CAPE TOWN – If there’s one thing Benni McCarthy’s arrival as a coach in the PSL has done, it’s to remind his counterparts to be bold when it comes to offering opportunities to young, emerging footballers.
Enough has already been written and discussed about how the Cape Town City coach took little-known, lower-tier players like Taariq Fielies and Craig Martin from nowhere to PSL stardom - now he’s continuing in the same vein, with rookie midfielders Shane Roberts and Zukile Kewuti next in line to benefit from his policy of taking a chance on youngsters (when he believes they are ready).
When Cape Town City host Swaziland’s Young Buffaloes in a Caf Confederation Cup preliminary round, second leg tie at Athlone Stadium tonight (7.30pm kickoff), both Roberts and Nyanga’s Kewuti will play a part in proceedings. The Cape side won the first leg 1-0.
McCarthy has been particularly impressed with the progress of 19-year-old Roberts, who has captained the club’s Reserve League team with aplomb. The City coach played the midfielder in the Confederation Cup first leg tie last week - and, in the weekend’s 1-0 PSL defeat to Kaizer Chiefs, the City coach was even bold enough to substitute Teko Modise and bring on Roberts to replace the veteran.
Last year, during pre-season, Roberts was expecting to just be part of the junior squads again. But, by this time, McCarthy had arrived to replace Eric Tinkler as coach.
After a good look at Roberts at training, the new coach told club boss John Comitis to hand the lad a PSL contract. And, according to McCarthy, this is just the start, Roberts is likely to see a lot more action before the season ends.
“Benni is a wonderful coach,” said Roberts. “He’s played in the big leagues in Europe, he’s won the Champions League, and I can only learn from him.
He has vast experience and knows what it takes to be successful in this sport. He always motivates us, on and off the field, and tells us what to do and what not to do. I’m really grateful for what he has done for me; without him, I would not be where I am today.”
Roberts said City were expecting a tough challenge against Young Buffaloes - and he warned the club’s followers not to think that, because the first leg was won, that the tie was over.
“Young Buffaloes are a good side,” he said. “We had a really tough time against them in Swaziland; fortunately, we managed to get a late goal. So it’s important that we stay focused tonight. We have to make sure that we are motivated, we can’t take things easy, and we have to perform with heart.”
Roberts is still in the fledgling stage of his career, he still has a lot to learn and a long way to go - but, with McCarthy in his corner, he is certainly on the right track.
19 year old Shane Roberts made his #AbsaPrem debut over the weekend against Kaizer Chiefs. An exciting beginning to another promising career in the Blue & Gold! #iamCityFC #Roberts29 pic.twitter.com/EJLMHRiz3H
This week’s fixtures
CAF Confederation Cup:
Today: Cape Town City v Young Buffaloes (Athlone Stadium, 7.30pm) - City won the first leg 1-0
IN THE PSL:
Today: Platinum Stars v SuperSport United