Sivutsa Stars coach Ashwin Sutton is hoping to find the perfect balance of youth and experience as he takes responsibility for the Mpumalanga side’s fortunes.
|Skhumbuzo Nkumane © Backpagepix
Sutton was roped in towards the end of last season, after the club had gone through a string of different managers and found themselves hovering in and around the relegation zone.
Sutton was able to steer the side to a 12th place finish on the log and is now hopeful for a more successful campaign ahead after completing an extended pre-season with the squad.
“The long delay to the start of the NFD worked for us, because with several new players coming in, we were given longer to look at combinations. We were given time to gel and the team looked very competitive in the games we played ahead in pre-season,” Sutton told PSL.co.za.
The Mbombela club have brought in several players with top flight experience. These include Edward Williams (SuperSport and Platinum Stars), Sylla Mbemba and Ayanda Ndlovu (Maritzburg United), Curtis Dos Santos (Golden Arrows defender), while Linda Shiba returns from Blackburn Rovers and Thabo Rakhale has been loaned back to the club from Orlando Pirates.
Also signed are experienced NFD campaigners such as Vincent Khumalo and Booler Shabalala.
Added to that are promising young talents such as right back Velile Zitha and Bongani Masinga, who were both important members of last year’s team - Stars appear to have a healthy squad and Sutton is happy with the mix he has.
“You need experienced players in the team if you are to be successful, to challenge for league honours. These experienced guys need to blend in with the youngsters.
“But you don’t sign experience for the sake of experience,” explained Sutton, “We look for players that are hungry, that add value, that are not here for a pension package.
“A guy like Edward Williams has been around, he’s played in the Champions League, he helps keep the team together, he leads from the front. Someone like Sylla Mbemba has played on the continent and in Europe, and adds value at the back.”
Sivutsa lost their opening game 3-2 to African Warriors last week, but Sutton is confident that they can get a better result when they meet with Blackburn Rovers at the Kanyamazane Stadium this Saturday (15H30 kick off).
“There are no excuses for the loss to Warriors, we were flat on the day. But there were positives to take, we were 2-0 down, and came back to level the match at 2-2, not many teams can score two goals away from home.
“Unfortunately we gave away a soft goal. We now look forward to out first home game, we’ll respect Blackburn, but we are certainly going for maximum points,” said Sutton.