Maritzburg United ask Palmer to stave off relegation in Middendorp’s wake

2011-03-14 00:00

IAN Palmer, who guided Maritzburg United back to the Premier Soccer League by winning the National First Division in 2008, has been appointed as the successor to fired Ernst Middendorp and will take charge of his first training session this morning.

Relegation-threatened United have had to act in haste appointing a replacement for Middendorp, whose contract was terminated on Saturday, as their next Premier Soccer League match is against Platinum Stars at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday night.

United are in third-last place in the PSL with six matches to go, three points clear of second-last Moroka Swallows.

Palmer was controversially not retained as coach of United after winning the NFD title, with the club instead appointing four-time league winner Gordon Igesund, who was fired after a season-and-a-half.

United chairman Farouk Kadodia said yesterday: “We had approaches from agents to take on [former AmaZulu coach] Neil Tovey. But we felt, with Ian available, and having worked with him before, he would be the better option. We feel he is the sort of coach who will get the players to fight for him.”

While conceding it is a risk to change their coach with six matches to go, United felt that, given Middendorp’s erratic team selections, substitutions and statements to the press of late, which appear to have cost him the support of his squad, it would have been more of a risk to persist with the coach.

More damaging for the coach’s relationship with his squad and the club was Middendorp’s bizarre request, in a clear swipe at his players, in his post-match interview to be fired following his side’s come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Vasco Da Gama two weekends ago.

“In Extra Time on SuperSport he repeated the statement asking to be fired on the Monday even after a three-hour meeting between the players, coach and management on the Sunday to resolve the matter,” Kadodia said.

“And in the next match [Friday night’s 3-0 Nedbank Cup home defeat by a second-string Moroka Swallows] you could see the players had lost confidence in the coach.

“Ernst needed to concede his own faults. For example, [new German signing] Christian Alder’s poor performance against Vasco had nothing to do with the case of food poisoning he had before the game — he simply had a shocker.

“Instead the coach blamed his players, rather than admit his signing was a poor one.

“He killed certain players’ confidence. As a control freak I think it was the players he could not control.”

Kadodia went so far as to allege that Middendorp’s erratic behaviour was motivated by wanting to get out of his contract.

“And when we didn’t fire him it was his next option was to challenge us to on national TV. I think he was looking for a golden handshake by putting us in a corner, instead of resigning.

“We all know what the potential is of our team. How can we have a convincing win over Ajax [3-0 at home] and the next match we drop both our first team fullbacks, playing Mor Diouf at right-back, and lose 3-0 away to Arrows.”

Initially Middendorp had some success taking over from Igesund halfway through 2009/10 but this season a squad that should have challenged for the top eight have underachieved.

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