Cape Town - "We'll be back," relegated Highlands Park's chairperson Brad Kaftel said on Monday, echoing the sentiments of General Douglas MacArthur’s after the United States were driven from the Philippines during World War II.
The obdurate MacArthur, as history records, was spot on the mark and Kaftel seemed equally insistent that the once-famed giants of South African soccer would bounce back to assume a position in the PSL following the weekend's grim demotion to the National First Division.
The club known as "The Lions of the North" needed a victory in their final fixture of the season on Saturday to ensure they did not finish bottom of the PSL log and so avoid automatic relegation, but despite a gritty 2-2 draw against current CAF Champions League champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, it proved a bridge too far to cross.
"We had more than our share of bad luck over the season in our initial year back in the Premier League," said Kaftel, "but the bottom line is that we were simply not good enough and fully prepared for the considerable transition from the NFD to retain our status."
But the Highlands chairperson pointed out that relegation had still been a desperately tight affair involving half-a-dozen clubs and could easily have ended differently had SuperSport United - not involved the battle - not rested a spate of players in the midst of their busy programme and lost 3-0 to Chippa United.
"We've learnt by experience," added the Highlands chairperson, "and we'll come back with a more solid and formidable foundation.
Kaftel said the reassuring advantage for Highlands is that they have an enthusiastic sponsor in motor giants Hadfield Holdings who would help the club overcome the financial disadvantages of playing in the NFD where the grants from the PSL are severely cut.
“Unlike many other clubs," he added, "we also have a solid support base and facilities in Tembisa to provide the encouragement and assistance that are needed in an increasingly more competitive NFD."
As to the coaching position, Kaftel said no final decisions had been taken, although he had high praise for caretaker coaches Thierry Mabobo and Les Grobler, who found themselves in the precarious driver's seat after seasoned coach Gordon Igesund was dispensed with in a shock and seemingly panicky move with a mere four games of the season left.
Generally, however, Highlands have a more stable and knowledgeable administration than most clubs in the PSL - and this even more than their past achievements is what makes their ongoing presence an essential commodity in the League in a wider sense.