‘Baxter Must Go’ chant sounded the death knell for Chiefs' head honcho

Stuart Baxter during his time as coach of Kaizer Chiefs during the DStv Premiership match against Orlando Pirates on the 5 March 2022 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Stuart Baxter during his time as coach of Kaizer Chiefs during the DStv Premiership match against Orlando Pirates on the 5 March 2022 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Apr 22, 2022


Johannesburg - What started as a carousel became a crazy merry-go-round on the Premier Soccer League (PSL) Premiership landscape as the axing of coaches gained momentum.

There are five rounds of Premiership matches left this season, but in the past two weeks, coaching dismissals have come fast and furious. In some cases it would seem the logical thing might have been for the faltering coaches to see out the season.

The latest coach to Premiership scrapheap of failed coaches is Brit Stuart Baxter of Kaizer Chiefs. He has been performing poorly this season. He has failed to have the team playing anywhere near their full potential.

At a recent post-match presser, Baxter smartly reminded the media that he was the only coach to have delivered silverware in the past six years.

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After his first tenure as Chiefs’ coach ended, he was succeeded by head honchos Steve Komphela, Giovanni Solinas, Ernst Middendorp and Gavin Hunt, none of whom won a trophy.

However, Baxter's reputation has done nothing for his ability to steer the club to any championship or even runner-up berth since he re-joined the club at the end of last season.

Generally, there have been times when results are poor, but clubs refrain from taking drastic steps. They fail to sack the coaches, perhaps when there are good enough reasons to do so. Over the years, in the case of Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, the fans have indirectly decided for the clubs by calling for the coach's head because results are consistently poor.

This is what happened last week when 5000 Chiefs fans braved miserable wet weather to watch their idols lose to beleaguered SuperSport United, who had just fired their long-standing Zimbabwean coach Kaitano Tembo. It was meant to be a joyous occasion because for the first time in two years, Chiefs fans were allowed back into the stadium.

The Chiefs fans were in fine spirits long before the kick-off, but by the time the final whistle blew, the mood was one of disappointment and rank anger. Hence, their outcry: 'Baxter Must Go'!

A few days later, Baxter joined the list of this season's sacked coaches. The Premiership complete list (in no particular order) reads; 1 Kaitano Tembo (SuperSport United), 2 Lehlohonolo Seema (Lamontville Golden Arrows), 3 Benni McCarthy (AmaZulu), 4 Josef Zinnbauer (Orlando Pirates), 5 Sébastien Migné (Marumo Gallants), 6 Matsemela Thoka (Baroka FC), 7 Brandon Truter (Swallows FC), 8 Gavin Hunt (Chippa United), 9 Stuart Baxter (Kaizer Chiefs) and 10 Owen Da Gama (TS Galaxy).

Sekhukhune United coach McDonald Makhubedu has survived, but recently he was made co-coach with newly-appointed Owen da Gama joining the club.

The other five clubs have stood the test of time with their existing technical staff. As a result, there have been no changes this season at Mamelodi Sundowns (Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena, Steve Kompela), Royal AM (John Maduka), Cape Town City (Eric Tinkler), Stellenbosch (Steve Barker) and Maritzburg United (Ernst Middendorp).

This is an extraordinary turn-around of head coaches for one season in a league that is regarded as one the best in Africa. Ten of 16 clubs have axed coaches, and there could be another one or two by the time the season ends in May.

It is a damning indictment of the quality of the overall organisation of South African professional football. Professional football is results-driven and it is the coach who is ultimately responsible. However, there must be questions about the choice of coaches.

There are far too many club owners who are trigger-happy even though they fail dismally in treating their positions with respect. They make calls when they are not qualified to do so.

Experts say several factors contribute to the sad situation which have led to a plethora of sackings during the season. Ideally, the clubs should be in a position to take a cue from their parent body, but the PSL has been fraught with peril for several seasons now. Presently clubs are at odds with their mother body and there could be some court cases in the pipeline.

A major problem is that club owners insist on performing tasks that they are not equipped for. Many are not able to weigh up whether the coach is the right man to guide their team.

Given what has happened the parent body should be concerned about the situation. They can assist by calling in experts and convening workshops to educate the administration of clubs. Of course, many will point to the PSL's disastrous state of affairs, in particular their media relations, which are silent when the situation cries out for a response.

For six years now, the PSL has been running with an acting CEO who is also a club owner and this has thrown up countless instances of conflicts of interest.

Perhaps, the Premiership can take a leaf out of Brazil's book. A few years ago, their premier league also experienced numerous clubs sacking coaches during the season. In the end, common sense prevailed, and clubs were restricted to one sacking per season.