Damons reflects on Clever Boys journey

Bidvest Wits goalkeeper coach Tyron Damons has been part of the club for just over seven years now, having initially joined the Clever Boys as a player in 2013.

Clive Barker signed the shot-stopper in the second half of the 2012/13 Absa Premiership season following a debilitating run of injuries for the club’s goalkeepers. Injuries to Emille Baron, Jackson Mabokgwane, Ryan Harrison and Steven Hoffman in the space of a few weeks thrusted a 17-year-old Jethren Barr into the spotlight.

In need of more experience, the club signed Damons while former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Andre Arendse came out of retirement.

Arendse subsequently became the oldest player to feature in South Africa’s top-flight when he played against both the University of Pretoria and AmaZulu that season at the age of 45.

Damons played the final game of that campaign in a 2-2 draw against Mamelodi Sundowns as the club finished the season in fourth place. For the now 42-year-old, it was an apt ending to his career, having played his first game as a professional against the Brazilians as a 19-year-old alongside assistant coach Paul Johnstone, while on the books of Tembisa Classic.

“It is strange, I was without a club for a few months. I initially got a call from Roger [de Sa] and helped out in training for a bit. It dragged on a bit, but I still wanted to play and I signed for United FC who eventually sold their status,” Damons told bidvestwits.co.za.

“Antonio Habas took over as coach before the transition to Clive Barker after which I got a call from Jose [Ferreira] who asked if I’m free, saying a lot of people have recommended me and he asked if I can come to the club. I hand’t had a team for the past two to three weeks so he said I should come in. I went to Bidvest Wits the very next day and the rest is history as they say.

“I signed to initially help the team because of all the injuries, Andre obviously came out of retirement and played the first few games following Emile’s injury. The remaining games that season were very important for the club as we were desperate to finish within the top eight – we actually finished in the top four. That was basically it.

“I was then approached by the club’s COO (Jonathan Schloss) to work with the academy goalkeepers, at that time I still wanted to play and we agreed that if nothing comes up then I can make a decision. Seven years later and I am still with the club!”

Damons passion for coaching, though, started before he joined Wits and while he was still at Moroka Swallows where a young Sage Stephens (now with Cape Town City) was aiming to break into the first team.

He now oversees the progress of first team goalkeepers Brandon Petersen, Ricardo Goss and Brighton Mhlongo. Damons took over the reins from Arendse as first team goalkeeper coach at the club four years ago and was on the bench as The Clever Boys won their first Absa Premiership title.

During the coronavirus pandemic the tightly-knit goalkeeping department have been forced to train at home and Damons admits it has been challenging.

“Look, to be honest, it is difficult. It is not easy. We have been chatting all this time and the players have admitted that during this time they’ve really started to realise why coaches are so important in pushing them to where they want to be as players,” Damons added.

“Doing it via Zoom is quite stressful and the players just want to get back to the pitch. It is just a tough time for everyone. I am finding it difficult just being in the yard, it is a frustrating time, but we will get through it. We can’t wait to get back on the pitch.

“For goalkeepers it has been really limiting. On the hard surfaces it is a bit difficult. We are doing some conditioning and changing it up a bit, to try and keep the training from being boring,” he concluded.