‘Good times will be back at Linare’

‘Good times will be back at Linare’

Luciah Phahla

Maseru – Linare endured a dreadful 2015/16 Vodacom Premier League campaign in which the once mighty club flirted with relegation all season. Eventually ‘Tse Tala’ secured their survival on the penultimate weekend of the season, finishing just six points above the drop zone.

However, despite hopes of better days in Hlotse, things haven’t started well again this season.

Two weeks ago Linare kicked off their 2016/17 campaign with a 1-0 home defeat to newly-promoted Sky Battalion leaving fans worried the club is set for another season of misery.

On Tuesday, thepost sat down with Linare coach Motlatsi Shale to get the low down on what is happening at the Hlotse club whose last championship wins came in 1979 and 1980.

Shale, who took charge of Linare in January, highlighted the challenges facing the team and, in a candid interview, admitted ‘Tse Tala’ are in for another disappointing season if things do not improve.

However, Shale, who guided Bantu to their first ever premier league title in 2014, remains positive. He believes Linare can once again be a force to be reckoned with, if the team gets the resources it needs.

Linare got off to a bad start against Sky Battalion. Are you concerned that you will struggle again this season?

No, not at all. The big thing you can consider is that I found them in that situation, but now I think things will change because I am starting with the team since the preseason.

Another thing that has been a challenge at Linare is players, they had a small pool of players and they didn’t have commitment. Maybe that was caused by the challenges the club has in general.

I think that might be one of the challenges that caused Linare not to perform well. It was difficult, a lot of things happened when I arrived which were challenges but I believe that this year will not be like last year.

Much has been made about an apparent lack of quality in the Linare squad today. Are you happy with the squad? Would you have liked to sign more players?

It’s a challenge the club is facing. You cannot have what you would have liked as the coach, but if you look at it, I reinforced the team with young players from youth teams. I went to the B-Division to reinforce the team, to make sure that in each and every position I, at least, have two or three players in order to have balance.

They are young and it’s a great start if I managed to sign players who are 15 years and 16 years (old) as well as some few experienced players. I think mixing them will help these young ones to grow fast.

There has been a lot of dysfunction at Linare in the past. Are things different this year? Do you feel on the same page with club management? Are you happy with their support?

It was a challenge and I think Linare must elect football people when they hold their elections. (They must elect) people who love football because the Lesotho league needs people with passion, it needs people who have got time for it because we are still facing challenges.

The league is still growing, so if Linare get people who are not football people, when they eventually face the challenges that are there in the league, they run away which is something that happened last season. There was a point where we were left with about two people in the club’s management.

But with the beef-up and the changes we made, those that are present now are trying their best. It’s not easy, but they are trying and I hope in the end we will achieve what we want to achieve.

Nobody expected I would still be here with the challenges I faced last season, but because I love football it was no use for me to leave Linare in that state. If I am a part of it, I have to do something for them before I leave. At least I would say I have paved the way for whoever comes after me and they will find an easy job.

What are your targets for this season? How do you plan going about achieving them?

I have not yet put down targets.

I can’t put down targets because we still have a lot of challenges.

It is a problem that the season has started and at a big team like Linare you are still working with players psychologically. And that is because there are things we talked about that we said needed to happen in order for us to have a good season and even now they still haven’t happened.

If at a big team like Linare the season has started and the players still don’t have soccer boots, jerseys, balls, things that are basic needs; if they don’t have such things they are demoralised.

But I still believe we are working hard to see where we can get help and change the situation. When I think I have everything that can make my job easier that’s when I will start putting targets and focus.

I want to see Linare become a better team, I want to see Linare being like other teams we are competing against. If you have everything you need as the coach, even if people are saying you failed, at least you can admit I am failing because I have everything; it’s me who can’t perform.

I can’t judge myself now because there is nothing.

I am now doing other things to make sure the players are happy and that their needs are met.

Having coached Bantu to the league title in 2014, do you see the same winning characteristics in this Linare set-up? What kind of players are you looking for, mentality-wise? And do you feel you can achieve success at Linare and end the club’s trophy drought since 1999?

The characteristics are there but they are going to be overshadowed by the fact that the players are not happy. If the players can be happy and satisfied then we can have those things.

Do you feel Linare can still be counted amongst the country’s giants such as Lioli, Matlama and Bantu? Can the club still compete? If not, what needs to happen for the club to return to that level?

It can happen in two minutes.

Are there any players in your squad that you are expecting to have a big season this year?

There are a lot of players especially the youngest players who are very good whom I have signed this season. If they can focus on the game and put problems behind them they can be successful for the club.

These players come from small teams and they came to a big team thinking things would be much easier. But when they get here and find its not then it’s another challenge.

There might be something that comes out in September that I think will change Linare and give something one can dream big about. But for now, if the situation will remain as it is, it’s going to be a struggle again.

For your future, do you feel under pressure to bring success to Leribe? Are you looking to stay at the club long-term?

I can bring a cup to the team. No, there is no pressure at all, I am preparing Linare. Even if the club says “go” tomorrow, I would. But at least I would say I tried. I am not from Leribe, I am a coach of football.

Even if I was in Mokhotlong, whatever I am doing at Linare now I would still do it (in Mokhotlong) because of the love I have for football. If I can see change at Linare coming through me, even if I leave, I will be happy that I left them somewhere better.

Short-term, how important is it to win this weekend’s game against Lesotho Correctional Service after the opening day defeat against Sky Battalion?

It’s very important to win it because when you are the coach losing two consecutive games disturbs you mentally.

I will always say, ‘should I rush to get results out of nothing?’ No, I have to expect the results when it’s time for them. Like I said, there is no pressure to the boys and to me because I don’t want to put myself under pressure when I have nothing.

If you want to put me under pressure demanding results then you have to give me the resources. If you have nothing, what do you expect from me? But I am ready for weekend’s game. I have beefed up the squad in the areas where we thought we lacked. This weekend’s game is going to be very different to the last one.

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