Highlanders aim to reclaim lost glamour

HARARE - Highlanders have struggled to keep up with the tag as one of the giants of  local football in recent years, but the Bulawayo giants are hoping the New Year brings about an about turn in fortunes and give their fans something to cheer about.

Bosso’s last league title came just over a decade ago under the guidance of Methembe Ndlovu and since then, the Bulawayo giants have had to watch from a distance as smaller and now defunct clubs like Monomotapa, Gunners and Motor Action went on to win league titles.

As if not enough during that same period, their fiercest rivals Dynamos have won a further five league champions while neighbours Chicken Inn won their maiden championship in 2015.

Bosso had an indifferent 2017 season which saw them flirt with relegation at some point before finishing sixth on the log table a massive 25 points behind league winners FC Platinum.

Following that disappointing campaign in which they finished the season empty-handed, Bosso are once again on the market hunting for a new coach after their Dutch gaffer Erol Akbay announced he would not renewing his contract and swiftly returned back to his native home after the season ended.

Akbay arrived at Highlanders at the start of the 2016 season and made a huge impact leading Bosso to a commendable third-place finish following an intriguing battle for the championship that involved FC Platinum and winners CAPS United.

That good run raised expectations at Emagumeni, but 2017 turned out to be a season they would want to quickly forget as Akbay’s run-ins with the club executive over outstanding salaries and bonuses heavily impacted on the team’s performance.

Matters were not helped as Bosso also went on to lose some of their best players to foreign and local teams.

However, club executive Nhlanhla Dube feels they need to do more in 2018 to reclaim their position at the top.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday, Dube said Highlanders’ immediate task is to make sure they appoint a substantive coach who understands the club’s ideals.

“It is not a secret that we did not have one of our best seasons according to our standards and expectations,” Dube admitted.

“It is in this regard that we feel we need to do more to bring back the glory days of the club. We really need to do more as a club. We have since established what we need to do to take the club forward.

“Our first task at the moment is to finalise on our technical team. We want to appoint a coach who understands the values, beliefs and culture of this great club. We want to make sure that by the time we start our preparations during the second week of January everything will be in place.

“And for professional reasons the incoming coach will be allowed to pick his own assistants. I am sure it’s the standard practice world over. For an institution like Highlanders, expectations are always high and rightly so, we will try by all means to meet those expectations.”

Bosso are understood to have completed negotiations with former coaches Madinda Ndlovu and Amini Soma-Phiri, who are the front runners for the vacancy.

The Daily News on Sunday understands Ndlovu is willing to come back to the club on condition that Highlanders pay him outstanding dues from his previous stint in charge of the club. Sources close to the two parties insist a deal has since been reached and what is left is the unveiling of Ndlovu to take over as the new coach.

Soma-Phiri was part of the previous technical team before he eventually fell out with Akbay and was expelled midway last season.

Previously, Soma-Phiri had taken charge of the club on a caretaker basis following Bongani Mafu’s sacking midway through the 2015 season.

Bosso have also been linked with Chicken Inn coach Rahman Gumbo, who could make a sensational return to his boyhood club which he won two championships with at the turn of the millennium.

“For now it’s premature to announce the name but one thing for sure is that we are not going to hire a foreigner again,” Dube said.

With most Premier League teams expected to be busy on the market during this transfer window beefing up their teams, Dube said Bosso will not be tempted to follow in that direction but would rather look into their juniors for talent.

“As Highlanders we have always been known for developing talent. We always develop big names. We are not known as importers of talent but rather exporters of talent,” he said.

“I believe we have a sound junior policy and it will be unfair for us to buy players elsewhere. It’s the only way we can bring back the team to where it belongs; it needs those who understand what it means to play for the club.”

Dube continued: “It has been a while since Highlanders won the title and it’s an abomination to the institution. That’s why we strongly feel something must be done now. You look in the just-ended season and you realise there were a lot of things that we did not do well.

“It’s actually a shame that we were unable to provide a single player on the calendar. It has never happened in the history of the club and must be addressed. Even the number of matches that we lost were just too many. And the only way to address those things is by tracing back to our roots.  

“We are now in the process of correcting things by going back to the original template. We are expecting a fruitful 2018 season and we are definitely working towards achieving that.”

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