Midfield boost for United

2012-06-27 00:00

NEW players, a new kit and a new equipment sponsor all suggest that Maritzburg United have entered a new era.

This became apparent when coach Ernst Middendorp yesterday unveiled three new signings — amongst them former Bafana Bafana midfilder Delron Buckley, who joins the club from German team Karlsruher SC who were relegated to the third tier of German football at the end of last season.

Buckley and Middendorp have a long history, working together at German clubs VFL Bochum and Arminia Bielefeld and, more recently, Cyprian club Anorthosis Famagusta. With Buckley (34) keen on a move back to SA, his relationship with Middendorp was a deciding factor in his decision to come to the city on a two-year deal.

“There was interest from two or three other PSL sides, but the professionalism at Maritzburg and Ernst’s plans for the future is what made me decide to come here,” Buckley told The Witness yesterday.

With stars such as Felix Obada (Moroka Swallows) and Kurt Lentjies (Bloemfontein Celtic) having left United this off-season, the acquisition of Buckley will settle a few nerves in the United camp ahead of the new PSL season, starting in August.

“Delron is a player that will bring a lot to the team on and off the pitch,” said Middendorp. “He brings professionalism and a great character that will benefit the players …”

Buckley won 72 caps for Bafana between 1998-2008, scoring 10 goals during that time. A natural left-sided midfielder, Buckley is likely to be used in this position by Middendorp to help compensate for the departures of Lentjies and Obada.

Buckley was joined by new signings Orlando Smeekes, a Dutch attacker who also joins United on a two-year deal, and Mthokozisi Yende, who will spend this season on loan from Kaizer Chiefs. United will have the option to extend Yende’s stay at the club at the end of the coming season should the attacking midfielder impress during his stay at Harry Gwala.

Smeekes has played at various clubs in Germany and Holland and had been visited by Middendorp during this off-season, when he was lured into making the move to Mzansi.

“I can play in any position and I think I will be okay here,” Smeekes said yesterday.

With South African football fans not likely to have seen Smeekes in action, his PSL debut will be watched closely and United fans will be hoping that he offers the pace and illusiveness shown by Obada and Lentjies.

With Yende enjoying little game time at Chiefs last season, the former Tembisa Classic and University of Pretoria man will be eager to get some regular football under his belt.

The club also unveiled it’s new kit sponsor, Umbro, yesterday. This ends the three-year deal that the Team of Choice had with Hummel, and the change sees a new home strip for United — a blue and white vertically striped jersey, while the away strip will be a red and black Manchester City-esque wear.

Club chairperson Farouk Kadodia and Middendorp both confirmed yesterday that there would be more signings in the coming weeks, with Senegalese centre-back Mor Diouf likely to be the third impact player that leaves Harry Gwala.

The club also confirmed that they are likely to use Carter High School as their training ground this season, with Ohrtmann Road still in a poor state after being declared a municipal ground by the local authorities.

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