By finishing runners-up in the 2017-18 Premiership season, Orlando Pirates have laid the foundation for an assault on silverware next campaign‚ says coach Milutin Sredojevic.
The Buccaneers ended an excellent 2018 — in which they rallied to 11 wins‚ two draws and two defeats from 15 matches to push winners Mamelodi Sundowns for the title — with a 2-1 victory against Free State Stars at Orlando Stadium.
Sredojevic‚ who arrived late in Bucs’ pre-season — just two weeks before the season kickoff — understandably took some time to turn around the previous campaign’s 11th-placed‚ trophyless hiatus.
While Pirates again failed to win a trophy in 2017-18‚ or even reach a cup final‚ their form in the second half of the season and the dynamic football played under Sredojevic and assistant Rhulani Mokwena holds promise for the next campaign.
That much seemed to be appreciated by their supporters who attended their final game at Orlando on Saturday. The fans stayed for about half-an-hour after the match to sing with the players and technical staff and to applaud their turnaround from the previous season.
"I believe that the supporters are feeling that this season we have laid the foundation. And that foundation puts ahead of us an important task‚" Sredojevic said. "Number one‚ to do the deep analysis of who is supposed to come [into the squad] and who is surplus. Number two‚ to really have a selection of players who will continue with the project.
"Now we have the foundation and we need to build the house. Those are trophies.
"It will be very hard. This has been a very competitive league. But the biggest critical aspect I will look at is that 15 matches won is not enough. We need to lean towards 20. We need to reduce the draws‚ because out of 10‚ there were at least eight [matches] we should have won.
"But football is like that. And I’m looking at the first half of the season, where we had too many draws. We are the team with the least number of defeats — five.
"But next year, we have five fronts of competition — the MTN8‚ the Telkom Knockout‚ the Nedbank Cup‚ the PSL and our one target competition is the Caf Champions League.
"So, when we have all these we need to keep what was OK‚ and we need to upgrade a lot. "We need to be aware that competition will be very stiff‚ and it will be very hard.
"I arrived on August 3 [for the 2017-18 season]‚ and coach Rhulani [Mokwena] a few days after, so this will be our first proper pre-season. And the preseason is the foundation of the season. We want to do our best‚ we want to fulfil the dreams of our supporters‚ we want to heal their souls further," he said.
"We want to make them happy because the power given to us is to make millions happy."
Pirates have qualified for the 2018-19 Champions League as PSL runners-up. The competition comes into alignment with Caf’s northern hemisphere calendar‚ running in a compressed format from December (after the November final of the 2018 competition) until the final on May 19 2019.