And so they have crumbled. The season is all but over for Kaizer Chiefs. There’ll be no silverware to display in the cabinet this season and none of the players can pose for pictures with a trophy to put on social networks.
And to think just a year ago, Chiefs were celebrating a league and cup double in coach Stuart Baxter’s first season in the PSL. How things have changed.
Their league title hopes are no longer in their hands, and the one trophy they had a realistic chance of winning – the Nedbank Cup – is no longer theirs after Bidvest Wits knocked them out in the semi-final clash via a penalty shoot-out on Saturday. They have been stripped of their titles, just a season after telling everybody that they had “reclaimed the glory”.
Expectations were high going into the current season, and at some point earlier this year it seemed Amakhosi would cross the finish line unchallenged by their Premiership rivals. Now there’s very little chance of this season finishing in glory. They can only play for second place in the league, to qualify for next year’s CAF Champions League.
“The season has been what the season has been. We played some outstanding football, we’ve done what we can in very trying circumstances and no one has complained,” Baxter said on Saturday.
“We have got on with it. So when we look at this game (against Wits) and see the football we played in the last period, I do not know if anybody reflects on it, but the same group of players have played 14 or 15 weeks, three games a week. And then to go into extra-time against Wits is not what you want.”
It’s been a difficult last few weeks for Chiefs, as they surrendered their lead at the top to Mamelodi Sundowns before getting knocked out of the Nedbank Cup.
But Baxter says his players have not let anybody down, considering they had a hectic schedule which involved CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup football.
“If anybody says these players let anybody down, then they do not know anything about football.
“It depends how you quantify success. If you quantify success by only having silverware, then I agree with you, it has been a disappointing season. We wanted silverware, but we did not get it. No one can turn that around.
“But if you quantify success as playing football, doing the right thing and pitching to try and win the games – if you think about the run we have had, and the schedule we have had to contend with, then I think this has been a good season. Are the fans disappointed? Yes, we know that.
“The trips (in the Champions League and Confederation Cup) affected us. But I don’t want to say anything to you guys that sounds like an excuse.
“If you look tonight, we did enough to win the game. We didn’t. It goes to penalties, and you run the risk of losing, okay, then you have to put up with that. You swallow it.”
But this season was always going to be difficult for Chiefs. Out of respect for players who won the league and cup double last season, Baxter opted not to bring in a lot of players to bolster a side always labelled “predictable”. Big mistake!
Chiefs have a good bunch of players, but they needed more than just Knowledge Musona, Simphiwe Mtsweni, George Maluleka and Katlego Mphela.
Musona looked as though he’d be the hero for Chiefs, but an injury ended his season. Maluleka has been in and out of the team, and Mphela has only recently started scoring, which is too late.
But if Chiefs had signed players at the start of the season, when they knew their season would be hectic, then maybe we would not be talking about a slump.
Now they can start planning for next season, to ensure they have a stronger squad to handle playing in different competitions. - The Star