‘It’s been extremely tough’, says Maritzburg coach Tinkler

Eric Tinkler, head coach of Maritzburg United (Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix)

It was getting tougher every day to keep the players excited about training while there was no clear indication of whether football will return or not, Maritzburg United coach Eric Tinkler has admitted.

He said what kept the players motivated to come to training must have been the opportunity to be together and not be cooped up in their homes, ashas been the case for two months while football activity was suspended under lockdown.

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“We are happy that we have a direction now,” Tinkler told Phakaaathi on Wednesday. “That’s the most important thing. I reported back to work on 1 June… and it has been a long wait to get some direction on what the future holds.

“That has been a major concern for everyone. A least now we know the league is continuing. We have been working and preparing for that. I think we are all ready to go. We are looking forward to having the league done and dusted. We set ourselves a target of finishing in the top eight and we have six games to see that through,” he added.

Tinkler said the working conditions have been a challenge as teams are compelled to practice the safety procedures imposed under lockdown.

“It’s been extremely tough. We are working under strange conditions at training with social distancing and the constant sanitising.  It demands that we all take responsibility. The players must be extremely responsible and come to training and then go straight home without socialising and lock themselves until the next training to avoid coming in contact with the virus.

“There is a lot of frustration right now because there is a lot of loneliness when you are not at training… the mood and spirits are high at training, the problem starts when the guys have to go home after training.

“They have already been spending a lot of time alone. That’s been the toughest part. But it is only going to get tougher once we go into bubble (the biologically safe environment in Gauteng). I hate to say this but going to the bubble is like being sent to an isolation cell in prison. That will be tough mentally.

“We will use our allocated training venue even on days when we are not training just to get the guys together and avoid loneliness of being alone in the hotel rooms,” explained the 49-year-old mentor.

The Blue Hearts were fifth in the Absa Premiership standings when the games were stopped in March and Tinkler conceded that their remaining matches will tough as they face sides who are either trying to move away from relegation, wanting to get into the top eight or fighting for the title.

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