Boebie back in the hunt
Boebie Solomons is back at Santos, the football club that seemingly permeates every pore and fibre of his being.
This time, he's at the helm as caretaker-coach - after the abrupt departure of the Cape club's former head coach David Bright - and the 54-year-old Solomons cannot contain his delight at having the pleasure of again steering the team that remains so close to his heart.
Tomorrow evening, Santos take on Bloemfontein Celtic at Newlands in their opening home league fixture of the new PSL season (kick off 7.30pm) and he's confident his team will do him, the fans, and the city, proud.
Santos kicked off their season two weeks ago with a 0-0 draw against Kaizer Chiefs at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg.
Solomons is remembered as a top footballer, having starred in midfield for Glendene and Cape Town Spurs. A tireless, industrious player, his moniker was "Asem" (an afrikaans word meaning breath), which was a reference to his incredible stamina and work ethic.
After retiring as a player, he remained a keen student of the game and it was no surprise when coaching was his next port of call.
He came to Santos for the first time in the late 1980s when he arrived to coach the team in the now-defunct Federation Professional League (FPL).
From there, he was to have numerous on and off stints with the Cape club, though success was garnered along the way - a few trophies in the FPL, the Bobsave Super Bowl Cup in 2001 (as assistant-coach to Clive Barker), the PSL league title in 2002 (as assistant coach to Gordon Igesund) and then as head coach he won the 2002 BP Top 8 Eight Cup and the Absa Cup in 2003.
After leaving Santos, Solomons travelled the country far and wide, with coaching stints at numerous clubs.
Maritzburg United in KwaZulu-Natal was first up, then Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg (with whom he won the national First Division title and promotion to the PSL), Black Leopards in Venda and Winners Park in Polokwane.
Solomons cannot emphasise enough how the experience gained at these clubs has seen him grow as a coach.
"I learnt so much coaching those clubs," said Solomons.
"My coaching has now matured, I think I'm better for the experience. I've been able to work with players from different backgrounds and different cultures and this has allowed me to gain greater insight into the mindset of the South African footballer."
After the long sojourn on the road, Solomons last season returned to the bosom of the the Mother City, the safe arms of Santos, when he was asked to be the director of football at his favourite Cape club.
The job entailed directing all the coaching aspects of the club - from junior to senior - and he was happy to sign on the dotted line.
"It's great to be back at Santos," said Solomons.
"And the opportunity now to take charge of the PSL team as caretaker-coach is a good challenge for me.
"I believe the Santos team will perform much better than it did last season. There is a greater confidence, shape and self-belief to the squad.
"The areas that need improvement, and which we have been working on, are retaining possession longer, getting more players forward and the team's defensive organisation.
"Last season, we gave the ball away far too cheaply and didn't create too many scoring chances. I expect that there will be a lot of improvement from Santos this season... I was already impressed with the team's opening performance against Chiefs.
"Consistency, though, has always been a problem with Santos, and that is something I will also be impressing on the players."
So tomorrow, when Santos face Celtic at Newlands, these are the areas of concern that Solomons will be monitoring.