Orlando Pirates’ new goalkeeper coach Andrew Sparkes has laid down the gauntlet for the number one jersey at the start of the season.
Bucs’ pre-season is set to intensify on the Zambia-leg of their preparations, with three friendly fixtures lined up against TP Mazembe, Nkana FC and Forrest Rangers over the course of their stay.
While the rest of the squad are being put through their paces in order to shape up for what is expected to be a gruelling 2018/19 campaign both domestically and on the continent, the goalkeeping department are already deep in competition for the spot between the sticks.
The arrival of Brilliant Khuzwayo from Kaizer Chiefs has made it all the more difficult for an outright first-choice, with Jackson Mabokgwane, Wayne Sandilands and Siyabonga Mpontshane all boasting vast experience of their own.
“In any relationship, the starting point is in getting to know each other. We needed to understand the expectations and also what we want to achieve as a unit,” Sparkes told his club’s website.
“With that in mind, my starting point was to see where the goalkeepers were last season, to analyse all of them and see how they performed, and try to identify their strengths and other areas we can improve upon for the upcoming season.
“The first two weeks of pre-season was a lot of hard work at training due to a lack of game-time, but we identified and worked on certain areas that I want them to excel in.
“We have done a lot of analysis of our training sessions as well, and this will be crucial in order to improve. We have an experienced bunch of guys who have all have played in the PSL and that bodes well for the club.”
With an array of tests lined up in Ndola, Sparkes will be closely monitoring the quartet as he is tasked with deciding who deserves the nod in Milutin Sredojevic’s first starting line-up once the PSL season kicks off next month.
“For me the importance of these games is to see if the goalkeepers can implement some of the things we’ve done at training,” he explained.
“We’ll have a tough season of back-to-back games, so there’ll be very little turnaround time between training and matches.
“The results will be important from the perspective of getting a winning mentality but, for the pre-season games, I’ll be first and foremost looking at the individual performances of the goalkeepers and how they can help the team perform.
“The most important thing is the start of the season, and whoever takes that number one jersey needs to be ready. They are already competing for spots for that first league game, so it will be interesting to see who steps up and performs in the pre-season games and training, and shows that they deserve the jersey.”