Mark Harrisons’ philosophy remains embedded as Township Rollers enters the new season in need of fine-tuning rather than a tactical overhaul. But can they take the next step without hiccups? Staff writer MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE observes.
In many people’s views, Township Rollers’ preparations and robust transfer recruitment on the 2016-17 season was the ‘epiphany’ for those who doubted the brilliance of one of the arguably best football sides ever. Prior to the end of the 2015-16 controversial season, many football pundits had predicted a luke warm performance for Mark Harrison and his blue and yellow army. For the second season running, defending champions Township Rollers have not had their best start despite winning the Kabelano Charity spectacular- a cup carrying less significance.
The long suffering Rollers community suddenly have renewed hopes of days long past, after watching helplessly as Centre Chiefs and their former coach Mike Sithole wrestled the title out of their reach. They have roped in Harrison, a highly renowned tactician whose first job was to clean the mess left by former coaches. He seems to have done exactly that, reminding domestic football that he is a pragmatic man whose football ideologies have been appealing even to the purists.
It is indeed a quality required for a coach as Harrison has surveyed a squad that had worrying holes in it last season. But the Briton coach looks to have somehow transformed last term’s failures to a title winning team.
This would represent success and the soft spoken mentor is aware even this will be difficult. However, Rollers’ players are lining up to claim that a 3rd title in four seasons can be won but their coach is somehow cagey. Harrison would never say it publicly but everybody is playing for the league, it will be too early to say they are right on course.
Can it happen? The jury is still out until the close of this campaign as the executive committee inclusive of Rollers’ chief financier Jagdish Shah finished the quest to recruit players to the team. The bottom line is that choosing which of Centre Chiefs, BDF XI, and Gaborone United, Rollers can replace, is tricky as all have bolstered their ranks impressively this summer.
Harrison’s wrecking ball has however arrived via the transfer of Rollers most influential winger and club captain Sekhana Koko. He was instrumental in the club’s rise to glory last season. How Popa will cope with the damage is the great conundrum of the first 10 games, answers ranging from another title challenge – foreseen on this occasion – consolidation in the top two or squeezed back to the margins all carrying weight.
Beyond dispute is Rollers’ mantle as a contender and their reaction to both Koko and Ramatlhakwane‘s exit. For all considered factors the former Zebras players were the country-class inspiration behind the club’s strongest title challenge of the Premier League era. The blow however prompted a swift and considered response.
There have been six incomings at the time BPL released official new signings. Lemponye Tshireletso, Mara Moloi, Ntesang Simanyana, Gape Mohutshiwa, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Senegalese striker Pape Ndaw.
Harrison seems to have identified several weak spots when he arrived as Rollers coach late last season and the problems undermining the team’s thrilling title challenge last season have been addressed.
Much, therefore, now depends on the skipper Maano Ditshupo and the awareness of the strikers in front of him. The continued upward trajectory of Segolame Boy and the stability new signee Lemponye Tshireleso can bring will surely determine the success of the team. Up front, the club lacks absolutely nothing. They have Mara Moloi and Terrence Mandaza, each have the league’s golden boot on separate accounts.
In Harrison, Rollers like Chiefs did, possesses one of the most astute, forward-thinking coaches in the game. His rebuilding work may come to fruition in this season and next, but his foundations are in place.
However, the team is criticised for adopting a robust move when building for silverware. In search of glory and countrywide appeal, the team is castigated for paying little attention to their youth academy and adopting an almost mercenary belief that success literally has a price.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
For the first time after eons, football clubs plying their trade in the elite league are walking in the shadow of the undefined with nothing concrete agreed and on sight before the commencement of the football season.