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14 Jan 2009 13:17
The Bay United management hit the jackpot when they signed Khabo Zondo as their new coach last month.
Three matches and seven points later, the former Bafana Bafana assistant coach has lifted the Premier Soccer League (PSL) rookies off the foot of the Absa Premiership.
But Zondo is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. A couple of exciting early season wins over big name clubs such as Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns in the first round gave the PSL newcomers hope, but the honeymoon soon ended with Serbian coach Vladislav Heric quitting in December.
Those were the only two wins Bay had before Zondo took charge three games ago.
Bay are far from out of the woods and Zondo knows it, but he has brought in a new lease of life and instilled belief in the players.
It has turned out to be a masterstroke by Bay officials by convincing Zondo, a former Golden Arrows and Bloemfontein Celtic coach, to take charge and guide the Port Elizabeth club out of relegation in what has been one of the most competitive PSL seasons on record.
Zondo is the first to admit the strength of the PSL this season is giving him a lot of sleepless nights. “This is a tough, tough league. Every side in the league is quality.”
But the quiet and unassuming Zondo is not getting carried away after three good results. He stressed he needs to extend that run and has set a goal of four wins for Bay’s next four games, starting with the visit of Moroka Swallows to Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Kick-off is at 3.30pm.
Zondo’s quiet management style is part of his success so far. He enjoys allowing his two assistant coaches, Eddy Dyaloyi and Pernell McKop, the opportunity to interact with the players during training and shares ideas with them.
Said Zondo: “It is a team effort. My assistants are there to help. I always consult them on and off the field about all matters. That has helped build up a bond. It is good for the development of the club to allow both assistants, who I rate highly, the chance to coach the squad. It has worked well for us so far.”
Zondo has a high respect for the Birds and Brazilian coach Julio Cesar Leal. “I thought Swallows would be in first or second place at the halfway stage. Leal is a tremendous coach who has quality players that he has blended into a formidable unit. He has had a few hiccups and Swallows are surprisingly only in sixth place. They are a top-class side and will be tough opponents on Sunday.”
Since Zondo took charge the confidence in the Eastern Cape side has soared, and he has plenty of praise for the efforts of senior players such as former Kaizer Chiefs defenders Cyril Nzama and Patrick Mayo, and skipper Duran Francis.
Said the Bay head coach: “Nzama has been a revelation to me. He has scored in the last two games, which has done his and the team’s morale the world of good. All the experienced players are pulling together and are helping the younger players adapt to life in the PSL. The senior players are helping me mould the team as a unit this and it augers well for the future.”
But the key to staying in the PSL lies with the team’s level of discipline and maintaining that high level, stressed Zondo. “Things are looking up but we must not get carried away. There is a long way to go and we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground and make sure we concentrate and focus on the job of getting out of the relegation zone.”—Sapa
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