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Wed Apr 23 16:34:19 SAST 2014

'Total football' nightmare at Sundowns

MAZOLA MOLEFE | 12 November, 2012 07:430 Comments
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens during the PSL match against University of Pretoria at Tuks Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Pretoria, South Africa
Image by: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

PATRICE Motsepe has gone soft, according to officials at Mamelodi Sundowns, who believe coach Johan Neeskens would have been sacked long ago had the club's owner been his old self.

The Dutchman is still at Sundowns despite a string of poor results . Sundowns have not won in 10 Premier Soccer League consecutive games, with six losses, and remain rooted at the bottom of the standings.

Motsepe held a meeting on Friday - his second this month - with both the technical staff and the players, trying to uncover what is going wrong.

If the last few weeks of the previous campaign are taken into consideration, Sundowns have tasted victory just once in 16 league matches under Neeskens.

A 1-1 draw against city rivals AmaTuks in the Tshwane derby on Saturday afternoon added to Neeskens's woes and demotivated the team further.

None of the previous coaches were ever afforded this much leeway despite the fact that they were still in the chase for the Premiership title race.

Paul Dolezar, Angel Cappa, Trott Moloto and Henri Michel did not last beyond five months while in charge. Interim coaches Miguel Gamondi and Neil Tovey, even after winning the Premier Soccer League, were replaced months into the next season.

Gordon Igesund stepped in, managed to defend the league title, but was quickly fired when the going got tough.

Hristo Stoichkov and Antonio Lopez Habas resigned, though Motsepe has often maintained that he would have kept them at the club if they had not volunteered to leave.

Habas, under pressure from his family to call it quits at Sundowns following threats by angry club supporters, had only led the team to just one victory in six matches when Motsepe announced his resignation. Neeskens's record is even worse, but Motsepe continues to back him.

Officials suggested the billionaire owner doesn't want to lose out on the investment he made in Neeskens when he hired him at the start of last season.

Part of the coach's five-year contract is tied into improving the Sundowns youth academy using Dutch soccer legend's Johan Cruyff's method of "total football".

This method, an insider said, is costing millions.

Should Neeskens be fired, Motsepe would have to pay out a lump sum to cover the remaining four years of the coach's contract.

Neeskens refuses to throw in the towel, yet again claiming he will work harder to lift Sundowns from the bottom of the log after the draw against Tuks.

"It was hard enough trying to motivate them and we are still trying to get their confidence up from being [bottom of the log]," said Neeskens.

"If only we can play, always, the way we played in the first 20 minutes of the match instead of thinking about 'what if we lose', maybe we can come out of this."

Sundowns have a Telkom Knockout semifinal clash on Saturday and will again be involved in a derby, this time against Supersport United. The Brazilians have had better luck in the cup than in the league so far this season.

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