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EXCLUSIVE: Jerry Sikhosana Interview

Orlando Pirates legend, Jerry Sikhosana, talks to Soccer Betting News to discuss all things PSL
Orlando Pirates legend, Jerry Sikhosana, talks to Soccer Betting News to discuss all things PSL
Orlando Pirates legend, Jerry Sikhosana, sat down with Jesse Nagel of Soccer Betting News to discuss Orlando Pirates, the relegation play-off system, teams buying their way into the PSL and much more!

Firstly Jerry, Orlando Pirates, what's been the problem for them this past season?

Jerry Sikhosana: First of all, I think there are a lot of things that one can mention with the problems that are at Orlando Pirates at the moment. It’s difficult to specify which one. But I think in terms of the players, I think that’s where the problem is, it’s their mentality.

So where could they improve? You say players and not really management?

Jerry: Not really management. Each and every player that gets signed at Pirates, I mean, you’ve been given a task and you’ve been told about the magnitude of the team that you’re going to be playing for and the jersey you’re going to be wearing, the people that you are going to be representing, those that love Pirates. And you always know what is expected of you as a player, so I won’t falter the management, but I think it falls down to the players themselves.

Maybe Kjell Jonevret needs more time because he came halfway through the season?

Jerry: Definitely, yeah. But I think, also, the supporting technical staff needs to be the people that knows the culture of the team and also, they are so close to the players to be a good impact in terms of how they are supposed to behave and how they are supposed to play the game. And also, they need to support the coach, you know, you come to South Africa to a big club like Orlando Pirates, it’s not going to be easy. You need to know and understand the culture of the team, the players’ behaviour. You know, all of these things, because sometimes you bring a European coach and he struggles to get the players right because us as South Africans, our mentality in terms of the game approach is so different, so that’s why I say, maybe, the supporting technical staff needs to guide the head coach in terms of how to go about and get the best out of the players.

You mention the players being the problem, they've signed Thami Sangweni from Chippa United. How do you think he will fit into the Orlando Pirates system and who does he partner in midfield? We know fans have been criticizing Oupa Manyisa and Issa Sarr, so whose place does he take?

Jerry: Yeah, well, for me, it’s a good signing for Thamsanqa Sangweni. But honestly speaking, I don’t think he will feature in the style of play in terms of Orlando Pirates. You know, the position that he’s going to be playing in the middle of the park, Thamsanqa is a player that likes to play on the ball. Off the ball, I think that’s his lack of character. So that’s one aspect that you need to have at Orlando Pirates, you need to be a grafter, you need to win the ball, you need to be aggressive at all costs, because if you mention guys that have made it better for Pirates in the middle of the park where he is going to play, you talk about the likes of Andile Jali, (Thandani) Ntshumayelo, John Moeti, Innocent Mncwango, the late Clifford Moleko, the late Bazooka (Nick) Sishweni, the maestro himself, Jomo Sono, (Amos) Heel Extension Mkhari, those are the guys that held Pirates, you know, because that was what we call the ‘Engine Room’. That’s where everything starts and finishes, in the middle of the park, because you need to have a supporting structure when the team goes forward and also you need to have that defensive mode when the team needs you at the back. But for me, Sangweni is more of someone that can create, but coming back to help, I think he’s still going to have a problem.

So your midfield partnership for next season, do they stick with Oupa Manyisa and Issa Sarr?

Jerry: Definitely not. I think also they got it wrong by playing (Abbubaker) Mobara in the centre of the park. Mobara, Issa Sarr and it’s sometimes releasing Oupa Manyisa without any instructions, because sometimes, you see Oupa Manyisa trying to get the ball behind to start the attack and you look at Issa Sarr and Mobara and these are the people that are just standing without any organization in terms of the play. So it’s always difficult, because when you need a player that will attack that’s always at the back to start the move, because there are no people that can do that, only Sarr and Mobara, they only want to get stuck in and win the ball, but they are not creative, because they are more of defensive midfielders. So for me, the better midfield for Pirates, *laughs* I really don’t know, I really don’t know.

You mentioned Andile Jali, maybe him?

Jerry: Maybe if he comes back, really he will stay with the team and, you know, make sure that you command in that area, because as I’ve said earlier on, that’s the area which you need to have more functional in your team, and I just hope they will get somebody that could do that job better for Pirates in that position.

They've also signed Wayne Sandilands, previously at Mamelodi Sundowns. Do you consider that a luxury signing, because they have the likes of Jackson Mabokgwane, Brighton Mhlongo, and Siyabonga Mpontshane?

Jerry: Look, for me, it’s not definitely a luxurious signing. If you look at the pecking order at Mamelodi Sundowns in terms of the goalkeeping department, he was like third. So for me, if you sign a third-choice keeper from your opposition, a team that is releasing that player. And you bring him on board to a bigger club that is fighting for honours. For me, it doesn’t make sense, because he is being discarded at one club that is doing well. Yes, as a person, he’s a great lad, I’ve met him, but honestly, for Pirates, I don’t think he will fare. Because that’s the thing everybody is looking at now, since all four goalkeepers have been not at their best. So, let’s see how he does.

