JOHANNESBURG – Even though he’d spent sometime this week reassuring his SuperSport United players that they had done as much preparation as possible for Saturday’s Nedbank Cup final against Orlando Pirates, coach Stuart Baxter still warned that the Buccaneers are quite unpredictable, seeing that his counterpart, Kjell Jonevret, hasn’t completely settled since his arrival in February.
The two men, who know a little about each other from their time in the Swedish league some years back, go head-to-head at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium in a match that is a repeat of last year’s cup final in Polokwane, where Baxter outsmarted then Pirates coach Eric Tinkler 3-1.
“I would like to say yes I can look back, but I don’t think I can,” said Baxter when asked yesterday if he would draw back on that victory from 13 months ago.
“When you have had the season that Pirates have had, then I think it is a little unpredictable. They want to get back into a rhythm and Kjell certainly is a structured coach, and he will want to put his moniker on the team. But the constraints of their history will always guide you.
"It was the same with me when I went to (Kaizer) Chiefs. I wanted to put my stamp on everything, but it has to be done a certain way – the Chiefs way. That is one of the challenges we have as coaches.
"I think right now my players can do what I want them to do without thinking about it too much because they know me, but maybe the Pirates players are still thinking about what does Kjell actually want.”
The Buccaneers haven’t yet looked that convincing under Jonevret, who has managed to win six of the 17 games from when he took over – four of them being en route to Saturday’s cup final.
He, unfortunately, could not guarantee that Pirates keep their record of being one of only two sides in the Premier League era to finish in the top eight, coincidentally leaving SuperSport to be the only carriers of that milestone.
“You know, all coaches need time and Kjell needs that time.” said Baxter. “But whether he is the coach or it’s Muhsin (Ertugral, who quit three months into the season), Pirates have got their structure set in stone.
"Everybody knows that they don’t sign certain types of players. They want to play expansive, they want to play quick and they want to play dynamic football. In saying they have changed, yes they have changed massively, but they haven’t changed at all.”
Baxter, meanwhile, didn’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that he will sit in the SuperSport dugout for the last time on Saturday as he moves on to permanently guide Bafana Bafana after the club had allowed him to do both jobs this month.
He did, however, have sage advice for Tinkler, who will officially succeed him next time.
“I think Eric was aware of expectations from his time at Pirates. I have never worked at Pirates, but I think the expectations there are as great as you can get. In terms of that experience he should be okay here,” said Baxter.
“I think every job is different and there will be different pressures here than he has found at Pirates and Cape Town City, where it was a unique experience for him because the whole club went under the radar a little bit because everyone kept saying it’s a new club. But for me it was a club that finished fourth a year before and moved a couple of players on and a couple of players in.
"They had no expectations, but there are expectations here and they will want more. That is the job and Eric has got to put up with that. It will probably be more like it was at Pirates.” @superjourno