Getting rid of Palmer now is simply not an option for United

2011-12-08 00:00

WELL, that happened quickly. Two months ago Maritzburg United coach Ian Palmer stood above his peers as PSL coach of the month for August/September. He had taken the side to new heights — seven matches undefeated and third place on the league table. The day he was handed that accolade he spoke of his ambition to coach Bafana Bafana one day.

Seven matches later and media around the country have it on “reliable information” that Palmer is a heartbeat away from losing his job. Are they being serious? No, United haven’t won any of those seven games. Yes, they were knocked out of the Telkom Knockout before it even got going. Yes, they haven’t had a player who’s looked like scoring anything more than a match rating for a while. But are we football fans really so forgetful that we should jump on board the “Palmer out” bandwagon?

Have we forgotten that this is the same Palmer who waltzed in and saved United from relegation last season after the self-implosion that was Ernst Middendorp? And that this is the same Palmer who guided United back to the PSL in 2008 after winning promotion from the National First Division? He was let go as coach shortly after that success, before United’s new era in the PSL began, with the club and Palmer failing to agree on terms for a contract extension. Karma saw to it that three years later he was lured back to Pietermaritzburg by the very same people who had let him go in 2008.

Getting rid of Palmer now is simply not an option for United. The man has proven that he has what it takes to get the best out of the current squad of players. Turning around a 1-0 half-time deficit against Orlando Pirates to win 2-1 proved that. There is no doubt that United lack depth in certain areas of the pitch, and if chairperson Farouk Kadodia does not make it a priority to sign a quality goal scorer in January, I will be very surprised. But the animated coach who we see at Harry Gwala, on the rare occasion that there is PSL football in Maritzburg, is possibly the side’s biggest asset. Why? Because the players are on his side. The results might not be there at the moment, but there is a sense of unity in the squad that was completely absent during the Middendorp era. And it was this unity, among other things, that made the seven-match unbeaten run possible in the first place.

Palmer has had a tough run of games. A board decision to move three of United’s home matches to Port Elizabeth this season hasn’t made it any easier. And even then there have been two very positive goalless draws against Kaizer Chiefs and, more recently, AmaZulu in this nightmare run. Four League losses. Is that all it takes to get a gaffer fired these days?

The club have come out in defence of their manager, and rightly so. Sanity prevails for now. With a home fixture against a down but hardly out Jomo Cosmos around the corner, Palmer needs a win desperately. And if he fails to deliver against the PSL’s bottom-placed side, then he can only hope that the board’s vote of confidence extends beyond Christmas. It hardly seems fair, but in the unpredictable world of football management, it seldom is.

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