Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker is relishing the chance to make an immediate impact in the PSL in the 2019-2020 season.The side won automatic promotion to the top-flight domestic league after winning the National First Division (NFD) title on Sunday.
“I took the University of Pretoria from the NFD into the PSL and got to experience what was required at the highest level those experiences will stand me in good stead,” said Barker.
“We are going to have to beef up our squad factoring in our obligation to field a team in the Multichoice Diski Challenge,” he said. “But we will not turn our back on the players who got us into the position we are. After all we are about promoting young talent from the Winelands region, and we have that in abundance.
“A player like our striker Iqraam Rayners scored 30 goals in two seasons and is headed for higher honours. He’s going to be massive for us when we come face to face with the big boys of the league like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns to mention a few and not forgetting Cape Town City, our newest derby rivals.
“It is a coup for Cape football having two teams in the league and can only boost the game in the Western Cape.”
Stellies’ rise to the top league was achieved ahead of schedule.
Three seasons ago under then head coach Sammy Troughton (Barker joined as his assistant) resulted in a top-three finish and qualification to the promotion-relegation play-offs, without success. Season two with Barker at the helm produced a fast start and chances of another top-three placing seemed on the cards, before a dip resulted in a mid-table finish.
This season Barker’s boys made a slow start before dominating the league for close on six months. A scare at the back-end of their campaign saw Royal Eagles replace them at the top, but they were back on top shortly after and the rest was history.
“To stay top of the log for 23 weeks with a squad of 25 in a very tough and uncompromising league takes some doing,” said Barker.
“The players captained by our talisman Jarrod Moroole (160 NFD appearances- club’s most capped player) gave it their all every day on and off the field and were rewarded with the title and promotion to the elite league of South African football. They bought into what the club and I had set out to do and I’m just proud of them all for sticking to the script.
“My support staff did a great job too as well as the people behind the scenes. We’ve got a great infrastructure and the resources to go on and become a force to be reckoned with. Yes, the step up in class will be a huge challenge but not insurmountable as long as we do our homework before our first game in the PSL.”