In his second season as a Kaizer Chiefs player, Njabulo Ngcobo is facing the possibility of either leaving or spending more more time watching Amakhosi's matches from the sidelines. But how did it get here?
There was a lot of excitement when Ngcobo signed for Amakhosi from Swallows, rightfully so considering he had won the Premiership Defender of the Season in 2020/21. He joined Amakhosi at a time when Stuart Baxter returned for a second spell and the former Bafana Bafana coach did not seem too convinced in the player's ability to play as a central defender.
Baxter mentioned that he was not sure if Ngcobo was better suited in defence or midfield, as the player enjoys having the ball at his feet and passing it around to start build-ups.
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Soccer Laduma looks at the timeline of events for Ngcobo, who has not made an appearance in 2023 and could part ways with the club at the end of the season. He still has another year left with Chiefs, but the Siya crew has been informed that an exit should not be ruled out.
Despite having to wait for his Amakhosi debut, Ngcobo was named in Hugo Broos' 31-man preliminary squad for FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Ghana, but was left out of the final team. Due to injuries, the defender was recalled.
After not making an appearance for Amakhosi in August, including the MTN8, Ngcobo made his debut for the Soweto giants in a 4-1 defeat to Royal AM. After that game, Baxter said to media, "I gave him the game tonight because I thought it was the right game to go in. I wanted him to drive forward a little bit with the ball on his side and dominate a little bit because of the way they play. But it was his first game. He did okay, but he could do a lot better."
After making his debut, Ngcobo started playing a bit more and got to feature in his first official Soweto derby as Amakhosi registered a 2-1 victory. During the period between October and November, Ngcobo played 90 minutes in six consecutive Premiership matches.
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Baxter confirmed that Ngcobo would be out for a certain period. In a press conference, Baxter said, "Ngcobo has some of the worst burns I’ve ever seen on a footballer and he has been out of training. He is not training at the moment, he wasn’t selectable for tonight and he won’t be for a while."
Due to being in and out of the squad, for different reasons, Ngcobo was left out of Broos' Bafana squad for another round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
An error by Ngcobo in a clash against Golden Arrows was followed by him being taken off by then caretaker coach Arthur Zwane. On his way to the bench, Ngcobo refused to shake Zwane's hand, but later apologized for his actions. At the time, Ngcobo was in and out of the Chiefs line-up.
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The 28-year-old featured in Amakhosi's final game of the season, playing 90 minutes as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Ngcobo's former club, Swallows FC. He finished first season at Chiefs with 15 appearances, 14 less than he did at Swallows in the previous campaign.
Ngcobo played his first 90 minutes of the season in a clash against Richards Bay, as the Soweto giants registered a narrow 1-0 victory. He went on to play 90 minutes in the three following matches, against Cape Town City, AmaZulu and Marumo Gallants.
Ngcobo came on for the last seven minutes in a clash against Arrows and that was the last Premiership appearance he made.
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