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How Riekerink got Orlando Pirates' MTN8 opponents Cape Town City firing

How Riekerink got Orlando Pirates' MTN8 opponents Cape Town City firing

Cape Town City coach Jan Olde Riekerink has explained how he turned the team around from flirting with relegation to perhaps the form side of the Absa Premiership by the end of the 2019-20 season in the bio-bubble.

City‚ by virtue of their sixth-placed finish‚ will contest their fifth MTN8 competition in succession‚ meeting third-place finishers Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium in Saturday’s quarterfinal.

In November last year Riekerink took over a demoralised City who had won twice in 18 matches under acquaintance Benni McCarthy‚ who the Dutchman worked with when he was assistant-coach to Co Adriaanse at FC Porto in 2005 to 2006.

Progress came so slowly that many doubted City chairman John Comitis’s choice of the 57-year-old ex-Galatasaray and Heerenveen manager.

City won three games and lost five of Riekerink’s first 12. A 2-0 home win against Bloemfontein Celtic was the turning point‚ the coach said‚ as City won six and lost two in their last eight matches‚ Riekerink and striker Kermit Erasmus winning the bio-bubble coach and player of the month awards for August/September.

“I came and took over from Benni‚ who was almost more or less a friend. I had worked with him at Porto and Ajax [Amsterdam‚ where Riekerink was a youth coach]‚ so that was kind of difficult‚” the coach said.

“And in the beginning we struggled. Around after new year I chose a different midfield‚ with three controlling midfielders because I also know that if you get in the situation where you are at the wrong end of the log you should not be down.

“So we chose for achieving the points. We got some points and got a bit higher in the ranking.

“And I remember before the game against Bloemfontein I told the guys‚ ‘Listen‚ I have the feeling we are ready to express and show your abilities’. And we had the midfield of Thabo [Nodada] and Shane [Roberts]‚ in a very offensive midfield.

“But I told the players‚ ‘Listen‚ I have the feeling from what I see in the training and your qualities‚ just go for it’. And I think from that moment‚ winning the Bloemfontein game 2-0 at home‚ the players also started to believe again‚ and that’s very important in the group.

“Of course in the lockdown we grew – we kept on training within every regulation. And then I think‚ finally‚ we have a lot of creativity‚ and skilful football players‚ and that should be our identity. And the players know there is a typical identity that belongs to the Cape Town City game.”

Having ended strong in the Covid-19-affected 2019-20‚ how far can Riekerink take City – finishers in fourth‚ third‚ fifth‚ fourth and sixth place in their five PSL seasons – in 2020-21?

“It’s a fair goal for us always to be in the top eight‚ and that’s also [the target] for next year. But within the top eight we also have ambitions‚” he said.

“It also has to do with how a season goes – how you start‚ how you have your injuries. But I have the feeling that we have a team that can surprise next year.”