13 January 2008

Dhladhla adds a new dimension to Maritzburg

United’s surprise new signing they fielded in their 2-1 Premier Soccer League defeat against Moroka Swallows on Sunday, winger Fanyana Dhladhla, has all the skills and explosive goal-scoring ability he could need.

And yet Dhladhla insists he is not in Pietermaritzburg to dazzle, but to work as a team member and help set struggling United’s season back on track.

“What I can tell the Maritzburg fans is that I don’t promise a lot of magic,” he stresses at the end of his interview yesterday. “I do promise that as a team the players will sort things out by making a collective effort, and not as individuals.”

It’s a heartening message from a player so new to the side — Dhladhla last week reunited with Maritzburg coach Gordon Igesund on a six-month loan from Mamelodi Sundowns, where he was struggling to earn game time.

The winger was impressive on his debut on the right wing against Swallows, showing his skills and attacking potential have not been blunted too greatly by inactivity at Downs. Unfortunately, this was not enough for United to earn a crucial point, despite a gutsy performance with 10 men, after striker Bryce Aka was dismissed in the 64th minute.

“I was disappointed I could not start with a win,” Dhladhla said. “But I was so impressed at the way my first XI played. Even personally — I am lacking game time, but I was included immediately and saw myself attacking defenders.”

Dhladhla was part of an exciting combination at Free State Stars last season — along with Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Diyo Sibisi — that saw the newly-promoted team finish fifth. He was snapped up by Sundowns in the January transfer window by then-coach Igesund, but has not featured under current Brazilians boss Henri Michel.

“Michel does not seem to use wingers, which is what I was signed as,” Dhladhla said. “Out of the blue Gordon called me and said he had spoken to the [Sundowns] chairman [Patrice Motsepe]. The chairman told me he was reluctant to let me go, but wouldn’t stop me.

“Gordon used me in the correct way at Sundowns, and that is why I am happy to join him again. He gave me room to express myself and his only requirement was that we get behind the ball when we lose possession, and always push ourselves harder.”

For a relatively new player in the PSL, Dhladhla is surprisingly already 30 and spent much of his career playing in the first division for teams such as Alexandria United and Bloemfontein Young Tigers. He adds to the class United already have on the wing and will form a skilful combination with left-sided Tony Tsabedze.

Yet, while Dhladhla’s debut against Birds was promising, the gutsy performance of young goalkeeper Tashreeq Goldman almost stole the show.

“It was great to get a game after such a long time,” said the 24-year-old. “And I hope I showed that I will die for this team.”

United might have returned from the Christmas break with a defeat, but the skill Dhladhla adds, and the youthful, fighting exuberance of Goldman, will give supporters much hope.

Orlando Pirates will have devastating right-wing Dikgang “Terminator” Mabalane back for tomorrow night’s fixture against United at Johannesburg Stadium.

Mabalane missed Pirates’ 1-0 defeat against SuperSport United through suspension, but will make a huge difference when he reclaims his place against Maritzburg.

* Article and pic Courtesy of Marc Strydom and the Witness