|Hero to Zero: Zeca Marques looks on in horror against SSU on Friday|
Perhaps the thing you need to understand first about Moroka Swallows boss Zeca Marques is that he is ONE OF THE NICE GUYS.
And having been given two games to save his career with the Dube Birds yesterday, that might have to change.
I first came across Zeca as a youngster playing at right back for a no-nonsense team called Troyeville. Nice lad in a bunch of teak-tough Portuguese footballers. In goal? That would be a far more bellicose keeper by the name of Roger de Sa.
While De Sa has never been one to keep his views – or his temper – to himself, Marques was an unassuming but competent defender, a one-club man. We renewed acquaintance at eTV Sunrise earlier this year when his Swallows side had won the MTN8 trophy with AmaZulu, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United crushed in quick succession.
Most people expected the departure of Gordon Igesund to lead to a rapid decline at Dobsonville. We expected another tough bloke, Birds’ CEO Leon Prins, to choose a big name replacement like Ruud Krol, instead he opted for the quiet No2, Marques.
With Katlego Mashego, Lerato Chabangu and Bennett Chenene banging in the goals, Ajax Cape Town and champions Orlando Pirates were dispatched in the League as the MTN8 run became a glorious charge.
Sadly, from that cup-lifting start, Swallows have fallen away. Their 3-1 defeat against SuperSport on Friday night was labelled “pathetic” by Prins and a run of eight games without a win has seen the flightless Birds plummet to 12th in the PSL, just three points above the bottom feeders, Chippa United and AmaZulu.
Marques himself said on Friday night after his side crumbled to the same SuperSport team they conquered 2-1 in the MTN final on September 22: "Even Gavin Hunt was surprised by the way his side won. The way we are conceding goals is unacceptable. You can coach players but there are some other things players need to take responsibility for themselves, like the basics!"
But I remember vividly at eTV all those weeks ago, when he told me: “You can’t treat all players the same, some of them will be late, some don’t like to train. You have to be sensitive to each player’s attitudes, you have to be a team. I want my squad to be happy, what’s the point of playing football if you’re not enjoying it?”
It struck me then that Marques might find that relaxed attitude less successful than Igesund’s style, which saw a relegation-threatened collection of rejects come so close to glory last season.
With rumours of Marques’ demise growing, Prins said today on the club’s website: “We will not be rushed in to a knee-jerk reaction, but I’d be lying if I said we are not alarmed and concerned. After a very successful 24 months for the club the wheels have spectacularly come off over the past two months.
“After an embarrassing performance, gifting SuperSport, who did not even play well on the night, a victory, the head coach, who is a gentleman and only has the best interests of Moroka Swallows at heart, offered to me to step aside to minimise the risk to the club going forward.
“We as management have not accepted this offer; the reason being that we are all intimately involved with what goes on behind the scenes in terms of preparation, strategic analysis, input and instructions to the players, and so on.
“This very talented and capable bunch of players have, for various reasons, not the least the loss of focus after becoming MTN8 champions, let themselves, their supporters, the club and the coaching staff down. We have all resolved to turn it around together.
“In addition, there are only two games before the long break for AFCON 2013, and any knee-jerk decision-making in our view would be strategically unsound at this time.”
“Everyone at Swallows continues with my full support, but are well-aware that we are on high alert and monitoring the situation closely for the next two games.”
Prins apparently spent Monday getting the views of his board, with Ruud Krol and Muhsin Ertugal among the contenders to step in at Dobsonville if Marques fails to turn things around with six points against .
It’s been two months since they last won – against Free State Stars on October 8 – and with the season not even at the halfway point, the fans have made their feelings clear. “Marques must go” was the chant on Friday night. One of the nice guys, it appears, is about to bite the dust.