By NAKAMPE LEKWADU
AUGUST “Njenje” Palacios’ ability as the right man to rescue replaced the suspended Orlando Pirates head coach, Julio Leal to the club’s hot seat will be put to test within the next seven days.
The Peruvian-born mentor and Pirates’ longest serving youth development director took over the Sea Robbers’ coaching reigns as a care-taker following on the club chairman, Irvin Khoza’s decision to suspend Leal.
Palacios who is not new to this position after having acted as a care-taker coach on two occasion, first in 2001 when he replaced Jean-Yves Keajan, then in 2004 when he was called to replace Roy Barreto start his career as a care-taker coach by facing unpredictable Santos away in Cape Town at the Athlone Stadium tomorrow night in what is expected to be a dress rehearsal for the real tough matches against rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns respectively.
Pirates are currently on position three on the log with 33 points, and Palacios who did not waste no time to take his players to their paces yesterday will have to keep the club’s flag above the water so as to maintain that position if not to improve it.
Despite the pressure ahead, Palacios has been wearing a brace face since his appointment yesterday, saying: “I’ve been with this club for the past 17 years and I know exactly what to do to keep it going.”
Palacios said the instillation of discipline among players is one of his priority because that is the key for every club’ success.
With Pirates having booted out of the CAF Champions League, Palacios will have his focus put on both the Nedbank Cup and the Absa Premiership of which the club is ironically the defending champions.
His first assignment starts tomorrow night when he guides Pirates against the unpredictable Santos away at the Athlone Stadium.
Although beating Santos tomorrow night will be a good thing for Njenje, it is a naked truth that Palacios will spend some sleepless nights after the match against Santos, planning means and ways on how is he going to survive his next two matches with the first one against traditional rivals Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday at the FNB Stadium, and then against Sundowns two days later (Tuesday).
For the record, Chiefs are on the second position on the log with Pirates third with the same number of points (33) while Sundowns are in the summit of the log with 36 points and victory in these three matches could mean a lot for Palacios as he would have improved their position on the log.
The rest of Absa Premiership fixtures are:
Today: Black Leopards v SuperSport United (Giyani), Mamelodi Sundowns v BidVest Wits (Loftus)
Tomorrow: Free State Stars v Moroka Swallows (Charles Mopeli), Platinum Stars v Golden Arrows (Moruleng) and Maritzburg United v Bloemfontein Celtic (Nelson Mandela Bay). All matches starts at 7.30pm