COMMENT: What should Black Leopards do to stay longer in the PSL?

Goal takes a look at what Black Leopards do to stay up for many years in the top flight

Many PSL clubs will be in the middle of their pre-season when the 2018 Fifa World Cup tournament comes to an end, ready to start the season - some will have new coaches and players in their ranks.

However, for some clubs like Black Leopards , there is no time to prepare and there is no pre-season for them because they have just regained their PSL status.

Lidoda Duvha is undoubtedly the pride of the Limpopo province - some may argue that statement since there is Polokwane City and Baroka FC in the province.

The Thohoyandou-based side enjoys massive support in the province better than Bakgaga Ba Mphahlele and Rise and Shine; sometihing everyone saw during their National First Division matches and most recently, in the promotion/relegation play-off games.

But should they do to stay up after trying for the past five years to return to the elite league? 


Joel Masutha of Black Leopards

A former player himself, Masutha knows the importance of continuity in football, the transition from the management to the technical team and also to the field with the players.

Under his guidance, the club has successfully fought to see their dream of bouncing back to the lucrative PSL come true after a number of attempts under different managers.

The likes of Kosta Papic, Jean Loscuito and Ivan Minnaert all failed to lift the club back to the top and it only took a man with not much pedigree compared to his successors.

This is not to say he is less when it comes to quality and abilities, but he is someone who is more capable of keeping the club afloat in the PSL.

Clubs tend to fire coaches when they set their foot in the PSL and that has proven to be their downfall in most instances.

After 30 matches in the NFD, Masutha’s men amassed 50 points to secure a second spot as they qualified for the play-offs – a fantastic record for the coach.

The record speaks volume regarding his ability to get the right reaction from his charges, the technical and tactical ability to plan for games and he will definitely get better in the top division, provided the club remains patient with him.

Another thing to consider with the coach and his team is that he qualified for the PSL via the play-offs without a single loss - Leopards bagged two wins and two draws.  


Joel Masutha and Black Leopards players

Leopards have always had great players and many will recall the likes of Mulondo Shikhwivhilu, Christopher Netshidzivhe, Tiyani Mabunda, Kingston Nkhatha as well as Robert Ng’ambi among others – these are the players who took the club to dizzy heights.

In their current squad, players such as Mwape Musonda, Marks Munyai, Phathutshedzo Nange and many others, have had fine displays for the club in the past term and in the play-offs.

Changing the squad and buying new players when the club does not have enough time to experiment with new tactics in terms adjusting to Masutha’s philosophy could be detrimental.

Moreover, new players will not only need to acclimatise with the coach’s tactics, but to learn more about the environment because some may be signed from foreign countries.

Although they will have to beef up the squad with experienced and fresh players because those in their current roster will also need time to recharge their batteries, there are many factors to consider before doing so.

They have already lost Meshack Maphangule to Orlando Pirates, and they will need to do all they can to avoid losing more players to big Gauteng clubs if they're to succeed.


Black Leopards boss David Thidiela

Playing in the PSL comes with financial rewards, but it's also costly because the tea has to travel around the country, get accommodation when playing away from home, and players should be paid market-related salaries.

On the other hand, a sponsor could offer some relief to the management because there will be financial rewards in the end, but the club will also have to put together a capable marketing team to do so.

Having a sponsor is advantageous because there has been a lot of talk in recent time regarding the sale of clubs to consortiums hoping to find a quick way into the PSL by buying their statuses.

Now that Leopards are back in the top division after they were relegated in 2013, there’s a possibility of many business people with a financial muscle ready to pounce. 


Black Leopards players

Unlike one of the clubs which gained promotion and set unrealistic targets of winning the PSL title and the Caf Champions League, Leopards must be realistic because the PSL is a different ball game.

A top 10 finish is safe to target because it doesn’t come with unnecessary pressure on the players, unlike to set their sights on finishing in the top four or in the top eight in their first season.

To do this, they must just ensure they intimidate the so called experienced clubs in the PSL because they are no longer used to travelling to Thohoyandou.

Taking advantage of that and ensuring that they win their home games will no doubt help them sustain their place in the league. 

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Experienced coaches in the PSL would say ‘we can win certain games away’ based on the fixtures. So, should Leopards also plan along those lines, surely they will be in the PSL come May 2019.

For next season, focusing on cup games will come with challenges and could destract their cause to stay in the PSL for many seasons to come.

It is not ideal to reach a cup final and still face the relegation axe come end of the season - these are some of the lessons Lidoda Dhuva must consider.  

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