United’s squad for new season

2009-08-05 00:00

AS their opener against SuperSport United on Friday night looms, Maritzburg United were yesterday able to present their final squad for the 2009/10 Premier Soccer League season at a press conference at Woodburn Stadium.

United have a 24-man squad that coach Gordon Igesund feels covers all his bases and the four-time league winner believes the team is primed to give a good account of themselves in Friday night’s opening match of the season against the defending champions at Woodburn (8 pm).

After all the manoeuvring and wheeling and dealing of the past three months by Igesund and new CEO Afzal Khan, United are left with 10 players remaining from last season’s squad that finished 12th, and 14 new signings.

Those that remain are goalkeeper Tashrique Goldman; defenders Peter Petersen, Bageta Dikilu and Elias Ngwepe; midfielders John Arwuah, Kulegani Madondo and Jabulani Ncubeni and strikers Brice Aka, Fadlu Davids and Collen Zimba.

United’s two new goalkeepers are Brenden Wardle and Johnny Mathole, a Kaizer Chiefs youth product. James Madidilani, Byrone Hendricks and Senegalese Mor Diouf are the new defenders.

In midfield, holding player Musa Nyatama and Nigerian winger Felix Obada join Madidilani as additions from relegated Thanda Royal Zulu.

Zambian left-sided midfielder or playmaker Noah Chivuta is United’s classiest local signing from Supersport United, though another Senegalese, playmaker Vito Badiane, arrives highly-rated by Igesund, as does Namibian winger Rudolf Bester.

Wing Diego Brown has been recalled from loan to first division team Ikapa Sporting and Lamuxolo Ngalo has been added in defensive midfield from Bay United as cover for Arwuah, whose cruciate ligament injury is expected to take two to six months to heal.

At first glance, with just three central defenders and one left-back, the squad looks short of defenders should there be injuries, but Igesund feels there is enough cover for those areas from the rest of his players.

“I’ve got six defenders at the moment, but I’ve also got players who are comfortable as utility players. James Madidilani is a right-back, can play a holding role in midfield and left-back. Musa Nyatama played centre-back for Thanda.

“I’ve also decided that in my wingers I’ve got JB [Ncubeni] whose a 17-year-old kid. Let’s see how he fares when he gets chances to play. I’ve brought back Diego Brown whose also a young player, and I want to give these guys chances.

“There will be times we might struggle in certain areas when we have someone injured, but we will look to beef-up those areas as the season goes on.

“There were certain players we tried to go onto the market and get, but unfortunately the club has only got one man behind it and a board of directors, and no sponsor.

“We had one or two players on loan we would have liked to have kept, but the prices were miles out of our target. For example, for Fanyana Dhladhla, the club [Sundowns] were asking for R1,8 million.

“We are also looking in and around the Maritzburg, Newcastle, Ladysmith area for another defender.”

Igesund’s midfield has pacy players in it who will fit into the coach’s darting attacking approach and quick counter-attacking gameplan, such as Brown, Bester and Ncubeni. Chivuta provides a wide midfielder more in the Steven Pienaar mould, who gets into spaces then provides excellent crosses, and the Zambian is also a superb passer.

Khan said, while it might have appeared United had been slow and haphazard in making their signings, in fact most of the players have trained with the team for the majority of the pre-season.

“From the outside it might look like the players arrived yesterday, but most have been here for six weeks. We just kept things under wraps,” the United CEO said.

“Most of the players have been through Gordon’s very intensive programme he’s based on his European experience. Gordon conducted a Cooper fitness test on the players last Wednesday and they were on par with players from Europe.

“Though the budgets have affected us tremendously, we’ve wheeled and dealed in the market very effectively and the players we have got have arrived in good time and I’m sure we’ll have something to offer this season,” he concluded.

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