Peaking at the right time

2010-08-20 00:00

THE mere mention of the Rand Stadium must be evoking sad memories for Clinton Larsen.

Fourteen years ago on March 13, as a Manning Rangers midfielder, Larsen and company became a laughing stock in the soccer fraternity after succumbing to a 9-1 pasting by a rampant Kaizer Chiefs side at the Gauteng stadium.

The win is listed as a record win in Kaizer Chiefs’ history.

It was a baptism of fire for Larsen into professional football, after years turning out for lower division teams in Durban.

After that beating, Larsen and his team-mates dusted themselves off and showed incredible fighting spirit by defying odds and clinching the inaugural PSL championship crown under Gordon Igesund the very same year.

It is this kind of attitude that has, over the years, defined Larsen’s resolve as a player, culminating in him bagging another league crown with Orlando Pirates in the 2001/02 season and earning two Bafana Bafana caps in 1997.

As Larsen returns to the Rand Stadium for the MTN8 Wafa Wafa quarter-final meeting on Saturday night as Bloemfontein Celtic head coach, he will undoubtedly be looking to avenge that 1996 defeat.

And what a perfect start to his career as head coach it would be should he lead Celtic past the self-same Chiefs.

Larsen appears unfazed by critics who believe Celtic management erred in appointing him.

For three seasons the Wentworth (Durban)-born, soft-spoken mentor has been serving as an assistant to Igesund at Maritzburg United and recently to Owen da Gama, now back with Platinum Stars.

Durban Stars and Nathi Lions are the clubs that the 39-year-old cut his coaching teeth on after hanging up his boots at the now defunct Mighty Maulers six seasons ago.

“Celtic management felt I can do the job based on what I achieved while I was working alongside Owen. The team and I share a similar vision and I foresee a bright future for this team. They won’t regret offering me the job,” Larsen was quoted in the media as saying this week.

For the Chiefs clash, Larsen sounded confident. “It will be a tough game, but the pressure is on Chiefs as they have home advantage. We are going to cause an upset. I feel we are peaking at the right time.”

Interestingly, Larsen has David Modise on the bench, one of Rangers’ chief tormentors of that 9-1 drubbing.

The new Siwelele head coach may also draw inspiration from the favourable record that the club has in the Top Eight competition.

In ending their 20-year cup drought, Celtic went past the Amakhosi, striker Collins Chabalala’s 2-1 winner sparking a Chiefs fans’ riot at the old Soccer City.

Celtic went on to lift the now replaced SAA Supa 8 cup through solitary Zambian Ritson Kilambe’s strike against SuperSport United in 2005.

Nathan Paulse, Prince Olomu, Clifford Mulenga, Bennet Chenene, Thokozani Mshengu and Tsietsi Mohoa are new Celtic recruits who will look to get into Larsen’s good books by turning on the magic on their respective debuts for the underdogs.

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