Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
POOR decision-making in player recruitment has been identified as the major reason for Bulawayo City’s relegation from the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.
The local authority bankrolled club’s three-year flirtation with the topflight is over and their remaining two matches are dead rubbers.
Jerry Sibanda, Bulawayo City chairman said the club will re-strategise, promote from their juniors instead of hunting for players on the market.
In their three PSL seasons, Bulawayo City were signing at least a third of their squad, leading to high player turnover.
“We just have to start afresh and go back to the drawing board. What we need are committed players, players that will value the ethos of Bulawayo City FC. I’ll say player recruitment was bad from the beginning and was a major let down which led us to being relegated. Going forward, we need to look at youngsters who will be loyal to the club and will be true ambassadors of Bulawayo City FC. We want youngsters who will grab the opportunity to play for the club and use it as a springboard to scale to greater heights.
“As it is, we’ve already started that process of looking investing and looking at the youngsters as we have an Under-20 side as well as juniors (Under-14s to Under-18s). It is these youngsters that will be promoted into the senior team and we will fuse them with a few senior players,” said Sibanda.
For 2018 season, Bulawayo City only registered two players in the five slots reserved for Under-19s. They registered the duo of Gift Junior Lunga, a former Highlanders junior player and Divine Philimon Mhindirira.
The rest of the players were veterans, who boasted of many seasons in the Premiership.
After surviving relegation on the last day of the 2017 season, Bulawayo City embarked on a massive overhaul of players, with coach Darlington Dodo bringing on board 16 players.
Only nine players, goalkeeper Aaron Ngwenya, the defensive trio of captain Zibusiso Sibanda, Zephaniah Ngodzo and Morris Kadzola, midfielders Rainsome Pavari, Humphrey Ncube, Trevor Ndlovu, Innocent Kutsanzira and Sipho Ndlovu survived the chop.
Dodo brought four new faces into their defence, Admire Dzumbunu from Shabanie Mine, ex-Highlanders’ skipper Erick Mudzingwa, Trust Nyabinde, formerly with Tsholotsho FC, and Crispen Gosogoso Ncube from Talen Vision.
They also added five midfielders, Timothy January (ex-How Mine), the trio of Ayanda Ncube, Lucky Nyathi and Tatenda Tavengwa, who were with relegated Tsholotsho FC, as well as Justin Kaunda, formerly with Hwange.
Unheralded Tawanda Chagaresango joined the club from Northern Region side Gunners, ex-Triangle United’s Tawanda Muyendi, Nhlanhla Ndlovu (ex-Highlanders) and Mgcini Sibanda (ex-How Mine) were the strikers signed by the local authority bankrolled club.
Despite reinforcing their side with experienced players, the club failed to escape relegation.
A number of these senior players will be offloaded by the club that was also haunted by strikes over outstanding bonuses and salaries.
“We will let go some players whose contracts are running out and we will remain with those or re-engage players that the coaches will recommend,” said Sibanda.
Apart from player recruitments, Bulawayo City officials should also shoulder the blame for decisions that they made leading to high coaches’ turnover which can also be blamed for their demise.
Since making their topflight debut in 2016, Bulawayo City has had six coaches.
They started off with Philani “Beefy” Ncube who led them into the PSL. Ncube took charge of 17 games, won six, drew five and lost six before being fired on allegations of match-fixing following their 1-0 win against Border Strikers.
Try Ncube then took over and presided over the last 13 games of 2016 season. He won five, drew three and lost five.
At the beginning of 2017 season, Bulawayo City hired Mandla Mpofu with Try Ncube being pushed into the backroom staff to assume the position of fitness trainer.
The club also brought in Tavaka Gumbo to assist Mpofu, but the former was fired before the end of the season.
In 2017, Mpofu was in charge of 34 games, winning 11, drawing six and losing 17.
They survived relegation on the last day of the season clobbering Bantu Rovers 5-0 to take their points tally to 39, one ahead of Harare City who were relegated.
Bulawayo City terminated Mpofu’s contract and hired Darlington Dodo who got Tsholotsho FC relegated in 2017.
Dodo presided over eight PSL games, winning once, losing six times and drawing the other. When it became clear that Dodo was way off the 20 points target from 10 games, he was relieved of his duties.
Dodo’s assistant Bekithemba Ndlovu took charge of two games, the 3-0 win over Nichrut and the 2-1 defeat to Chicken Inn before the club hired Amini Soma-Phiri.
Soma-Phiri was in charge of 10 games, winning two, drawing twice before losing six games. He was replaced by Ndlovu who failed to save the sinking ship. — @ZililoR.