Golden Arrows coach Ncikazi hopes to hang onto his top performers
Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Mandla Ncikazi hopes to keep most of his key players that helped the club finish fourth in the DStv Premiership in his first full season as a head coach at any club at the top of SA football.
The 53-year-old coach saw players like Nkosinathi Sibisi, 25, Ntsako Makhubela, 27, Pule Mmodi, 28, Michael Gumede, 28, Sifiso Mlungwana, 24, Thabani Zuke, 22, Divine Lunga, 26, and Velemseni Ndwandwe, 25, flourishing. Ncikazi fully expects big clubs to gun for such performers’ services for the coming 2021-22 campaign.
“It won’t be easy and there are a number of factors,” Ncikazi responded when asked how the club can ensure they build on what they did in the recently-concluded season.
“For smaller clubs or clubs that don’t have big squads it’s important to be very intelligent in the market. Whatever you take away you must replace.
“You must remember that the players we used [in 2020-21] are players that grew together. They played in the MDC [reserve league] together and they’ve known each other for a long time.
“Now the question is whatever you’re replacing them with, how long is it going to take for that to get into a team? I’m not a fan of beginning a new season with a lot of new players. Any new project needs time.
“So if you check teams that bring a lot of new players for the new season, they don’t start well and it’s important to start well, especially in the DStv Premiership.
“If you don’t start well in the first five games, you’re already on the back foot and set to fight relegation unless you’re going to have a miracle season like AmaZulu did.
“But it’s important that if we sell [players] we must replace. Second, maybe the team needs to have more choices in terms of selection.
“This season we had the smallest squad in the league, but given they’ve been together for a long time we had that synergy, the working together, work ethic and the respect among each other was so good.”
Ncikazi added that the coronavirus pandemic added problems for teams like Arrows whose scouts recruit many players from the amateur ranks.
“Covid-19 has never been kind for teams like Golden Arrows who go out to the rural areas and recruit in tournaments,” said Ncikazi. “The current environment is different and it only suits big teams that have their own development and teams that can buy like [Mamelodi] Sundowns.
“For teams like Arrows, it’s going to be a struggle a bit if we sell players. My prayer is that we try to maintain the same squad or wait until December, where you know you’ve established yourself, and then sell in that transfer window.
“My wish, unfortunately is not in [my] control — the management will decide. But if we decide to sell, the process of replacing should be in place. If you sell a defender we must already be starting to look at a defender.
“We also need to strengthen all positions because we had positions that we had to convert other players if one player was injured or [under] suspension. Maybe in terms of numbers teams, teams like Sundowns can afford a squad of 28 because it’s quality for quality.
“Now, if you don’t have that quality and your squad is very thin, I think it doesn’t augur very well. Maybe we need to increase our numbers a bit so that the pool of choices, even if it’s youngsters, is there. Let’s have a better pool so that there’s no struggle in certain positions.”
In cases such as Zimbabwean left-back Lunga already being linked with Sundowns, the Arrows coach said he would not stand in a player’s way.
“On a fair basis I’m very developmental in my thinking. If you have done well I’ll say go to the next place, get promotion,” he said.
“And by the way this is a business of making money and if there’s an opportunity for them to make more money in other clubs, I’ll allow them to do that.
“We have a choice of retaining our squad or try to get money. It’s a choice that the management has to make: is it time to make money or to maintain the stability in the team?”