Clinton Larsen’s ambitious gamble

The former PSL coach relegated himself to the amateur leagues by taking a job at a KwaZulu-Natal ABC Motsepe League side. He plans to take them to the top, and is slowly getting there.

Clinton Larsen’s bold move, that many viewed as career suicide, is already filling the coach with pride in a project that’s close to his heart. Larsen, a respected tactician, shocked the country’s footballing fraternity when he took over KwaZulu-Natal ABC Motsepe League side Summerfield Dynamos at the start of the 2021-22 season. 

Joining Dynamos was a step down for Larsen who has coached at the highest level in the country and won numerous accolades in his playing career. But the chance to give Chatsworth, a township in Durban, a team in the professional ranks was something Larsen could not pass on. 

He has already led the team to winning the provincial championship in the Motsepe League. Dynamos will represent KwaZulu-Natal in the national play-offs with a place in the GladAfrica Championship, one tier down from the elite league, up for grabs. The amateur side will also be taking on African giants Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup on 9 April at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. 

24 March 2022: Players training at Summerfield Dynamos Football Club.

“What we have achieved so far as the team since I have arrived is outstanding and I couldn’t be much happier with the way we have performed,” explains the optimistic Larsen.

“When I first had a conversation with the chairman [Collins Naidoo], I realised that he has bigger goals for the club. That impressed me a lot – then I decided to commit my future with the club.”

Larsen – who has managed Bloemfontein Celtic, Maritzburg United, Chippa United, Golden Arrows and Polokwane City in the DStv Premiership – brings a wealth of experience to this ambitious project. 

“Our mandate is to see ourselves in top-flight football in five years,” the 51-year-old said. “That’s going to happen if we are making good decisions by investing in development structures, strengthening the squad with experienced players and focusing on producing the results. So far, our chairman has ensured we are a well-run team by paying players on time and providing us with all essentials for us to perform. All we have to do is not disappoint him. Our club is run like a top-flight club, all thanks to wonderful work from the management.” 

24 March 2022: Clinton Larsen and his coaching team greet the players ahead of training at the club’s grounds in Chatsworth.

A homecoming

The Wentworth-born coach spent most of his playing career with now defunct Chatsworth-based Manning Rangers who won the Castle Premiership in the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) inaugural season in the 1996-97 campaign. 

“I’m rooted in the community of Chatsworth for many reasons. I spent incredible years playing for Manning Rangers which was like home to me,” he said. “Despite the years I spent with Orlando Pirates, it was with Rangers, however, where I enjoyed much of my career. 

“This area holds a special history in the Premier Soccer League history. The first PSL league trophy was won up there at Chatsworth Stadium by Rangers and I was part of the history. I had like five or six offers from bigger clubs but I chose to come here. Since Rangers ended up dying, I felt the people from here need a club to support. This is what Dynamos is hoping to provide to the people and I want to be part of that. Chatsworth Stadium used to be a slaughterhouse for Rangers. So we are hoping to continue with that trend as we ended the league unbeaten at home including cup matches” 

24 March 2022: Junior-club players watch as the Summerfield Dynamos senior team trains.

Dynamos’ squad is boosted by the experience of players like Lerato Manzini, Deolin Mekoa and Sandile Zuke who have played at the highest level. “In our squad, we have six former PSL players; so, that must tell you [of] the quality we possess,” Larsen said. 

“Despite the training facility [not being of the highest standard], we conduct everything like a PSL club. I don’t think there is a club in our league that does things as we do. We have a good development team from Under-13 upwards. That is crucial if we want to see progress. Everything is done professionally to prepare ourselves for the future … Our level must be of a high standard to show others that we are a well-run team.”

The reason many football pundits considered Larsen’s move to Dynamos a career suicide is because he would not be earning the money he made when he was coaching at the highest level. “I consider myself lucky that I had someone like [Prosport International director] Mike Makaab early next to me because I made quite good money decisions,” he said. 

24 March 2022: Deolin Mekoa, who has played in the country’s elite league, brings a wealth of experience to Summerfield Dynamos.

“That made it so easy for me to accept the offer to coach here even though I know I won’t earn much like before. Remember, it was not the first time I took a club playing in this division as I did with Rangers in 2007 when they were trying to revive them. But If I didn’t have someone like Makaab to give me some options where I can invest my money then I would have ended up not taking the post. But this is not a money-motivated deal. 

“At the same time, I’m not a person living a flashy lifestyle because I’m a family person. I can’t talk much about other people but you won’t find me spending money on classic cars, booze, and going into the nightclubs.”

The club’s good run in the Nedbank Cup is a blessing and a curse. “We can’t run away from the fact that some of the players have impressed other teams. Nedbank Cup gave us exposure to showcase our talent,” he said

“So they must enjoy themselves against Sundowns without worrying about results. I have personally received calls from different clubs asking about the availability of our players. I have highlighted that with my players that some clubs are interested in signing them. But at the same time, I won’t reveal the names of those players as our focus is to win the play-off. I don’t want to kill my players’ momentum. I want them to enjoy this moment without worrying about it much. The chairman has made it clear that he won’t stand in the way of players if good offers are on offer.”

24 March 2022: A view of the football club’s field in Chatsworth.
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