Mirror, mirror on the wall...
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
It’s the time of the year for predictions again. Usually, it’s an exercise in folly, on my part at least, for a record of insightful accuracy cannot be ascribed to my name.
But what the hell, let’s jump in anyway.
The past weekend’s MTN8 quarter-finals offered the chance to glimpse all of the leading contenders, although prognosis on the basis of a single competitive game is dangerous indeed.
It has not been the most exciting off-season market either. Patrice Motsepe sat mostly on his cheque book this winter, offering his club Mamelodi Sundowns only a fraction of the rich pickings he spent at the same time in previous years.
Kaizer Chiefs have hardy bought anything. They used to be the club of the big pre-season deals, but now find themselves quickly priced out of the market. And there is no longer the rush of players desperately keen to wear their gold and black colours as there was in decades gone by.
Players, these days, seek the big contracts instead, money taking precedence over the opportunity of playing for the country’s most popular club and consistently being in with a chance of winning silverware and medals. Sundowns is a much more desirable destination now. You can hardly blame players in this Geckosque age of “greed is good”.
Orlando Pirates have dabbled more than usual with their hiring and firings but still sit with their perennial problem of too big a squad, despite the best efforts of their coach Ruud Krol to trim down the number of players he had to work with.
Champions SuperSport United will have the most focus on them. They go in search of an unprecedented fourth successive title and have worked hard in the transfer market to keep themselves competitive.
But they have made many drastic changes from the all-conquering squad of the last years, almost as if it has been a conscious decision to put the three year cycle of success behind them, by selling many of their stalwarts, and look to start afresh. It seems a bit of a gamble, an interesting ploy indeed.
Then there are the clubs on the fringes – Ajax Cape Town, Moroka Swallows and Santos, perhaps even AmaZulu – who threaten to emerge as viable contenders.
Refreshingly, the Premier Soccer League is not restricted to just a handful of clubs considered serious contenders. It is unlike many of the top European leagues, where it’s the same-old, same-old, season-after-season. There have been the same four clubs chasing the title year-after-year in England; usually only two in Spain, three in Italy and not much variance in the Bundesliga either.
I feel this could be a season for the younger sides to flourish, teams that have taken a gamble on youth and thrown a new generation into the deep end. That makes Chiefs my favourites for the title, with Ajax and Swallows as two strong outside contenders.
But I also think Pirates, with a neatly balanced squad, and Sundowns, with considerable depth, will prove hard to beat and challenge for honours too.
I think there will be less inconsistency among the top teams, a major factor that opened the way for SuperSport in recent seasons.
The fixtures do not particularly favour any team but if Swallows can come through a tough early programme they could emerge with the confidence needed to push for a top three finish.
I’m tipping Chiefs to win; Pirates second and Swallows third, thereby restoring a pecking order of days gone by.
Now let’s see what the rest of you think. Bookmark this page for the end of the season and we can then compare notes again and see who is smartest!Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.Disclaimer:
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