Pi­rates true colours next sea­son: Mi­cho

Sunday Times - - Sport Soccer - By SAZI HADEBE

● Or­lando Pi­rates coach Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vic is al­ready busy with his plans for next sea­son, the one he be­lieves will re­veal the true char­ac­ter of his team, with two com­pe­ti­tions added to the team’s itin­er­ary.

Hav­ing reached junk sta­tus with their 11th place fin­ish in 2016/2017, Pi­rates only had three com­pe­ti­tions — the league and two do­mes­tic cups — to worry about in the past sea­son.

But through their resur­gent 2017/2018 sea­son in which the play­ers re­dis­cov­ered their mojo to help the team fin­ish sec­ond be­hind league cham­pi­ons Mamelodi Sun­downs, Bucs have added the MTN8 and CAF Cham­pi­ons League to their pro­gramme for next sea­son.

With that in mind, Sre­do­je­vic’s de­ci­sion to start pre­par­ing for what he says will be “a defin­ing sea­son for Pi­rates”, is not sur­pris­ing.

“We can never go back to what we were in 2016/17 sea­son,” vowed the Serb bet­ter known as Mi­cho.

“We are look­ing for­ward to have a de­cent pre-sea­son that will give us a foun­da­tion, build­ing on the sea­son be­hind us.”

When Sre­do­je­vic re­turned to Bucs as new coach in early Au­gust, it was al­ready late for him to have any pre-sea­son train­ing with the team. The first 10 league re­sults showed that Bucs were in the re­build­ing phase, with two de­feats to Bid­vest Wits and Sun­downs sand­wiched be­tween five draws and three wins.

This time around Sre­do­je­vic will have no ex­cuses about the prepa­ra­tions.

It is not sur­pris­ing that there has been talk of Bucs test­ing them­selves against Span­ish giants Atletico Madrid in a pre-sea­son friendly.

“I’m fully aware of that, but with all due re­spect, I have no right to come ahead of the club in mak­ing an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of that match,” said Sre­do­je­vic.

“We are al­ready gath­er­ing all the de­tails of our pre-sea­son set-up. We will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to be fully ready for the sea­son ahead of us.”

Talks of Bucs meet­ing the Europa Cup fi­nal­ists were firmed up on Fri­day when it emerged that the an­nual pre-sea­son Soweto Derby friendly be­tween Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs has been shelved this year.

In­stead Chiefs are set to meet Sun­downs on July 21 at FNB Sta­dium in a pre-sea­son event which will be called Shell Helix Cup.

With Bucs hav­ing strug­gled to find a con­sis­tent scorer this sea­son, you would have thought Sre­do­je­vic would ear­mark Zam­bian in­ter­na­tional Au­gus­tine Mu­lenga as the one to spear­head their at­tack next sea­son.

Lu­vuyo Memela, a winger with an eye for goals, is Pi­rates’ top scorer with five goals, with only nine play­ers, in­clud­ing Mu­lenga, fol­low­ing him with more than one goal with one league match left to wrap up the sea­son.

“The way we un­der­stand foot­ball at Pi­rates, all the play­ers are sup­posed to be scor­ers and as­sis­ters,” Sre­do­je­vic ex­plained.

“For us it is not about an in­di­vid­ual. We would be the most happy if all our strik­ing line have five to 10 goals and as­sists in the sea­son. So Mu­lenga is part of the big­ger plan for us to score as many goals.”

On the on­go­ing talk of for­mer Pi­rates mid­fielder Andile Jali re­turn­ing to the team af­ter he ended his four-and-a-half year stint with Os­tende in Bel­gium, Sre­do­je­vic spoke of his wish to add a player of Jali’s cal­i­bre at Pi­rates as he hopes to have at least three play­ers for each po­si­tion next sea­son.

“I have no doubt that Jali is a top qual­ity player,” said Sre­do­je­vic of the player who won two league ti­tles with Bucs be­fore go­ing to Bel­gium.

“But I have no right to jump to any con­clu­sions (about Jali) and say any­thing un­til it is com­ing from the club’s of­fi­cial chan­nels. But any coach on this planet would like to have a top player like Jali.”

But with or with­out Jali, judg­ing by what Sre­do­je­vic has promised to de­liver, one can ex­pect to see the real colours of Bucs com­ing to light next sea­son.

Zam­bian in­ter­na­tional Au­gus­tine Mu­lenga is ex­pected to play a key role at Or­lando Pi­rates next sea­son.

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