Ernst ditches Team of Choice

2013-10-11 00:00

THE love and hate relationship between Ernst Middendorp and Maritzburg appears to have reached finality.

The German tactician, in his second stint as United coach, yesterday terminated his contract with the club amidst rumors that he will be replacing the sacked Clinton Larsen at Bloemfontein Celtic.

United are currently in a solid ninth position on the PSL table, unbeaten at home this season with two wins, two losses and two draws making up their six matches.

While Middendorp could not confirm his Celtic appointment, the Free State club’s chairperson Jimmy Augousti confirmed yesterday that he was “one of the candidates” to take the reins, suggesting that Middendorp’s decision to leave Harry Gwala Stadium was prompted by the opportunity.

“This was my decision,” Middendorp told The Witness yesterday.

“I believe that under the circumstances we found a clear understanding and we leave on good terms. A lot of the players here are players I brought in. They have a good character and I want to encourage them to keep going.”

Middendorp’s history with United was one of romantic proportions.

Hired in 2009, an outburst during a television interview resulted in his sacking in 2011. But just 10 months later, Middendorp was back to replace the outgoing Ian Palmer and his relationship with the club appeared rosy once more.

Under Middendorp, United were unlucky to miss out on their first ever top eight finish last season after spending much of the campaign in the PSL’s top four.

While results have hardly been poor this season, Middendorp had come under criticism from fans and even the United board for playing what was labelled a “negative” brand of football.

Club chairperson Farook Kadodia last night told The Witness that the German was capable of producing “exciting football”.

“The reality is that when we were still based at Woodburn Stadium, the team produced exciting football and attendance was rising.

“My comment was that he needed to produce the kind of football that we knew he was capable of producing. We expected decent results, and we fully understood that there were a lot of injuries,” he said.

Kadodia added last night that he had not had the time to speak to Middendorp about his resignation as he had attended a PSL meeting in Johannesburg.

“I got a letter from his agent this morning and I have not spoken to him as yet,” he said, adding that he was due to meet with Middendorp today to “say goodbye”.

“I also have to meet with the technical team and all the players to give them my confidence and reassure them that the goals we set are still what we are aspiring to,” Kadodia said.

He praised the German, and said that despite the club’s failure to finish in the top eight last season, they still believed in his ability to achieve, which led them to offer him an extension to his contract.

“United cannot finish 12th every year. We need to achieve and we believed that Middendorp had the ability to deliver,” he said.

The Team of Choice’s next game is in two weeks, and when asked if the club will have hired a replacement by then, Kadodia said he would only be able to reply once he had spoken to his technical team.

He also added that it was too soon to start looking for a replacement.

“I don’t look for coaches when I have a coach. I had a coach up until this morning,” he said.

United’s next challenge in the league is a daunting visit from league leaders SuperSport United on October 23.

According to reports, Larsen is the favourite to be named as the club’s new coach.

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