Tuks in promotion quandry

2014-06-03 19:00
Steve Barker (Backpage)

Pretoria - Tuks coach Steve Barker says the arduous nature of the Premiership has made it difficult for the club to field youth players in the senior team, compared to when they were in the National First Division (NFD).

"It's just become a bit more challenging. I wouldn't say we have stopped producing players for the first team," Barker said.

"In the past, we overachieved. Because of the higher standard of football in the premier division, it's not easy for players to break into the first team. It was easier when we were in the NFD."

Tuks had an impressive list of football academy graduates which included star players Andile Jali, Lerato Chabangu and George Maluleka.

In recent times, however, the conveyor belt of talent had dried up, after their promotion two years ago. The club had become a victim of its own success. Prior 2012, while still plying their trade in the NFD, Tuks produced a string of high calibre players, many of whom went on to become household names.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Bongani Khumalo, Orlando Pirates winger Aubrey Ngoma and Moroka Swallows defender Rudi Isaac were among other quality players who had come through the academy structures at Tuks.

The academy had taken a back seat to the club's continual aspirations of retaining their top-league status and, with limited resources, it was difficult for Tuks to maintain the best of both worlds.

"Our main priority has been to ensure our stability in the PSL which remains the number-one priority. It's a tough league which requires players with talent and some experience."

As Tuks headed into their third season in top-flight football, Barker said a re-energisation of the club's academy was on the cards.

"We are hopeful that in future we will be able to produce top quality players at the same rate as before.

"We are actually in the process of improving our philosophy and thinking at our junior level so that, once again, we can produce players for the first team."

Lack of sponsorship had been the main contributor to the club's diminishing academy, but competition among the bigwigs had made attracting young players to Tuks more difficult.

"When you don't have a financial backer it's a lot harder. Youth development is not a cheap exercise.

"I think Mamelodi Sundowns spend R10 to 15 million a year on their youth development programme. We don't have that kind of money."


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