United ‘will give Chiefs run for their money’

2009-09-11 00:00

IT’S a fixture Maritzburg United would have approached with some trepidation last season, but a new-look United might well be relishing the prospect of tomorrow’s Premier Soccer League encounter against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium.

More than their solid start — drawing two, winning one and losing one — it is a greater appearance of stability, combined with a zest and professionalism in training, that suggest a fitter, hungrier United will not be soft touches away from home again this season.

United coach Gordon Igesund had a difficult campaign in 2008/09 taking over Ian Palmer’s promoted side and whipping them into PSL shape in two weeks. Now Igesund says he is enjoying a season where he has had more time to stamp his personality and ethos on the side.

“The attitude in training has been brilliant,” the coach said yesterday. “There’s no nonsense and everyone’s very serious.

“Last season was a nightmare because when you start so late you find yourself making allowances. But I’ve had six to eight weeks to forge a small squad into a tight-knit unit and there’s a good family atmosphere.”

After a three-match unbeaten start, United came unstuck in somewhat unfortunate manner away to Platinum Stars a fortnight ago, conceding an 88th-minute decider after having midfielder Musa Nyatama sent off in the 48th.

Playing Chiefs on Orlando Stadium’s superb pitch might suit United’s on-the-carpet, snappy, high-tempo game, and Igesund believes the PMB team will give Amakhosi a run for their money.

“Any coach will tell you Chiefs is not a hard game to motivate the players for. And this one especially, because we’ll be playing in front of a big crowd, against a great team, and at a beautiful stadium on a superb pitch. It’s not like you have to say to the players, ‘I know there’s only 300 people out there, but let’s try and lift ourselves’.

“And we’re playing good football at the moment. We’re fit, strong and motivated, now we just have to apply ourselves.

“Obviously we have to show Chiefs respect, but we’re not going there to play for a draw — the guys are fired up and I’m going for an attacking approach.”

With Nyatama suspended, Igesund will give a start to 20-year-old defensive midfielder Kulegani “Chilis” Madondo, and believes the youngster will rise to the occasion on a big stage.

“I’ve been bringing Chilis along slowly. But he’s ready now, and the player he competes with for his position is ruled out, so I’m going to start him. I’m going to play a few of the youngsters on Saturday,” Igesund said.

United have had former Orlando Pirates and Lamontville Golden Arrows midfielder Bheka Phakathi training with them, and Igesund is assessing the veteran’s fitness.

“Bheka’s out of contract and I’ve always thought he was a helluva player. I’ve got a small, young squad of only 23 players, so his experience could be valuable to us.”

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3.30 pm and will be televised live on SuperSport 4.

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