South-Africa

Da Gama sparks Highlands Park revival

2018-01-19 18:16
Owen Da Gama (Gallo Images)

It was fast bowler and tail-end batsman Cliff Gladwin who proclaimed as his own the comment "cometh the hour, cometh the man" after steering England to a memorable last-ball cricket Test victory over South Africa some 70 years ago with the aid of a leg-bye.

But it would not be out of place if Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama borrowed the sentiment after dramatically transforming the fortunes of the legendary "Lions of the North” after the club had experienced a disastrous spell at the start of the current PSL season.

Seeking a speedy return to the Absa Premiership after last season's relegation by the one-time giants of South African soccer, Highlands stuttered through three demoralising, successive defeats and instead found themselves floundering in the middle of the NFD log table.

Enter former South African under-23 and Bafana Bafana caretaker coach Da Gama after Highlands had taken the emergency decision to change the club's coaching staff in mid-stream - with an amazing transformation in which Highlands have gone unbeaten through 12 games and are now perched comfortably at the top of the log table with a five-point advantage over Jomo Cosmos and promotion an inviting prospect.

"I don't want to take all the credit for this dream change in fortunes,” says the modest former Moroka Swallows and Irish League star. "Highlands had a squad of players capable of doing the job at hand before I took over. Perhaps I just managed to insert a degree of calm, composure and confidence into the players and that made all the difference."

And Da Gama realistically suggests that the promotion objective is far from a fait accompli and in a competitive NFD one wrong move could result in a totally different picture being painted.

"Certainly," he added, "I'm not thinking of setting records and extending the unbeaten run. It's a case of concentrating on one game at a time and remaining aware of the saying that success and failure can indeed be twin imposters, with the one replacing the other unexpectedly at any given moment."

And Da Gama knows this all too well from his recent coaching experiences. After performing creditably in the employment of SAFA while guiding the South African team to a place in the Olympic Games soccer tournament, no mean achievement, and holding the fort as Bafana caretaker coach after the sacking of Shakes Mashaba, he received scant gratitude from the national body and elected to look elsewhere for greener pastures

"But perhaps it was meant to be that I landed up coaching Highlands," he reflected. "There was scant evidence of this happening at the time I left SAFA. But its working out better than I might have imagined."

Read more on:    highlands park  |  owen da gama  |  soccer
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