Dylan Kerr, coach of Baroka FC. Picture: PHILIP MAETA/GALLO IMAGES
Dylan Kerr, coach of Baroka FC. Picture: PHILIP MAETA/GALLO IMAGES

Baroka FC needed three more weeks of training to play their Nedbank Cup semifinal against Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, says coach Dylan Kerr.

Many Premier Soccer League (PSL) coaches have said that with no friendlies for players to prepare due to Covid-19, they believe their first two to three league games will effectively have to be warm-ups.

The teams in the Nedbank semifinals‚ which kick off SA’s return to football in Saturday’s Orlando Stadium double header‚ do not have that luxury. They will emerge from four-and-a-half months of inactivity‚ with just under a month of organised training‚ in a must-win scenario.

“You cannot have four-and-a-half months without kicking a football‚ and then come back to training and play at a level that I would be happy with‚ the chairman would be happy‚ and that the fans would be happy watching‚” Kerr said.

“We’ve seen it with La Liga‚ the Bundesliga and the English Premier League. A lot of top players have been missing from certain games. It’s affected a lot of clubs‚ especially those at the bottom‚ which is where we are in the PSL.

“And if I lose two‚ three‚ four main players I’ve only got youngsters to turn to who have not got experience. Especially playing two games a week‚ in such a short period.

“It’s going to be tough. I’m not ready yet. I’m not happy playing my first game on Saturday knowing that I should have three weeks more to get my team in the shape‚ and mentality to play in these games.

“And it’s just going to be who can survive in the 90 minutes‚ and who wants it most to get to the final of the Nedbank Cup. It’s about having the better heart‚ being tough upstairs‚ and making sure that when you’ve got the ball don’t give it away‚ because the last thing you want to be doing is chasing.”

Kerr said his players do not have the facilities at home, such as home gyms, that some better-paid footballers of bigger clubs might have.

During the lockdown that followed the initial suspension of the PSL in March players were initially confined to their homes. From level 4 they could train individually. That still was far from organised training‚ and‚ as per the PSL’s directives‚ even that started with individual exercises‚ then small groups‚ and then only this week as a squad, Kerr said.

“I can’t make any excuses‚ and don’t want to. Yesterday should be day one of the six-week preparation. We’ve actually started at week three. We’ve done a week’s training with three-quarters of a squad‚ then a week with small groups of five‚ and then this week we’ve actually started some small noncontact games.

“And then in the next five days we’ve got to start to put together a plan for the game against Bloemfontein Celtic.”

Baroka are far from safe in the PSL relegation scrap in 13th place‚ just three points (23 from 24 games) above last-placed Black Leopards (20 from 24).

Bakgakga and Celtic play the first Nedbank semi on Saturday at 2pm‚ with Mamelodi Sundowns meeting Bidvest Wits in the second at 7pm.

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