Top-class Igesund signs up

2008-07-14 00:00

AFTER flirting with joining Maritzburg United in the past, finally Gordon Igesund has come to Pietermaritzburg.

Since leaving the club probably closest to his heart eight years ago —Manning Rangers, where Igesund shocked the country to win the inaugural Premier Soccer League title with some vintage football in 1996/97 — he has become the biggest-name coach in the country.

And arguably the best too. The record of the coach who will guide United back into the PSL following their title-winning National First Division campaign speaks for itself. He has travelled the country, becoming the only coach to win four PSL titles with four separate teams.

In February, after winning the 2006/07 PSL title with five games to spare with Mamelodi Sundowns and guiding them to five cup finals, Igesund fell foul of chairman Patrice Motsepe’s notoriously sharp axe after a losing streak. Now the coach has returned to KZN, where he aims to develop United into a competitive team at the country’s top level.

Speaking at the press conference to announce his appointment yesterday, Igesund could not disguise the famous competitive spirit that has seen him also win league titles with Orlando Pirates (2001) and Santos (2002).

Asked what his objectives will be for his first season, the coach replied: “I know a lot of people would think it would be to avoid relegation. But I’m far more ambitious than that.

“If I said I want to finish in the top eight then people would say that’s crazy,” he said, before continuing half seriously: “Honestly, I’d like to win the league.

“But we have to be realistic. This is not short term. This is a very big challenge. We have a programme for two, three or five years, who knows. And two or three years from now we definitely want to be challenging the top teams.”

Igesund, who almost joined United in 2006 when he applied for the post that went to Kosta Papic, said he believes the squad that won the NFD has some talented players, though will clearly need to be bolstered.

“The bulk of the team will be the side that got this team promoted. Of course we will try and bring in some experienced players because we can’t kid ourselves — there is a big difference between the NFD and the PSL.

“We don’t want to find ourselves having to play catch-up. We have enough time for a good six-week pre-season programme. The players are coming back nice and fresh from a two-week break.

“There are a few players we are looking at who we can’t disclose because the market is so huge, with players wanting so much money.”

Igesund said the club will be looking to sign about 10 quality players in the next few weeks.

While the coach has had success at big clubs, his best work has been done at smaller teams with a similar structure and outlook to United’s.

Asked if he expects a similar relationship, Igesund said: “I certainly hope so. I have to say in all sincerity that I think this really is a big challenge, and it’s something new again.

“It gets me wanting to get going — I want to go to training straight from here. It feels similar to Rangers or Santos. There are a lot of young players who want to learn — they’re enthusiastic, they play with passion.

“There are no prima donnas and we’re not going to have superstars. I’ve always said give me 11 players who want to try and we’ll be successful. A lot of players have moved on already because this team was still in the play-offs. We have to look very hard, and not just sign anyone, but players who can add value.

“I think this is a club we can build on. The people and the supporters are so enthusiastic here. We have to remember we’re starting at the bottom. Hopefully we can make this into a competitive team.”

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