AmaZulu head coach Benni McCarthy has made it clear that striker Phakamani Mahlambi needs to work harder to get more game-time.
As an exciting teenage marksman at Bidvest Wits, Mahlambi seemed to have the football world at his feet and was even touted by some as the 'next Benni McCarthy' in reference to Bafana Bafana's leading goal scorer.
But Mahlambi's career has not yet taken off after he moved to Mamelodi Sundowns before having a relatively unsuccessful stint with Egyptian giants Al Ahly and then returning home, first back to Sundowns, and subsequently on to AmaZulu.
He was among a number of high profile players signed under the watch of ambitious new Usuthu owner Sandile Zungu, yet the now 23-year-old has tasted just 60 minutes of action this term in two substitute appearances.
McCarthy says he has nothing personal against Mahlambi, but is remaining loyal to those players who he deems to be giving maximum effort.
“I’m not a person who has anything against anyone. I think players have to impress themselves and with me, [I would choose] hard work over talent,” McCarthy was quoted saying by the Sowetan, after being asked about Mahlambi's lack of game time.
“If you have talent, you have to match that with hard work. If I don’t see players giving me what I’m looking for and they are players who are willing to sweat blood and tears, I’m going with that," he continued.
“So players need to understand that you can have all the talent in the world, but you still need to work hard. I’m not saying he is not working hard, but some players are working exceptionally hard, and they found themselves in the team.
“If you are not in the team, it is because maybe you are not doing enough. You need to match the efforts of the players who are on the pitch.
“That’s how I work. There is no favouritism or bias. It is just pure hard work and talent, that’s how I am, and I’m not going to change. If you don’t work enough and you want your teammates to work for you, then I’m not your kind of a coach.”
AmaZulu moved up to sixth spot on the table after beating Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 midweek. Their next match is in the Nedbank Cup last 16, away to Black Leopards on Saturday, February 27.