Sunday, 28 July 2013

THE PSL KICKS OFF ON FRIDAY: Benni says it's Chiefs, but does he know what's been happening out there?!

Too many Chiefs: Amakhozi celebrations after
the Carling Cup win on Saturday
SO according to the Benni McCarthy, Kaizers Chiefs are going to win the PSL, Bernard Parker will be the season’s top scorer and Itumeleng Khune is ear-marked for player of the year.

Which is all very well – though slightly annoying if you’re a fan of his former club Orlando Pirates – given Kaizer Chiefs utterly meaningless Carling Cup win at a packed Soccer City on Saturday.

Of course, the Amakhosi have the bragging rights after Lehlohonolo Majoro’s off-side goal separated the two sides in the gimmicky Soweto derby for profiteers - but as an indicator of the season ahead, as we say in England, it’s utter bollocks.

Under-pressure Pirates coach Roger de Sa is attempting to shave 8kg off Collins Mbesuma while simultaneously bedding in his new signings, Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter himself admits: “It was heaven and hell… they had us under pressure.”

So do we make Chiefs favourites to retain their title given McCarthy's views in today's Sunday Times? Possibly. But let’s remember Benni has barely been back in the country since his sudden retirement at the end of last season. The fact that he quit without actually telling the Buccaneers despite their R6m-a-year salary is beside the point.

McCarthy has spent his time in Spain and England, he has no idea how the new-look PSL is shaping up. Though nobody doubts his footballing talent, it’s hard to take his current predictions too seriously.

For a start, Bernard Parker failed to win the golden boot last season despite a four-goal start at AmaZulu last year. This year Knowledge Musona takes over from McCarthy as the nation’s best-paid player, on a year’s loan at the AmaKhosi from German also-rans Hoffenheim.

With Benni’s old club enlisting the services of Celtic’s Lennox Bacela and SuperSport United’s Kemit Erasmus, I don’t expect to see Parker among the top five this season .

Stuart Baxter is likely to use him wide and deeper with Musona and Majoro carrying the bulk of the goal-scoring burden.

As for the title race, I’ve seen most of the new-look squads in action – yesterday I sat with new Wits coach Gavin Hunt watching Amatuks giving Australian tourists Perth Glory a 2-0 tonking.

Gavin said: “Steve Barker’s done it again. Found some good youngsters, made them efficient. They’ll be hard to beat again this year.”

On Saturday I watched Gavin’s Wits, with eight new players, win a mini-tournament at Milpark, ending on top of Steve Komphela’s Free States Stars, Golden Arrows and Platinum Stars.

I had a chat with new Dikwena boss Allan Freeze, who admitted: “We haven’t signed anybody really, we’ve lost Thuso Phala but we’ll be okay. We finished runners-up last season, we can reach the top four again this season.”

Mamelodi Sundowns have made their usual army of signings and enjoyed a strong tour of Ghana, Amazulu under Craig Rosslee may be a tough prospect but Ajax Cape Town will have to rely on new recruits from their substantial academy to survive after losing a host of stars.

Promoted NFD champions Polokwane City remain a mystery to most, Martitzburg United have grabbed Ghana's Mohammed Yakubu - who survived just 30 minutes under Roger de Sa at Orlando Pirates - but are unlikely to threaten the top four.

But amid conversations on my BOLLOCKZ show on Ballz radio, Hunt, Freeze, new SuperSport boss Cavin Johnson, Swallows coach Zeca Marques and of course, the big two, Roger and Stuart, I have to say the surprise package could be promoted Mpumalanga Aces under the ageless Clive Barker.

Clive, cheerfully 68, told me on BOLLOCKZ last week: “The wife told me not to tell you we’ll win the league at the first attempt! But I can say we have good directors at Aces, we’ve made some great signings and we could be a handful!”

The Dog reckons he’s signed 12 players rather than the widely publicised 16. When I asked Hunt how many he’d acquired (live on air) he said: “I’ve got absolutely no f***ing idea!”

The point is this: When the PSL kicks off on Friday with Aces up against last season’s double winners Kaizer Chiefs, it’s an all-new situation.

Just as in England, where the top three clubs are all under new management, much has changed since Benni McCarthy retired.

And I’d keep an eye on Wits, if I were the Soweto giants. Hunt has Zimbabwean veteran Benjani up front (“I’ll use him sparingly, keep his legs!”), the experienced Matthew Booth at centre-back, the energetic Matthew Pattison in midfield and Moeneeb Josephs in goal.

Hunt laughs: “I’ve never actually had Moeneeb before. He’s amazing. So bloody enthusiastic – and absolutely radio rental! I love him already.”

Chiefs and Pirates beware. Platinum Stars nearly did it last season – the Clever Boys will be up and at it this term.

The opening round:
02/08    Mpumalanga Aces      20:00     Kaizer Chiefs
03/08    Golden Arrows           15:00     Ajax Cape Town
03/08    Moroka Swallows       15:00     University of Pretoria
03/08    SuperSport United       20:15     Free State Stars
03/08    Maritzburg United        20:15     Polokwane City
04/08    Bloemfontein Celtic      15:00     Mamelodi Sundowns
04/08    Platinum Stars              15:00     Bidvest Wits

BOLLOCKZ! my show on, airs every Thursday from 10am-noon. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday A shorter version of THIS story will be published in The New Age on Tuesday.

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  1. I think the show is called BOLLOCKZ cos that is what you talk!

  2. lorraine.mashaba29 July 2013 at 09:34

    Seriously, some of you people need to grow up. If you don't agree with what Neal says, then post a constructive comment and have a proper argument.

    I don't agree with a number of things that Neal says, but I respect the man for airing his opinions in a public domain.

  3. U are full of SHIT neal, bloody agent!!

  4. Err .. why isn't anyone discussing this blog post?
    WRT to Yakubu, I think he'll do well at Maritzburg regardless of what RDS says happened at OP.

    Maritzburg have had success with their foreign signings - Diouf, Awal, Bester, Malajila, etc. They scout well compared to others who bring a dozen foreigners on trial every season.

  5. Thanks for the comments people. I've deleted the nasty ones. Amazed how many people DON'T want SAFA constitution changed to suit Iron Duck.

  6. wow some people were raised in the bush, no manners whatsoever! Anyway, Neal i agree that Wits will be contenders for the league, same goes for SSU. As for my 2nd favourite Tuks im not sure they will do well as last season, I ddnt like what i saw at the Gauteng cup, of which game i noticed that Fikru was acquired to fill the shoes of Niang; they are long boots to fill and i dnt think Fikru was as good at the time(Gauteng Cup). Without quality signings Ajax will struggle. Roger needs to be a MENTOR thats what Pirates need as they have quality, and a sure goal scorer is needed. As for my fav team chiefs i am happy with what we have and any further acquisition will be a bonus

  7. Thanks Fresh, I forgot Celtic! Top eight?

  8. Definitely Celtic will be in the top 8, they havent lost too many players so far. They may even get a bonus trophy if they keep the same spirit and determination as last season.

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