To buy or not to buy? If yes, then which players? This is the puzzle all Division One champions have to solve ahead of their dalliance with the top flight league.
Report by Kevin Mapasure
It is a decision that clubs such as How Mine, Triangle, Black Rhinos and Tripple B must make in this period running up to the start of the new Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season in March.
Their aim is survival, even though newcomers Triangle coach Gishon Ntini has suggested otherwise, and their immediate concern is assembling a squad that can achieve that tough assignment.
Relegated Quelaton is a case study that highlights hazards of the intransigence of ignoring the transfer market and sticking with players that won promotion.
The consequence of refusing to buy was a swift return to the less fashionable second tier league, yet if a promoted club decides to spend can it really compete on a market dominated by Dynamos, Highlanders, Caps United and now FC Platinum?
That Quelaton managed just 13 points in the entire 30-game season proves beyond doubt promoted clubs need to buy to beef up when they get a ticket into the elite league.
Countless other clubs have walked straight into such an ambush and Hardbody is another recent good example of such bad decision-making.
However, a few clubs have stuck with their teams in the past and prospered. Shabanie is a case in point as they first entered into the top flight in 2001 and made waves, but it has rarely happened.
Of the promoted sides Triangle has been the most active on the transfer market but they have been criticized for their acquisitions, seemingly going for the scraps on the market by taking players past their prime or facing retirement.
Limited Chikafa and Pardon Chinungwa are some of their biggest signings so far but coach Ntini has declared that their mission was to compete for the championship. With such buys mere survival would be remarkable.
Triangle are also reported to be chasing injury- prone former Caps united midfielder Malvern Samaneka and defender Nyasha Mukumbi both who were dismissed by the Harare giants for indiscipline.
After gaining promotion a team needs two main assets; a fat transfer kitty and a manager who is not scared to be ruthless enough to tear into a Division One championship winning side to create a force worthy of the Premier League.
Tripple B coach Friday Phiri acknowledged the challenges of promoted sides.
“It is very difficult to attract the right players when you gain promotion but I think when clubs gain a ticket into the Premier League they need to beef up,” said Phiri. “The levels of competition are different and I think it is dangerous to put all faith in players that won promotion, they need help. The problem is when you try to beef up you are limited to the average or rather mediocre players but some of them can give you one good season to enable survival in the Premier league in the first year.
“Thereafter you start to grow as a club and attract better players for bigger ambitions. Promoted clubs are likely to get the older players but their experience can help the Premiership novices in their transition which is very important. It is a difficult situation to manage especially if you can’t pay high transfer fees.”
But even if these clubs have a reasonable transfer kitty attracting top players is yet another problem.
Consider How Mine competing for players with Dynamos, Highlanders Caps or even Motor Action. The players would choose established and stable teams in the big cities ahead of smaller teams from smaller towns.
While player decisions are naturally influenced by money the stability of teams has become a major factor and the traditional big three in Caps United, Dynamos and Highlanders will always be favoured destinations.
It is easy to criticise Ntini for feasting on scraps but the problem is even if he wanted, he would find it tough to compete for the most wanted players.
FC Platinum was a special case because they entered the top flight armed with cash even the big three could not match.
They signed any player they wanted and they rewarded the players handsomely, yet two seasons down the line some of their best players are pressing for moves to the capital, especially to Dynamos.