Johannesburg – Immediately after confirming their promotion to the Absa Premiership, Black Leopards have not wasted time and are already planning for next season.
Top of their agenda is to get the Thohoyandou Stadium to the required standard to host premiership matches.
“We belong here and we are going nowhere,” said Leopards boss David Thidiela, referring to their venue and also their return to the elite division.
He said they had already engaged the municipality to make the required renovations at the stadium, which he said would be minor.
“Professor (Ronnie Schloss, chief operating officer of the Premier Soccer League) was here and told us what needed to be done. So we know what we need to do and we have already started with the plans to improve the facility. We will start with the grass layout next week and then the changing rooms and other small things.”
Schloss inspects venues and gives them the thumbs up to host premiership matches or declare them unsuitable.
Some of the requirements to host elite league matches are the security aspects, the condition of the pitch and the standard of the changing rooms.
Thidiela was confident that the stadium would be brought up to standard.
He added that the team’s support base was their trump card and the team could not afford to play without them.
“I cried when I was told our game against Cosmos was sold out a few hours before kick-off. It shows the passion our people have, and this is the kind of support we need to survive in the premiership.”
Thidiela said he was aware of the challenges his side would face in the top league: “Remember, we have been there before and know what is expected of us. We will be more than ready to compete when the season starts.”
One area he said he would have to deal with was retaining most of his players. But he said they would reinforce “here and there” only where necessary.
“I told the players that they must reap the rewards if they qualify and go and enjoy milk and honey. If they are good enough to get promotion, it means they are also good enough to compete.”
He said there were two or three players whose contracts needed to be renewed, and he was confident of retaining most of the players. But he said they would not stand in anyone’s way if they wanted to move on.
“Our policy is clear: whoever wants to leave must leave because we don’t want to keep players who are not happy. If a player wants to go and destroy his career, he is free to do so – but he mustn’t come crying back to us.”
He said team coach Joel Masutha was also going to be retained.
“There is no reason to chase him away. He has delivered. He is going nowhere.”