It has been a first half of the season of two halves. The RDS half was a nightmare that left us seriously worrying about relegation, whereas the Stanley Menzo half has been incredible and has left us wondering just how far this team can now go. We can only imagine where the side would be if Menzo had been in charge from the start. As it is, we had a brief glimpse of the top half of the log following the victory over Chippa this week. Until Sundowns won last night we had 24 hours in the top 8 and hopefully the players will want to get that feeling back when the fixtures resume in February.
The 16 points that Menzo has won from just 8 games has been achieved with the same squad that RDS had, and for the most part playing in the same formation. He has made some fascinating tactical switches, such as the hugely successful conversion of Erwin Isaacs to a right back. He has also installed discipline as we saw with his dropping of Rivaldo Coetzee on Wednesday night. It takes some courage to leave out such a key performer, but the long term message this sends out will benefit everyone. Overall we now know that the poor start was not bad luck, too many injuries, or any other excuse the media reported on. RDS was well liked by the local press and the AjaxCT fans were targeted as moaners who should give him more time. We pay the money to come and sit and watch and we knew what we were seeing. Well done Ari for making the move when it had to be done. The decision to change coaches is surely now fully vindicated.
It was no classic on Wednesday night. For the second home game in a row we saw a side come to Cape Town with the express aim of closing the game down and playing for a point. It is surely a sign that sides are starting to fear us again, although Chippa seem to have adopted this policy all season long. They are well organised and hold the ball well, but also commit few players forward and are content to keep men behind the ball. They look like a better organised version of the AjaxCT side that RDS created. The trouble is – as we saw with the RDS side – that it only takes one mistake and the whole plan can come tumbling down. It took 89 minutes for that mistake on Wednesday, but when the Chippa defence finally did switch off and let Prince in he swallowed the opportunity with a fine finish. After almost 90 minutes of feeding on scraps and battling to held possession, often against two or three defenders, it was great to see such composure.
Perhaps the player that everyone will be talking about, however, is Grant Margeman. Yet another fine performance from the young man that was sitting his matric only a few weeks ago. He looks like he has been playing the game for years and has boundless energy, popping up in defence and attack. When people moan that AjaxCT never spend any money and buy big players, it should be pointed out to them how the club have developed youngsters like Margeman. It is true that AjaxCT are not big spenders, despite being listed among the wealthiest PSL clubs. But, just think how much money has been spent on developing the likes of Margeman over the years. Many fans may be jealous of the fact that the Sundowns can just buy quality whenever they need it, but those same fans should also respect the way AjaxCT can find and develop a non-stop stream of quality young players that can slot straight into the first team. Huge credit to AjaxCT for putting in the hard work to make this happen rather than just opening the cheque book in every transfer window.
We really did not need the break to come at this time, but given the professionalism that Stanley Menzo has shown so far we can expect the side to be fully prepared again in February. It will be tough, given that the second half sees us go away to six of the current top eight, but we should be optimistic based on what we have seen in the past six weeks. For now let’s just enjoy the break and think back over the fine attacking football we have watched recently. My laptop will be closed over the holidays so there will also be a break before the next blog. Thanks to all the fans for reading, and thanks to everyone at the club for turning this season around.