United bigwigs want results

2010-12-15 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Ernst Middendorp has been told by the team’s management that playing impressive football is not enough, and the club expects an improvement in results in the last two-thirds of the season.

A promising second half of last season, and United retaining the core of their starting XI, saw the team go into 2010/11 filled with expectation.

So far, though, the results have been disappointing. United reached only their second cup semi-final ever, beating Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout quarters before losing to Orlando Pirates 3-0 in Chatsworth.

A poor start to the league season, though, and recent successive defeats against Pirates (2-1 at home) and Vasco da Gama (3-2 in Cape Town), have left United in 14th place at the one-third stage, one place outside the relegation zone.

United CEO Farouk Kadodia said the club has informed Middendorp that results need to improve.

“At our weekly meeting I expressed that, obviously, there are some areas of concern that you can’t deny,” Kadodia said yesterday.

“The coach said there are two key areas he needs to strengthen when the transfer window opens [in January] and said that all he wants is a quality striker and central defender, nothing more.

“And we can see for ourselves, too, that it’s not just something he is complaining about, but actually a genuine problem, where we are making costly mistakes on both sides of the field.

“Fabian McCarthy came into the defence at the start of the season and initially did well, but whether due to his age or match fitness he has started making costly mistakes.

“But the coach is aware that he is under some pressure now. We have said to him that it’s all very well everyone being impressed with the football we have been playing, but that does not help when we’re not getting the results.”

Kadodia said the United players remain solidly behind Middendorp, whose coaching methods they have often raved about since his arrival halfway through last season.

“But we have said to the players, ‘OK, you keep telling us he is the best coach you’ve played under, so where are the results?’”

Kadodia said United, who have just seven points from 10 games, need at least eight more from their next five matches.

“We need at least 15 to 18 points after 15 games to stand a chance of launching a positive challenge in the second half of the season. If it’s less than 15 points, then heads will roll.”

Unfortunately for Middendorp and his coaching staff, the pattern set by United this season is an all too familiar one, and hints at a problem that has plagued the PMB team in all their PSL seasons.

United remain a lightweight club on a national scale — and as important as they might be to their loyal fans in Pietermaritzburg, this at times has affected the performances of the more mercenary of footballers the well-paying club has attracted.

“When we take the field, we have five or six players who give their best for the team, three or four who are going through the motions, and one or two [young players] who are bewildered to be in the team,” United assistant coach Sallie Adams admits.

“It creates an imbalance and I think that has affected our performances.”

Adams said pride in playing for United needs to be drummed into the players.

“We need to make them understand that if the team does not succeed then that also reflects as a failure on themselves.”

United’s key striker, Fadlu Davids, has struggled to recover from two operations he had at the start of the season, and at times appears to be pushing himself too hard.

His frustration showed against Vasco, where a needless red card just after the break probably cost Maritzburg a result.

This followed red cards to Middendorp and Felix Obada in the ill-tempered Telkom semi defeat to Pirates three matches ago, a game that appears to have distracted United to some extent from their football. Yellow cards have also flowed, resulting in costly suspensions.

“The guys want to fight for the team, but they are doing it in an incorrect manner,” Adams said. “You don’t fight for the team by hitting a guy. If anything that costs the team — it’s killing us.”

Crucial to United improving their league position will be to start winning home games (they have one win at Harry Gwala Stadium out of five matches), starting with Friday night’s match against Free State Stars.

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