JOHANNESBURG – You can’t fault Eric Tinkler for trying.
When a golden opportunity to coach a club with much more financial muscle, loftier ambitions and a better squad overall arises, anyone with serious objectives and success in mind for his career would jump at it.
The "ginger" was no different.
But the former Orlando Pirates and Cape Town City mentor has learnt a valuable lesson (at least that’s the hope) now that he is out of a job following his resignation - that being the official line - at SuperSport United last Friday. Tinkler and CEO Stan Matthews both stopped short of using the words “player power” in revealing the reason why the coach had to vacate his post only nine months into his three-year contract.
The coach was too quick to want to stamp his authority in a team that had finished strongly before his arrived by winning the Nedbank Cup and securing a place in the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Granted, Tinkler had managed to achieve success at City in the domestic league with a third-place finish and clinching the Telkom Knockout, while SuperSport had struggled to keep up their first-round performance and could only reach fifth spot.
It makes sense that Tinkler thought he could do more, but what he didn’t anticipate is the experience in that dressing room.
SuperSport players are a lovely bunch and their work ethic, especially the year before with Stuart Baxter, is unquestionable.
But they are also opinionated. Think about it, Morgan Gould, Clayton Daniels, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Dean Furman, Thuso Phala and the list goes on. None of these players was born yesterday.
They have worked with top coaches either at their previous teams or even at SuperSport prior to Tinkler - of course they are going to have a sober view about how to approach the game and whether their coach knows what he is doing or not.
Tinkler walked in and almost immediately wanted to tweak the basic things, like defending.
How do you tell Daniels and Gould, who were part of a formidable rearguard months earlier, to suddenly change their ways?
You can argue that the coach did inherit a team that is ageing and needed to start building for the future with young players like Sipho Mbule and Teboho Mokoena, for instance.
But I get the feeling Tinkler never got the buy-in of these important role models in the dressing room and instead alienated himself, which ultimately cost him his job.
His criticism of players as the woeful results continued also worked against him.
Fact is, Tinkler has great potential. What he did at City and even at Orlando Pirates before speaks to that. That Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza went out of his way to try and keep the former Bafana midfielder in the club structures is another affirmation of his ability.
But he tried too much too soon at SuperSport.
Time to dust himself off now and get up again to give it another go. It may have appeared like a dream that quickly turned into a nightmare while he was a SuperSport coach, but the best never know when to call it quits.
More importantly, they learn from their mistakes.
Hopefully Tinkler did.