Young bloods revive United hopes

2010-08-24 00:00

SEVEN new youngsters introduced to the Maritzburg United first team have the team excited about an injection of youth and vigour that could help energise the side in their effort to finish in the top eight in the coming Premier Soccer League season.

United have yet to finish in the top eight in their five seasons campaigning in the PSL, though they showed enough promise under coach Ernst Middendorp in the second half of last season to suggest 2010/11 might just be Maritzburg’s breakthrough year.

The side have retained the core of last season’s squad, and a relatively young group of players will be bolstered by seven even younger players who the team feel might have something to add in Middendorp’s high-tempo approach.

Three players promoted from United’s youth development to the senior team are midfielder Ayanda “Dukes” Ndlovu (19), defender Andile Gcabisa (18) and striker Ronaldo Donnelly (19), a relation of ex-Maritzburg City and Orlando Pirates midfielder Shaun.

Three new young signings made by the team are speedy left wing Shaldon Lawrence (20) from Johannesburg; 19-year-old Durbanite Rhees Evans, a right midfielder; and striker-cum-winger Lindani Zungu (21), signed from Ulundi Vodacom League (third division) side Island FC.

The three players promoted from the development join two other prospects brought into the United senior side in the last two years, SA under-20 international winger Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni (18), and 20-year-old defensive midfielder Kulegani “Chilis” Madondo, who established himself as a first team regular last season.

United CEO Afzal Khan said of the newly-promoted trio: “Ayanda is a very exciting, skilful midfielder who has already played for the SA U20s.

“Andile is a promising defender who is currently in matric in Pietermaritzburg.

“Ronaldo is a very good, nimble-footed, exciting striker with an eye for goal who has been scoring in our pre-season friendlies.”

Of the three new signings, Khan said: “Shaldon is a skilful, fast player and a big prospect for the year on the left wing. He comes from Johannesburg but has signed from the Jomo Cosmos academy.

“Evans is a Fernando Torres lookalike from amateur side Park Villa whom I spotted playing in an Easter tournament in Durban.

“Zungu is a striker-cum-winger with an eye for goal who scored for Island when they lost 3-1 to Mamelodi Sundowns in the first round of the Nedbank Cup in Ulundi last season.

“He is not so much skilful as he is a ‘box’ player – he knows how to finish.”

Middendorp said the young bloods he has introduced to his squad, who will all be new to competing in the PSL, will have a role to play in the coming season, though the obvious leaders of the team will remain the experienced players.

“I prefer not to put too much emphasis on players’ ages, whether they are 19 or 20 or 32,” the coach stressed.

“The advantage these youngsters have is that they have been training with the team since May and April, so they know the procedure already and what is expected of them, and to expect the coach to shout sometimes when he expects more accuracy or doing a better job.

“We have a small squad, so these players have a responsibility.

“ I don’t like it when a player says he is only 19 or 20 so he cannot do the job yet.

“Clearly we have a strong central line, with [goalkeeper] Shu-aib Walters, and Chilis Madondo and Musa Nyatama in the central midfield who are becoming more experienced, Fadlu Davids up-front once he recovers from being out for three or four months with an operation, and Mor Diouf is the key player for me at the back.

“Then there are Elias Ngwepe, Peter Petersen, Rudolf Bester and Felix Obada on the side and these players are obviously the ones who must play a leadership role in bringing the younger players who haven’t played in the PSL into the team.

“There will be injuries and we also need the young players to push and make it a competitive situation for places.

“Last season we had 10 or 11 players pushing as regulars and this season there will be 16 or 17.

“We had some PSL players training with us looking for contracts, but we discussed is and said, can they really bring more to the team than Dukes, or Ronaldo, for example.

“As a coach you have to be brave.” added Middendorp.

United’s first league game of the season is away against AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday.

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