Tinkler has faith they can avoid the chop

DURBAN – Eric Tinkler believes that a simple act will turn the season around for Maritzburg United who languish at the bottom of the log, staring at the axe that looms large over them.

“Two wins (in a row) is just what you need. It can take one moment. I believe that will be the change that we need,” Tinkler said after seeing the Team of Choice lose to Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 on Saturday at FNB Stadium.

That’s easier said than done. Maritzburg’s last seven matches will see them host Mamelodi Sundowns tomorrow, followed by clashes with Bloemfontein Celtic, Highlands Park, Orlando Pirates, Black Leopards, SuperSport United and Baroka FC.

All those teams are fighting for something, whether it’s the championship, a place in the top eight or survival, like the Team of Choice.

“We had one point in our pocket and we gave it away,” Tinkler said. “At this stage of the season, that’s very expensive because we are running out of games. We’ve looked to try to close the gap with the teams above us. Highlands Park did us a favour against Baroka.

“We could have closed that gap by picking up something and we didn’t. We put ourselves under immense pressure to look to get another win against Sundowns at home.”

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Mxolisi Kunene (left) of Maritzburg United is challenged by Nkosingiphile Ngcobo of Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Tinkler’s biggest challenge is instilling a strong mental approach in his players. The Team of Choice’s players break down easily at the smallest challenge because of their precarious position. What must give them confidence is that four of their remaining seven matches are at home at Harry Gwala Stadium. 

Their passionate fans from KwaZulu-Natal’s capital back their club with their voices and numbers – creating a buzzing atmosphere that should inspire them in their fight for survival.

This is nothing new to Maritzburg, they’ve been in this situation before and have managed to claw themselves out of the jaws of death on the last day.

“All one can do is try to turn that negative into something positive,” Tinkler said. “That’s what I have been trying to work on. During the week, everything looks great. But it’s like what I keep telling the chairman, I’ll only know how they’ll react when the referee blows that whistle. That’s just the harsh reality.

“Again, when I look all the games away it’s not been just one or two players who are having an off day, because you can get away with that – when I look against Chiefs, it’s three or four players who were underperforming.

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“Then it becomes difficult structurally because you can only make three subs. It becomes hard, you’ve got to keep on motivating them and keep on pushing them to get that belief in themselves. It’s not an easy situation.

“This is where you see the true character of a human being, because you’re in the dogfight right now. You must take responsibility. The harsh reality is that you are responsible for being where you are – now you’ve got to find a way to get yourself out.”

Soccer Writer

The Mercury

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