The Great Cull (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep96)
“Breathe it in, Stevie!” I shout once again upon seeing my landlord approach the Geen Rook Nie building, with Chappie plodding dutifully along beside him.
“What am I smelling this time?” He asks.
“The smell of change, my friend!” I cry triumphantly. “Change is in the air this Summer, believe you me. Starting with this.” I hand him a brand new Santos FC 2020/21 Home Shirt.
“Ah, cheers bru”, he says, looking impressed. “This the new one, yeah?” I nod, very pleased with myself. He looks at the back. “Couldn’t get me 'Koala 1' on the back, no?”
“Give it back”, I say immediately. “We had a deal, bru. I get you a shirt and match tickets, bru, and you memorise Joseph Ekwalla’s name, bru. And he’s obviously not number 1, he’s a pissing midfielder, bru!”
“You’re overusing bru, bru” he grins, putting the shirt on over his old bootleg one. “Very nice”, he says, looking down to admire his new jersey. “So what else has changed?”
Ah, what else indeed.
It won’t surprise you to learn that after all of my whinging about a lot of the Santos players last year, the very first thing on my agenda is clearing out all the dead wood. When Santos fans speak of this Summer in the future they’ll call it The Great Cull of 2020. I try to stay as cold and objective as possible, and promptly transfer list left back Aiden Jenniker, right back Moe, attacking midfielder Sullie and young centre back Lindani Ntombayithethi, along with striker Emil Sambou and centre back Issouf Paro. Taking out of the equation my desire to get those 2 fit again after their respective serious injuries and looking purely at what Emil and Issouf offered us before the Winter Break, they need to go. Neither of them are good enough for the Santos team I want us to be. They’re both on schedule to be fit in time for pre-season anyway so it is without guilt that I offer them around. After all, we’re only allowed 5 foreign players and I might need their spots. The last player I offer around is young number 10 Sakhile Maloka, who spent the second half of last season out on loan at Future Tigers. He’s OK, but to be honest we’ve got better young players coming through so a move will be best for everyone. Sparingly used right winger Saileg Richards will be released with some of the youth players once his contract expires, as I don’t see too much potential in him.
I spend the next few days, while I wait for the Chairman to let me know what kind of budget I’ll have to work with, negotiating offers for Jenniker, Moe and Paro, but all of the interested parties seem to want me to pay the majority of these players’ wages after their move, which makes the whole “move” part kind of pointless doesn’t it. If I wanted to pay their wages I’d bloody keep them wouldn’t I, SuperSport. In the end though I do accept a £32k bid from Maritzburg United for Moe and a £17k bid from Baroka FC for Paro.
It does seem that Moe is quite a popular figure in the dressing room though and within the week I’ve got the makings of a mini-mutiny on my hands with his allies demanding to know why I’m getting rid of him. “Because he’s shit” is my primary argument, but they start being all difficult and in the end I have to tell the rebels to get out and mind their own business.
Speaking of rebels, we have an unconventional contract rebel in my Assistant Manager, or Assistant to the Manager, Keith America. Keith feels that he’s outgrown this tinpot club and wants to move onto pastures new. To be fair, out of all my assistant managers he’s been the most forgettable. Even Roger was an idiot but at least I remember his name. Keith’s been largely irrelevant and I’ve already forgotten about him by the time he’s left the car park. His replacement will be Jakub Kalinkowski from Poland. As well as being the best man for the job, I also think that as a stalwart of Polish football he can teach me a thing or 2 to make me better equipped as a Manager... Like how to stay in Polish football for more than a year without crying yourself to sleep every night.
So what do we need? Taking the players that I've transfer listed out of the equation, these are the footballers I consider to be in my thoughts for the new season:
Goalkeepers: Komo, Dino Visser
Defenders: Nathan Gertse, Philani Cele, Gary Havenga, Juno, Siyabonga Zulu
Midfielders: Joseph Ekwalla, Marothi Diale, Sinbad, Gugu Gogotya, Ryan Moon, Karabo Noqazo, Sony Norde, Luke Fanteni, Frans Ndlovu, Sello Japhta, Manqoba Cele
Strikers: Carl Lark, Ernie, Thembinkosi Maluka
Because I'm not sure that I've mentioned them before, Karabo Noqazo is a versatile young anti-winger and Frans Ndlovu is a decent young playmaker, both from our academy. So all of the players in the above list are in my thoughts either because they proved themselves worthy last year of making the first team squad (eg Joseph Ekwalla/Carl Lark), they haven't absolutely infuriated me with their attitude or their ability (Like Moe/Sullie have), or they are fairly happy to be decent backup (eg Dino Visser/Siyabonga Zulu). I like to have a spare player for each position, so by my calculations I need to go out and buy a right back, a left back, at least 1 centre back, preferably 1 or 2 versatile senior attacking players and also a solid second striker, as backup for our front 4 currently consists entirely of academy kids.
