Baxter tells Nale to play with 'his soul'
ABIA Nale, the Kaizer Chiefs winger who was a forgotten man under former coach Vladimir Vermezovic, has found a new lease of life under Stuart Baxter.
Nale made just six starts in the Premier League last season, adding to a handful of games he played the season before.
A truly fringe player under the Serb, the former Golden Arrows star was one of the few players to express his relief when Vermezovic was shown the door.
And now Baxter has vowed to get the best out of the Sebokeng-born player.
Nale got a rare start in the Soweto derby on Saturday night and showed glimpses of his old form, scoring the opening goal for Chiefs against Orlando Pirates in the 10th minute in a game that ended in a stalemate.
The Buccaneers then clinched the Carling Black Label Cup 5-4 on penalties.
"I told him I know he has had a tough time in the past two years, but I can see he can play and the challenge now is to harness that to fit with the structure of this team," Baxter said.
"And if that's the case, we have a very good player on our hands."
But it is not just the goal-scoring ability that has impressed Baxter, who claimed Nale was "misunderstood and too much was asked of him" over the past two seasons.
Nale burst into tears after being substituted and received a tongue-lashing from Vermezovic during a live broadcast Chiefs match two years ago.
"I do not think he understood his role in the last two years, and players need to know their role. There was a lot being asked of him and he did not really understand it, so it was difficult for him to give a good performance," said Baxter
"I will try to explain his role as best I can, and his challenge will then be to carry out the instructions. If he can do that, we have a very good player on our hands and Bafana will also be happy they have another player knocking on the door."
Before his move from Arrows to Chiefs in 2009, Nale was often on the Bafana radar, with speculation that he could even be a surprise inclusion in the 2010 World Cup squad.
However, his lack of game time at Naturena has seen him fall down the pecking order in the Bafana fold.
Is he one of the players to watch in the new season, which kicks off next month?
Baxter thinks so.
"I have only seen him for two months and have played him out wide, but I do not want to lock him out there. I think he should have the freedom to wander in and play in the spaces between the (opposition) back four and the midfield," said the coach.
Baxter, also a former Bafana coach, wants Nale to play with his "soul". "I told him before the match (Soweto derby) that I do not want to just see his face in the pitch, I want to see him play with his soul."