CAPE TOWN – Benni McCarthy is confident in his ability to transfer his playing success to his coaching career. He has never been someone who shirks a challenge – so, when the Cape Town City offer came along, he thought about it briefly, then tackled the opportunity head on.
When City was established as a PSL club in June last year, owner John Comitis was vocal about his vision of galvanising football in the Mother City, and of his new club capturing the imagination of the country, both on and off the field.
They did so last season – winning the Telkom Knockout and finishing third on the PSL standings – but, when coach Eric Tinkler left to join SuperSport United last week, Comitis was left with a bit of a headache. What now?
So, in keeping with his notion of doing things big, and a little bit differently to other clubs, he called up McCarthy. Instead of recycling the old dead-wood coaches who perform the annual merry-go-round in the PSL, Comitis opted to give the untried 39-year-old McCarthy his first job as a head coach.
“Benni’s history is well-documented,” said Comitis. “He graced the pitches all over Europe and he is back now where he belongs. Here, he can change the lives of Capetonians. He is the right fit for City and I believe he can take the team to the next level. Here, at City, he has an opportunity to add to his legacy and build something for the future.
“I spent 10 minutes talking to him and I could sense that he understands the game, and he knows the flavour of the dressing-room. Like Real Madrid did in taking a chance on former star Zinedine Zidane, so I think we can achieve with Benni at the helm.”
As for McCarthy, he cannot wait to get the job started.
“The Cape is where I started as a player, and this is where I am starting my coaching career,” said the former Bafana Bafana striker. “As a player, I was ambitious, I always wanted to be successful; as a coach, I have the same attitude.
“There will, of course, be questions. It’s my first time in charge, I’m inexperienced But, over the years, as a player, I’ve worked with many coaches, and they all had to start somewhere. Someone had to take a chance on them For example, when Ajax Amsterdam signed me when I was 17, they didn’t know what they were getting. It was a gamble. So, as you see, everybody has to start somewhere and I have to thank City for giving me this opportunity.
“I will work hard, I don’t know any other way. City have had a great season and I just want to build on that. It’s my first opportunity as a head coach and it’s in my home town. With the support of everybody at City, I want to make Cape football alive again. I want us to compete with the big guns in the PSL.”
McCarthy explained how the offer to coach City came about.
“I was at home back in Scotland watching the tennis at Roland Garros when my phone rang,” he said. “I could see it was the chairman (Comitis) and I knew, especially after reading that Eric (Tinkler) was going to SuperSport, what the call was about. But I thought about it initially – I knew, if I picked up the phone, my five-year plan with regard to my coaching licences and picking up the necessary experience would be out of the window. But I decided to take a leap of faith, I answered”
Now, after all the hype is over, the real toil begins for McCarthy. He knows he has big shoes to fill. But he is already hard at work, planning and preparing. The City coaching staff return on June 26, the players arrive on June 30 and pre-season training commences on July 1.
“I’m already working on the steps I want to take, the things I want to do,” said McCarthy. “So that when I walk in and start working later this month, I know what I want to achieve and how to go about it.
“Importantly, I want to create a harmonious squad,” he said. “There must be unity and everybody must be together. The players must be comfortable and feel free to come to me. I want them to trust me as I trust them. There will, of course, be discipline too, no football team can operate without discipline. There are certain boundaries that players cannot cross.
“But, most of all, as a coach, I want to help players become better and I want them to achieve.”