And then comes the news I’ve been waiting for. Goolam Allie drops by my office and tells me that our new wage and transfer budgets are £32k per week and £103k respectively. I actually find it quite difficult to see Goolam after that because of the £ signs in my eyes. I reckon I can make that budget work, especially once the fees from my unwanted players come through and their wages are off the books. He does take my feel-good atmosphere down a notch though by adding that he’s had to cancel improvements to the Youth Facilities as we’ve lost about £375k this year. To be fair though I’m not really listening to Goolam at this point. I’m already on my phone, trying to reignite a deal that I desperately tried to close in January - I’m ringing Isaac Sohna’s agent.
It’s a credit to my scouting network that nobody else has picked up Isaac in the last 6 months. His mind and physique could become that of a truly excellent defender, so in my eyes either the other clubs aren't as familiar with the Cameroonian leagues as my scouts are, or they just don't see past Isaac's poor first touch and general technical weaknesses. Isaac accepts my contract as he did in January, but that's only a tiny part of the battle. We'll have to wait yet another long month to see whether he'll get a work permit this time.
So as I did in January, I look for a South African option in case things don't work out. I like Eliphas Thoahlane and think he was good for us during his loan spell, despite the odd error. I get on the phone to Platinum Stars Manager Danian Wareley and enquire about the availability of the player, whose contract in all fairness was only extended after I tried to nab him on a free 6 months ago. I hang up a few seconds later after Danian informs me that nothing short of £150k will prise Thoahlane away. I think even he knows how ridiculous a price tag that is, so after I calm down I call back and we agree on a year long loan, with the option for us to buy the centre back for £80k. Thoahlane re-signs.
The next thing I know, Moe and Issouf Paro are on their way out with Maritzburg and Baroka respectively. After they're gone, I enthusiastically accept offers for Jenniker, Sullie and Ntombayithethi. The cull has begun.
I don't give Sullie a second glance as I wave him a cheery goodbye. He moves to Steenburg United in the 2nd tier. A few days later, Ntombayithethi leaves for Cape Town City. He's got a decent amount of promise, but I just don't rate him. The next day though, Aidie Jenniker turns around and flat out refuses to move. He just refuses. This is frustrating news for me as I really want him gone so that I can free up more money for my eventual new signings, but it appears that because of me not wanting to pay most of Aiden's bloody wage, other interested clubs can't afford to tempt him away.
Over the next few days a new pitch is laid and bedded in at the Athlone, ready to host the new Santos FC. And also, Jenniker gets another chance to move and he once again refuses. Eventually, with a week of June to go, he does move, following Sullie to Steenburg. I had the bright idea of absolutely ripping them off with my asking price to offset the cost of just conceding and paying a chunk of Aidie's wage, and it works like a charm.
The next man to be ejected from this great club is Khat. He's being blasted off into the abyss like the tail section of a rocket, with the rocket in this simile being Santos and the tail section being the ageing Zimbabwean journeyman who's constantly being played out of position. To be fair to Khat, he did say months ago that he was retiring, but I'm still counting him as cull victim #8.
Sohna's work permit application is then rejected, which doesn't entirely shock me, and I appeal the decision as per usual. The next day I'm informed that his work permit application has been rejected once again, and I sign him anyway because life's too fucking short to be dealing with this every 6 months. Of course he won't be able to play for us until we do manage to get him a permit, but I'll loan him out to play a better standard of football than he's used to (No offence to EPTA) and hopefully he'll improve and maybe even earn a full call up to the Cameroonian squad, at which point I can probably bring him straight back and get him in my team.
