Ricky Zililo in BULAWAYO
HIGHLANDERS have set a top four target for new Dutch head coach Erol Akbay in his first season with the Bulawayo giants this year.
Akbay finally arrived in Bulawayo at noon yesterday aboard a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa.
He was met at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport by Bosso’s newly elected vice-chairman Modern Ngwenya, secretary-general Emmet Ndlovu, treasurer Donald Ndebele and chief executive Ndumiso Gumede.
He was whisked away to the club house for a hastily arranged press conference where it was announced that the relatively low-profile coach had signed a two-year performance-based contract with Highlanders.
Gumede revealed that Akbay’s conditions are almost similar to those of former gaffer Bongani Mafu, who was given a target of 20 points from the first 10 league games.
“Akbay is here on a two-year performance-based contract. In the first year, he will be finding his feet. In the first 10 games we expect the team to stay with the leading pack and achieve a minimum of 60 percent success,” said Gumede.
“This may sound steep, but he admitted that Highlanders is a big club.
“A top four finish in 2016 will be deemed reasonably well because the first year is tricky, but in the second year, he would have had an opportunity to add players in the July and January transfer window next year.”
Gumede said they were still interested in winning the league title this year.
He said Akbay’s assistants Cosmas Zulu and Amini Soma-Phiri will be booted together with him should the Dutchman fail to meet his set targets.
“If Akbay doesn’t achieve, the people who were propping him up in failing will also go, so they have to support him.
“Remember what happened to Mafu and his technical team last year; when results failed they all went. It is there in their (Soma-Phiri and Zulu) contracts that if results don’t come they will go,” said Gumede.
Vice-chairman Ngwenya said: “The anxiety is finally over and it’s time to hit the ground running. We hope and pray that our players will adapt quickly to his formation so that we beat other teams.”
Akbay said he was happy to be here.
“I’m happy and excited to start work at Highlanders, which is a big club. As a big club, I think we have to play and challenge for honours. I want to give very nice football to the club,” said Akbay.
“Normally it takes three months for the players to understand the philosophy of a (new) coach. The first six weeks are about making players understand the basics of what you want as a coach.
“As of now I don’t know the players but my strategy is to try and play with the same first team every week,” he said.