Franklin Cale and Brandon Theron of Highlands Park in tears during the Absa Premiership match against Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Les Grobler blamed Highlands Park’s failure to avoid the automatic drop back to the National First Division (NFD) to their not having had a proper off-season leading up to their Absa Premiership campaign.

The Lions of the North had to go through the PSL promotion play-off route to earn their place in the premier division, after having finished second to last season’s NFD champions Baroka FC.

Grobler, who is Highlands’ interim coach, argued that had his side had enough time to prepare for this season’s campaign, they wouldn’t have been relegated.

The Tembisa outfit finished bottom of the Premiership table after a 2-2 draw with Mamelodi Sundowns at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday.

“We never had a pre-season like other teams had in the PSL,” Grobler said. 

“And that’s what killed us. We only had 21 days of rest right after we played our last game of the promotion play-offs leading up to the new season.

“We gave our boys only one week to recover, though you would need a month (for a team to fully recover from what has be a very long campaign). That, as well as not getting the right players we needed to sign on time. We had to evaluate them (the new signings) during the mid-season break on whether they were worthy of a PSL or NFD contract or not.

“The injury of Collins Mbesuma also affected our campaign pretty badly,” Grobler added. “He was out for six months and the team really struggled without his presence up front. We tried to play him in our last three games but you could still see that he wasn’t agile enough to do the work for us up front.”

Veteran striker Collins Mbesuma. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Grobler added that he had only confidence that the club would bounce back straight into the PSL - if his bosses do everything in their power to keep the current group of players they have in their squa.

"If we can keep this team together going into the NFD next season, then I strongly believe that we are going to bounce back into the Premiership by the following season,” Grobler said.

“I’m saying this because I believe we are good enough not to be playing there in the first place anyway. We were playing against a very organised team in our last game of the season. Results could have gone (in their favour) had Baroka failed to produce a win in their match against Ajax Cape Town. We have a quality side to fight to come back.

“However, whether they’ll be keen on going down there with us or not, we’ll have to wait and see.

But if the management can help us to keep this group of players together, then it’s going to make our job easier to get this team back into premiership football.”


The Star

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