As June ticks over into July and the transfer window opens, all of the players I've agreed to sell or release officially move on and Thoahlane and Sohna officially move in. I immediately spread the word that Sohna is available for loan and I've never been quite so inundated with phone calls. All in all, we receive loan bids from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine. Taking into account playing time and the quality of the squad and the league itself, Israeli side Hapoel Ra'anana are the club I choose to take him.
I then take a punt on a couple of attackers that I've identified and whose contracts expire in a few months: Augustin Rostand and Ismaïla Diallo. Augustin is a 19 year old full Cameroonian International, having scored twice in 6 appearances for his country. He's a pacy and strong striker who knows where the net is and is also a set piece specialist, and to top it off he's got determination to spare. He's in demand though, with Lierse, Lille, Stade Rennais and Toulouse all interested.
Ismaïla is also a full International with his native Senegal, having played 3 times at the age of 19. He reminds me a little of Isaac Sohna, as he's not brilliant technically but he has brilliant mental and physical capabilities. Unlike Sohna though he's an anti-winger who plays on the right. At 6'5" he's a handful for opposition full backs and he comes from the Dirk Kuyt school of winger-ing, with exceptional fitness levels, work rate and determination, so he'd certainly add something different on the right.
I'm catching transfer fever at this point, one of the symptoms of which will hopefully turn out to be having a fucking great new squad. I put in a £7k bid for Mandla Masango, a South African who's spent a couple of weeks on trial with us from Supersport United, and it's accepted instantly. Mandla's requested a transfer after only making 8 appearances last season, starting just once, but I reckon he'll have a place here. He's exactly what I wanted - An extremely versatile attacker who can play anywhere across midfield or attacking midfield. He's extremely lightweight and about as good in the air as an aviaphobic ostrich that recently died, but he's determined and technically very good with some tricks, some pace and a bloody good attitude towards putting in a shift.
While we wait to see if he accepts though, I receive some unwelcome news - Bidvest Wits submit a derisory £115k bid for our star player Joseph Ekwalla. I'm a reasonable man, so instead of outright rejecting the offer I say that he'll be sold if we receive £1m and half of his next transfer fee. Wits withdraw their offer. Cue the usual rap-rap-rapping on my office door though. Joe is incensed that I didn't accept the ridiculous offer that Wits coughed up onto the table and he's adamant that he wants to leave. This puts me in a tricky position as I've been hoping since January that he would at some point suddenly want to sign a new contract so that we wouldn't lose him on a free next year. I think it's fair to say that Wits' bid has scuppered that particular dream though, so begrudgingly and with an extremely heavy heart I agree that I'll sell Joe Ekwalla the next time a bid is made.
Sakhile Maloka is on his way out after I accept a £50k bid from Sundowns, plus the obligatory half of his next fee, and then I set about trying to find a replacement for that snake Ekwalla. I find someone, and if we can pull this off, we might even get an upgrade. Derrick Addo, the boy with the wonkiest afro in African football, is the player I want to bring in. He's 19 and is a full Ghanaian international, having played 6 times. He's more of an all round midfielder than Joe and he's not quite as good a passer, but he's 6'0" and well balanced, a good rounded physical presence, a great decision maker and generally a really mature player. He too is out of contract in November, but in an effort to bring him in straight away I submit a £150k bid, which is accepted.
Before Derrick's even had chance to skim my contract offer, which is extremely generous, his agent gets a phone call. From Genk. For fucks sake. He leaves to consider our offer but I'm not nearly as confident as I was a moment ago.
We need to press on though as we still need to bring in some players, including a right back. Enter Tlou Molekwane. Molekwane is a free agent after being released by Bloem Celtic a few days ago and he's joined us on trial so that I can take a look at him. Although he's not that quick at 31 and not that strong in the tackle, I offer him a contract. He's a spirited hard worker and a decently rounded defender, and even if he isn't my first choice he'll be a good character to have in the changing room. Plus, he's performed very well when called upon by Celtic this season.
The next bid I receive is upwards of £120k for Joseph Ekwalla from Orlando Pirates. After some tough and drawn out negotiations I get them up to £350k and 40% of the profit of Joe's next sale. If he's going to be as good as I think he is, that could be a huge windfall for Santos in the future.
