Abafana Bes’thende have had a relatively quiet transfer window, preferring to promote from within than splash on big name players.
KwaZulu-Natal rivals Maritzburg United last season proved that relative success can be achieved by showing faith in the club’s own youngsters, with their young squad achieving a record-making fourth-place league finish while also reaching a domestic cup final.
When asked if the Team of Choice’s youth focus can be seen as an exemplary framework for Arrows to replicate this season, Larsen preferred to draw back on his own exploits with former employers Celtic.
“I did that seven or eight years ago at Celtic,” he said. “We finished fifth, and I had a young Lerato Manzini, we had young Keagan Buchanan and Lyle Lakay and all these babies playing, and Fadlu [Davids, Maritzburg coach] found himself in a similar situation. And I think that is a good example that if you keep a team together, and work with them, you can eventually reap the reward for it.
“For us it’s about continuity rather than just signing players, hence we’ve promoted a number of players this year. We are selfish coaches and want it to happen overnight, but we know it’s not going to.
"But we’re a very patient club, and I’m very fortunate that my boss [Mato Madlala] also understands our limitations as a club and is very supportive in us giving us these youngsters a chance. Sometimes it will come with the expense of losing matches, but in the long term, it will be very beneficial for the club. It’s something we find great joy in, giving these youngsters an opportunity at the highest level.”
With the likes of young trio Nkosinathi Sibisi, Siboniso Conco and Siphamandla Sabelo staking their claim for a starting berth in the Arrows first team, Larsen says he continues to preach, as always, the same motto to his young products, to ready them for PSL football.
“Even in pre-season we talked about the same scenario, that there’s going to be injuries and suspensions, and the young kids need to train well and grab the opportunity when it comes their way – we’ve seen that with Sibisi and Conco,” he said. “So we’ll continue to groom these young boys, and with each season that goes by, they’ll get more experience and become better players. So like I said, there’s a long term plan at the club.”
Arrows, who have won one, lost one and drawn one game so far this campaign, next face Polokwane City in a league fixture this evening.