Soccer

Celtic moves from being relegation battlers to a model of consistency

Wits must be wary of the cool, calm and calculating Veselin

26 November 2017 - 00:00 By BARENG-BATHO KORTJAAS

Being coached by a man named Veselin has nourished Bloemfontein Celtic in similar fashion petroleum jelly Vaseline breathes life into a dry skin.
Veselin Jelusic has no magic jelly in his coaching jar. The man armed with a PhD is in his maiden season in South Africa soccer after joining Celtic in July, but the Serbian is poised to scoop his first piece of silverware.
Having endured a chaotic campaign last season, the acquisition of the 60-year old professor from Belgrade has converted Celtic from relegation battlers to a model of consistency. Their football has not been exhilarating; not yet.
But what you see in green and white is a far better organised team showing an ability to plod away at decent results week in and week out. It is a revolution in motion.SERBIAN WAR ON BLOEMFONTEIN SOIL
Their league and cup record in 2017-18 is characterised by a neat symmetry.
Cetlic's top scorers are Tshegofatso Mabaso, Jacky Motshegwa, Ndumiso Mabena and Roggert Nyundu, four players all sitting on two goals. In the PSL, they have won four, drawn four and lost two.
Symmetry and balance are what Jelusic appears to be all about. When he won the PSL's coach of the month award for October, he said: "I think there are several reasons why we have had some good results. One is the work we have put in, another is that we have several new players and are a more competitive team.
"A third is the methodology between training pitch and the match. And the fourth is that it is important to have a good balance within the team."
The application of that methodology will be in motion in a Serbian war on Bloemfontein soil. Jelusic will cross swords with his former student and homeboy Milutin Sredojevic when Celtic welcome Orlando Pirates to the Dr Petrus Momelela Stadium.
He was a pathfinder for Sredojevic as his professor. "He is a top-class coach who was my professor at university in the 1990s. He was deputy dean of the university for football," Sredojevic said.EYES ON TKO TROPHY
The memory of the last time Celtic celebrated a cup final triumph is mired in controversy. The Moses Mabhida Stadium was the stage back in December 2012-13 where Celtic clashed with Mamelodi Sundowns for the Telkom Knockout crown.
Controversy because the solitary "goal", a Joel Mogorosi header, sparked a raging debate. At issue was whether the whole circumference of the ball crossed the line.
Clayton Daniels thought he had cleared it off the line. Celtic celebrated crazily. Sundowns protested profusely. The goal stood as Celtic added a second trophy - they won the SAA Super 8 under Paul Dolezar in 2005 - in the PSL era.
Another Durban venue, KwaMashu's Princess Magogo Stadium, will host the 2017-18 TKO final when Celtic clash with Bidvest Wits on Saturday.
Opponents Bidvest Wits must be wary of the cool, calm and calculating Jelusic. It is a credit to Celtic that they didn't go the route of regurgitating overrated foreign coaches who have failed at other PSL clubs.
"We wanted a new individual, with a new challenge and a new experience and a new headache," said Celtic chief executive Khumbulani Khonco. "Coaches are a headache, but this headache is good for Celtic so far." Vaseline doesn't cure headaches, but Veselin can end a five-year trophy drought by drowning a bipolar Wits.
bbk@sundaytimes.co.za

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