Sadly, Ismaïla Diallo rejects our contract and plumps instead for Botoșani in Romania. He would've been a good option to have on the right, so I'm pretty disappointed.
We then receive another bid for Joe Ekwalla from those devious bastards at Bidvest Wits, who started this in the first place. They offer more money but with a lesser percentage of his future fee, and Goolam Allie steps in and accepts the bid. I let out a long sigh before launching into a shameful series of expletives, with the main point being that nothing gets my goat more than meddling Chairmen and all he's doing is cheating himself and the club out of more money in the long run. Allie changes his mind and calls Wits himself to reject the bid. It's a wise move.
And then finally it's time to announce our first permanent new signing with a work permit to actually play for us. Tlou Molekwane has joined us for free on a 1 year deal.
But before we can pop the cork out of the champagne we're brought crashing back down to Earth with the news that Augustin Rostand has rejected us in favour of FC Lorient. It's fair enough I suppose, but that's a particularly frustrating one. He's a brilliant young striker and could've done well for us.
Maybe we'll have more luck with a player that I've actually been keeping an eye on since January: Hicham Aidir. Hicham is a 19 year old Moroccan U20 striker currently plying his trade for COD Meknès in his home country, where he scored 13 goals in 19 games last season. He's a great finisher and an excellent physical specimen, but what really drew my eye to his scouting report is his attitude. He's very very determined, hard working, team oriented and he's a bloody great leader. A £40k bid is duly made and a generous contract is offered. Unfortunately though, his agent demands a minimum fee release clause for foreign clubs of £250,000, but as we'd still be making a good profit for a good player I begrudgingly accept.
Orlando Pirates are back again. Not content with having pretty much landed Joseph Ekwalla, they also want young Sakhile Maloka. It's one of those moments that gives me second thoughts as to whether I should be selling the lad if a club like Orlando want him, but after some thought I negotiate them up to £50k and half of his next fee and accept.
Hapoel Ra'anana have landed themselves a hell of a centre back for the season. Isaac Sohna's off to Israel to earn himself an International call up and a work permit. Good luck, Isaac.
Next up, we sign Mandla Masango from SuperSport for a paltry £7k. The 30 year old versatile midfielder has excited the fans who see him as one of the best players at the club, so we might have grabbed ourselves a bargain.
Frustratingly though, with every silver lining comes a big black cloud to rain all over my parade. Derrick Addo has agreed to join Genk and I'm getting pretty fucking frustrated in my attempts to bring in young foreign talent.
Sakhile Maloka opts to join Sundowns in the end and I wish him well. He might become a decent player for them and might even earn us a few bob if and when he moves on. Good luck, Sakhile.
The 12th of July is a day that'll live in infamy in Lansdowne. For me at least. "Fuck off, Joe" day will henceforth be a local holiday on which we remember Joseph Ekwalla, who refused to commit, who refused to honour his contract, and who snubbed the club that put him on the World stage. Sort of. Today he completes his move to Orlando Pirates, so fuck off, Joe. Marothi Diale will be under special instructions to sweep the leg next time we meet.
I just can't win. I refused to sell Joseph at first and I heard a rap-rap-rapping on my office door. Now I've let him go and there's a rap-rap-rapping on my bloody office door. Many of the squad, including pretty much all of our best players, are unhappy with my decision to let our best midfielder leave, which is probably fair enough. "Never fear" I tell them, smiling and tapping my nose as if I've got some sort of plan, "I'll be replacing Joseph with an even better player". The players seem excited by that promise, but now I've got to actually deliver on it, which as I've found out the hard way so far could be more difficult than it sounds. At least the board are happy with my decision to sell Ekwalla though - His sale covers pretty much all of our losses for last season and Goolam and co think that flogging him is a masterstroke.
Anyway, I've got a promise to deliver on so there's no time to dwell on the loss of Ekwalla. I adjust my goggles and dive back into the transfer market, this time for Joël Soumahoro. To put it bluntly, Joël is not Joe. He's not got the first touch, the passing, the technique, the creativity etc, but he's still a bloody good young footballer. Primarily a number 10, the 20 year old Ivory Coast U20 International is more in my true mould: Aggressive, determined enough, a good decision maker and team player, and a hard worker. He's dynamic. If Ekwalla was Pirlo, Soumahoro is Mark Noble. Less glamourous, yes, but can be just as effective in the right team. He's out of contract at his current Ivorian club, Academie de Foot Amadou Diallo de Djékanou, so I offer him the chance to join a club whose name you can say without having to book a long weekend off work.
