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Swallows played themselves… again

On the brink of relegation again from the Premier Division, now Swallows FC know that messing with Coach Brandon Truter’s winning formula was detrimental
Thu, May 19, 2022

PHOTO: Swallows FC Twitter

If, by Saturday evening, Swallows FC is back in the trenches of lower division football, the wounds would have been self-inflicted. The Dube Birds go into the final day of the DStv Premiership with their topflight status and reputation hanging by a thread and Kaizer Chiefs, their Soweto rivals, are the difficult hurdle to overcome in their fight for survival.

While the club’s future rests on this one game – win it and they are safe from automatic relegation, but probably still vulnerable to being dragged into the play-offs for another few weeks of being on the brink – the reality is that Swallows orchestrated their own potential fall yet again from the Premier Division.

Following what should be viewed as a more than satisfactory 2020/21 season, their first one back in the elite league since going down seven years ago under then-owner Leon Prins, who was accused of paying more attention to horse racing than he did to the day-to-day running of the team, the current management got a bit too excited.

Coach Brandon Truter had continued the phenomenal job of getting Swallows promoted in the pandemic year by finishing a credible sixth place ahead of Cape Town City and the mighty Amakhosi.

What should have been the natural progression was to firm up the squad, as per Truter’s request and not temper too much with where the coach was ticking the right boxes.

But Swallows, probably thinking this was the best approach, signed more than 15 new players and gave Truter an assistant coach he did not ask for. Simo Dladla was the hierarchy’s choice, and it became evident later on that he was eyeing the head coach position and was not content with just the supporting role.

The tension between the two bulls was allowed to simmer inside the camp and affect the playing personnel for far too long. In that time, results were slowly sinking the Dube Birds and paving the way for a relegation dogfight.

The players brought in forced Truter to adjust tactically, and he and Dladla had different philosophies that made for a toxic work environment, it’s no surprise that by the end of November both were no longer in the dugout.

But by the time Dylan Kerr took over the damage was done, and add to that allegations of non-payment also surfaced and painted a picture of the days of Prins, an owner seemingly out of his depth on what it took to run a successful football club.

Now, Chairman David Mogashoa and President Panyaza Lesufi, also Gauteng MEC for Education, are a breath of fresh air compared to Prins… but even they would own up that their approach to the second season led to this capitulation.

The strong pillars and reinforcements that were made turned out to be the very thing that turned a beautiful project into a nightmare. All the efforts to fix what actually wasn’t broken has led to this moment, where on Saturday afternoon Kerr will guide his charges into a match that decides the fate of the Dube Birds, a club that went as far as buying a National First Division franchise to accelerate their return to rubbing shoulders with the big boys.

It’s bad enough that Jomo Cosmos is also now slowly slipping into the abyss having also been relegated from the second tier to the ABC Motsepe League, the amateur ranks where many are hardly ever able to make a swift return. Ask Swallows. Ask Santos.

On paper, the Dube Birds should be challenging for honours and putting up more of a fight against the usual suspects in the title race. But instead, by Saturday evening we could very well be reading out another obituary from the DStv Premiership and saying “gone too soon” of their own accord, it must be noted.