Sidelines young players
Ricky Zililo : Senior Sports Reporter
ALTHOUGH it could be early days, new Highlanders coach Erol Akbay seems to be dithering on his initial declaration to build a team of youngsters this season to challenge for the league title in 2017.The Dutch coach’s fear to lose his first competitive match in charge of the Bulawayo giants in a city derby against league champions Chicken Inn in the semi-final of the ZNA Charities Shield on Sunday saw him settling for the same senior players that did duty for the club last season.
Bosso progressed to the next stage of the tournament after penalty shootouts, which they won 4-2, after the game had ended 1-1 in regulation time.
The only young players in Highlanders’ squad for Sunday’s game were striker Prince Dube and midfielders Bukhosi Ncube and Godfrey Makaruse. All the three players were on the bench, with only Dube making a late second half appearance, replacing Gabriel Nyoni.
Highlanders lacked creativity in midfield where they had Simon Munawa, Nyoni, King Nadolo and Bruce Kangwa.
Their midfielders rarely created opportunities for their strikers Knox Mutizwa and Kasimero Chimbadzwa, who has joined from ZRP FC.
Being a pre-season match, expectations were high that Akbay would give youngsters like Adrian Silla, Dube and Percy Sibanda some game time, seeing that they have been regular features in some of the pre-season friendly matches.
The telepathic understanding between Dube, Silla and Percy was a marvel to watch in Bosso’s 1-0 win over PSL new comers Bulawayo City in the final of the Bulawayo Football Festival final last month.
The youngsters helped the Highlanders Academy win promotion into the Zifa Southern Region Division One League last season and fans were convinced that Bosso did not lose anything by allowing Obidiah Tarumbwa and Nqobizitha Masuku to leave. The duo was on loan from Bantu Rovers.
Against Chicken Inn, Highlanders lacked someone with football intelligence and creativity, something Silla and other youngsters displayed when they beat an experienced City side.
By the evidence of Sunday’s encounter, Akbay’s emphasis seems to favour a defensive game. There are similarities between the Highlanders-Chicken Inn game and that pitting English giants Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion game where the return of senior players saw both Bosso and the Red Devils struggling.
In the game before their shock 0-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United had fielded a youthful side against Arsenal and won 2-1.
They also won 1-0 against Watford in the next match using a youthful side, but things fell apart when they reverted to the senior players resulting in Manchester United succumbing to their first defeat to West Bromwich Albion in 36 years.
Maybe a lesson for Akbay is that youngsters will give him better options and even force old horses to work harder. Hopefully Akbay will not be afraid to field more youngsters in the first team to gel with deserving senior players to form a formidable side.