With Sandilands coming in, who starts in goal and which player makes way?

Jerry: After the game against Golden Arrows, Mabokgwane made two mistakes and was out of the game. And the next two games, it was Mpontshane who never had a good game. And obviously, Brighton Mhlongo with all the scandals that he made with his behaviour off the field. Well, yes, in terms of individual behaviour, Sandilands is best. But remember, he is not going to be the keeper alone. He needs to have a back four that understands and he also understands them. They need to have that great understanding because he is also the last line of defence. It’s important in terms of the interaction between the goalkeeper and his defence. Because it’s obvious that if your defence is not solid enough, you will always get exposed. So I think that’s where the coaches need to start looking, at the combinations, and make sure whoever is going to start, is better in terms of understanding each other at the back because they are leaking goals.

Are you a fan of the relegation play-offs where the 15th-placed team gets a chance of a second bite of the cherry?

Jerry: No. Definitely for me, it’s a little bit crazy. Because, before we used to get two teams straight into the PSL and two teams out of the PSL and it was just as simple as ABC. But now, we’re trying to follow the European style. I think, for us, we’ve got it wrong. If you look in England, they’ve got two teams that get promoted to the Premier League and the third team goes for a play-off. But the third team that gets relegated from the Premier League doesn’t get involved in those play-offs, only the teams that finish third, fourth and fifth if I’m not mistaken. So that brings that excitement, because you’ll have three teams coming from the second tier to the Premier League, so I think this is what we are supposed to do. Even if we say we relegate two teams from the PSL, and then you get one team getting automatic promotion, let the other four or five teams fight for these two spots. That will at least make it more exciting. But for me, to bring back another team that didn’t do well and give them a second bite of the cherry, that’s not the way to go.

What about buying your way into the PSL? AmaZulu are back in the PSL.

Jerry: It’s been a norm. I don’t know if my memory serves me well but this will be the third or fourth time AmaZulu buys a franchise and they get relegated. What’s the use? I mean, if you can’t make your way in the NFD as AmaZulu and then you go and buy a franchise from the PSL, it means you are not good enough to feature in the PSL, so you rather stay in your area where you are doing well, because if AmaZulu had did better enough, they should have at least competed in the play-offs to show that they are ready to go in the PSL. But they didn’t even make the play-offs, but here they are now, in again after buying Thanda (Royal Zulu), before it was Aces and there is another team that they bought before if I’m not mistaken.

We know Moroka Swallows tried buying a franchise, and correct me if I’m wrong here but they wanted you as their coach?

Jerry: *Laughs* Well, it’s just a coincidence, to be honest. The MEC of Education in Johannesburg is my colleague, Panyaza Lesufi, and you know how passionate he is with Swallows and he was the one that was putting everything into order, trying to get the team right, trying to buy Free State Stars. Yes, those talks were there, we even spoke about it as a close friend of mine. And yeah, if it did happen, I was going to be one of the technical team members at Swallows.

Just going back to the PSL, do you think there's a shift in power, you know, with Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United? Do you think they can they overtake Chiefs and Pirates?

Jerry: Really for me, that’s exciting. It’s exciting to see the other teams coming up and just giving a go at the so-called big guns. Credit to Wits, they’ve showed their mentality. But also, you can’t rule out what Cape Town City did in terms of stretching everybody to the limit, until the last three games. But look, this is what we need, we don’t need teams that will always dominate and people get bored because it’s one team, over and over again, that’s just on top. So when other teams come and give their mentality in the game in terms of showing what they can do. For me, it’s a good competition. This is the season we all spoke about a lot (last season), Pirates for the first time not making it into the top eight and Chiefs being fourth. You know, for me, it was a good season.

Do you think money plays a huge role in all of this? Chiefs have often been criticized for signing free agents. Should Chiefs and Pirates be spending those millions to get the players that the fans are calling for?

Jerry: I think, before, it used to be them being dominant. Each and every player that comes from the outside only know of Chiefs and Pirates, maybe Sundowns until Mr (Patrice) Motsepe came in and injected in a lot of money. And now, for them to buy quality players because of the money, that’s why they are so strong. As Pirates did now, deciding to buy Wayne Sandilands who was third choice at Sundowns and Chiefs again, going back to their old roots, one Zimbabwean, get another one free, already they have signed a Zimbabwean. So for me, money does play a big role. If you look at Sundowns, they go for the best because they’ve got the money and this is how they are showing it. And now, (Brian) Joffe of Bidvest Wits. We know how huge the company is. Also, they are pumping a lot of money at Wits University buying quality players, now they have signed Steven Pienaar of which we are still going to wait and see how he will fare in the PSL. Daylon Claasen as well from overseas. So they are showing their intentions that they still want to compete. If you look at the clubs that’s still relaxing and depending on their status in terms of big clubs. For me, I haven’t heard of any big signings from two of the so-called big teams in Pirates and Chiefs. They still go for average players like Thamsanqa Sangweni and Wayne Sandilands for Pirates. And Chiefs, I’m not sure locally who they’ve brought into their ranks, but all these Zimbabweans, they’ve been coming and going… Yes, you know what (Knowledge) Musona has done, what (Tinashe) Nengomashe has done, (Willard) Katsande. Yes, some of them are good, but I still feel and believe that they have to spread their wings and look for quality players.

