at FNB Stadium tomorrow, having amassed more than 89 000 votes.
“There’ll always be criticism, but I have been in the game long enough to know that criticism is nothing personal,” said Parker. “It’s just a kick in the butt to say ‘hey, pull up your socks’. The supporters see that we put in the work, the passion is there.”
The overwhelming faith that Parker has recently received from the Amakhosi faithful follows after the club had extended his stay by a further season. Having started life at Naturena with a bang, scooping two Premiership titles and two domestic cups, Parker has endured a four-year-barren run with the team.
The club’s management has put everything into place to ensure that they revive the prestigious “Cup Kings of SA Football” in the new season, bolstering the squad with internationals Serbian Samir Nurkovic, Ghanaian James Kotei, Zambian Lazarous Kambole and Durban-born, Australian-raised Kearyn Baccus.
And Parker has made sure they have been made aware of the club’s rich history and recent struggles.
“They do understand. We’ve done a lot of work in pre-season and on the field and getting to work a lot on the mental part of football, as well,” Parker said.
“The new players said, yes, they do understand that we haven’t got anything in the past few years. And they are definitely here to add value and win with the club.
“As the senior guys, we’ve openly welcomed them, having explained that they need to come and help us because we need to get where we want to go to quickly.”
Kambole is the only new signing that has been voted into the starting line-up for tomorrow’s Carling Cup clash. And the Zambian international will be hoping to put in a fine performance from the outset as he tries to follow in the foot-steps of compatriots and Chiefs legends Collins Mbesuma and Wedson Nyirenda.@Mihlalibaleka