Kaizer Chiefs’ involvement in the CAF Champions League semi-finals could be a lifeline to fringe players
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JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs’ involvement in the CAF Champions League semifinals could very well serve as a lifeline to some of the players who are on the fringes given that there’s a new boss to impress before their transfer ban is lifted and the window opens to go into the market.
Stuart Baxter returned to the club this month after the dismissal of head coach Gavin Hunt following a turbulent outing in the domestic campaign.
Hunt, despite his lofty billing, failed to establish a top-eight finish for the team during his nine months at the helm.
However, that feat was achieved by his former assistants Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard in the last two games of the season.
The duo will continue serving as interim coaches when they face Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of the Champions League semis.
The back-to-back matches against Wydad, away tomorrow evening and at home next Saturday, will also be of interest to Baxter who has been preparing the team since his arrival.
He is waiting for his work permit after leaving the country three years ago.
These games will not serve as trials or auditions for the players.
Already, there are regulars who play week in and week out but they’ve been reported to be on their way out of the team when their contracts expire at the end of the month.
If that’s not the case, some are still waiting to hear from the management about the renewal of their contracts.
The future of Chiefs captain Bernard Parker is also bleak as the club is yet to table him a new contract. But he’ll be hopeful to renew in the next few weeks.
And that’s why he’ll know that leading Chiefs to their first ever Champions League final could buy him more time at the club.
Part of the supporters’ demands in a memorandum, which was sent to the club after its recent decline, was to see a squad overhaul.
Already more than 10 players are said to have signed pre-contracts with Chiefs, on Hunt’s recommendation.
There’s some sort of redemption for the current crop though.
Baxter emphasised that he won’t be rocking the boat as he feels that he could build from where his predecessors left off, although they need to find their identity.
After all, that’s what it’s all about at times, blending the newbies with the experienced players.
Itumeleng Khune’s time to don the No 1 jersey could be over, especially after his decline due to off-field and injury incidents in the last few years, but he remains a prominent figure in continental football. And that’s why his presence among youngsters could be valuable.
Chiefs will make their final decisions about the new arrivals and departures later this month, but whichever players feature against Wydad should wear their hearts on their sleeves.