What about Cape Town City? They've made some good signings, most notably Teko Modise. 

Jerry: Definitely, yeah. I still have to see how Teko and the head coach are going, whether they are going to get along. If you remember, they played together at Orlando Pirates at one stage as teammates. But for me, it’s good to see ex-professional players given a job like Benni McCarthy at Cape Town City and I wish him well. And also, the players that are staying with Cape Town City. You know, captain fantastic in (Lebogang) Manyama, who scooped every award that was there at the PSL awards. So it’s good to see that John Comitis is committed in making sure that Cape Town City goes back there to compete again for the next season. Having the likes of Aubrey Ngoma still in the team and Manyama beefing up with other lads, I think they are going to be a team that we see doing well. Just remembering now, Chiefs got Bhongolwethu Jayiya from Cape Town City. For me, he was not that magnitude of a player that made an impact at Cape Town City and now he had to jump ship to a team that needs to get their act in order in terms of making sure the supporters are happy. So I think, for me, Cape Town City will be another team to watch this coming season.

Staying with Cape Town City and Benni McCarthy in particular, he's got the coaching badges to back him up. What coaching badges do you have and how long until we see you managing in the PSL?

Jerry: *laughs* What a question. Look, at the moment, I am attending my C-license coaching badge here in South Africa. I just hope I get it right. I’ve been coaching without any qualifications and if I have to go back and mention the players that I took from the streets that I took to the best, you talk about Lerato Lamola, who I got from Thembisa as somebody who was working nightshift, coming from work straight to training in the morning, after training, going to sleep and then work again at night. Then I told him, look, you are so good that you can put your mind into the game and make it. I am happy now because he is at Golden Arrows. Themba Zwane (as well), a friend of my own son, growing up together and I know his father, I grew up with his father as well. I groomed him and coached him from under 12 and under 14s. And then Teko Modise himself, I worked with him as a player coach at Petersburg Pillars. And also, Thabo Matlaba from the dusty streets of Thembisa. Punch Masenamela also played in my team, a whole lot of them. Gift Sithole at Platinum Stars, Tintswalo Tshabalala also at Platinum Stars. So for me, the experience is there. And I’m finding it easy in terms of the C-license coaching badge, because I have done that. So it’s just to formalize the paperwork and then after six months, they need you back for the B-license. So it shows that I have been there in terms of coaching, it’s only the theory part of it, getting into the class, which I am doing now. And yeah, I am just grateful. I hope one day I will be at the Orlando Pirates bench. I can’t wait to be at that bench, honestly speaking.

I know the fans would love to see that.

Jerry: Yes, I would definitely love to be there as well.

Lastly Jerry, predictions for the upcoming season? Orlando Pirates, where do they finish?

Jerry: Yes, they will qualify for the top eight, but I don’t give them a chance of winning the PSL. I’ll definitely go for Wits again, Sundowns, and maybe by chance, Chiefs might come in. Then also Cape Town City, they won’t be that much of what they did last season but will make the top eight again next season.

What about Eric Tinkler at SuperSport United?

Jerry: Definitely not at all. Reason being, some of the players that Stuart Baxter brought at SuperSport. We talking about the Chiefs family that went to SuperSport with him, and you know sometimes, coaching players that understand your philosophy is so easy to get the results and to also integrate the other players that don’t get your form of coaching and to liaise with those who understand you as a coach. For me, to bring (Siboniso) Gaxa and (Reneilwe) Letsholonyane, I think they made a big difference at SuperSport. That’s why they were so good in terms of how they play. But, if you look at the time when Stuart was overseas, there was quality at SuperSport and a quality coach came in Cavin Johnson. But they were fighting for relegation. Sometimes it’s not the playing personnel, it’s how you mould them to understand each other, and especially if you’ve got the positive thinking players, you know, the players who are more disciplined and have done it before. If you look at the SuperSport team, it was like a whole lot of experienced players and the youngsters had to learn from the elders. So for me, I don’t think Tinkler will get it right. I think it will depend on the behaviour of the players, and how they are going to look at him, whether or not they are going to die for him on the field, and if they are going to take his instructions. It all depends on that. But yeah, they will be there, but not one of the favourites to win the league for me.

Thanks for your time Jerry.

Interview by Jesse Nagel for SBN. Follow him on Twitter here!