STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

La­montville Golden Ar­rows coach Clin­ton Larsen says it’ll take some time for any­one out there to no­tice what he is try­ing to im­ple­ment at the plucky Dur­ban un­der­dogs, but adds he wants to bring back the old style of “Abafana Bes’Thende”, which was so begu

Kick Off - - FEATURE - BY ROBIN-DUKE MADLALA | Twit­ter: @duke_­mad­lala

Clin­ton Larsen took over as coach of La­montville Golden Ar­rows in De­cem­ber 2015 when Ser­ame Let­soaka left for Bloem­fontein Celtic, a po­si­tion left va­cant by the res­ig­na­tion of the for­mer. Let­soaka had done well in Dur­ban, bring­ing the fight back into the Golden Ar­rows team fol­low­ing their pro­mo­tion back to the Absa Premier­ship at the end of the 2014/15 cam­paign. But Larsen has taken things a step fur­ther, keep­ing that steel within the side, but also adding more at­tack­ing verve. Ar­rows is a club that is struc­tured on pro­mot­ing young play­ers – their mod­est bud­get means they are left to sign play­ers who are out of con­tract from other clubs. It puts their top eight fin­ish at the end of the 2016/17 cam­paign into per­spec­tive, pip­ping more af­flu­ent clubs to the post through the in­no­va­tive foot­ball dished out by Larsen’s side. What Larsen em­pha­sised is that the team, un­der his watch, will not be rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates and at the end of Oc­to­ber, three months into the sea­son, the club were joint top of the ta­ble with Kaizer Chiefs. It was that form that earned Larsen the Premier Soc­cer League’s Coach of the Month prize for Au­gust/Septem­ber. “It’s been a learn­ing curve even for me, just like it has been for the play­ers since I came in a sea­son-anda-half ago,” Larsen tells KICK OFF. “For me as a coach, com­ing into a new en­vi­ron­ment, a new setup, learn­ing the way things are done, get­ting to know the play­ers, it’s been a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me and an en­joy­able one. “I’d be happy if we had done a lot bet­ter be­cause I’m an am­bi­tious coach and I’d also have liked to win tro­phies, as well as help the team get as high up the league ta­ble as pos­si­ble. “But Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ll keep try­ing to sign top play­ers in key po­si­tions, keep try­ing to im­prove the squad, keep try­ing to im­prove the brand that we play. “I think if we keep on do­ing that, we are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and this team can only get stronger mov­ing for­ward.” Last sea­son Larsen made his­tory by reach­ing the semi-fi­nals of the Ned­bank Cup, a first for Golden Ar­rows. They were nar­rowly de­feated at home by Orlando Pirates, a club he starred at as a mid­fielder in his playing days. But Larsen says that given time to work with these young­sters, suc­cess is not far away for them. “For me, suc­cess is to win tro­phies

(Main) Larsen guided Ar­rows to their first top eight fin­ish in eight years.

and that is how you measure your­self as a team and as the coach. That is what I’ll try to do at the club.” “We came very close in the Ned­bank Cup semi-fi­nals and we could’ve been in the fi­nal with a lit­tle bit more luck on our side.” Ar­rows have al­ways flown their slo­gan of Abafana Bes’thende at full mast. It pro­pelled them to their great­est heights when, with Mngqithi in charge in 2009, they trounced Ajax Cape Town 6-0 in the MTN8 fi­nal at Orlando Sta­dium, which re­mains the largest mar­gin of vic­tory in a South African knock­out de­cider. That Ar­rows side was brim­ming with stylish play­ers from ekasi, who played foot­ball with no fear, and were out to prove them­selves. They had a re­li­able de­fender in Siyabonga Sang­weni, with drib­bling wiz­ards Njab­ulo Man­qana, Phi­lani Shange and Thokozani Mshengu.

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