‘Mi­cho’s re­turn like an ar­ranged mar­riage’, and Pi­rates hope for the best

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

IN a tai­lored black suit, earn­ing him­self the tag of “fash­ion­ista” from chair­man Irvin Khoza, Mi­lutin “Mi­cho” Sre­do­je­vic stepped into his new job as Or­lando Pi­rates’ coach in style.

The Ser­bian coach spoke with con­fi­dence backed by his suc­cess in the con­ti­nent after leav­ing the Buc­ca­neers a decade ago. Sre­do­je­vic re­turns with an im­pres­sive CV of four league ti­tles, four Coach- of- the- Year awards and an act that earned him cult sta­tus in Uganda after guid­ing the Cranes to their first ap­pear­ance in the Africa Cup of Na­tions in al­most four decades. But the ques­tion re­mains, is the Ser­bian as per­fect of a fit at Pi­rates as the suit he wore at his of­fi­cial un­veil­ing?

The an­swer is yes, based on his knowl­edge of the club, his achieve­ment in the con­ti­nent and growth in the past 10 years. Sre­do­je­vic spoke like a man who had re-united with his first love. He re­mem­bers how many months he has been away from the Sea Rob­bers (127), showed that he has been fol­low­ing the club closely and even of­fered con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies who lost their loved ones in the stam­pede at FNB Sta­dium last week.

The love is mutual. Khoza spoke glow­ingly about him, happy he fi­nally got the man he wanted to bring in Fe­bru­ary, but was put off by a hefty buy-out clause.

“Hir­ing a coach is like en­ter­ing an ar­ranged mar­riage, you hope for the best. But it also de­pends on what do we do to make it work and get the best out of him,” Khoza said.

If the al­le­ga­tions by two for­mer play­ers, Len­nox Bacela and Mark Mayam­bela, on Twit­ter are any­thing to go by, a coach’s “mar­riage” with the Buc­ca­neers isn’t that straight­for­ward. The pair hinted that there is in­ter­fer­ence from the top. Mayam­bela went as far as to say Pi­rates have had the same coach for the last 10 years but has only changed train­ers.

“Ev­ery­one needs to do their own job,” Sre­do­je­vic said. “My job, I am a foot­ball per­son, I have come here to solve the mil­lion and one prob­lems I saw. I will deal with the foot­ball is­sues on the field of play. I am a team player and I will give my full con­tri­bu­tion from the point of coach­ing. I am ex­pect­ing, and I came here be­ing as­sured, full sup­port by the club and all the struc­tures in the club.”

Sre­do­je­vic re­turned as a ma­tured and ac­com­plished coach, com­pared to the 38-yearold who left Pi­rates after seven months. In that time he in­tro­duced a young Senzo Meyiwa and Happy Jele to the setup. His lack of fear of throw­ing young­sters into the deep-end should see a num­ber of over­looked young play­ers get the nod, which is im­por­tant as Pi­rates are in need of fresh blood.

But Sre­do­je­vic’s sur­vival at Pi­rates will not only be based on how he does on the field but also by how he ne­go­ti­ates the nu­mer­ous mine­fields ahead of him. The big­gest of those mine­fields is the play- ers’ mind-set. The play­ers have been ac­cused of us­ing their power to get their way, while Au­gusto Pala­cios ar­gued that some of them don’t have the fight­ing spirit of the club’s for­mer stars.

“I love chal­lenges,” Sre­do­je­vic said.

In his first ad­dress to the play­ers, “Mi­cho” told them that “it is un­ac­cept­able that any­one work­ing at Pi­rates doesn’t have the right at­ti­tude.”

“We want him (“Mi­cho”) to stay for a long time,” Khoza said “But it de­pends on him in terms of how he is go­ing to ad­just be­cause com­ing to Pi­rates, there are a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions. They are not un­rea­son­able be­cause we re­alise some of our chal­lenges.”

MI­LUTIN SRE­DO­JE­VIC

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