JOHANNESBURG - Independent Media soccer writer Njabulo Ngidi has looked at Free State Stars and how they could fare in the Premiership this season.
Key player: Sinethemba Jantjie
Sinethemba Jantjie burst onto the scene in the second half of the previous season and was highly influential in a struggling team that escaped relegation thanks only to a superior goal difference. Jantjie would have grown from his first six months in the top flight and will be a menace to the opposition.
Coach: Sammy Troughton
Though a surprise appointment, it appears to be a calculated risk. Although Troughton doesn’t necessarily have a glowing record in the PSL, he is an experienced hand nonetheless and could very well prove to be a good fit. His mandate is to simply retain Stars’ elite league status, hopefully by more than just a better goal difference.
Ea Lla Koto seldom set overly ambitions targets. They stay in their lane - club management well aware of their limited resources and knowing they will be up against it from the onset. Troughton will have a few experienced players to help keep the rest of the squad motivated even when points are hard to come by.
Stars generally don’t fly off the starting blocks and that often sets the tone for the rest of their season. The coach will need a bit more support from his bosses, who sacked Frenchman Denis Lavagne three matches into the last campaign. The club has again lost some key players in Thokozane Sekotlong, Moeketsi Sekola and Thela Ngobeni, to mention just three.
Early confirmation of survival would be welcomed news in Bethlehem. It has been some time since Stars were able to know as early as March or April that they would be dragged into the relegation dog fight in the final weeks of the season.
The only thing worse than the great escape on the final day of the campaign - through goal difference - is relegation itself. Troughton will know his head will be on the chopping block if management isn’t convinced he is the man to help them retain their status by Christmas, if he’s that lucky.
Best position: Fourth in 2009
Worst position: Relegated in 2006
Goalkeepers: Kwizera Olivier, Badra Ali Sangare. Defenders: Rooi Mahamutsa, Thamsanqa Teyise, Nyiko Mobbie, Katlego Mashego, Sifiso Mbhele. Midfielders: Nhlanhla Vilakazi, Goodman Dlamini, Langelihle Ndlovu, Tebogo Potsane, Sibusiso Hlubi, Mpho Mathekgane, Relebogile Mukhuoane, Bathusi Aubaas, Thabo Mphakisa, Mumuni Abubakar, Sinethemba Jantjie, Danny Venter, Sello Jaftha, Paulus Masehe, Makhehlene Makhaula. Strikers: Mohammed Anas, Siphelele Mthembu, Allen Nono