Will Palmer still be in charge?

2008-06-30 00:00

MARITZBURG United are in negotiations with coach Ian Palmer about renewing his contract for the coming season in the Premier Soccer League, but are not rushing into any conclusive deal just yet.

Palmer, who guided United out of the National First Division in a campaign that culminated with the past week’s 3-1 NFD play-off final victory against FC AK, has returned to Johannesburg for his holidays. According to United chairman Farouk Kadodia, the coach has hired an agent to negotiate on his behalf.

“We have given Ian an option to see if he wants to renew his one-year contract, and this week we will give him a chance to see if he is interested in that,” Kadodia said yesterday.

“We want to see if it is worth our while to continue with Ian and we are going to take a few days to think about it. We are in talks to see if we can find a way for the future.”

Kadodia said the demands of coaching in the PSL are completely different to the NFD, and Palmer has little experience as a head coach in the top-flight. Palmer’s most notable experience in the PSL was in a stint trying to save relegation-bound Manning Rangers in 2004/05.

United, though, will need to be cautious about upsetting the equilibrium of what has been a successful formula this season, even if it was in the NFD.

The team spirit that bonded United through a tough campaign stemmed from the coaching staff of Palmer, assistant Ashwin Sutton and goalkeeper-coach Pernell McKop. The argument to give the trio a chance at the top level, backed by the correct structures, must be a strong one.

Given the limited time they have to structure their squad for the new season, United have already released 10 players. Among these are defenders David Mkhandawire of Zimbabwe and Michael Mogaladi of Botswana, to make way for the signing of two new high quality foreigners.

Others are defender Godfrey Mokoena, midfielders Enva Wiltwer, Morris Chauke and Tshweu Makhoere and strikers Godfrey Doboro and Dennis Mokoena.

“We had to be tough because we need players able to compete in the PSL. I compared my list with the coach’s and the two were almost identical — there was just one player we had a question mark over,” said Kadodia.

United will now set about trying to sign seven or eight quality players.

“We have to be careful not to get everybody’s rejects, and to find the players with the best character and condition,” Kadodia said. “We are not desperate — even though we are a month behind all the other PSL teams, we will take two weeks to really see what is available.”

The other burning issue for United is where they will play next season. Sunday’s second-leg 2-0 victory over AK was the last match to be played at Harry Gwala Stadium, which now shuts down for a year to be renovated.

“We are looking at Wadley Stadium and Woodburn Stadium,” said Kadodia.

“The PSL has given the council a list of upgrades that need to be made to Wadley, and we are not sure how the progress will go with that.

“I will be meeting with the Woodburn officials over a way forward for that stadium, because there are issues over the surface.”

Kadodia has called for the PSL to award a special bonus to the two NFD clubs promoted to make up for the teams’ late start in preparations compared to the other PSL clubs, caused by the protracted bribery case against FC AK.

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