Home Sport Cape football development will suffer a blow because of Spurs’ relegation

Cape football development will suffer a blow because of Spurs’ relegation

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The demise of Cape Town Spurs as a Premiership club will be a body blow to football development in the Mother City since the club’s youth programme has seen the careers of many players flourish over the years.

Boitumelo Radiopane of Cape Town Spurs reacts in dejection during the DStv Premiership 2023/24 game between Cape Town Spurs and Polokwane City at Athlone Stadium on 30 April 2024. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Herman Gibbs

The demise of Cape Town Spurs as a Premiership club will be a body blow to football development in the Mother City since the club’s youth programme has seen the careers of many players flourish over the years.

Today, there are previous Cape Town-based players in almost every club around the country and many have come through the ranks of this club. After the merger of Cape Town Spurs and Seven Stars in January 1999, the club partnered with Dutch giants AFC Ajax and the association lasted two decades, under the banner of Ajax Cape Town.

Ajax CT adopted the Dutch club’s famous player development model and their state-of-the-art training facility in Parow, Ikamva, attracted some of the country’s finest talents.

In the years that followed, the club produced star players like Steven Pienaar, Daylon Claasen, Eyong Enoh and Thulani Serero, who were signed by leading European clubs. These players were not Cape Town-born but hundreds of players from around South Africa were enrolled at the academy.

After Ajax Amsterdam severed ties with the Cape club, Spurs came into being. It was a great move by the owners because the name previously had strong ties with the vast Cape Flats community just over two decades ago.

During Spurs’ time in the National Soccer League (NSL) the Urban Warriors were relegated twice (in 1985 and 1989) but the arrival of new owner David Rodwell in the early 1990s turned the club’s fortunes around. The club attracted players who later became international stars, and they helped the club to win the league and Bobsave Super Bowl titles.

In the absence of the Dutch, Spurs persevered with their model and their youth structures ranked among the country’s best. However, their inability to remain in the elite league over the past 10 years will dent the emergence of new, exciting players.

Their relegation as Ajax in 2017/2018 notwithstanding, the recent ejection from the elite division reveals a club that was hopelessly under-prepared for the current campaign. From the start of the 2023/2024 season they remained marooned at the bottom of the standings.

Shaun Bartlett, the coach that brought the team up from the National First Division, failed to secure a point in the first seven league games when he was in charge.

After Bartlett’s departure, Northern Irishman Sean Connor was appointed technical director of Spurs. He had a brief flutter of five games in charge and caused a stir when he guided the team to a win over Orlando Pirates, their first league win of the season.

Next, Ernst Middendorp was in charge and after 16 games, he picked up 16 points. He had a reputation for saving teams from relegation, but the Spurs job was akin to rugby’s version of a ‘hospital pass’ and he needed a miracle to avert the dreaded relegation axe.

Middendorp spent his first few weeks clearing the team of deadwood, which should have been done after the team won promotion. The players were good enough to play in the NFD, in which they finished as runners-up, but they were not up to scratch for the Premiership.

To his credit, in the team’s most recent matches, Middendorp bravely promoted a few youngsters from the club’s Diski team, and some were impressive. Sadly, Spurs will also now forfeit their place in the Diski Challenge, which will deny those young players regular games against the country’s best Under-23 players.

In spite of their relegation, Middendorp remains the person most equipped to guide the club back to the Premiership. Whether he chooses to do so remains to be seen.

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