Larsen unleashes youngsters in TKO
Clinton Larsen will entrust his younger players with the task of recapturing the glory of 2012
Back in 2012, when Bloemfontein Celtic won the Telkom Knockout title, Coach Clinton Larsen had a broad base of experienced players at his disposal.
This year however, as Siwelele gears for their opening fixture against log leaders Mpumalanga Black Aces at the Free State Stadium this Sunday at 15:00, Larsen will have to rely heavily on his younger players to bring the glory days back to Siwelele Park.
Speaking to The Weekly this week, Larsen expressed confidence in his largely young collective which boasts, among others, the likes of Thapelo Morena, Dumisani Zuma, Vusi Shikweni and Gabadinho Mhango, who recently made his return from injury.
The coach trusts that his young players do have what it takes to emulate the elite class of 2012 – which comprised experienced players such as former captain and now Mamelodi Sundowns defender, Thabo Nthethe, Letladi Madubanya, Tsietsi Mahoa and Botswana goal poacher, Joel Mogorosi.
“The 2012 team was indeed more experienced. But now we have a new generation and we are well structured.
“We have a very good balance of experience and youth… The experienced players – from the keeper (Patrick Tignyemb) to the midfield and upfront – form the spine of the team.
There is no doubt that the Celtic and Aces match this weekend is the headline fixture of the opening round. Both teams are on-form and are one point apart on the premiership log, which definitely sets this fixture as impending thriller.
Aces and Celtic lie second and third respectively on the ABSA premiership log after having played six matches apiece in the still fairly ne 2015/2016 football season. The minor distinction between the two teams is that Celtic have lost one league match so far in the new season, while Aces are yet to lose; and also the fact that Celtic has drawn one match while Aces have drawn two.
“It is going to be one hell of a tough game,” Larsen told The Weekly ahead of the match.
He added: “Aces are at the top of the log and are on-form, but we are also on form and we have been getting good results.
“A lot of dynamics also come together in the game. We have to be able to bury our chances; have a solid defence and also rely on a little bit of luck.”
Elsewhere, Free State Stars will take on Bidvest Wits at Goble Park in Bethlehem this Saturday at 15:00. Although Stars had a little bit of slow start to the season, they have kind of experienced some change in fortunes in recent times since German coach, Ernst Middendorp, took over from former Kinnah Phiri, who got sacked two months ago.
It may be too early to judge whether Stars have indeed turned the corner, but they will certainly be looking to capitalise on their home advantage against a tough Wits side. Wits are fourth on the log on equal points with Celtic, but with an inferior goal difference.
Stars, despite their recent improvements, have only won two matches out of six and are 10th on the PSL standings. Making it to the next round of the Telkom Knockout will surely not be smooth sailing for Ea Lla Koto.
In other matches, Maritzburg United will host the struggling Jomo Cosmos at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg tonight at 20:00.
On Saturday at 15:00 Golden Arrows will host newly crowned MTN 8 champions, Ajax Cape Town, at the King Goodwill Zwelithini Stadium, while league champions Kaizer Chiefs play away to Platinum Stars in a concurrent fixture at Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg.
Later on Saturday night Nedbank Cup champions Mamelodi Sundowns will host Chippa United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.
Due to their commitments in the CAF Confederations Cup, Orlando Pirates and University of Pretoria (Tuks) will only play their first round Telkom Knockout match on October 16.