Just over three months into his tenure as SuperSport United coach, Eric Tinkler is on the verge of making history and has already reached one of his goals.
The 47-year-old coach is 90 minutes away from becoming the first South African to take two different teams to the final of the CAF Confederation Cup, having also led Orlando Pirates to a second place finish in 2015.
Granted, Tinkler took over Matsatsantsa a Pitori after Stuart Baxter laid the foundation and Kaitano Tembo did most of the heavy lifting by taking the Tshwane side to the quarter-finals.
But in the MTN8, it has been all Tinkler.
“My first goal when I came here was to take SuperSport to the final of the MTN8,” Tinkler said.
“We’ve managed to do that. Now we have to go on and win it. That success would be a good foundation for my time here. It would also take the pressure off you guys (the media).”
To win the MTN8, Tinkler has to go past his former team Cape Town City at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday (7pm kick-off).
“No one could have written a better script than this,” Tinkler said.
A lot of people are looking forward to the final because of that sub-plot. But it’s not about me, it’s about the club.”
Another sub-plot will see Tinkler and Benni McCarthy, who is now the Citizens’ coach, return to square off at the venue where the two, along with Roger de Sa, had a heated exchange and almost fought in the 2011 Telkom Knockout final between Pirates and Bidvest Wits.
“Tinkler was thinking we are still teammates in the national team. I forgot we were teammates. Tinkler tried to be smart so I had to put him in his place and he’s lucky I didn’t slap him,” McCarthy said at the time, after boasting that he had made more money and raked in more achievements than Tinkler and De Sa.
“That exchange happened because you had two people who don’t like to lose,” Tinkler said.
“We both have a winning mentality that makes it hard to stomach defeat.
"But I have nothing against Benni. That is water under the bridge. We have been cordial whenever we’ve met each other after that incident.”
For 90 minutes, and more if need be, that cordial relationship will be put on hold as these two driven individuals try to put their hands on the first trophy of the season to start their new chapters on a winning note.
McCarthy’s tenure as head coach for the first time has been a breeze so far, returning to his hometown to manage an exciting project and reach his first final without breaking a sweat.
But Tinkler can look back and be proud at not only leading Matsatsantsa to a final just months after taking over, but also seeing the club he shaped, the Citizens, reaping the rewards of the foundation he laid.
“Everything I went through at Pirates served as a good foundation for me,” Tinkler said.
“It was important to start a new and exciting project after leaving Pirates to show my capabilities, not only to the country but mainly to myself.
“I enjoyed my time at Cape Town City because there was no reference point. What we did was the reference point. It wasn’t about proving anyone wrong because there will always be doubters regardless of what you do or where you go.
“I don’t focus on doubters. I just work on improving myself from the person I was yesterday.
“We have a good chance to make history at SuperSport by winning the MTN8 and the Confederation Cup. That’s what is driving me.”