CAPE TOWN – The off-season is usually dominated by transfer talk with regard to players, but coaches are just as much in the spotlight.
Already, SuperSport United’s poaching of Eric Tinkler has garnered headlines – and Cape Town City, never to be left behind, responded with the high-profile capture of Benni McCarthy as their new man in charge.
But it’s a scenario that couldn’t be better for the PSL. In the long run, City’s decision to offer an untried coach an opportunity will have wider, mostly positive repercussions for football in South Africa. For far too long, the PSL has been a financial haven for a raft of coaches who, season after season, change clubs as regularly as their underwear. When clubs are doing badly, and in need of a new coach, all that happens is that the same old names are recycled. In essence, it offers nothing new to the game.
The tactical freshness that Tinkler ushered in at City alerted clubs to what’s possible with something new and different. City have now added to that with the untried McCarthy, while Platinum Stars have also just appointed another new face in Englishman Peter Butler as their new coach. Fresh faces, fresh ideas, new voices, new styles, new challenges – all of that can only be good for a PSL in desperate need of an injection of novel methods and techniques, and contemporary interpretations of the modern game.
McCarthy, when unveiled as the new City coach last week, spoke frankly about his coaching ambitions. He gave some insight into a few of the coaches he played under, like Co Adriaanse, Louis van Gaal, Morten Olsen and Jose Mourinho, highlighting some of their strengths and weaknesses. Above all, though, he emphasised that he doesn’t want to emulate or mimic any of them. What he wants to do is “steal a bit from all of them” and then forge his own unique coaching style.
At the same time as McCarthy’s nostalgic arrival back in his home town, I was reading an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper about charismatic former Wigan, Hull City and Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard and his foray into coaching at little-known non-league club Leatherhead.
“I was always intrigued by management and I wish I could turn the clock back and pick the brains of each of my managers,” says Bullard. “As a player you can be very selfish You can be in your own bubble, whereas being a manager you have to be constantly thinking about others, a whole group of people, including players, coaches, assistants and more.”
And, in the same way, that McCarthy has been able to look back and pick the brains of his former coaches, I thought I’d do the same from my days at Santos. Billy Anderson was a special mentor, capable of bringing out the best in players; Boebie Solomons, a great coach, but not the best man-manager; Sergio dos Santos, a superb motivator and a great tactician; Duncan Crowie, an inspirational leader who could drag players higher through the sheer force of his magnetic personality.
Those are but a few examples, but there’s a lesson in that for former players who want to succeed as coaches. There is no room for ego, there is no room for individuality. Football is a team sport and, as a coach, it’s about creating an environment within which the entire unit feels comfortable, and knows that everybody is part of the whole. Every contribution, big or small, contributes to the success that benefits the team.
Watching Tinker at work at City last season was a real eye-opener in this regard. The former Bafana Bafana midfielder’s work at the Cape club was extraordinary, especially in how he instilled the philosophy of the team. No doubt, this season coming, McCarthy has big, big shoes to fill. Let’s see.