With ‘perhaps the smallest squad in the bubble’‚ Maritzburg coach Tinkler hopes to limit injuries

Eric Tinkler during the Maritzburg United media open day at Harry Gwala Stadium Training Fields on December 10, 2019 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Eric Tinkler during the Maritzburg United media open day at Harry Gwala Stadium Training Fields on December 10, 2019 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Image: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Just like most of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) coaches who had to prepare their teams in a controlled environment‚ Eric Tinkler of Maritzburg United is not sure how ready are his players for the resumption of the season.

Sixth-placed Maritzburg play their first match in the Biologically Safe Environment (BSE) when they take on relegation-threatened bottom side Black Leopards at FNB Stadium on Sunday and Tinkler has admitted it is difficult to assess the readiness of his players.

“To be very honest‚ it will be very difficult for me to assess whether we are ready or not‚” the coach said as he as they readied for the clash.

“Obviously these are trying times. We have been out of the game for over four months. We have only really been back at training over the past five weeks and what makes it even more difficult is the fact that we are not playing friendly games to assess whether the players are going to be ready.”

Tinkler said while his players have been enthusiastic at training it will only be known on the day of the match how ready they are.

“I am happy with what I have seen from the guys in training but we will only truly know whether they are ready or not during the match.

“Our expectations are to ensure that we continue with the form that we showed before the lockdown. We want to ensure that we get a positive results against Leopards because if we do that it will practically means that we are guaranteed to finish in the top eight‚ and that has been our objective this season.

“The fact that the competition has been played in Johannesburg benefits us to a degree because the trip to Thohoyandou is a very‚ very long trip. But at the same time‚ we have had very good results in Thohoyandou recently.

“Last season‚ we beat them and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) there‚ so we have a half-decent record there over the past year.”

Tinkler said he hopes his players don’t suffer injuries because he probably has a small squad.

“We probably have the smallest squad going into the bubble with only 18 outfield players and the three goalkeepers. Everybody is fit and raring to go. We hope that everybody is available for the remaining matches.

“It is not going to be easy against Leopards because they are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the log and they are running out of time and out of games.

“Every game for them is crucial‚ but that’s for everybody and with regards to ourselves we are looking to try and finish in the top eight. We need to be prepared both mentally and physically for that challenge.”

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