Bax­ter’s Bafana link is hurt­ing ‘down­beat’ United

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

Su­perS­port United coach Stu­art Bax­ter has stopped short of ad­mit­ting that his un­cer­tain fu­ture at the club has af­fected his play­ers’ morale.

Since Bax­ter was linked with a move to Bafana Bafana, United have suf­fered back-to-back league de­feats to Baroka FC and Mamelodi Sun­downs.

In Au­gust, United lost only once in the league, but they have since lost three matches.

Af­ter their hu­mil­i­at­ing 5-0 de­feat to Sun­downs on Thurs­day, the English­man was at a loss for words and hinted it could have some­thing to do with his im­mi­nent move back to Bafana.

“It is dif­fi­cult to quan­tify the spec­u­la­tion on the Bafana is­sue. I have tried to stay un­af­fected as much as pos­si­ble. I cannot get into the play­ers’ heads, so I do not know what is go­ing on and whether they are anx­ious, or if some of them are happy to hear the news. But the at­mos­phere in the dress­ing room has been some­how down­beat and numb, and not up­beat like it usu­ally is,” said a de­jected Bax­ter.

He said there had been no up­date on his pro­posed move to the na­tional team.

Last month, United said they had granted the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa) per­mis­sion to speak to Bax­ter. Safa has, once again, failed to meet its dead­line to an­nounce Shakes Mashaba’s suc­ces­sor.

Bax­ter has chal­lenged his play­ers to dust them­selves off and bounce back against the same Sun­downs team on Wednes­day.

The two Tsh­wane sides meet in their sec­ond league fix­ture, and Bax­ter said the onus was on the play­ers to show char­ac­ter. “It is up to the play­ers. Un­doubt­edly, I want to see the re­sponse from the play­ers – they must sell their lives dearly, not as cheaply as they did here.

“There is anx­i­ety hang­ing over [their heads] and I am look­ing at things such as char­ac­ter, dis­ci­pline and be­liev­ing in your­self. I am also look­ing at my­self long and hard, and I hope the play­ers do that too. I do not think they did them­selves jus­tice here.”

He said it was dif­fi­cult to talk about the team’s ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions af­ter such a de­feat.

“We should rather talk about how we pick our­selves up in the next game. A team that loses 5-0 cannot talk about ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions, but about get­ting back. There are lots of ques­tion marks, and some soul-search­ing needs to be done.”

United play Liberia’s Bar­rack Young Con­trollers in the sec­ond leg of the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup at Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium this evening. Kick­off is at 6pm.

The teams drew one-all in Mon­rovia last week­end and the win­ner will progress to the group stages of the tour­na­ment.

Bax­ter will get a chance to avenge the Brazil­ians’ de­feat on Wednes­day be­fore tak­ing on his for­mer club Kaizer Chiefs in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Ned­bank Cup on Satur­day.

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACKPAGEPIX

IN A FIX Stu­art Bax­ter’s pend­ing move might have af­fected his play­ers

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