Johannesburg – On the same night Chelsea manager José Mourinho reaffirmed his status as a master tactician, one of his former players, Benni McCarthy, was on a flight back to Europe to pursue a dream of making a return to Blackburn Rovers as manager one day.
McCarthy’s best years as a footballer were without a doubt with Mourinho at FC Porto when they won the Uefa Champions League, the league and Portuguese Super Cup titles.
Currently busy with his Uefa B coaching licence abroad, McCarthy had first-hand experience of Mourinho’s managerial brilliance. And after Chelsea’s Monday night 1-0 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, it’s no wonder McCarthy would not hesitate to call on the “Special One” for advice when he eventually takes up his first job as a coach.
“José’s door is always wide open for me. If I need anything, I can always ask him how certain things work, so I have a great stand-by connection,” said McCarthy, who was in Soweto last weekend as one of the selectors for the Nike Chance Africa trials.
“He was a fantastic mentor and coach throughout my career,” he added.
McCarthy has a desire to return to Ewood Park to guide Blackburn back to the Premier League. The 1995 Premier League champions were relegated in 2012, two years after McCarthy left to join West Ham United and it pains him to see the club that introduced him to English supporters at such a low.
McCarthy scored 52 goals in three and a half seasons and the fans would probably not have a problem welcoming one of their former heroes to Ewood Park, where the retired striker seems to have felt the most connection.
“I am doing my (coaching) badges and I would love to go back and coach my old team Blackburn once I get my badges. I feel that it’s a club that have been exceptionally good for me and they made my life very pleasant when I went to the Premier League. So now that they are in the Championship struggling to get back up is worrying. It’s a great club and they deserve to be in the Premier League,” said McCarthy, arguably South Africa’s greatest export.
Once he gets that job at Blackburn – which is not impossible for someone who defied the odds to become an icon – McCarthy has a plan to recruit South Africans to the club to help him complete his mission of winning promotion to the top flight.
“I would love to see more South African players at Blackburn, a club that love South Africa. They had Elrio van Heerden, Aaron Mokoena, and myself. And they went for Steven Pienaar as well, but he signed for Everton instead. So they have a great relationship with South African players. That’s why I would love to be a manager there one day and bring in more South African players to the club and help them get back to the Premier League.”
Bafana Bafana’s all-time top scorer with 32 goals wants to achieve more as a coach than he did as a player. It’s not going to be easy, though, when you look back at the many achievements he has as a player in Europe.
“I actually want to do much better as a coach than I did as a player. Most players think because they were good players they don’t have to learn anything to be a coach. They think it just comes naturally. It does not happen like that. I am going back to square one to start from the beginning to learn the tricks of the trade of being a great manager. I am going through my academics again, and use what I learnt as a player to supplement what I learn from my coaching courses.”
One player McCarthy would probably not hesitate to sign for Blackburn is former Buccaneers teammate Andile Jali, who recently joined Belgian club KV Oostende.
“He is a super guy. He is a warrior. He is a European style player born in South Africa. He has the fighting spirit. He will definitely survive and he will be a success. If he stays humble, then he will go very far,” McCarthy said of Jali.
Jali is 23 and McCarthy says it’s important for players to go abroad at a young age.
“It’s essential to go overseas at a young age because you get rid of bad habits. You get taught very quickly how to get bad habits out of you. It’s easy to take in what you learn and progress and develop into a great player.”
Life can get quite lonely abroad, so McCarthy plans to pop in at Oostende and spend some time with Jali. “He is not far away from me, so I will pay him a nice surprise visit,” McCarthy said.