United in talks to keep coach

2010-04-13 00:00

MARITZBURG United are in talks to keep coach Ernst Middendorp on for at least the next two seasons, chief executive Afzal Khan said yesterday.

The feeling at United, from the players to the directors, is that the club is on to a good thing with former Bundesliga coach Middendorp and Maritzburg have offered the German a two-year contract with an option to renew for a year.

Middendorp replaced Gordon Igesund as coach midway through the past Premier Soccer League campaign on a contract that runs until the end of the season, with an option to renew for a year.

The coach took United from last to an 11th-placed finish and United showed great promise in their structure and style of play under the former Kaizer Chiefs and Arminia Bielefeld schemer.

Middendorp’s agent, Steve Kapeluschnik, is currently in and out of the country, and once he returns the contract issue will be concluded. The coach said he expects the issue to be finalised in the next two weeks.

“We have had a discussion in November already where the club said they wanted me to stay longer,” Middendorp said last night.

“I am completely relaxed and don’t have concerns about my future, and am concentrating on my daily work. I have a very positive feeling at United.

“We have had discussions assessing the team and the players. The stadium is okay; we have to do something about the training facility, but this is something we can resolve.

“At the moment it [his staying] is going in a good direction, but nothing is confirmed yet.”

United CEO Khan said the club is keen to keep Middendorp on, affordability permitting.

“We think Ernst has done an outstanding job and is one of the best coaches the club has had in its history,” Khan said.

“He has brought a high level of coaching to Maritzburg, is tactically aware and has an impressive attention to detail. His training methods are of an international standard and this shows in the way the players have wanted to play for him.”

Khan said keeping Middendorp will be vital in terms of establishing continuity.

“We want to maintain stability and ensure the growth of the team. In a meeting Ernst intimated to us that he is very happy at the club and wants to stay on here and grow with us.”

The CEO said United hope to tie up contracts of players for next season in the coming month.

“We have also been on the look-out for players because Ernst has told us what areas he wants to strengthen. He wants a squad of no more than 24 players, consisting of 18 experienced professionals and six young players coming through.”

Among these will be 18-year-old winger Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni, who has already been part of the senior squad for one-and-a-half seasons, and has scored goals for the SA under-20 team this week in their victory over Brazil and defeat to Nigeria in a Four Nations tournament in Cape Town.

Ayanda Ndlovu, who was also called up to the U20s, has been promoted to the senior team for next season. Khan said United will also scout around for other youngsters to be part of the senior squad.

United meet AmaZulu in the first round of the Nedbank Cup at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night (8.15 pm).

Khan said Maritzburg are hoping to progress far in the tournament, the only knock-out competition in which the Team of Choice have had any real success, having reached the semi-finals under Mlungisi “Professor” Ngubane in 2006.

“If we can go far in the Nedbank it would help in all facets of the club, including a financial boost and keeping the club active into May.

“We are keeping our players training until May 15 because Ernst has been able to use this period after the league season to work with them for an extended period and instill his system and style of play.”

Khan said the United players have been offered generous incentives to progress in the Nedbank.

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