While we wait for Joël to make his mind up, the countdown begins on potential new striker Hicham Aidir. While I'm making comparisons, I reckon Hicham can be the Morrocan Alan Shearer and I hope against hope that he gets his work permit. In a month.
Another countdown, this time for the new season, begins when the fixture list is announced. The new look Santos side that I'm struggling to put together will be given a baptism of fire with a trip to our local rivals Ajax Cape Town on the 26th of August. I can't wait.
A few days later, Soumahoro does agree to join us, which again is great news, but again is tinged by the nagging fear that he won't be granted a work permit.
Before our trip across town to Ajax CT we'll play 7 friendlies, starting with our U19's and our reserves, before building up against lower league South African sides. I don't manage to arrange any matches against big opposition like I usually like to do though, which is a shame.
Before any of these matches though, we still need players. We've brought Thoahlane and Sohna in at centre back, but ideally I'd still like an upgrade, so I launch a £6k bid for another youngster that I've had my eye on for a good few months: Mike Kakuba. Mike is my favourite kind of centre back: He's an absolute wall. The 19 year old, contracted to URA from Uganda, is a full international, already having racked up 11 appearances for Uganda. He's good defensively, very strong and aggressive, and has some reach in the air, helped by his 6'3" frame. Also, I could be wrong, but I don't think I've ever had a player with such a fantastic mohawk. My offer is accepted and I offer a contract. I'd love to sign Mike to eventually form a partnership with Isaac Sohna, who could be the Koscielny to Kakuba's Mertesacker.
It doesn't take Mike long to agree to join the Santos revolution. Another month-long wait begins.
Bloem Celtics try an ambitious loan bid for last season's PSL 3rd top scorer Carl Lark, which I laugh away, but it's Maritzburg United's £13k bid for Nathan Gertse that causes problems. I reject the bid as I consider Gertse one of my best, most consistent and adaptable defenders, so I think nothing of it really, but rap-rap-fucking-rap goes my office door and in he comes, demanding to be allowed to join the team that finished 1 place below us last season. Bemused, I tell him to fill his boots. I've never been a big believer in keeping players against their will as I don't really see the point. If they consider their time at a club over then it is; You'll rarely see them play as well for your club as they have before after that decision's made. I stick Nathan on the transfer list.
We now need another defender then, so let's solve that problem immediately, shall we? A £7k bid is duly made for SuperSport United's versatile South African defender Ayanda Nkili. In truth, there's nothing too special about Ayanda, but he's an extremely rounded, and extremely versatile defender to a decent standard, able to play anywhere across defence, as a holding man or a central midfielder. He's pretty good physically, at 29 is experienced enough to offer us something and is mentally my kind of hard working player. I offer a contract, which I've done so many times so far this Summer that I think I'm in danger of giving myself an RSI.
The man that Ayanda is replacing, Nathan Gertse, might really be regretting his decision. 2nd tier side Steenburg United make a bid and I negotiate them up to £30k before accepting. Let this be a lesson to the rest of the squad - The grass is not greener on the other side, the grass is covered in dog shit and fire.
He'd better go though because Ayanda has officially arrived. Already with him and Molekwane we have a lot more quality, experience and mental fortitude in our back line. We just need another left back now.
Here's a thought though... What if I don't need to buy another left back? I know the whole Sello Japhta experiment didn't go swimmingly last season, but I think I want to give him a proper try as a left wing back. If he can fill that gap then we'll gain another dimension going forwards, but we'll probably need another winger. It's time for our friendlies, so he starts at full back against the Under 19's. All in all it's a decent first game back. I let most of the unused players play for the U19's except for Phil Cele and Carl Lark who aren't fit enough to start, and they give us a decent match that we win 3-1, thanks to goals from Ernie, an own goal and Ryan Moon. Young winger Karabo Noqazo gets the goal for the youngsters.
