But defending champions Gunners coach, Darlington Dodo, told the Zimbabwean on Sundays Grace Chirumanzu in an interview last week that a learning phase that followed his taking over of the coaching reins from Moses Chunga and the departure of some experienced players is now past and his side is ready to wage battle in defence of their crown. Excerpts:
Grace Chirumanzu (GC): The title race is increasingly looking like a two-horse affair between Motor Action and Dynamos, have you already given up hope of retaining your title or what should your fans expect in the second half of the season?
Darlington Dodo (DD): In every competition one comes through such situations but as a team we mostly focus on what we want to achieve and during this first half of the season we are focused at collecting the maximum points. That is the only way we can defend the championship.
In the first half of the season we had so many players going out for trials (at foreign clubs) and because of that we had not been consistent. But now that we know that we need to do without Ramson (Zhuwawo), Willard (Katsande) and Carlington we have started building on the players we got. The trial period has passed and everyone knows what we need to focus on.
GC: You took over as coach after the departure of Moses Chunga and just as Gunners were preparing for their Orange Caf Champions League campaign, tell us a bit about that period. It surely must have been a trying moment taking over from one of the countrys top coaches and at such a crucial moment for Gunners?
DD: Working with Bambo was such a blessing in disguise; it is something I will always cherish. He is one person who has groomed me. His departure left a void but I think I have managed to do very well from using what I learnt from him.
Leading the team into the Champions League was a challenge but it was one I always looked forward to, an opportunity that I grabbed with both hands.
GC: How would you compare Gunners campaign last year and your season so far?
DD: There is not much difference but the difference is the situation we are playing in. Financially things are not looking good compared to last year. Most teams this year travel to Shabanie or Bulawayo to play on the same day whereas last year we could afford travelling a few days before match day to get time to rest. It is so taxing on these youngsters but otherwise the zeal and the attitude they have towards the game is still the same.
GC: And how has been the going in your new role as coach?
DD: One thing I appreciate most is the support I get from the club president, the players and the team manager. When Bambo left (Cuthbert) Chitima had so much confidence in me that he told me to take over and he gave me so much support, the players showed great character and respect; no one doubted my ability. Because of this it was an easy passage for me to walk
GC: And the challenges or difficulties?
DD: (How to ensure we) defend the league championship is the most difficult part of my job, its a difficult question for me to answer. Although winning the championship title one year does not necessarily mean one has to win it again the following year, it is however something we wish would happen to us. Once a team makes itself a household name, with it comes the pressure to keep winning and doing well.
GC: What were the lessons learnt from African campaign?
DD: Playing Al Ahly in the early stages of the competition was a great challenge not only for me as a coach but for the players as well, it is one of the biggest teams in Africa who have made it the semi-finals this year.
But I can say we learnt a lot from the matches, we managed to beat them at home despite losing away. The players gained a lot of confidence playing at such a high level of competition and that has seen others being called for trials at foreign teams.Post published in: Football