It’s good to see more and more local coaches taking charge of PSL teams. This not only shows our growth as a footballing country, but also that club bosses are starting to have faith in home brewed talent. There has always been a cry that the powers-that-be undermine what SA coaches can do in comparison to their European counterparts. I remember one big Soweto club in particular making it clear that there are ‘only two coaches in South Africa’ who can coach them. This was obviously very uncalled for and belittling of the local coaches. To this day, they still do not have a local coach and it’s going to take some miracle for it to happen anytime soon. But that’s a topic for another day. As things stand right now, eleven of the sixteen top flight teams are coached by local coaches. This is very encouraging to see and very interesting as far as their performance is concerned. I’m not gonna look at all of them, but let’s looks at some of the key ones.
Let me start in the nation’s capital. When Pitso Mosimane took over at Mamelodi Sundowns there was a lot of talk in the corridors, particularly due to his uninspiring spell with Bafana Bafana, and the way it ended. He inherited a team that was in a very unfamiliar position on the log at the time, and considering that he took over mid-season, he did really well to get them a top eight finish. The very next season Mosimane delivered the league title to Chloorkop after being criticised for signing ‘too many players’. That really helped him a lot when his regulars couldn’t carry on. Then he looked to the experience of Surprise Moriri, Lebohang Mokoena and the likes. This might also help with the Champions League this season if the league title is already a bridge too far. All in all I think of all the local coaches, “Jingles” is probably the most impressive in recent times.
Across town from Pitso is probably the most successful local coach in Gordon Igesund. Now like the former, Igesund did not have joy as Bafana coach but few can deny his pedigree as a domestic coach. Four league titles with four different clubs is not something one can ignore. He has done well since arriving at SuperSport United, and has a trophy to prove it. He also found this club in the bottom half of the log and did a tremendous job in moving them out of the danger zone. By his own admission, it’s too late to challenge for league honours, which is true but I have a feeling that Matsatsantsa will be strong contenders next season.
Gavin Hunt is a very accomplished coach in this part of the world. When Bidvest Wits secured his services, it was clear that they were looking to move into the “big boys” club. Hunt has three successive league titles from his time at SuperSport, so he knows how to win things. He has been sniffing around at the top for a while, and has consistently been in the top three, where he finished last season. At the moment Wits is eleven points adrift of Chiefs at the top, and given what happened last season, and the way they play, an upset at the end of the season is not really far fetched.
Orlando Pirates had a very difficult first half of the season, and after they parted ways with coach Vladimir Vermezovic, the chairman decided to hand Eric Tinkler the reins until the end of the season. A lot of people were seeing Pirates as a laughing stock at the time, but truth be told he has done well so far. After we asked him a couple of questions about insisting on the 4-5-1, he changed it to the more traditional 4-4-2, and he struck gold. He has not lost a game in 2015, and he looks to have really come of age as a coach of his own. I just hope he can be given the green light on a more permanent basis. I doubt it though.
The man who took Tinkler under his wing for a long time, Roger De Sa is doing relatively well down in Cape Town. When the season started Ajax was the surprise team at the top. They went off the boil somewhat, but I don’t remember them having to press any panic buttons at any point. They are still in the top five right now and I think they will be safe in the top eight at the end of it all.
Another impressive coach since his return to Bloemfontein is Clinton Larsen. Ironically Larsen replaced the man who replaced him in the first place at Celtic Ernst Middendorp. He has brought about change in the team. Playing some exciting attacking football with guys like Lerato Lamola and Thapelo Morena, but also very organised defensively. Celtic is a sleeping giant and with the kind of fans they have, they deserve to be a high achieving team. Okay maybe this is a biased statement coming from a Free State-born guy like myself.
Now I saved these three for last because they are the struggling ones. Allan Freese, Fani Madida, and Steve Barker need to pick up their socks. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair to Freese, who clearly was set up for failure when Platinum Stars sold most of their key trophy winning players. He was always going to struggle this season. He did well by beating Moroka Swallows this past weekend to move out of the relegation zone, but is not out of the red yet. His counterpart Madida has yet to find the rhythm he would have been looking for when he was given the job on a permanent basis. I have said before that the problem at Swallows is their ageing squad. What they need to do is go shopping for some young blood in the off season, if they survive. Then give Fani a full season to see what he can do. Barker knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he moved to AmaZulu. The club was already fighting for dear life. He obviously thought he could reverse their fortunes. He hasn’t. They have been rooted to the bottom from the word go, and although they had an impressive win against SuperSport the other day, I wouldn’t read too much into it. The sad thing is that both AmaZulu and Swallows are big clubs and nobody wants to see them bite the dust.
The good thing is that the local coaches are getting a chance to prove themselves, and I long to see the day we can see all sixteen teams show such faith.