INTERIM Orlando Pirates coach Augusto Palacios has warned his players they will have to fight for their places!
He has also told them not to get too comfortable after winning his first game in charge by beating Highlands Park 2-1 in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals.
Bucs face their arch-rivals SuperSport United in the semifinals later this month, probably at Mbombela Stadium. That was where Matsatsantsa a Pitori embarrassed Pirates 6-1 in an Absa Premiership match recently.
Palacios replaced Muhsin Ertugral when the Turkish-born mentor stunned Pirates by resigning on live television after that humiliating loss.
While Ertugral fell on his sword, the players have to take some blame and can expect the experienced Palacios to crack the whip.
Palacios told SunSport: “I expect players to work hard at training and make sure they arrive for work on time. Players will have to fight for their places. Nobody is guaranteed a place in the starting X1. I have 28 or 29 players – everyone is expected to fight and show me he deserves to play.
“I want to give everyone a chance but they must follow my rules. Discipline is important, as is team spirit.”
Palacios said it was an honour for a player to wear the Pirates jersey: “Playing for Pirates comes with responsibility.
“At Pirates it is not about individuals, we must work as a team – the players, management and technical staff must work together for the good of Pirates.”
The former Peruvian World Cup midfielder stressed: “My first priority is to get consistency. We have a tough schedule ahead.”
Palacios’ men face a rejuvenated Free State Stars in the league at Orlando Stadium when the PSL resumes on Saturday after the Fifa international break.
Said Palacios: “There are no big or small teams in the PSL any more. Stars have improved and will be difficult. They have also reached the TKO semifinals by beating Bidvest Wits and Kaizer Chiefs.
“They have a good coach (Giovanni Solinas) and good players. We need to compete for 90 minutes. We owe it to our supporters to get Pirates back on track and be successful.”
But Palacios is not making any rash promises about winning the league, like he did in 2012 when he replaced Julio Leal and helped Bucs bag the league title.
Said Palacios: “It going to be very tough this season. Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns, Chiefs and SuperSport are all in the mix. That is why is it so important we get consistency in every game and players fight for their places. But first we must ensure we get maximum points at home against Stars.”