The clock's really ticking now that the friendlies have begun. I still think we could use another attacking midfielder so I offer a contract to 19 year old Cameroon International Mouhamadou Ekedi. This deal's a bit rushed as time's running out for us to sign foreign players before the transfer window shuts in just over a month, so my scouts don't know everything about the lad, but he looks like he's worth rolling the dice for. He's got a pretty good first touch and fits into my determined, hard working, good decision making mould, as well as being lightning fast and extremely physically fit.
While we wait once again to see whether Ekedi's going to join, we play out another friendly with a slightly different lineup, but Sello Japhta still at wing back, where I've decided he'll play every single minute he can this pre season to get him comfortable. Again we play a Santos B team and beat them 2-0, a task made easier after Siyabonga Zulu forgets the meaning of the word friendly and scythes down Ryan Moon 25 minutes in, earning himself a red. Moon gets the opening goal a few minutes later and is joined on the score sheet by King Carl a further few minutes on.
Nathan Gertse is substituted for the reserves in the 2nd half, which is the last we'll see of him in a Santos shirt. It's a shame really, but when a player's ambition is to drop down a division for no apparent reason, he's not a player that I want around. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Nathan.
Our next friendly pits us against Mother City, yet another Cape Town football club from the Western Cape Division 3. They're named after Cape Town itself, thought to be known as The Mother City after the City was described as a Metropolis (Derived from the Greek words metros, meaning mother, and polis, meaning city) in the 30's, a description that stuck in the public mind. Anyway my boys thump them 5-1, with 2 goals from King Carl added to by Manqoba Cele, Sony Norde and Ryan Moon.
After the match I'm greeted by the news that Ekedi has agreed to join us, which I'll celebrate or not in exactly 1 month's time. 2 players that have signed though are Komo and Ernie, whose contracts were due to run out at the end of the upcoming season. They both get 1 year extensions.
And while we're talking about him, I've got a rather unusual bombshell to drop about our young goalkeeper. The time has come to choose my captain and vice captain for the new season, and although I've not yet finished bringing players in, I'm not comfortable with giving the armband to someone as soon as they walk through the door anyway and that leaves me with a shortage of proper options. "It may only be for a year", I tell Komo after calling him into my office after training. "I need a captain that I know, that I trust, and who is going to be in my team every single week, and I don't think that anyone in my squad wants this club to succeed as much as you do. You're a local lad, you're a leader and you're my captain this season, OK?" Komo just stares at me, then at the armband in my hand, then back at me, and then nods. He takes the armband and goes to leave, but before he gets to the door I call after him "Make me proud, Captain Komo". He looks back and grins, before heading back towards the changing room.
I drop Phil Cele to vice captain. I've decided to keep him around as backup this season but in terms of his captaincy duties last year he really didn't do very well. Anyway, with Sello Japhta now retraining as a full back I need another left winger, prompting a £35k bid for Yanga Baliso. Yanga plays for 2nd tier side Baroka FC, who signed Issouf Paro at the start of the Summer and is a former South Africa U20 international. Now 23, he's not yet earned a full International call up but I reckon he can do a job. He's quick, mentally OK, and he can take a man on and either cross or shoot with some degree of accuracy. The fee is slightly more than I'd like to pay, but he's the best South African option out there for us. Baroka FC accept and I offer the lad a contract.
I leave him to mull over my offer as we travel to our first away friendly of pre-season against affiliate club Vasco CT. Our centre backs get us the win. Well, both teams' centre backs really, with Vasco's Mongalo adding a late own goal to make it 3-1 after a Gary Havenga header and a Juno free kick put us ahead. Juno gets the player of the match award too as he also sets up Havenga's goal.
After the match I get a call from Bloem Celtic manager Joey Antipas, who wants to take the newly demoted Phil Cele off my hands. I tell him that if he pays £50k he has a deal, so Joey pays £50k. Bang goes the theory about keeping Phil around, I suppose.
And another departure means another signing. As I've now got Molekwane and Nkili who are both best suited to playing at right back, I decide to bring in a centre back to join Juno, Thoahlane and Havenga. I make a £3k bid for Orlando Pirates' experienced South African defender Roscoe Pietersen, which is duly accepted. Roscoe is a good solid centre back and I think would some much needed experience to our centre back ranks. The 3 that we have at the minute are all very young and if we do manage to bring in Mike Kakuba or eventually get a work permit for Isaac Sohna, they're both very young too. Pietersen is solid defensively, OK on the ball with either foot and a good decision maker, and at 31 he's certainly got that experience. He also played well for his club when needed last season.
