Santos a difficult debut for Igesund
SANTOS are preparing for a tricky PSL fixture against bottom-of-the-log Moroka Swallows at Athlone Stadium tonight (kick-off 8.15pm, live on SABC1).
It’s not just the fact that Santos have struggled with their attacking game all season, it’s not so much that Swallows are desperate for points, but rather the fact that the man on the opposition bench knows the Cape club so well.
Gordon Igesund, who was very successful during his time at Santos, is the new man at the helm of Swallows.
On a six-month contract at the Johannesburg club, Igesund has been tasked with steering the Birds to calmer waters, away from the dreaded relegation zone.
Tonight’s match against Santos will be his first in charge of his new team.
Igesund won the PSL title with Santos, back in the 2001-2002 season, and was responsible for much of what is still good about the Cape team – like sound defensive organisation and supreme team discipline.
These are the same traits he is now trying to instill at Swallows.
“Naturally the confidence is low at the club, but that will all change with a couple of good results,” said Igesund.
Swallows, the oldest professional soccer club in South Africa, who were formed in 1947, find themselves at the foot of the PSL without a win after nine matches. They have only two points and are in serious danger of relegation.
Igesund replaced Germanborn Rainer Zobel last week in a bid to stop Swallows’ slide.
After a week with his new team, Igesund faces his toughest challenge in an illustrious coaching career during which he has won four league titles with four different clubs.
“The word panic does not exist in my dictionary. I am optimistic and relaxed,” said Igesund. “There is no need to be worried. Sure, the situation looks bad at present, but we have three matches before the end of the year and I reckon we can begin tur ning things around before the end of 2010.”
Igesund has spoken to all his players and has been promised their full commitment.
“I will assess every player and give each a chance. The spirit has been lifted as well as the enthusiasm and I am confident we can succeed in lifting Swallows out of danger,” he said.
“The response from the players has been fantastic and that augurs well for the club’s future.”
But he knows that his former team, Santos, represent a tough hurdle indeed.
“Santos are a difficult side to play, especially at home,” he said. “They defend in numbers and counter-attack well. We are going to need a bit of luck, but I hope to get off with a positive start.”
Igesund said will change the system the team previously employed.
“What I have observed is the players seem to have been over trained,” he said. “I have introduced a new system as Swallows have been too negative in the past. We will be more attacking because we have the players to do it... starting with Santos, despite the fact we are playing away.”
Igesund added too many players – including club captain Lefa Tsutsulupa – were played out of position this season. “Lefa is a brilliant player and captain, and he is going to be the spine of my midfield, despite having been used as a left wing recently,” the coach said. “I will use him where he is best suited, as my midfield general.
“When I chatted to the players, some told me they were not happy playing in certain positions, and I have been listening and will change things as players need to be happy.”
Igesund has only one injury worry where left-back Keegan Richie is out for the rest of the month with torn ankle ligaments.
The other Cape club, Ajax Cape Town, will be in Witbank tomorrow for a PSL match against MP Black Aces (kickoff 3.30pm, live on SABC1).
Ajax’s last match was a comfortable 3-1 win over Bidvest Wits at Newlands – and they are looking to build on that momentum. – Sports Staff and Sapa
FLYING INTO POSITION: Coach Gordon Igesund plans to make Swallows captain Lefa Tsutsulupa the spine of the side.