CAPE TOWN - The larger than life Benni McCarthy owned up to his shortcomings from his first stint as head coach and promised big things in his second season in charge of Cape Town City.
Citizens’ boss, John Comitis, gambled with McCarthy last season by appointing him as Eric Tinkler’s replacement in what was the all-time Bafana Bafana top goalscorer’s first coaching gig having previously only had short stints as assistant coach. The gamble partially paid off with McCarthy leading City to a fifth place finish and final of the MTN8.
McCarthy’s tactical naivety though was exposed, especially in the MTN8 final by Tinkler. But what he lacked in experience he made up for with his big personality and desire to win, infusing that into his team that played liked him - with arrogance and determination. The only element of McCarthy that his team lacked was efficiency in front of goal.
“I have learnt that I need to be more clear and direct with my players,” McCarthy said. “Last season they had to adapt to my ways, how I wanted to work and my philosophy. I went back and looked at areas where I can improve as a coach. I’ve changed up a little bit and I have seen some good changes. It’s positive.
"I think that I should be a bit better this season than what I was last season. It shouldn’t feel like uncharted territory now for me and the team because we’ve had another pre-season together and now they understand me better. They now see the direction I want to take the team. We should be more competitive this year.”
The Cape side was very competitive against Kaizer Chiefs in the Mpumalanga Cultural Xperience Cup at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday. The Citizens beat Amakhosi 1-0 through Craig Martin’s powerful strike from outside the box. McCarthy switched things up in the second half to show how much depth the Citizens have. They have all the qualities to challenge for honours in a season that will see Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Chiefs juggle domestic aspirations along with a shot at continental glory.
“I saw that my team has character from how we performed against Chiefs,” McCarthy said. “We’re much more strong-willed than we were last season. I thought I saw a lot of hunger and desire. The new players were made to feel welcome and at home. They were able to settle in quite quickly. Those are positive signs and those are the things you want to see as a coach, how well the team builds up play. I am very happy with the outcome. But this wasn’t just about the result but about getting players to perform at league level. I am very happy with the levels of the players.”
City start their campaign against SuperSport United on Saturday night. McCarthy’s biggest task will be how he balances introducing the new players to complement what the old players did last season.
“I don’t want players to switch off just because they aren’t part of the starting 11. I want players to be alert, attentive and see what’s going on so that they quickly step up when called upon. I am happy with how many game changers we have in our team.”