No Un­der-23 headache this year

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Al­lan Freese will not miss the Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) and its Un­der-23 rule.

Af­ter steer­ing High­lands Park to the Pre­mier­ship, Freese con­ceded that he had had a rude awak­en­ing in his first sea­son in the NFD be­cause of the Un­der-23 rule – the reg­u­la­tion com­pels every club to field five Un­der-23 play­ers in every game.

Freese, who joined from Pre­mier­ship side Plat­inum Stars be­fore the be­gin­ning of this sea­son, con­ceded that he had not un­der­stood the rule and this put him on the back foot at the out­set.

“At least I won’t have to play five young­sters in the Pre­mier­ship for a whole year,” he said.

But he gave credit to his Un­der-23 play­ers for play­ing a cru­cial part in the side gain­ing pro­mo­tion to the top league.

Freese con­ceded it was a dif­fi­cult jour­ney, but he was happy about the way it ended.

High­lands still have a game to go and they visit al­ready-rel­e­gated Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria in a dead rub­ber on Wed­nes­day.

But Freese said they would use it to give other play­ers a chance to fin­ish the sea­son.

“It was a long sea­son for us and I am happy it has ended in this fash­ion,” he said, be­fore re­mem­ber­ing the game they still had to play. “We have one more game to pre­pare for and we will see how it goes.”

Freese said their first game of the play-offs was very im­por­tant be­cause it gave them the oomph go­ing for­ward. High­lands beat Mbombela 3-0 away from home, and Freese said the re­sults gave his play­ers the be­lief and mo­ti­va­tion they needed for the play-offs.

“We need to sta­bilise the team in the first sea­son and re­in­force where it is nec­es­sary. We have a plan and we need to get new play­ers, but we will take one game at a time.”

He was taken aback when asked if he was cer­tain to con­tinue lead­ing the team in the top flight.

“No­body has said any­thing to me ... I have taken the team to the PSL [Premier Soccer League].”

And he is re­lieved he will not be forced to field any young­sters un­less he wants to.

PHOTO: LUCKY NX­U­MALO

A JOLLY GOOD FEL­LOW the Pre­mier­ship High­lands Park play­ers hoist their coach, Al­lan Freese, in the air af­ter he guided them to

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