The friendlies are a little misleading, as the first three matches were against generally close opposition (two teams from the division we just came up from, and one from our current division) while the rest were against lower-than-playable teams. The wins and goals are still good for morale, especially since several of the players have been nervous with all the transfer activity.
You can see why they might be on edge. I had to be tough and realistic to have a chance to stay up. Lucky Morfu was demanding something like a thousand pounds a week for his new contract, and with plenty of prospects on the scouting board, I let him walk. I was taken completely by surprise when an offer came in from Ajax for Andrew Sheppard. As much of a hero as he was in the push for promotion, the club is way in the red and 14k is no small amount to us. It was basically the same case with Dhlamini, but after resigning a player I let go (more on that in a minute), the money just mattered more than my feelings for the player. I initially turned down an offer for Ndlovu, as I really wasn’t keen on sending a second defensive starter to the same rival club. The player threw a fit. I told him it would be very damaging for the club for him to go to Ajax, and he told me to hell with the club and he would stir up a mutiny if I didn’t sell him. I had a deal agreed with Ajax before I went home that night.
The first few transfers in were actually arranged during the second half of last season. Bennentt Winstanley is going to go straight to being first choice goalkeeper. Morena Mdluli, while certainly a better player than Mhlongo, is going to split time on both sides of defense throughout the year. We get depth and competition up front in Goodman Mdlalose. Add to that with loanee Bamuza Sithole, oddly enough replacing a loaned out player as third choice. Musa Mathebula is the player that I released and then resigned, as my new upgraded scouting team seemed to think he had quite a bit more quality than my incompetent ex-assistant manager. He was out on loan almost the entire time he’s been here, and his solid loan ratings agree with the new scouts.
If things work out the way I think (which never happens as a manager), the rest of the new arrivals are younger players to develop. We’ll meet them over the course of the season as I try to take a more serious approach to growing young players.
The season almost feels like it starts during pre-season, as there’s only the opening match followed by a two week break. We’ve got a couple more friendlies scheduled during that gap, so I’m not expecting much out of the first regular season match.