When Middendorp came on board in mid-December, he caught up with a team that had already run out of steam even before the Christmas break, under then coach Giovanni Solinas.
Solinas was an Italian tactician who was clueless about the pressure that came with the role of holding one of the most demanding coaching seats in the PSL, and he was sacked in less than five months.
In the first two months, Middendorp, who is back for his second stint with the club, appeared to have been the breath of fresh air Chiefs needed - with fringe players coming to the fore, and a couple of exciting development graduates making their way into the elite league.
The last six months were probably the best that Hendrick Ekstein has had as an Amakhosi player, before his contract was terminated by the club after the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement over a new salary deal. Players like Bernard Parker, pictured, and Kgotso Moleko also benefitted from the redemption that Middendorp brought.
Meanwhile, Happy Mashiane, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Given Thibedi made the jump from the reserves to the first team.
But all this didn’t last.
Ekstein’s contractual situation with the club hung in the balance for the longest part of the second half of the season. And Middendorp had his back against the wall as his favourite player spent too much time in the club’s boardroom and missed crucial encounters on the field.
Mashiane and Ngcobo picked up injuries that kept them sidelined. When Middendorp was forced to ring the changes and bring back the old guns, they found it hard to adjust to his new philosophy.
Moreover, they became obsessed with ending their three-year trophy drought by focusing all their attention on the Nedbank Cup, and their league campaign suffered.
Chiefs reached the final of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition where they will face TS Galaxy at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.