Maritzburg go into the Christmas break lying one point and one position outside the top eight and having a game in hand on most of the teams above them.
But while they started the 2017/18 campaign with a big bang and ended the year strongly, there were some tough periods in between, both in terms of form, and in terms of the impact Mlondi Dlamini’s death in a motor vehicle accident had on the players
“We have a young squad and Mlondi was the light of the squad,” Fadlu recently explained. “It was extremely difficult. We tried to talk to them and help them, but deep down they don’t really express themselves, maybe they are afraid of what their team-mates are going to think. It did affect us in a big way.”
On the subject of young players, Fadlu always knew there would be challenges, in particular with regards consistency, and no doubt the lessons learnt in the last few months will make United stronger in the new year.
“We have the youngest squad Maritzburg have ever had, we have brought the average age down to 23.03, we have the smallest squad we have ever had, 23 players, with eight Diski players included in that 23, plus four goalkeepers,” he said.
Having an adaptable bunch of players has been key to Fadlu and his technical team.
“We’re lucky that we have multi-functional players able to play in different positions. At least eight players are able to play in six or more positions.
"I don’t think anyone is able to see what we are doing, like I said - tactical flexibility. Sometimes a three defence line, sometimes a four defence line, sometimes you see our line-up and you don’t know who is playing where because each player can play in different positions.
“Sometimes you overload on side, sometimes our full-backs are coming inside, so these are things we have been working on.”
On the whole, the former Team of Choice striker found positives and is happy to see the ways his charges are growing.
“I think they have done so well. It’s normal for a young squad to be up and down, its inconsistent performances, that is understandable. But we want to be able to build these young players to be able to help them develop.
“Like we have been doing with Lebo Maboe, Fortune Makaringe, Pogiso Sanoka, Bandile Shandu, Siphesihle Ndlovu, in their second season in the PSL, compliments to them. But challenges are coming, they have to handle the media, handle the stresses and its our job to keep them grounded and focussed.
“It’s no secret that we want to get into the top eight,” Fadlu continued. “Although these players are young, they have so much tactical flexibility. I think they are capable of getting into the top eight, but there’s lots of work to do before we start the second round.
“I will do a debrief, analyse the situation, watch all the games again. I know in our period of 10 days (before the break) we have been creating chances but not putting them away so definitely in the attacking department of the team we’ll look at finding a player with the capability to help us in that direction. Not necessarily a striker, but an attacking midfielder, a winger. Defensively, we’re one of the best in the league and we have to continue in that regard."
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