When Hendrik Pieter de Jong assumed his role as Highlanders coach in September little did the team’s supporters know that the Dutch mentor would bring back joy and smiles to the club’s faithful whose heart and soul are stitched into the club’s badge.
Before he arrived Bosso were a soulless team characterised by underwhelming performances, but De Jong has proved to fans and pundits alike and even to those who scoffed at his CV that he is not a fraud, but he a tactician on a mission to return the huge institution to its glory days.
There’s no doubt that he knows what he is doing, he has not tasted defeat since he took over. He is unbeaten in twelve games and has the Chibuku Super Cup to show for his hard work.
Notably in a PSL encounter where Highlanders seemed to have lost it all to Ngezi Platinum Stars, the Dutch mentor rose from his seat and called on dependable defender Peter Muduhwa. He switched Muduhwa from central defence to centre-forward to partner Tinashe Makanda.
The strange tactical switch proved to be a masterstroke as Muduhwa exhibited great composure upfront to hold onto the ball under tight guard from Ngezi defenders and still managed to feed Makanda inside the box.
With Makanda through on goal, he was hacked down by Frank Makarati and referee Allan Bhasvi pointed to the spot and evergreen Ariel Sibanda converted.
After that stellar play Muduhwa wormed his way into Highlanders fans’ hearts as they chanted his name.
Had the Dutchman not used the ace up his sleeve, Ngezi Platinum Stars could have collected three points.
This past Sunday, in the Chibuku Super Cup final, Prince Dube, who is quick to credit De Jong for his goal scoring touch, won it for Highlanders with a brilliant shot which hit the underside of the bar before finding the net.
De Jongh brought with him a new philosophy into the team with his main emphasis being discipline across the entire institution.
“It’s not only the players that need to be disciplined, but its everyone at this institution including the executive and that way things will always fall into place,” he said during one of the club’s press conferences.
The Dutch mentor even takes time to have a one-on-one interaction with each player during training sessions, telling them their weaknesses and how they can overcome them.
He has even drawn up a special diet for the players where he has made emphasis to the players to desist from consuming various foods that might be detrimental to their performance during play.
Bosso chairman Kenneth Mhlophe said De Jongh had also struck a good understanding with other members of his backroom staff comprising assistant coaches Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu and Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu, goalkeepers’ coach Julius “Caesar” Ndlovu and welfare manager Vezigama Dlodlo.
“De Jongh has a good working relationship with his two assistants and gives them different tasks on match day and this has worked wonders as seen by the results we have been grinding,” Mhlophe said.
Highlanders will be hoping that De Jong, who is on a four-month contract, does not lose his winning touch like Ole Gunnar Solskjær, when he is eventually given a long term contract.