And just like that, Cele leaves and Roscoe "Roscoe" Pietersen signs.
With Phil Cele gone I do need to replace him as vice captain though. As far as I know Komo will play every single match for Santos FC this season so I don't really think there's much need for a vice captain, but if he ever isn't going to play due to injury or suspension it makes sense to have his replacement as his vice captain. Dino Visser takes the vice-armband.
I'm confident of landing left winger Yanga Baliso so I allow Manqoba Cele to be loaned out to affiliate club Zizwe United so that he can get some first team football, successfully and very coincidentally ridding my club of "Cele"s in one fell swoop.
And then comes the hammer blow. Of course. Striker Hicham Aidir's work permit is rejected. This has been my worst fear all throughout the summer, especially for the last month where I've been working under the assumption that I'd sign all of these non South African players to fill up my allowed number of foreign players. I've been filling in my squad with South Africans on the assumption that these work permits would actually go through. I appeal against the decision of course, but unusually it's going to take longer than a day for the big wigs to come up with a decision, which might be a positive thing? I'm really not sure. What I am sure about though is if we can't get the players that we're waiting for over the line I think we might find ourselves up a certain creek without a certain tool that could get us out of said creek.
I then get to distract myself though with the selection of our squad numbers, which takes a surprisingly long time, but then we have changed quite a bit already this summer. A personal highlight is Captain Komo's transition to the big boy jersey - Number 1 for the number 1.
For our next friendly we host First Division side Real Kings at the Athlone and take a narrow 1-0 win, with Sony Norde's free kick the only thing separating the 2 sides.
But straight after the match, WHAM! Another hammer blow. Attacking midfielder Joël Soumahoro's work permit has been rejected too. I appeal once again but get the distinct impression that I'm pissing in the wind. Like with Aidir though, the powers that be are really going to drag this decision out, which is just peachy.
The silver lining is Yanga Baliso, the South African left winger who needs no such ridiculous waiting period and can join our beleaguered forward ranks without further ado. Yanga signs and the fans are quite pleased, although they might become less pleased if he turns out to be the last incoming transfer of the window.
Our penultimate friendly is a trip to Stellenbosch to face Stellenbosch FC. We've played them before and they always provide tricky opposition so we give a first appearance of the season to Project: Foxy Mk II, having used Project: Meatloaf for all of the other friendlies. We very nearly take the win on a horribly wet and windy day, after lone striker Ernie puts us ahead 10 minutes into the second half. Ayanda Nkili's 87th minute own goal levels the scores, but to be fair he'd had a solid game up to that point and I'd rather he gets his mistakes out of the way before the Season properly begins. Pleasingly, Sello Japhta picks up the player of the match award for his performance at full back.
But hey, enough about Santos. I've been going on and on about Santos all Summer, but what we should really be talking about is ME. ME AND MY ACHIEVEMENTS. Namely, completing my National A Coaching License. It really says a lot about Santos that I've been able to complete my National coaching badges as the club's solid financial footing is what's made it possible and I really owe the club for that, which is why I should now stop talking about me and go back to talking about Santos, as time's running out before our first league game and there's still work to be done.
And then I get the call. The call that makes everything sort of OK, or at least gives us hope. Mike Kakuba's work permit has gone through. The Ugandan International has the green light to sign for Santos FC and that's exactly what he does.
And in time for our last friendly too! To finish our pre-season we face loanee Manqoba Cele and his Zizwe United side at the Athlone. As I've said, I usually like to finish pre-season with a bit more of a challenge, but it is what it is, and what it is is a 4-0 drubbing. Ryan Moon, Sony Norde and Sinbad all score to add to an own goal by Zizwe's Dladla. Sinbad and Moon in particular are on fire, and Sony Norde, Roscoe and Mike bloody Kakuba all have brilliant games too.
We still have Aidir, Soumahoro and Ekedi waiting to join us, but with Kakuba's move fresh hope has been breathed into Santos FC. Hope that we can get the deals done and complete this ridiculous, magnificent Summer of change. They'll have to wait though, because we've got an Old Cape Town Derby to play.