‘Middendorp brought back my hunger’ — Ruben Cloete hints at wanting to sign for United

2013-05-17 00:00

RUBEN Cloete is all set to face his former club as Maritzburg United prepare for their final PSL match of the season against Soweto giants Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium tomorrow.

Still technically a Pirates player until June, the 30-year-old joined United on loan at the start of the season and has been colossal for the Team of Choice in his roles as left back and holding midfielder.

But while his future remains uncertain, Cloete has emphasised his satisfaction with the United setup and hinted to The Witness yesterday that tying up a contract with the club was something he would like to do.

“I have no complaints; it’s been a really good environment for me,” United’s No. 15 said.

“The coach [Ernst Middendorp] is a top coach, all of the players will tell you that. I have learnt so much from him this season and he has brought back my hunger to play the game.”

But sentimentality aside, tomorrow’s clash and the end of the season are likely to bring about more groans than cheers for United fans.

Sitting in 11th place on the log, United must hope for the four teams above them to slip up in their final fixtures to allow the Team of Choice to sneak into the top eight — the club’s top priority all season long.

It is an extremely unlikely occurrence, but Cloete has been around long enough to stay optimistic.

“Football is a funny game and anything can happen,” he said. “Obviously we will all be very disappointed if we don’t make the top eight.

“We won’t have anybody to blame but ourselves, but winning on Saturday is all we should be focusing on now.

“A draw is not enough.”

Cloete has shown his versatility this season. Used on the left of defence, he has been tactically aware while possessing the ability to deliver dangerous crosses from that side of the field. But it is in his more unfamiliar role as a holding midfielder where he has impressed most.

His defensive instincts have seen him shield United’s back four with aplomb countless times this season, and fans quickly realised that he has a lethal and powerful shot on him.

With regular midfield workhorse Michael Morton suspended for tomorrow’s clash, Cloete will surely be selected in the centre of the park.

“We don’t know what the coach is going to do yet; there are a lot of youngsters who could be given a chance to play in that position,” he said. “But wherever I am asked to play I will do all I can to make sure we leave with a win.”

Cloete would not comment any further on his future, but suggested that there were still “one or two things” that needed to be resolved before he could commit to Harry Gwala.

With Middendorp expected to sign an extended contract in the coming weeks, Cloete’s signature should be a no-brainer given how highly the German has spoken of him throughout the season.

Before any of the boardroom matters are addressed, United must take to the field one last time this season as they attempt to Houdini their way into the top half of the league table.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will not be televised.

• sport@witness.co.za

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