DURBAN - The immediate future of AmaZulu may be bleak in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) as they are involved in a relegation dogfight, but that hasn’t stopped the club’s management from dreaming big about their long-term ambitions.
AmaZulu are languishing at the foot of the table, but according to general manager Lunga Sokhela, their plan is to be among the big shots challenging for league honours within three years.
Usuthu have struggled to restore the reputation they built three decades ago when they produced top talent and won some silverware.
Their situation deteriorated over the years and they found themselves relegated four times in the Premiership era.
It would not surprise many if they are relegated this season, although Sokhela refuses to believe that Usuthu will once again be demoted and is planning as if things are normal.
“We have embarked on a long-term strategy of recruitment, development and talent nurturing. For us it is a far more sustainable model. We started this process three years ago,” Sokhela disclosed.
The last time Usuthu tasted success was in 1992 when they won the then Coca-Cola Cup under the tutelage of Clive Barker.
“If you look at where we are in terms of players, I think we have representation in all the junior national teams. If you look at how well our MDC (reserve) side has done, they were placed fourth when the season closed. We were competing among the best - the likes of Sundowns,” Sokhela pointed out.
He is convinced that the plan is coming together and mentions a few young players who are products of their strategy.
“A lot lot these boys are schoolboys and we have a number of young players in the senior team as well. We have the likes of Sibusiso Mabiliso, Siphesihle Maduna and Sibusiso Magaqa. If you look at what is coming in next year, that should tell you that something is taking shape here,” Sokhela said.
“It is unsustainable to try and compete for players in the transfer market. For example, because Bradley Grobler has done well, we say, ‘let us break the bank and pay R150 million to buy him from SuperSport United and pay him R300 000 a month’. We can’t do that. We want to get to that level but through a different model altogether,” he added.
Usuthu showed signs of getting back to their best in 2010 when Neil Tovey was coach. They finished ninth in the league and reached at least the semi-finals in all the cup competitions. In the Nedbank Cup they lost to Bidvest Wits in the final.
“Ajax Cape Town got it right under (coach) Foppe de Haan. They had the likes of George Maluleka, Thulani Serero, Khama Billiat, Sameegh Doutie and Lebo Manyama.
“They almost won the league with that team. That’s the model that we are developing and it takes time,” Sokhela said.
Sokhela understands the pressure that comes from the fans, who want the team to win cups and finish high up in the league, but warns against quick-fix solutions.
“Even the model that Sundowns took, they had to wait for nine years to win the league. If you look at Kaizer Chiefs with all their sponsorship and infrastructure, they haven’t won anything in five years. It’s not easy but the way in which we are going will work if we are patient while the foundation is being laid.”