Modest coach Da Gama lifts Highlands
Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama bows to his team’s massive collective effort after thrashing Amatuks
Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama has declined to take credit for the team’s promotion to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) after only one season in the lower tier.
Da Gama argued that their success was due to a collective effort after Highlands Park thrashed University of Pretoria 5-1 on Saturday at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa to guarantee promotion to the PSL with four matches to spare.
"The secret of Highlands Park has been about the collective, where everybody involved has put as much effort as possible‚" he said.
"All you can credit me for is putting this good technical team together, but the players and everyone else must get credit because we have put in a lot of hard yards behind the scenes to achieve this."
Da Gama arrived at the club in September after five league matches where they had lost three and won two but they then went 21 matches unbeaten in an impressive run that includes 16 wins and five draws.
Their win over Tuks was the seventh in succession and it helped them reach an unassailable 59 points lead at the top of the log after 26 matches.
They lead second-placed Black Leopards by 15 points from the same number of games. Leopards can end up only on 56 if they win all their remaining matches.
Amid the celebrations that took place on Saturday‚ Da Gama urged that his players must guard against complacency and focus solely on winning their remaining four matches against Mthatha Bucks‚ Cape Town All Stars‚ Black Leopards and Stellenbosch Bucs. "It is all about being professional. We have to go out there in our last four matches and forget about the fact that we will be playing in the PSL next season‚" he said.
"We must be focused and be humble so that we finish the season on a high note."
Da Gama said that winning promotion with Highlands Park rates as one of his finest achievements as a coach.
"Thanks for a good bunch of guys here at the club‚ it has been an absolute pleasure.
"People said to me: ‘you are coming from Bafana Bafana and going to the NFD.’ But I decided to step backwards because I knew these guys. They believed in me and I believed in them.
"Sometimes you have to take one step backwards to take three forward.
"Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.