JOHANNESBURG – My beard makes eating a pie in public an extreme sport, which is why I seldom do it because of the admin that comes with checking that crumbs aren’t loitering all over it.
But SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler has forced me to eat pie in public – humble pie, that is.
I have to admit I was among those who doubted his competency when he rose to being Orlando Pirates’ head coach after serving in the interim following Roger de Sa and Vladmir Vermezovic’s resignations.
My biggest gripe was that he hadn’t proven himself as a head coach. He just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Obviously, that ignored the work he did at Bidvest Wits since his arrival in 2005, already armed with the coaching badges he did during his playing days.
Tinkler started from the bottom at Wits, served as an assistant, held the job in the interim after Boebie Solomons’ sacking, returned to being the second in charge upon De Sa’s reappointment, and shaped the Clever Boys’ academy as its head.
The work ethic he exhibited during that time motivated De Sa to bring him in as his assistant at Pirates in 2012.
My problem with Tinkler’s appointment, unlike that of De Sa, who had earned his dues, was that he hadn’t earned his stripes as a head coach.
Pirates isn’t exactly a club that coaches get their first appointment at. But Tinkler made the most of that chance, even though he had a conservative start.
What showed his ambitious side was turning down returning to serve as an assistant after the Buccaneers hired Muhsin Ertugral.
Some of his Bafana teammates have hidden behind being assistants while complaining about not being given a chance, yet lacking the bravery to fly out of the nest.
Tinkler had outgrown being an assistant after taking Pirates to the final of the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup.
He took a leap to manage a Cape Town City side that was started with a handful of players without much of a defence.
Tinkler built the defence and turned the ambitious team into a force, winning the Telkom Knockout and finishing third in the Absa Premiership to qualify for the Confederation Cup before the club had even turned two years old.
He can better that achievement at SuperSport. Matsatsantsa a Pitori are already one match away from appearing in their first Confederation Cup final.
Tinkler’s story is that of hard work, patience, working your way up and being driven by ambition to not settle for less.
He achieved all of that without any handouts or using his name as a member of the class of 1996 that won the Africa Cup of Nations.
A number of his teammates from that era are all talk and no action, wanting to sail by with just that title without working hard to build on it.
Pirates’ chairman Irvin Khoza admitted that he would have liked to keep him before he joined the Citizens, but couldn’t because he got a good offer.
“I am happy that he is doing very well,” Khoza said. “It shows that my selection of Tinkler wasn’t misplaced. It was a good choice.
“But unfortunately the supporters were impatient. A lot of people were impatient. We see things that people don’t see.
“I saw something that people didn’t see in Tinkler. I am happy that he has proven me right. But it’s also important that the class of 1996 are coming to take their rightful position, not only becoming armchair critics.
“Tinkler is one of the guys who’s prepared to be tested and audited, unlike those who simply go to the studio just to criticise, but don’t want to expose themselves in terms of how much they know when given a chance.
“All of them are good in hindsight. They never tell you before the game what is going to happen. They only tell you after the game that, ‘man, the defence should have done this and that’.
“I can also say that because I had the benefit of watching and saw it unfold. Give us something new, that’s fresh.”
That challenge should also go to club owners. Give us something new, that’s fresh.
There is a lot of regurgitating in the coaches that are hired who aren’t bringing anything new to the game.
There are a number of hard-working coaches who have armed themselves with knowledge, but need someone to trust them instead.
There are a lot of coaches who serve as assistants who would do better than some of the coaches who have been brought ahead of them.
With a little faith, a lot of unheralded coaches in the game could dish out large servings of humble pie.