When Clinton Larsen took over as Lamontville Golden Arrows coach last month, he would have hardly envisaged such a dream start to life in Durban.
The former Bloemfontein Celtic coach has enjoyed a fantastic start as Abafana Bes’thende coach with two wins in two games lifting the club into sixth position on the Absa Premiership table.
The 44-year-old has always been seen as one of the up-and-coming coaches in South African football after his exploits with Siwelele, who he consistently kept in a position of challenging for honours.
Now he is hoping for the same with his new club in a city that is his home – he was born in Durban and represented Manning Rangers as midfielder for most of his playing career.
PSL: How did this move happen. You resigned from Celtic and within two weeks you were managing Arrows?
Clinton Larsen (CL): “The opportunity was presented to me by the club and I thought really carefully about it. I didn’t want to jump into a job just for the sake of it, so when I carefully considered this one having made my calculations personally, I came to realise that this was indeed a very exciting project.”
PSL: Why was it so exciting and what where the main draw cards?
CL: “I took into consideration the long-term plans of the club. I looked at the (MultiChoice) Diski (Challenge) team and their other youth structures, I looked at the potential that was there and potential players that I could work with, that really excited me. Basically I love working with young players and I love giving young players the opportunities to play. I also spoke to the chairlady about her vision, which was to bring back the former glory days of the club, so it was something that basically ticked all the right boxes and I knew this was the right assignment for me.”
PSL: What do you make of the current squad that you have taken control of?
CL: “There’s a good squad to work with, the potential to build a good squad is there, the balance between youth and experience is there. Certain players I know really well and that’s because we really study our opponents, we spend a lot of time on opposition analysis. So I know a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of the players, which has come over time. But there’s a lot of others I don’t know and those are the ones I need to get to know. What makes them tick and that’s what I’m learning every day. We’ve also identified a group of players that are on the verge of promotion to the first team, those are on a special programme and we have to make sure they fulfil their promise.”
PSL: During your latter playing years and even before that, what were your thoughts and perceptions on Arrows?
CL: “My admiration for the way the team plays goes way back to before they even got to the PSL. I was a youngster when the late Rocky Madlala had the team, they were always very exciting I recall. Every coach has an aspiration to have a team that plays a certain brand of football. That’s my ambition, to play that attacking brand that this club became so accustomed to in previous years. It was exciting, end-to-end, skill, energy, pace…it was wonderful. They’ve had coaches that have done that in the recent past, Khabo Zondo and Manqoba Mngqithi to name a few. I hope to follow in their footsteps.”
PSL: Your predecessor Serame Letsoaka had obviously done an excellent job in the six months odd that he was here. Just how big boots do you have to fill?
CL: “I thought Serame did a great job here in terms of laying a solid foundation. That means I come here not having to start completely from scratch. His time was short, but very productive. There’s an extremely positive energy and a lot of that comes from the youth. So there are certain foundations laid down. But I’m still coming in with something completely different. My teams are multi-dimensional, we can adapt to situations, play in different ways and that’s what I’ll hope to add here. We have to bring much more to the table than we currently are.”
PSL: What are your plans in terms of recruiting new players? Will you buy or invest in the youth system here. The nucleus is very much there if you consider they are currently top in the MDC.
CL: “I know from my playing days that there’s a lot of talent in this province. It’s a matter of unearthing that talent and giving them the chance to blossom. So I’m not surprised by the abundance of talent there is at Arrows. In my opinion, there is really a golden generation of young talented players at the club. If you look at the Diski team, the performances they’ve produced and the potential to promote from there, then the club is in a very strong position. I’m sure down the years that will save them millions of rands in the market.”
PSL: Finally, the one question we can’t avoid. What are your targets for the season and where can this club finish?
CL: “For any promoted team in the world, I think the first target has to be to reach that safety net for survival. In the Absa Premiership that is 30 points and once we get there, we can then look at our next target. I think that’s why the chairlady (Mato Madlala) hasn’t come out and spoke about positions or anything like that, even with the former coach. But I am ambitious, you may have seen it with Celtic that we consistently punched above our weight. We always competed within the top five or six and that’s my aim with this club as well.”