In touch with Head Coach Palmer
9 February 2017
Mthatha Bucks head coach Ian Palmer shares his thoughts on his first few weeks at the club and the upcoming challenges over the remainder of the NFD season.
We put the following questions to the former Orlando Pirates striker and vastly experienced NFD and PSL coach.
MthathaBucks.co.za: Welcome to the club, coach. As you’ve likely seen and certainly will see, Mthatha Bucks mean a lot to the people of this region…
Ian Palmer: The support Mthatha Bucks have is fantastic, in my opinion they are the best supported team in the NFD, and have more support than some of the PSL clubs. So there is a lot of incentive for me – I don’t want to disappoint the supporters, or the vision the club has.
It’s clear to see what the fans have brought to the team – you just need to look at the home record. But we must also find ways to improve our away record, it needs to be better than it has been.
MthathaBucks.co.za: It’s never easy to join a team mid-season, but the AFCON break must have helped ease you in considerably?
Ian Palmer: The break was good, it gave me time to assess the squad, to see which positions we needed to fill, and to add some new players. We also had to look at our Under-23 situation, several of our unders had been injured, so that was something to consider.
The time spent on camp and in playing friendly games has been very useful, it’s enabled me to instill my philosophy amongst the players, and for them to understand me as a coach. But I won’t be making to make big changes, as the team has done well and I want to be careful not to disrupt the rhythm too much.
However, we will need to put more focus on our defending - it’s good for players to have freedom when attacking, but they must be aware of their defensive responsibilities as well. They must know what their duties and must be focussed and disciplined. So far I’ve had a good response in the friendly games we have played and although there is still work to do I feel we are on the right track.
MthathaBucks.co.za: What are some of the other areas you see as key?
Ian Palmer: Mental strength and character are going to be very important. I was looking at that while we were in KZN on camp, when we played Friday, Saturday, and two matches on Sunday. Some players were getting tired and losing their focus – not unusual in the circumstances – but others showed mental toughness and character. This aspect is important because we want to avoid repeating situations where we are 2-0 up but then draw the game. The players need to have the right mind-sets for the challenges we have ahead this season.
MthathaBucks.co.za: First up for you is Jomo Cosmos, this Saturday in Mthatha. You must have clashed with Jomo Sono several times over the years as an opposition coach?
Ian Palmer: I don’t have a bad record as a coach against Cosmos, but from past experiences, they have always been tough matches – Cosmos are usually aggressive and physical, I won’t say dirty, but they play with a lot of commitment. They are on 22 points, just a point above us, and like Mthatha Bucks, in with a chance of making the play-offs.
They’re not the only ones, several teams are challenging, it’s very tight and is going to be a real dog fight for the top three. The only way for us to approach the rest of the season is to make every game a cup final; we need to take as many points as we can from each game and not drop too many.