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COMMENT: If Milutin Sredojevic finishes empty-handed at Orlando Pirates, then what?

21:45 GMT+3 28/03/2018
Milutin Sredojevic of Orlando Pirates
The well-travelled coach has managed to revive Bucs, but will the fans forgive him if he fails to win the league this season?

When Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic was appointed head coach of Orlando Pirates at the start of the current campaign, he was expected to turn the team's fortunes around with the Soweto giants having experienced a calamitous 2016/17 season by their lofty standards.

Sredojevic inherited a squad that failed to finish in the PSL top eight for the first time in three decades. The Buccaneers were also coming off a disappointing defeat to SuperSport United in the Nedbank Cup final six weeks before Micho's return.  

The Bucs squad was obviously low on confidence having worked with three different coaches during the forgettable campaign which saw the Soweto giants suffer humiliating defeats to their Gauteng rivals SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns.

The players' commitment was also questioned by Muhsin Ertugral, Augusto Palacios and Kjell Jonevert, who were all in charge of the team. Swedish tactician Jonevret also complained about interference from the Pirates management soon after his resignation.

Sredojevic knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the job at the Houghton-based side having coached Pirates between 2006 and 2007. The Serbian trainer made it known that he was relishing the challenge of resurrecting Bucs and that he had some unfinished business with the Soweto giants after resigning as Uganda national team head coach in July 2017.

Micho hit the ground running at Bucs along with his assistant coach Rulani Mokwena, who joined the club from Sundowns. The two coaches have been able to stabilize the team by instilling confidence in the players which is a foundation for Pirates' improved performances this season.

The Buccaneers are currently placed second on the league standings - a point behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who have a game in hand. Consistency will be key to his Bucs' hopes of ending their four-year trophy drought by winning the league title.

The PSL title is Pirates' last hope this season having been eliminated from the Nedbank Cup by Cape Town City a fortnight ago.

However, Micho has repeatedly refused to be drawn into talks of possibly winning the league title.

Despite his side's obvious league title credentials, the former Rwanda coach has insisted that his side is still a work in progress and tipped Sundowns to win the trophy due to the fact that his counterpart Pitso Mosimane has been in charge of the Brazilians for almost six years.

The 48-year-old has been accused of playing mind games in the race for the most coveted trophy in the country, but what if he finishes the campaign empty-handed? 

This season will be a success for the team even without winning a trophy. Micho has managed to transform Pirates into genuine title contenders within the space of eight months and the team has all but secured a top eight finish.

So, even if he doesn't win anything this season, the often hard-to-please fans and Bucs management should be able to forgive and afford him time to work on this project, which is starting to bear fruit.  

Credit should go to Micho and his technical team for changing the players’ attitude with the Buccaneers having turned around from finishing 11th in the league last season to fighting for the championship this season.

It would be unfair for any Pirates fan if they were to criticise Sredojevic due to lack of silverware at the end of the season. He can only be judged on his second season in charge. 

Pirates and their supporters would have to be patient with Micho, who has won league titles in Uganda, Ethiopia as well as in Sudan, during the rebuilding process which is aimed at ensuring that the club returns to the top again. 

Ruud Krol is a prime example of a coach who was given time to implement his ideas and philosophy, and it paid off. The Dutch tactician built a league title winning Pirates team during his three-year spell with Soweto giants. The team failed to win major trophies in his first two seasons in charge, but he guided Pirates to a historic treble in his final term.

Micho should also be given the same respect and be afford enough time time to instill his philosophy and bring the team back to being perennial league title contenders. Patience is key.