Whether it’s Ajax or Spurs, it does not matter, the Urban Warriors are back in top flight

Cape Town Spurs are officially back in the land of milk and honey– the DStv Premiership – after spending five long years in the second tier of South African football.

Spurs, formerly known as Ajax Cape Town, gained promotion to the big time after winning the promotion/relegation play-offs this week.

They might have taken the long route, but the Cape outfit is back where it belongs, among the big boys of SA football.

They made up for the bitter disappointment of losing out on automatic promotion from the Motsepe Foundation Championship this season.

Spurs had the chance to seal automatic promotion on the final day but were held to a 1-1 draw by the University of Pretoria and were pipped at the top of the league by Polokwane City on goal difference.

It was a bitter disappointment for a team that had been imperious at home throughout the campaign and made the Athlone Stadium a real fortress.

Nevertheless, as the famous phrase goes, “all’s well that ends well” and the Capetonians will have forgotten all about their previous setbacks. It’s not so much what Spurs did that will catch the eye, but it’s how they managed to do it, relying on experience from the coaching staff, management and the players.

For starters they roped in Shaun Bartlett as their head coach in October 2021 to oversee a relatively new project that had begun a year before following their divorce with Ajax Amsterdam. Spurs had gone through a merger in 1999 with rivals Seven Stars to create Ajax Cape Town having joined forces with the Dutch side, but their over-two-decade-long relationship eventually ended in 2020.

This was just two years after Spurs’ relegation from the Premiership in the 2017-18 season while still campaigning as Ajax Cape Town, fondly known as the Urban Warriors.

The Spurs brand reignited its flames in the Cape and under Bartlett’s leadership, went about their business to return to the top-flight under the Cape Town Spurs mast.

Bartlett’s experience key:

Bartlett was no stranger to the second tier and brought with him experience of winning promotion in the past having done so with Golden Arrows.

He also had a two-year spell with the University of Pretoria as well as some valuable experience as an assistant coach at Kaizer Chiefs and TS Galaxy.

Bartlett quickly turned around the fortunes of Spurs after the club was involved in a number of scrapes with relegation to the ABC Motsepe League.

Spurs were the front runners for much of the final few months of the season and had developed a winning culture in the team.

Experience in the technical team:

Bartlett also had an experienced technical team that included former Bafana Bafana defender Nasief Morris as his assistant at the club.

Calvin Marlin’s wealth of experience having worked for some of the giants in the local game also came in handy for Bartlett.

“Having Nasief next to me, former defender who takes care of most of the defensive stuff, was very good for us,” said Bartlett.

“Calvin obviously was our analyst; goalkeeper coach; he was our everything. For me, you’ve got to give credit.

“These guys always make jokes and call me boss, but I always tell them we work together and not for each other,” said the Spurs coach.

The experience on the field

Spurs, who are known for having produced some of the finest young talent, seemed to strike a good balance this time around with experience.

Although they had some good youngsters playing a key role, perhaps none more so than top goal scorer Ashley Cupido, it was the experienced bunch that provided stability.

In their current squad, Spurs have bags of PSL experience in the likes of Clayton Daniels, Nazeer Allie, Granwald Scott and Michael Morton, who were key to their success.

“We’ve got coaches on the field and that helps,” added Bartlett.

“Age is just a number, if you know how these players perform. Would you say Clayton [Daniels] is 39? Would you say Nazeer Allie is 37?”

Experienced management

Spurs chairman Ari Efstathiou, who has bags of experience himself having been involved in the game for the longest time, has also sung the praises of their senior player.

“We’ve got two players at 38 and you wouldn’t say that, would you?” asked Efstathiou. “I know they can give us another year. They kept the youngsters going and allowed them to shine.”

Efstathiou revealed that the club has no intention to change its coach heading into the top-flight and will not be selling any of its players.

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