Swallows FC coach Brandon Truter cuts his Cape Town holiday short
Swallows FC coach Brandon Truter has cut his holiday short in his hometown in Cape Town and returned to Johannesburg to prepare the recently promoted side ahead of the new campaign.
The 43-years-old Truter has made it clear that topflight veterans Lebohang Mokoena (33)‚ Vuyo Mere (36) and Namibian-born goal stopper Virgil Fries (31) will form part of the nucleus of his team alongside 25-year-old striker Kagiso Malinga‚ who top scored in the club with 12 goals in the GladAfrica Championship.
The coach joined Swallows in the lower tier when they were languishing on 14th place in the prolonged 2019-20 season after playing seven matches. The first thing he did when he arrived at Swallows was to reduce the 52-man squad to a reasonable 32‚ and after that they went on to win 10 matches in a row after a couple of games in charge.
But it was the 16 points out 18 they picked up in the PSL’s bio bubble that steered Truter’s team towards edging rivals Ajax Cape Town on the last day of the campaign to win automatic promotion to the topflight.
"We approached the bubble as a mini tournament and the objective was to win all the games because of the gap that was between us and Ajax‚" he said.
“We drew the first one and Ajax won against Richards Bay United and then there was a nine-point gap with five games remaining.”
Truter said the experience of Mere‚ Mokoena and Vries helped to motivate the players in the later stages of the season when it seemed Ajax would cruise to the league title.
“They were marvelous‚” said Truter of the trio.
"They kept the guys calm when I wasn’t around‚ they’ve played at the highest level and they’ve played in Bafana Bafana‚ so they were key for me.
“But my star player in the bubble was Given Thibedi (the attacking midfielder loaned from Kaizer Chiefs).”
Truter said he would like to have Thibedi back in his team next season but has accepted that it is unlikely‚ given Amakhosi’s predicament on signing new players at the moment.
“The club has engaged with Chiefs regarding Thibedi but ultimately the ball is in their court‚” said Truter.
Truter is delighted with Thibedi as he chipped in with three goals and provided as many assists to the forwards.
“We made it clear that we would like to have him back but we’re not sure‚ especially with the situation Chiefs is in.”
Truter said he was happy that in Vries they already have a goalkeeper with vast experience after stints at Chippa United and Chiefs‚ among others.
“That’s very key for us‚” admitted Truter.
"Look‚ Virgil Vries had 13 clean sheets and was the number one keeper in the GladAfrica.
“He contributed a lot to the goal difference and as you can see it was just the goal difference of one at the end of the day. So that’s how close it was and he played his part. He was one of the outstanding players in the team.”
A lot has been said about the future of Mokoena and Mere at Swallows and their advancing years have been the subject of furious debates. Some have argued that they could struggle to keep up with the demands of playing in the topflight‚ but Truter said the two players still have a lot to offer.
“Look‚ I don’t want to speak about their age‚” he said.
"But these guys are still OK. You look at Lindokuhle Mbatha (35) and Rodney Ramagalela (31) at Highlands Park‚ and they are still flying.
“Vuyo Mere and Mokoena definitely still have a role to play with Swallows in the PSL. Besides rewarding them with good service this season‚ they still have a lot to offer in this team.”
With the finalisation of the sale of the Bidvest Wits status to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila in Limpopo‚ Truter said there's a chance they could snap up a player or two from the now defunct Braamfontein side.
“Players of Polokwane City (relegated) have also become available. So we’re definitely looking at what will suit us and what we can bring in‚” said Truter‚ who is looking to have a squad of not more than 30.
“But we have to be very careful on who we’re bringing in‚ so we just can’t bring in any player. We also need to look at the personality‚ the character‚ technical and tactical things because we don’t want to disrupt the whole atmosphere and the energy in the team.”