Pirates true colours next season: Micho
● 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.