Sunday, 27 September 2015

PERFECT TIME FOR A HOLIDAY IN SOUTH AFRICA: Baxter is back and Gord himself is sweating

NOT QUITE SECRET: Stuart Baxter and
his wife board the Gaurtrain on Friday

It was 9.30pm on a quiet Friday night when... in the space of a few seconds.... the job security of several PSL coaches dipped substantially.

The innocent beep of the SMS, and there it was. Stuart Baxter’s text message telling me: “This will be my temporary number while I am in South Africa…”

The number remains top secret of course. I wouldn’t have said a word. The former Kaizer Chiefs coach, winner of two PSL titles and three knock-out trophies in three short years at Naturena always said he was coming back.

Officially, the man who guided the AmaKhosi back to the big time, who finished last season with a record 69 points, is “only here with the missus to see some friends”. Unofficially, there was no stopping the news of Baxter’s return spreading like wild-fire through the football-speaking nation.

By lunchtime the next day, one tweep had seen him on a flight in to OR Tambo International Airport. Another had snatched the picture above, of Stuart and his Swedish wife Cecilia on the Gautrain. The word was out.

At 3pm the next day, we saw SuperSport United, with several of their expensive, high-profile signings out, fall to Cavin Johnson’s Platinum Stars. They were rubbish. The irony was not. SuperSport coach Gordon Igesund replaced Johnson at the helm last season, and spent MILLIONS on reconstruction with agents and officials rubbing their hands in glee.

They added two more to the Antipodean contingent spearheaded by Jeremy Brockie, and tempted not one but TWO former Bafana captains to join Gord’s crusade: Bongani Khumalo, who barely played in four years for Tottenham Hotspur, and Dean Furman, unable to persuade Blackburn Rovers or Bury to print out a contract over the winter.

With probably the best starting eleven on paper anywhere in the country this season, Igesund has failed to produce results. With the PSL now carefully put back in the box until October 17, SuperSport stand 13th out of our 16 Premier clubs.

Stanley Matthews, the canny CEO, wanted to put his club back among the big-hitters, remembering all too well Khumalo’s previous tenure at Matsatsantsa (Definition: Trendsetter, Swanky Boys) under Gavin Hunt when they won the PSL title three years in a row from 2008-2010.

A lot of money has changed hands. Expectations were sky high. Sadly, Igesund is struggling. He may have won the PSL a record four times with four different clubs, but as his reign at Bafana Bafana showed, there are weaknesses, not least of which his apparent lack of ability to adapt to modern players with big reputations.

Igesund is from the Sir Alex Ferguson school: Players are there to work, not drive about in fast cars and behave like David bloody Beckham.

So there we were on Saturday night, caught between Orlando Pirates' rousing 1-0 win over Al Ahly and Kaizer Chiefs' absorbing 1-1 draw at Ajax Cape Town… and Baxter appeared as a late recruit on our television screens to deliver a gentle verdict on his successor Steve Komphela.

Igesund won’t have missed the perfection of Baxter’s timing. With one win and two draws from six games this season, Gord’s improvement of Matsatsantsa’s form last season no longer matters. This term they have five points out of a possible 18, a goal difference of -5. Frankly, the millions invested were expected to produce a start to the season which didn’t raise fears of relegation.

Of course, Khulu Sibiya, the SSU chairman, denies everything: “I have not seen Stuart Baxter and none of my people have contacted him, they aren’t supposed to. We have a coach, Gordon Igesund. I expect him to finish his contract.”

But contact has been made. And Igesund IS under pressure. Just look at the colour of his face as his side slipped to that nightmarish 3-1 defeat against Johnson’s Dikwena on Saturday. Bright red.

There are others sharing similar concerns. Eric Tinkler’s discomfort was eased by Saturday night’s first leg CAF Confederations Cup win over the Egyptian giants, but Orlando Pirates fans insist he’s never been more than a space filler on their bench.

Pitso Mosimane, despite winning the PSL the season before last, found a loud sector of the Sundowns’ following baying for his blood in midweek despite a rousing last-gasp 3-2 win over Roger De Sa’s Ajax. A 2-0 win over Jomo Cosmos moves him up to sixth today and surely ends any sack race debate.

We could talk about Maritzburg United too. They tried to call Baxter a fortnight ago but (obviously) his mobile phone number had changed. They've opted for 72-year-old Clive Barker to lead them off the bottom, but his former club Mpumalanga Black Aces gave them a good tonking today.

And how about BafanaBafana? Baxter has been there before, but with Ephraim Mashaba looking particularly Shaky this year, few doubt the man from Wolverhampton would do a better job.

But in truth Baxter has always been in the SuperSport United cross-hairs. They have the cash, channelled from DSTV’s bulging coffers, and they have the players.  They just need somebody to put it together, seal a defence Igesund confesses is “simply not good enough”.

A Willard Katsande or a decent defensive central midfielder to the mix and SuperSport would soon rejoin the contenders, playing the canny Baxter way.

Sibiya can deny it all he wants. Baxter is the answer. And after walking away from Kaizer Chiefs at his peak when Bobby Motaung refused to let him have a say in player movement, he’d love nothing more.

Having been ousted just two games in to the season by Turkish club Gencerbigli a month ago, a holiday in South Africa was always on the cards. Let's see how long it lasts.


Baxter on his FIRST sacking:

No comments:

Post a Comment