Orlando Pirates coach Eric Tinkler must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when his team outclassed a hapless Kaizer Chiefs by 3 goals to 1 in the Soweto Derby on Saturday. Tinkler had been under buckets of pressure coming into the fixture, more especially after his side’s 2-0 loss at the hands of Lamontville Golden Arrows in mid-week. With only one win from their previous seven games, the Sea Robbers were faced with the threat of dropping into the relegation zone if things didn’t go their way against Chiefs, and Tinkler knows full well that nothing less that the full points was going to be acceptable.
After the match he said: ‘Today it’s three points in the league that we desperately needed. The derby, as much as it’s a special occasion, it’s just another game. There’s a long road to complete the league. And today because we started so poor (in the league) it was vitally important that we get the three points.’ Pirates were all over Chiefs from the word go, a performance that even the most ardent of their fans simply did not expect.
Their passing was incisive and decisive, something that their opponents could not match. Tinkler says :’We started with the right energy, put them under pressure and didn’t give them space, which they’re so good at.’ Although he’ll be happy to get such a massive win under his belt, Tinkler should be worried about his players’ seeming complacency in smaller games. They are all motivated for tough encounters with the likes of Chiefs and Al Ahly, but struggle when they wear the favourites tag.
This has seen the coach hit with criticism from all areas, something that he says doesn’t bother him: ‘I don’t allow it to affect me. In today’s age, there’s a lot of ease for people to criticise. It’s become part of our culture and nature to look for the negative and the faults. I’ve accepted that my whole life. But what is important is when you believe in yourself and what you’re capable of doing.’
He’s also under no illusions that the #TinklerMustFall brigade is a thing of the past. When asked if he believes all is well with the fans, he simply replied: ‘For two days.’ He was of course referring to their upcoming game on Wednesday against Ajax Cape Town, and knows that he’s only as good as his last game. A win there, and a repeat performance against Chiefs in the Telkom knockout against Chiefs next Saturday will see a dramatic turnaround of fortunes for him, which will mean he’s suddenly got two cup finals to compete in two weeks apart.
As emphatic as the win in the derby was for Pirates, it will take a lot more to get back into the more familiar top half of the table. With the talent that they have at their disposal, and the impending return of players such as Oupa Manyisa and Sifiso Myeni from injury combined with a bit of consistency, it should not be long until they start to creep their way up the log. The question we’re all asking is whether Tinkler will be there to see it happen. If he can produce more performances like this, then there’s no reason he won’t.