MASERU — Rovers coach Thabo Thite has taken the blame for the Roma side’s relegation from the Vodacom Premier League.
Last Saturday the National University of Lesotho (NUL) outfit were demoted from the top-flight league after a 1-1 draw at home to LCS made it mathematically impossible for Rovers to avoid the chop.
Rovers, on 13 points, are 15th in the 16-team Premiership, 16 points from safety with just five matches to play.
Yesterday they failed to pitch up for their match against Nyenye Rovers in Maputsoe.
“I accept the blame for where the team finds itself,” Thite told the Sunday Express on Friday.
“You don’t want to have blood on your hands, but if people are looking for someone to blame it is me.”
Thite, who joined Rovers as an assistant coach last November, parted ways with the team after a one-all draw with Majantja on January 17 following a clash with the club’s head coach at the time, Lepanya Borotho.
However, after an outcry by Rovers players, Thite was recalled to replace Borotho as the head coach at the beginning of February.
His first match in charge of the 1996 league champions was a 3-2 defeat at home to Majantja on February 6.
But despite an upturn in performance, Thite’s side was unable to turn improvement into points — garnering just four points in their eight games under the former Rovers defender.
“I must admit it affected the team when I quit after the Majantja game,” Thite said.
“I had no idea that they would want me back. I regret that lapse because we lost momentum during that period.
“I partly take the blame (for the relegation).”
Thite nevertheless insisted he was happy with the support he received from his players.
“The players have always been on my side,” he said.
“Maybe the mindset wasn’t the one I would have liked but that is because we were not together for long enough.”
Therefore, Thite said, it was important to begin building for next season.
“There is a difference between having 11 players on the field and having a team,” Thite said.
“And this is established over a period of time. You can’t change mindsets overnight.”
He added: “We need to identify the pool that will get us back into the elite league next season.
“Some players will be leaving — we can’t run away from that.
“But I need to find real footballers because playing in the A-Division is more about a player’s character.”
Thite has been credited with instilling discipline at Rovers which had allowed players to flourish in the run-in — in particular captain Phoka Matete, Liteboho Mahao, Makhotso Phafoli and Molefi Hlojeng.
“If you look at the crowd which came to watch Rovers play Matlama it shows there is still huge support for the team,” Thite said.
But he was quick to concede that match, on February 13, sealed their fate.
After a spirited display Rovers led 1-0 until deep into injury time when an equaliser by Matlama sparked chaos as the club’s supporters forced the match to be abandoned.
Matlama were awarded a 3-0 win and Rovers were docked three points by the Premier League.
“If we had accepted that we had won a point it would have made a difference,” Thite said.
“It is a simple question of communication.
“It is something that moving forward we need to look into, maybe to have a supporters’ club like other teams.”
Thite said he hoped that would be part of numerous efforts to improve the side.
“At times it was up to the players and myself to make sure the team kept going,” he said.
“If that was disappointing to me then what about to the players?
“Other clubs have incentives and that is where I would make a plea to the management of NUL because the team is struggling.
“There will always be good players at an academic institution but it depends how they are managed.
“We have to redevelop the culture of the team. Playing for Rovers used to be a source of pride.
“But when I arrived I found NUL players playing for other teams and that is something that was unheard of.
“We want to rebuild the name for Rovers and the culture must be restored.”