Nowhere near their best

2013-09-29 14:00

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Despite Ajax Cape Town’s disastrous start to the season, coach Muhsin Ertugral is confident they will turn the corner, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.

Any team that loses to a newly promoted club – as has been the case for Ajax Cape Town in the past two seasons – deserves a flogging.

Last season, University of Pretoria put five past the Urban Warriors in Cape Town, and last weekend, Polokwane City used them as cannon fodder to notch up their maiden Absa Premiership win.

Ajax is currently at the bottom of the log after five matches, with two draws and three losses.

But should the panic buttons be pressed? Not according to coach Muhsin Ertugral, who is in his second stint with the club.

The wily Turkish mentor said a lack of experienced players has contributed to his club’s continuing struggles.

With a number of quality players shipped off in the past two seasons, the Cape Town club hasn’t been able to replace them, something Ertugral grudgingly agreed to.

“Just imagine Kaizer Chiefs playing without Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Shabba (Siphiwe Tshabalala), Itumeleng Khune and the bulk of the players that make up their spine. What would they do? Do you think Chiefs would be able to compete at the highest level? I don’t think so,” he said.

“Well, we’re in the same situation. When I came in, immediate results were expected but that needs a process.

I found a team that was completely unconscious and was beset with management problems.”

Ajax have always prided themselves on being a developmental club, and with their excellent player output, that mandate has been fulfilled. But their selling off of their star material has come at a price.

This year, they lost Khama Billiat to Mamelodi Sundowns. Other prominent players who have left are Thulani Serero and Steven Pienaar, and they were never replaced by the same quality.

Ertugral put it down to naive business making without a plan with players on one-year contracts.

He said: “In my earlier stints, there was the building of the players, who ultimately bloomed later, but they were sold and the patience of building new players was not there. You’ll have mixed generations from time to time, so it will take a bit more time to get good players functioning well as a unit.

“There has been this naiveness in the past two seasons in terms of buying and selling certain players. We need to get the right players in.”

Ever the optimist, Ertugral foresees progress in his new players as the season reaches the end of the first quarter.

With the new management at Ajax finding its feet, the 54-year-old coach says good things are to be expected from his team.

Physicality has been an issue for Ertugral.

According to him, his young players have struggled with the demands of the elite league.

The Urban Warriors have recruited their former central defender Dominic Isaacs from Bloemfontein Celtic in an effort to add to their experience.

Ajax will visit SuperSport United in the Telkom Knockout on Saturday.

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