Two weeks ago, Palacios led Pirates to the league championship after being roped in on an interim basis in March and, on Wednesday, the club’s management announced they would keep him on as head coach for the new season.
“I’m happy that I have been given this opportunity to prove myself. I had a meeting with the chairman (Irvin Khoza) and I was ecstatic because it is an honour and prestige to coach this club. The players are fantastic and I will continue to treat them equally,” Peru-born Palacios said.
He has spent 17 years at Pirates, chiefly as a development coach. And while he has had two previous interim stints at the helm of the first team, this is the first time that he will be coaching the team at the beginning of a new season.
“This gives me a chance to start afresh,” he said. “The decision by the chairman has made me to believe in myself. It has given me a lot of confidence. I will continue to work very hard.”
Several senior Pirates such as Benni McCarthy and Lucky Lekgwathi had requested the club’s board retain Palacios, saying hiring a new coach would amount to a waste of money.
“I really appreciate what the players said. It made me emotional because they fought for me to be in this position. But we all know that we’ll have to work harder next season.”
He would not talk much about next season’s plans, saying he still has to meet Khoza to present a plan of action. “We met simply for him to tell me that he’s giving me one year, but all the other matters – like new players and so on – will be discussed next week. I first have to prepare a technical report for the 12 games that I was in charge.”
There’s no question, however, that Khoza will be expecting a better performance from Pirates in the African Champions League, where failure in the first round this year was the main reason why Palacios’ predecessor Julio Leal was fired.
“The Champions League is an obvious priority for us. But we’ll continue where we left off in the previous season. We have to take every game seriously and compete to accumulate as many points as possible,” said Palacios.