Tando: I'll fight for my spot

TANDO Velaphi has vowed to fight for his first team spot as he settles into life at new club Melbourne Heart after making the switch across town during the off-season.

The shot-stopper, 26, was picked up by Heart in July as a back-up for Andrew Redmayne after his contract ended at rivals Melbourne Victory.
 
But Velaphi says he has not joined just to warm the pine.
 
 “I want to contribute as much as I can to the team, I think that’s every player's goal,” said Velaphi. “Obviously Redders (Redmayne) has established himself last year really well as number one.
 
“I didn’t just sign here to sit on the bench. I’d love to get as many games as I can. If not, do my bit for the team in pushing and encouraging everyone along.
 
“I’m probably just a bit older than the average age so I’d be giving the younger boys a bit of help here and there too.”
 
Velaphi has had a torrid time in Melbourne since joining Victory from Perth Glory two and a half years ago.
 
He made his debut in the Asian Champions League in 2011, making four appearances, but a serious injury before the start of the A-League season saw him miss the majority of the campaign. Mehmet Durakovic, then manager of Victory, was forced in to purchasing Ante Covic as a replacement. 
 
Velaphi eventually made his A-League debut in the penultimate round of the 2011-12 season, in a 3-0 home win against Wellington Phoenix. He made another appearance the following week against Glory at nib Stadium, but Victory succumbed to a 4-2 defeat.
 
He then went on to make just one more appearance, a 2-1 loss to Adelaide United in round three of 2012-13, before being released at the end of the season by Victory manager Ange Postecoglou.
 
Melbourne Heart were in search for a second goalkeeper after Clint Bolton called time on his playing career at the end of last season, and asked Velaphi to join the club for a trial.
 
After seeing off competition from Heart youth goalkeeper Alistair Bray, the club signed Velaphi on a one-year deal. 
 
The goalkeeper has enjoyed his time so far at the club after getting some decent playing time so far this pre-season, but was a fairly critical of his performances. 
 
“They’ve been a bit up and down,” conceded Velaphi. “Obviously I haven’t played that many games for the last couple of seasons.
 
"But it’s good to get a good run and just looking to improve each week in training and then implement the things I’ve learnt in training in to the games.
 
“Hopefully I get a bit more of a run, but we’ll see how we go. I’m just enjoying playing and enjoying being out there with my new teammates.”
 
Velaphi also had high praise for the coaching and performance staff at Heart. 
 
“The communication is really good between all the coaching staff,” revealed Velaphi. “Johhny (Aloisi) is one of the new coaches and he brings through this different sort of philosophy and it’s great. 
 
“It’s very dynamic and the style is really up-tempo. I’ve really enjoyed that.
 
“The performance staff are really professional and are all looking after me very well. They are very good at attention to detail.
 
“I’m quite happy here and I’m starting to find my feet with the boys in training and looking forward to every minute of it.”

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