Feature: Where have Moroka Swallows gone wrong?

Under current Bafana coach Gordon Igesund, two seasons ago Swallows finished runners up in the Premiership by two points to Orlando Pirates. How can they rekindle their lost form?
Swallows had scored the most goals under Igesund and had Siyabonga Nomvete at the forefront of it all, as South Africa's most successfual coach narrowly missed out on a fifth league title.

With Igesund leaving at the end of that 2011/12 season to head the national side, nearly two years down the line and the now 36-year-old Nomvete can't save the team himself. It was up to new coach Zeca Marques, who had been assistant to Igesund and his predecessors Rainer Zobel and Julio Cesar Leal, to take those achievements up a notch.

He didn't disappoint by winning the MTN 8 to showcase to all that the Dube Birds have indeed come off age. However, things would deteriorate from then on as they failed to progress any further in the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cups last season.

They finished their ABSA Premiership campaign in a lowly ninth place, missing out on the chance to defend their MTN 8 trophy at the start of this season.

What's to blame: CHAN 2014, Lota's passing or the loss of VW?

The Birds started their ABSA Premiership campaign on a high, occupying the top-half of the table for the duration of the first quarter. Then the African Nations Championship 2014, otherwise known as Chan, came along in January and that meant that domestic action would have to come to a halt.

With no games for a month for Swallows, the club lost rhythm and won only two matches for the entire year. Then they would lose their main sponsor Volkswagen and the tragic death of their assistant coach Dennis Lota compounded the fallen mood in the dressing room.

Presently, they languish near the relegation zone. So what exactly has led to this steady decline by the Birds? Some say it is the Chan break, others talk about outgoing versatile midfielder Giorgi Nergadze, the effect of the sad death of Lota or the ageing squad that is taking its toll.

A combination of all factors has led to the atrocious showing by the Soweto club in the second half of the season. Having the fourth worst defence must tell you something too.

The solution to stop the rot

As they head into next season, CEO Leon Prins must create a budget that will at the very least afford the coach the opportunity to bring in players of repute, rather than average out-of-contract players.

Having watched their 1-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns in Dobsonville last Saturday, they showed glimpses of an enterprising side with youngsters like Klerksdorp-born Tshwanelo Bereng, former Santos striker Vuyisile Wana and Asavela Mbekile pulling their weight.

What was evident despite losing the match was the mix of experience and youth showing signs of hope. What is now needed is a few quality players in critical areas like the goalkeeping department, rear-guard and to solidify the midfield.

Holding onto Manqele is key

On-loan Mamelodi Sundowns striker Edward Manqele came to the club and headed their scoring charts in lightning fashion. With Kaizer Chiefs after his services and the sign of him playing a minimal role at the Brazilians if he returns there, should the Birds not make a move to hold onto him for keeps?

It is an option that they must explore, because it will be a win-win situation for both the player and the club. Manqele's outright acquisition will not come cheap, so, Prins must go all out to keep the pacey forward at the end of the season.

That will send the right message that the Birds are looking up again.