Rustenburg - As the blistering heat of the North West province beats down on yet another Platinum Stars training session, coach Allan Freese says he is satisfied with what his modest outfit has been able to achieve over the last six months.
Two trophies and the handsome rewards which have accompanied them, makes Freese a happy man as the team in Rustenburg forges ahead in search of more silverware.
“I'm quite happy with how the season has gone. We had the break [for the African Nations Championship (Chan) in January], but we did well in 2013 just before we finished [for the year],” Freese said on Friday at the team’s training base.
“Okay, 2014 hasn’t started too badly. We went away to Polokwane City and drew, we came back home and won and then on Wednesday we drew again with Celtic.”
Currently fifth in the Premiership standings, Dikwena have once again put themselves in a formidable position to trouble the so-called ‘Big Four’ as the race for league honours intensifies.
Stars finished runners-up to Kaizer Chiefs in the league last season and outplayed the likes of Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns under former coach Cavin Johnson, who left at the beginning of the new campaign to join SuperSport United.
Freese, his assistant at the time, was left to pick up where Johnson had left off and was recently rewarded with a long-term contract with the high-flying cup specialists.
The 57-year-old signed a four-and-a-half year deal in December last year, having been acting in a caretaker capacity since the end of last season, following Johnson's departure in June.
Freese was only handed the lucrative offer after he had steered Stars to both Telkom Knockout and MTN8 honours, in what had already been a hugely successful season for the Rustenburg outfit.
“The first thing I had to do was sort out the issue with the contract,” Freese said.
“But besides the contract, I had to also prove that I was capable before I was given the contract. I’ve been with the club for a very long time so some of the things I already know.
“I was Cavin's assistant the season before he left, so that also helped a lot. I knew most of the players that were here. And why fix what’s not broken? So it was more or less a continuation.”
Looking at the rest of the teams in the division, Freese prefers to give his thoughts watching from a distance, though his team are much closer in the race for the Premiership than the distance between Rustenburg and Johannesburg suggests.
“It still keeps us up there and if we win again, we’ll be back with the big boys again,” Freese said.
“It might be difficult to catch Chiefs with the point gap that’s been created but we’re going to try our best and try to get on top and go as far as we can go.
“I believe we’ve done well as a club and as a team. I’d like to end the season as high as possible. Other teams still have games to play, but we’re just hoping we can do well and end as high as we possibly can.”
Overlooking a host of practise fields and a state-of-the-art clubhouse which houses several meeting and board rooms as well as a fully-stocked kitchen and dining room area, Freese is full of praise for the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus.
“The facilities are beautiful,” he said.
“But with the beautiful facilities we also have to do well for the club. It’s good to be here and the players enjoy it.”
With the Premiership back up and running following Chan, Stars, along with the rest of the teams, will have to contend with a taxing fixture list over the coming months.
Freese says he is pleased to be back with regular action.
“The stop-start does affect the teams’ rhythm of play. We did well and then all of a sudden we’re not playing, then playing again.
“You’ve got to be motivating the players all the time, so yes it is difficult.
“But now that things are up and going again, the pressure starts again. It’s weekends and weekdays so it’s quite challenging.”
And with the league’s third major trophy kicking-off next week, Stars will be gunning for a hat-trick of cup successes when they take part in the Nedbank Cup. A home tie against little-known entity Great North FC is their first assignment.
“We’re looking forward to playing in the Nedbank Cup and we’re also looking forward to doing well in it.
“You can’t take anything for granted, you cannot just say: ‘okay, we’re playing a small team from the north'.
“We’ll prepare accordingly for that game. We always prepare for each team.”