Wits ‘three signings’ can get them back on track, says coach Hunt
Phakamani Mahlambi and James Keene will be like new signings for Bidvest Wits in 2017 and add impetus to a side whose form had stalled at the end of 2016‚ said Clever Boys coach Gavin Hunt.
Hunt described Wits as having effectively made “three signings” in the January transfer window already‚ saying the acquisition of Granwald Scott has been augmented by the return of key strikers Mahlambi and Keene.
Hunt described Mahlambi as “the future of South African football” at the end of last year when the 19-year-old made something of a miracle recovery from a potentially career-ending ligament injury at the end of 2016‚ scoring two goals in two games.
Keene will be fit to resume playing having missed the first half of the season due to knee surgery‚ when the Premier Soccer League resumes from its six-week break early next month.
“We’ve got three new signings‚ haven’t we?
"There’s Granwald‚ and Phakamani and James‚” Hunt told TMG Digital.
“They’ll give big impetus to the squad. Buhle Mkhwanazi is back from that bad facial injury‚ ‘Tyson’ [Thulani Hlatshwayo] is back from that hijacking.
“So we can get our back four back again‚ and some competition going there – and that’s what we need.
“Xola Mlambo is back as well – he was out for about eight games‚ and he was fantastic for us in the beginning.”
Mahlambi had complex surgery after his brother‚ Mthobisi‚ donated part of his hamstring so the tearaway teen striker would lose none of his pace.
Big‚ clinical English striker Keene scored eight goals in 14 games signing for Wits in the second half of last season.
Their presence up-front and Hlatshwayo and Mkhwanazi’s return in defence to bolster a back four where Hunt had to rely on makeshift combinations at the end of 2016 could go a long way towards Wits re-establishing their early-season fluency.
After starting with one defeat from their first 12 league and cup matches‚ Wits could not win in their last six games before the break.
Hunt said that with his best squad in his fourth season at Wits he will be circumspect in the January transfer window making more signings to add to former Ajax Cape Town central midfielder Scott on a free from Slovakian club Slovan Bratislava.
“We’ve just got to get people back fit. The first 10 games when we had everyone we were flying‚” the coach said.
“We were playing with ease‚ with no pressure‚ and the fluidity was there. Then we lost it because by the time we had that week where we lost against SuperSport and Cape Town City we were a makeshift team.
“We’re trying to get a few players out who were on the fringes to streamline the squad a bit.
“And obviously if something becomes available‚ which it most possibly will‚ we won’t be scared to do it.
“Any coach‚ if he has an opportunity to improve the squad must never ever be happy‚ even if he’s winning leagues or whatever.”
Wits – in a strong position in second place in the PSL‚ level on 25 points with leaders SuperSport United – resume their league campaign against Cape Town City at Bidvest Stadium on Tuesday‚ February 7.
- TMG Digital