With only 18 players taking part in the first training session at the Peter Mokaba Stadium ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the same venue, Baxter was unhappy that he was heading into a critical training session minus key players - including his overseas-based contingent.
“It’s been chaotic,” says the Scotsman.
“I think there has only been one camp that I have been on in the 210 days that I have been the national team coach that hasn’t been on steroids. This one has been very chaotic in terms of sitting in the hotel, waiting to greet the players and watching the game and seeing the goalkeeper (Itumeleng Khune) get injured. And then being in contact with the doctor the rest of the evening to find out the extent. And then players’ flights being delayed.”
As many as five players based in Europe - Andile Jali, Dino Ndlovu, Thulani Serero, Lebogang Manyama and Keagan Dolly - had still not reported for duty. Add to that mix the fact that Kaizer Chiefs trio of Khune, Mulomowandau Mathoho and Siphiwe Tshabalala were delayed in Port Elizabeth worsened the effect.
“I think to some degree this is normal. But me, I always like things to be smoother than this. It’s nice to then talk to the press and go to the stadium and do a session,” the coach explained.
Baxter took over from Shakes Mashaba two games into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers when he was appointed in May, and already his nightmares are very similar to those of his predecessors, who often moaned that there’s simply not enough time in international football to work your magic.
“It’s always equally frustrating,” the coach added.
“Geographically we have our challenges to get players in from Europe when they have probably played on the evening they should be travelling. They can’t get a flight or there are delays and then they are missing a session where you thought they would be available. Those are the frustrations.”
Baxter said he wasn’t blaming anyone, however.
“There are two things that have got to be sharpened up. One is that the players have got to be more proactive in terms of making sure they do everything they can to get to camp on time. Two, the association has also got to be proactive in contact with their clubs, booking tickets and making sure people know well in advance.
“This needs to be as sharp as we can make it. I think that is the only way we can move forward. It would be nice to take away this constant frustration of not everybody here on time. Maybe Senegal have the same challenges, I don’t know. But I would like not to have these issues.”