The Sunday News
THE newly appointed Highlanders Football Club coach, Mark Harrison has his work cut out for him.
On Wednesday last week Highlanders, the oldest football club in the land, based in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, viewed in some circles as more than a football outfit, announced the appointment of the 59-year-old Briton to take over as their head coach from Dutchman Hendrik Pieter de Jongh who is now heading the FC Platinum technical bench.
Harrison is an experienced football trainer who has been to a number of leagues following what we believe is his passion — coaching. A holder of a Uefa A coaching badge, Harrison also previously managed the Bangladesh national team from 2000 to 2001, coached South African sides Mpumalanga Black Aces, African Warriors, Bay Stars, Black Leopards, Chippa United and Golden Arrows. He also had a two-year stint with Township Rollers of Botswana. In Zimbabwe, he has coached Caps United and Harare City.
As they say when Highlanders or Bosso as the football club is affectionately known, sneezes the whole city catches a cold, so the coming in of Harrison has generated a lot of interest with some wondering whether the mandarins at the country’s oldest football club have made a right choice or the hiring of the British coach is an ill-fated union.
At this stage it is not for us to judge whether Harrison is the right candidate or not.
However, we believe Harrison has a lot of work to do.
He has to satisfy a typically restless and hard to please fan base which over the years has been agonising over the failure by this erstwhile club to win the championship, a feat that has eluded Amahlolanyama since they last won it in 2006 under the tutelage of Methembe Ndlovu.
Then Bosso had an array of talent at its disposal, what with the mercurial Honour Gombami, Richard Choruma, eccentric Tapuwa Kapini, versatile Vusa Nyoni led by the power and goal-scoring prowess of Ralph Matema.
We therefore believe that in Harrison, the team’s hierarchy has favoured a move to drag the club back to its glory days. In choosing the British coach, the Highlanders mandarins are much aware that he needs to build on from where De Jongh left, after delivering the Chibuku Super Cup.
De Jongh had within a short spell of time brought a sense of hope that finally things were coming Bosso’s way.
However, it will be an injustice or dereliction of duty on our part that while we have no qualms with the credentials of Harrison as a coach of integrity, not to flag our reservations over his seemingly irritating tendency of not respecting his contracts.
While he is a good coach who has won a championship with Township Rollers in Botswana, Harrison, just like De Jongh, is a well-known nomad with a tendency to walk out of contracts before their expiry date. His dalliance with clubs he serves is legendary.
It could have been wise for Highlanders to sign him for a shorter period like a year because that way it is easier to manage the relationship so as to minimise the chances of a messy and acrimonious divorce.
Despite this observation we still wish Harrison a fruitful journey as he moves to take Bosso where it belongs, at the summit of the Zimbabwean football stage.
We also seek to advise the “aristocracy” at Bosso that it is also time that they start preparing for a local trainer to take over this coveted job of coaching the country’s oldest football club. We are of the feeling that within its ranks there are capable hands that can deliver glory to the black and white family, after all, successful Highlanders sides have been born out of the hands of its former sons such as Barry Daka, Rahman Gumbo and Methembe Ndlovu with Madinda Ndlovu being credited with building squads, which went on to lift championships.
What is needed is to spoil the local coaches with the same resources that are lavished on foreign trainers.