By Tadious Manyepo
Warriors’ defender, Teenage Hadebe, has effectively shrugged off the second-season syndrome at his Turkish club, Yeni Malatyaspor.
However, he faces the real possibility of taking his good form to the second-tier league, as his club are battling relegation.
His Warriors teammate, Marvelous Nakamba, has struggled to replicate the form he showed, in first season at English Premiership side Aston Villa, who are virtually safe from the chop.
Such are the contrasting fortunes for the former Bantu Rovers teammates, who are both in their second seasons, with their clubs.
Nakamba, unlike Hadebe, has been restricted to cameo roles at the Birmingham club, starting just six games in 30 league matches, with four substitute appearances, to his name.
He has played four Cup games and, despite some of the rave reviews he, at times, receives, manager Dean Smith has kept the Zimbabwean on the bench, as he prefers Douglas Luiz, in the defensive midfield position.
The 10 league appearances he has notched this season is a far cry, of the 29 games he played, in his maiden season in 2019-20 with the Warrior coming on as a substitute, in 10 of those games.
While, he continues to try and cement his position in the squad, Nakamba appears to have been affected by the second-season syndrome.
Smith has maintained he needs the Zimbabwean, in his team but, mostly, Nakamba only makes the match day squad and, on the occasions he has come in from the bench, he has played minimal roles.
The Hwange-born midfielder could take comfort in that, at least, his manager still believes in his value, as a squad player.
And, with Villa virtually guaranteed to keep their place in the English top-flight league, it means there could be another chance for Nakamba to prove himself, next season.
There is also a likelihood Luiz could be poached from Villa and Smith will need someone, who knows the club very well, to turn to.
Ironically, Nakamba keeps being pushed into the starting XI, when the club comes up against the heavy hitters like Liverpool, as was the case at the weekend, Arsenal and Manchester City.
While Nakamba’s team look set to secure their top-flight place, the same cannot be said about Hadebe.
The gangly defender had a good debut season, after joining Malatyaspor around the same period when Nakamba put pen to paper, at Villa.
The 25-year-old former Highlanders and Kaizer Chiefs defender made the Team of the Season in Turkey, despite his team finishing the term in the relegation zone, although they were saved from the chop by a technicality.
Yeni Malatyaspor, Ankaragucu and Kayserispor finished the Covid-19 affected 2019-20 season in relegation places, and they were supposed to slide, into the second tier.
But, the Turkish Football Federation chairman, Nihat Ozdemir, revealed the three wouldn’t be relegated, since the season had not ended, as scheduled, when it was brought to a halt.
Instead, the three promoted sides were allowed to join the Super Lig, with the number of teams increased from 18 to 21.
Four teams will be relegated this season and Hadebe’s club are in real danger of going down.
Yet, the Warriors defender is having the game of his life, and some reports indicate he could even be targeted by some of the bigger teams in Turkey, or elsewhere, in Europe. Hadebe has made it clear his dream is to play in the English Premiership and his nonsense-approach could help him secure a ticket into that league. Hadebe played 23 matches, for Yeni Malatyaspor, last season providing one assist, in a season he was named one of the best centre-backs in the Turkish top-flight league.
He has since played 22 matches, in the league, and two games in cup competitions, this season. Hadebe has made the top-flight league’s Team of the Week, on three occasions, and could, as well, make the Team of the Season, for the second term running.
But, the former Chicken Inn player is not concerned about his individual showing, but his team’s safety. Yeni Malatyaspor are in 16th place, with 34 points, after 32 games.
They are just a point ahead of Instanbul Basa, who occupy the last relegation spot.
“I have had a very good season in Turkey so far but, I am not very concerned about how I am performing as an individual,” said Hadebe.
“I have made the Team of the Week, maybe, on three different occasions and I am happy with that.
“But, we are facing real relegation danger as a club.
“This is our main concern and focus right now, we have to play well in the few remaining matches.
“We don’t want a repeat of last season, we should pull up a bit and collect positive results in the coming games. We have shown that we can play in the top-flight.
‘’That’s my concern at the moment.” The Herald