United have plenty of rebuilding to do

2009-07-02 00:00

A MEASURE of the seriousness with which Maritzburg United intend to tackle their 2009/10 Premier Soccer League campaign is that they have already been training together for the new season for three weeks.

After they had come from behind with a late start to their pre-season for 2008/09, where United finished 12th, coach Gordon Igesund says he’s going to use the time he has available to him this season.

United begin their campaign against champions SuperSport United at Woodburn Stadium on Saturday, August 8.

“Last season my players were only 50% fit because of the late start to the pre-season,” Igesund said yesterday. “It’s very scientific — if a player mis­ses one week of the fitness training then he can’t do the second week properly, and so on.

“The first week I used for trial matches to look at about eight players, and I might sign two or three of them. They’re youngsters from the Castle League and lower leagues — around 18 or 20 years old. This season I want 18 professionals and then about six youngsters that I can blood.”

Igesund and his new CEO, Afzal Khan, who the coach won league titles with in the past at Mamelodi Sundowns, Santos and Manning Rangers, certainly have their work cut out for them to rebuild United for the coming season.

A minimum of 11 players from last season will not be there for the coming campaign, with three more — Sylla Mbemba, Tshepo Mashishi and Jeffrey Makoti — currently on the transfer list.

Crucially, United have not managed to retain loan players Fanyana Dhladhla (back to Sundowns), Tony Tsabedze (SuperSport) and Gary Goldstone (Bloemfontein Celtic). Sipho Mngomezulu was out of contract and, having stated his desire to be closer to his family in Johannesburg, has signed for Wits University.

Siphiwe Mkhonza, Oscar Mathebula, Michel Babale, Athiel Mbaha, Junior Khanye and Justice Sithole were all released at the end of last season.

The changes have left United particularly short in the wing department.

“I have given Afzal a list of eight players to try to get — we’re looking for wingers, central defenders and a playmaker. Mostly, we’re at an advanced stage of negotiations — none of them have come here yet, because their contracts mostly run until June 30,” Igesund said.

The coach said he is looking forward to reuniting with Khan.

“What I’m so pleased about is that we have such an understanding. He knows what makes me tick, and what I’m looking for and how I like things done. I know that he’ll get a player that I’ve asked for, and that if he says we don’t have the budget for it, I know he’s right.

“Apart from buying players, all the nitty-gritty, the hotels, buses, plane tickets, physiotherapists, I don’t have to worry about.”


Maritzburg United’s first five fixtures:

August 8: v Superport United (Woodburn Stadium, 8 pm)

August 22: v Wits University v (Bidvest Stadium, 8 pm)

August 29: v AmaZulu (Woodburn Stadium, 7.30 pm)

August 30: v Platinum Stars (Royal Bafokeng, 3 pm)

September 13: v Kaizer Chiefs (Orlando Stadium, 3.30 pm)

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