The Birds now face empty-nest syn­drome

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­press.co.za

Rel­e­gated Moroka Swal­lows will re­tain the Dob­sonville Sta­dium in Soweto as their home ground while bid­ding for a re­turn to the Absa Premier­ship.

This was one of the res­o­lu­tions taken at the club’s board meet­ing this week.

Leon Prins was guarded about the full out­come of the meet­ing, which took place on Wed­nes­day, to plan for the Birds’ life in the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion (NFD).

He would not com­ment on coach Craig Rosslee – con­sid­ered re­spon­si­ble for AmaZulu’s rel­e­ga­tion in the same sea­son – who was ap­pointed on a short-term con­tract with a man­date to save the Birds from drop­ping out of the elite league.

“We’ll make a fresh start. We’ll stay at Dob­sonville and have all agreed on that. The club will is­sue a press state­ment in due course,” Prins told City Press.

A mas­sive clear-out from the Birds’ nest is in­evitable, as the team must now con­form to the NFD’s reg­u­la­tions on age re­quire­ments.

The cur­rent NFD rules em­pha­sise the use of South African Un­der-23 play­ers.

Also, many of the play­ers’ con­tracts are run­ning out at the end of this month while cap­tain Lucky Baloyi (23) – who be­longs to Kaizer Chiefs – was among a few on loan.

Other loa­nees were Phi­lani Cele (28) from Chiefs, Sandile Sibande (27) from Bid­vest Wits and Luy­olo No­man­dela (25) from Mamelodi Sun­downs.

The club has al­ready lost Lantshene Pha­lane and Vuy­isile Wana, who have moved to Bloem­fontein Celtic.

But the Birds could still find re­prieve, sub­ject to Safa’s ap­proval of the new rules.

Pre­mier Soc­cer League (PSL) gen­eral manager of foot­ball Derek Blanck­ensee this week said: “We are wait­ing for the new hand­book to be ap­proved and im­ple­mented.

“NFD sides [un­der the new rules] will be re­quired to name five play­ers un­der the age of 23 in their team sheet [on match day] and teams must field a min­i­mum of two [Un­der-23] play­ers at all times.”

The old rules re­quired teams to start with five Un­der23 play­ers.

Swal­lows had the old­est squad in terms of age in the PSL – with many play­ers fall­ing in the mid-twen­ties to late-thir­ties cat­e­gory.

Three of the squad’s most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers fall into the up­per limit of the cat­e­gory, such as Siyabonga Nomvethe (38 in De­cem­ber), Shere Lek­gothoane (36 in Oc­to­ber) and Lefa Tsut­sulupa (35).

As for the for­eign-player quota in the NFD, the old rule al­lowed teams to in­clude a max­i­mum of three for­eign-born play­ers in the start­ing line-up. Blanck­ensee did not dis­close the new re­quire­ment. Swal­lows al­ready have three Ser­bian-born play­ers – Obren Čučković (33 in Au­gust) Boris Savić (27) and Vladimir Mandić (29 in July) on their books.

The trio joined on long-term deals at the start of last sea­son.

The Soweto out­fit must now look no fur­ther than coaches with NFD ex­pe­ri­ence, such as Steve Barker, Vladi Herić and Bob­bie Solomons – es­pe­cially if they plan a quick re­turn to the Pre­mier League. The three have proven their met­tle in suc­cess­fully get­ting NFD teams back into the elite league, as they all have done so over the past four sea­sons.

PHOTO: BARRY ALDWORTH / BACK­PAGEPIX

FLY­ING AWAY Lantshene Pha­lane is among the play­ers who have al­ready left Moroka Swal­lows since their rel­e­ga­tion to the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion. He has joined Bloem­fontein Celtic

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACK­PAGEPIX

STRESS­FUL Leon Prins is un­der pres­sure to get Moroka Swal­lows back into the PSL in no less than a

year

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