Swallows proud of top season
Gordon Igesund (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates might have cleaned up for a second successive year, but Moroka Swallows stole the hearts of South African football fans in the 2011/12 Premier Soccer League (PSL) season.
In a moment that seemingly overshadowed Pirates' record back-to-back treble of trophies, the once-domineering Birds regained some of their former prowess and pride as a Soweto giant.
They took Pirates to the last day of the season in the race for Premiership honours - a remarkable achievement for a misfiring outfit that narrowly survived relegation last season.
For their part, they dominated the major awards at the PSL season-end function with Siyabonga Nomvethe garnering four accolades, while Gordon Igesund earned the Coach of the Year reward.
Midfielder David Mathebula was also a close contender in the player categories.
The club's turnaround, however, has been credited to Igesund, the silver-haired figure who has earned four league medals with different local teams.
More importantly, it convinced Swallows chairperson Leon Prins that Igesund was the best investment in their modest budget.
"I'll tell you one thing right now. I will never hire another foreign coach again," Prins said.
"I know he will be here for a long time but Gordon is definitely the best signing that this club has made.
"His man-management skills and knowledge of football is simply unbelievable."
Pirates, on the other hand, made headlines with some extravagant signings to an already successful squad at the top of the season.
The maverick Benni McCarthy joined the ship and soon established himself as the talisman of the outfit.
The Buccaneers quickly garnered two knockout trophies - the MTN 8 and Telkom Knockout - before crowning the campaign with the defence of their championship title.
However, not all was smooth as the club negotiated through murky routes with the axing of coach Julio Leal and the premature departure of big-name signing Luis Boa Morte.
Free State Stars also had a superb season as they punched above their weight under the guidance of Steve Komphela, in his second spell back at the club which he captained in his playing era.
Stars were among the league contenders, impressively finishing in the top half of the standings.
In contrast, perennial achievers Kaizer Chiefs went through a disappointing, trophyless year while Jomo Cosmos suffered a third relegation from the top-flight division.
Their automatic drop meant Steve Barker's University of Pretoria were promoted after nearly a decade of trying.
"We've been close for six years now. It's great for us to finally be in the PSL," Barker said.