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Cousins backs Hunt's team 16/08/04
Former Moroka Swallows striking legend Noel Cousins has given his backing to Birds manager Gavin Hunt and his men, saying that the current team has the potential to be a great side.

"I have a lot of respect for Hunt and his coaching capabilities. He did fantastically well last season by guiding the team to victory in the Absa Cup, as well as taking them to the final of the SAA Supa 8," said Cousins.

He also pointed out that the team had a good league run, but feels that they let their title challenge in the 5-1 defeat to Santos in Cape Town.

But Cousins now believes that Swallows have the squad to challenge for title honours and he believes that if Hunt stays with the club he can lead them back to the glory years.

"The problem that Swallows have had in the past is that unfortunately there has been a high turnover of their staff to some of the so called 'bigger clubs', as unfortunately rands and cents is often the bottom line.

"However, the current management have done well to mould a very good squad together and if they stay together they could become a very formidable side."

The current side may be on the verge of achieving greatness, but many may argue that they still have a long way to go to match the team in which Cousins played for in the late 1980's.

"I had three great years with Swallows from 1989-1992," he recalled.

"At the time I joined the Birds, the league was still in the early stages of integrating as far as race groups go, and coming from a white league into a predominantly black league was a massive learning curve for me, but at the same time it was a challenge I really enjoyed."

"There were top quality players all over the pitch at Swallows - guys like Roger de Sa, Owen da Gama, Ace Mnini, Andries Mpondo, Calvin Petersen, Goodman Hlongwane and Les Grobelaar, to name but a few."

"One of my fondest memories is the first cup final I played in for Swallows against Chiefs at the FNB Stadium. Although we ended up losing over the two legs, I will always remember the incredible atmosphere," recalled Cousins.

'Phinda Mzala', as Cousins was dubbed by the Beautiful Birds fans soon became a legend as his regular goals coincided with a golden period for the club as they won the Bob Save Super Bowl in 1989 and 1991, the Iwisa Maize Meal in 1992 and the Mainstay Cup in 1983.

His career was cut short by injury and in 1994 Cousins was offered the position of player-manager at Swallows.

"In 1994 I was given the player-coach job at Swallows when Mich D Avray left towards the end of the season. Although I was on the playing staff, I had not played for a couple of seasons due to the injury which ultimately ended my career," he explained.

"It was a big learning curve for me and I gained a lot of invaluable experience. I even took the team into Africa where we played two games. Although I also realised at the time that I was out of my depth - the job is not only about soccer, it's so much more than that."

He has also spent time coaching at Hellenic, where he successfully guided the U-19 team to victory in prestigious Bayhill u-19 tournament in his first season, while also taking the team to the final in his last season at the club.

These days Cousins is giving something back to the game by imparting his wealth of knowledge on Cape Town VodaCom Second Division side Clyde-Pinelands as their coach.


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