JOHANNESBURG – There is plenty room for veteran striker Bernard Parker at Kaizer Chiefs, coach Steve Komphela has said.
It would be easy to believe any suggestion that the soon-to-be 32-year-old is slowly making way for a younger generation at Amakhosi if the club’s previous seven or so matches are the barometer.
Add to that the options - average or otherwise - Komphela has at this disposal in his attacking options, and it begins to look a little gloomy for the old guard.
Parker, who missed five successive matches through injury, returned to the fold at the weekend in Chiefs’ 3-0 victory over Golden Arrows in the Nedbank Cup, scoring the second of the three goals to help Amakhosi progress to the last 16.
With Leonardo Castro, Dumisani Zuma, free-scoring Ryan Moon and Gustavo Paez all being used in his absence, Parker may have to work his way up the pecking order.
“Bernard will help,” said Komphela. “He is highly experienced - and on any given day, Bernard can play anywhere. He has got football brains. He understands how to effect the game with the ball and how to organise his teammates by giving confidence. We will benefit from that.”
Parker has won two championships with Chiefs since joining them from FC Twente seven years ago, and it is perhaps this kind of knowledge that Komphela is referring to as Amakhosi, fourth on the Absa Premiership standings and seven points behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, approach the final few weeks of the title race.
“It will just be a difficulty of making choices from Castro, Paez, Zuma, Moon and him,” the coach said in reference to when to use Parker, a man with 72 national team appearances and 23 goals. “It is a nice headache again, but we welcome him back. He came through nicely (against Arrows). He held the ball nicely and you could see a man playing with confidence. I don’t remember him losing the ball and that’s what you want from Parker because when he doesn’t lose the ball he is deadly and will win a match for you.”
Part of Parker’s contribution was evident in their unforgettable 2-1 masterclass win over Sundowns back in October at Loftus - the striker scoring a goal that opposition coach Pitso Mosimane, who worked with him as Bafana Bafana mentor in the past, raved about as he argued goalkeeper Denis Onyango would not have kept it out.
But he is now a senior citizen at Chiefs and the club has been criticised recently that there were no players being groomed to take over from Parker and midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala, who is turning 34 in September.
Komphela was also asked about how he will manage the older players.
“His quality will never diminish,” the coach said of Tshabalala, who also came off the bench against Arrows on Sunday.
“How we select the players will be in the best interest of both the club and the team. ‘Shabba’ is no different. There are a number of players that can do the job when he is not there. But every time ‘Shabba’ goes in, the difference is clear.”