By Ricky Zililo
Former Kaizer Chiefs striker Mitchell Katsvairo is among a host of players hoping to impress newly appointed Highlanders coach Mark Harrison.
The 30-year-old ex-Chicken Inn and South Africa’s Free State Stars FC forward was released by Ngezi Platinum Stars halfway through his contract after failing to impress having joined them last year in July.
Katsvairo had signed a one-year deal with Ngezi, after failing to make an impact at Free State Stars who were relegated to South Africa’s National First Division at the end of the 2018/19 ABSA Premiership season.
Besides Katsvairo, veteran striker Mkhokheli Dube who turns 37 years in June, 24-year-old goalkeeper Chris Mverechena who was discarded by Caps United, 21-year-old Aces Youth Academy product Collin Mujuru who was at Harare City last season and Humphrey Ncube (27), who was with Premiership returnees Bulawayo City are training with the Bulawayo giants.
For the last two seasons, Highlanders have said they are going through a rebuilding exercise, whose focus is on youngsters, with the objective being to compete for the championship this season.
Maybe the “pressure” to land the Premiership title that they last won in 2006 is mounting on them and that is why they are contemplating on signing seasoned players.
Thirty-three-year-old veteran forward Obidiah Tarumbwa is also being linked with a possible move to Highlanders from Talen Vision.
After lifting the Chibuku Super Cup last season, Highlanders chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube said they are going for the 2020 Premiership title.
“This is a project we started in 2018 when we were still with Madinda Ndlovu. We made it clear when we started that results won’t be instant.
“In the first year, it was all about re-energising the side by going back to the structures and bringing up the young players who have a clear understanding of the Highlanders culture.
“We had to work hard to infuse the Highlanders brand of exciting football. Statistics show that last year we had many people coming back to the stadium to watch Highlanders games because they liked the type of football that we play.
“Then the second year, which is 2019, the target was at least reaching the final of a major knock-out tournament and that we have done and capped by winning the Chibuku Super Cup. We also aimed for a top four finish in the league and with the way things are shaping up it’s something that is still attainable.
“Then the third year (2020) we need to maintain the gains of the previous two years, our football philosophy, to the extent that even if a new player is to come in he should fit perfectly into the template that we have created.
“If you look at how we managed to win the title four years in a row in the early 2000s, it was after we had gone back to the drawing board and putting in place a working plan that we followed up consistently.
“This year (2020) we need to challenge the top teams and be in a position to fight for the championship. We can only develop by going a gear up,” Dube said.
Six players, Dominic Jaricha, Dalubuhle Dlodlo, Cardwel Gavaza, Muziwethu Dlamini (all from Bosso 90) and striker Mthabisi Ncube who was plucked from their Under-17 side are training with the first team as well.
“When we said we need to go back to our roots and promote youngsters, we also said we will consider players with expertise that is not there in the juniors.
“The seasoned players (Dube, Katsvairo, Mverechena, Humphrey and Mujuru), either asked to train with us or were invited with the hope of impressing the coaches. They haven’t been signed but are just training with the club.
“If you look closely, the core first team players have been at Highlanders for a while and we are not deviating. In reality, it’s impossible to have the whole team of Highlanders junior products,” said Highlanders spokesperson Ronald Moyo.
During off-season, Highlanders lost Denzel Khumalo to FC Platinum and right back McClive Phiri who is club hunting as free agents. The Chronicle