SuperSports United centre-back Morgan Gould remained stoically upbeat after his surprise rejection at the hands of English Championship club Crystal Palace yesterday.
The 28-year-old flew home to Oliver Tambo International after his two weeks in South London insisting he “definitely” still wants to play in Europe, adding: “I’ve learned a lot from this experience.”
Gould , in man-of-the-match form when South Africa fought out a 0-0 draw against seven-times African champions Egypt in Cairo last month, was generally “impressive” on trial with the championship club in pre-season friendlies against Basingstoke and Wycombe Wanderers.
And with Bafana Bafana team-mate Kagisho Dikgachoi already at Selhurst Park after his move from Fulham, Morgan’s £500,000 transfer well within the bounds of most Championship clubs. Effectively the English second division, the Championship (18,106) is officially the sixth best-supported league in the world after Germany’s Bundesliga (42,673), the English Premier League (34,780), Spain’s La Liga (29,124), Italy’s Serie A (25,304) and France’s Ligue 1 (19,742).
But the Croydon Advertiser, the local “bible” for Palace fans, quoted Palace boss Dougie Friedman as saying yesterday: "Morgan did very well but at the price they were after I just felt he wasn't quite right for us.
“We're working to a very tight budget and at that price he would have had to go straight into the team and 'm not sure he was quite ready for that."
But when Gould arrived on trial, the Advertiser wrote: “Palace have only one recognised central defender in their ranks – and that is the error-prone Paddy McCarthy. A new man at the back is very much needed.”
Gould himself, talking to London-based former Johannesburg football writer Ed Aarons, said: “I most definitely still want to play in Europe.
“I’ll have to go back to South Africa and wait to hear if there are any other options. But it was a good experience that I will learn a lot from.
“We had a meeting today and Dougie said he likes everything he has seen but they need a player who can adapt quickly to the league. They are looking for someone who is experienced in playing in Europe so I have to respect that and move on now. Everything that happens to me I take it as a learning curve.”
On their fan site, Palace fan Lewisham Eagle wrote: “From what I read into that Dougie seems interested in Gould but wants to drive to price down.” EagleNut wrote: “We won't be signing Gould - DF thinks the price is too high and he 'isn't ready' for the first team.”
Prior to Gould’s rejection, Palace fans were being advised to stock up on blue and red vuvuzelas and rename one end at Selhurst Park “The Nelson Mandela Stand” in honour of KG (not many south Londoners can pronounce Dikgachoi) and Gould.
Palace were plunged into a financial crisis when colourful chairman Simon Jordan left after the club went into administration last year – they eventually avoided relegation by six points - but they still managed to pay around the same fee (5.3 million South African rand at yesterday’s rates) for midfielder Dikgachoi.
Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur paid £1.5m (around R16m) for Gould’s centre-back partner Bongani Khumalo last January and he has yet to play for the first team, though he has played in both Spurs’ Vodacom challenge matches in South Africa over the past week.
Just 24 hours before deciding to ditch Gould, Friedman saw Soweto-born 28-year-old who started out at Jomo Cosmos impress in a 0-0 pre-season draw at League One outfit Wycombe Wanderers. He said then: “Morgan has done fantastically well but I think it is only right I talk to the kid before I make any statement.
"It's hard to judge, but he's been with us for a week and we know what we're after. You do your homework and you'll see the signings I bring in will be the right type, the right age, the right profile and he fits all of that.
"So he's done alright but we'll have a chat with him tomorrow and see.
"There's a long, long way to go. There is a fee involved and before we can even go anywhere we'd have to get the right deal. We'll see."
Gould, capped 17 times by South Africa, will return to pre-season training with Supersports United next week. Boss Gavin Hunt may well be breathing a huge sigh of relief over Friedman’s harsh decision to return his captain. Matsatsantsa (The Swanky Boys) struggled in the South African Premier League last season, failing by a substantial margin to maintain the standards which led to three successive South African Premier League titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.