Pirates Need to Produce More Talent Once Again

Joseph Makhanya

In a recent article, we explored the issue of young players not being given enough opportunities to break into first-team squads. We analysed this situation at Kaizer Chiefs and now we are examining the same issue at Orlando Pirates.

When we look at the most successful teams in Europe now, such as Arsenal, Manchester City, and Barcelona, we see that despite possible perception to the contrary, they all have young teams, and the statistics support this. For example, Arsenal has an average age of 24, which is the youngest in their division, Manchester City has an average age of 26 when Phil Foden starts, and Barcelona has an average age of 25. These teams are at the top of their leagues and are producing some of the best football in Europe.

When we compare this to Orlando Pirates, the Buccaneers fall short. Their average age is 28, and only two players in their squad are below 24, Evidence Makgopa (22) and Kopano Thuntsane (23). While Monnapule Saleng (24) is the youngest player in the starting XI and will turn 25 in a month. This is not good enough for the future for a club of Orlando Pirates’ size.

Furthermore, there is only one academy graduate in the entire Pirates squad, which is not acceptable. The emphasis should be on producing more top talent, not only for the good of the club but also for the benefit of South African football.

The balance should be a mixture of senior players and younger players gradually being introduced into the team. The younger players should be nurtured and helped by the older and more experienced members of the squad, as we have seen at Arsenal, Manchester City, and Barcelona.

There is a strong correlation between ageing squads and complacency in their play, as we have seen with Liverpool. One reason for this could be the failure to refresh the team with top-quality young players. Arsenal used to have one of the oldest sides in the Premier League, but with clever planning in the transfer market, Arteta was able to reduce the average age of the squad, and we have seen positive results. Pep Guardiola did the same thing with Manchester City a few seasons ago, and Xavi did the same with Barcelona. Bold decisions need to be made to shake up the squad.

This raises the question for Jose Riveiro: is he doing enough? Is he brave enough with his team selections? Is he afraid to upset the senior players in the squad? Orlando Pirates have underperformed this season and for a club of their size, they should be fighting for the title with Sundowns, not just aiming for a top-four finish. Pirates and Riveiro need to get the ingredients right in terms of their academy policy in order to get back to the top.

Gone are the days when Pirates squad was packed with exciting young talent whose natural dazzling ability, coupled with their youthful energy that caused packed stadiums all around the country to heave with “happy people”. Just mentioning names such as Gift Leremi, Tso Vilakazi, Lesley Manyathela, Joseph Makhanya, Old John Mabizela, Excellent Walaza, Lebo Mokoena, Lucas Thwala and Jimmy Tau to name but a few, conjures up images of joy. Pirates need to return to finding the best youth in country to excite the Buccaneers faithful once more.

Also Read:

Are Chiefs working on a better model?

Do Sundowns need to blood more youth?

Gift Leremi
Gift Leremi