JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs will have to hit the ground running in the MTN8 competition when they clash with bogey side Maritzburg United in the quarter-finals next Sunday.
Amakhosi have their backs against the wall following a turbulent finish in the last campaign. They lost out on the Premiership title on the last day of the season – having been pipped by Mamelodi Sundowns – as they stretched their trophy-less run to five seasons.
Chiefs made swift strides in a bid to return to the glory days next season. They sacked coach Ernst Middendorp and his assistant Shaun Bartlett after that disappointing ending.
Enter Gavin Hunt and his assistants Dillon Sheppard and Arthur Zwane. Hunt is a multiple championship winning coach, having bagged four league titles and four domestic trophies in his 22-year coaching career.
Hunt’s job at Chiefs is cut out for him, considering that it will be more demanding than that at his previous clubs, Moroka Swallows, SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits.
But many who’ve worked and battled with Hunt have described the 56-year-old as “thick-skinned and a big boy”.
The urge for Chiefs to return to the pinnacle remains enormous from the board and supporters. However, this time also calls for realistic approaches, considering the calamity that is facing the club. Chiefs are slapped with a one-year transfer ban by Fifa, following irregularities in the signing of Madagascan international midfielder Arohasina Andrianarimanana in 2018, while the verdict of their appeal is yet to be handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
While their future in the transfer window this season is up in the air, Hunt and his technical team will need to work hard in ensuring that they implement their philosophy to the squad that’s at their disposal.
But Hunt should consider himself lucky. His deputies have made some seamless integration of development products to first teams, so it should be easy to blend the current squad with players from the development ranks.
Sheppard’s reserve team at the defunct Bidvest Wits was on course to win the MultiChoice Diski Challenge last season before the league was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Sheppy’s work was applauded when the PSL season resumed in the bio-bubble in August.
A number of his proteges – such as Rowan Human, Mpho Mathebula and Keenan Phillips – played a key role in helping Wits’ senior team to a fourth place finish in the Premiership standings.
Zwane, moreover, has been Chiefs’ reserve team head coach for the past five years. The former pacey winger knows the club’s culture, history and mandate.
That is why his graduates – such as midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma – have seamlessly earned their stripes in the first team.
The first session went well, the players really adapted well to the session, very smooth, flowing and efficient. – Coach Manqoba Mngqithi
Coach Manqoba breaks down the teams first training session for the season.✅
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) October 6, 2020
Meanwhile, a new era may be on the cards at champions Mamelodi Sundowns, following the departure of coach Pitso Mosimane to join Egyptian giants Al Ahly. But newly appointed co-coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena will be hoping to begin their tenure with a victory when they face Bloemfontein Celtic in the last eight of the Wafa Wafa competition that officially kicks off the season.
Sundowns have dominated domestic football for the past seven and a half years, amassing nine trophies, including five league titles. But that the most rewarding domestic cup competition of the season has slipped through their hands has been upsetting for the KaBo Yellow Nation.