CAPE TOWN - Benni McCarthy couldn’t have asked for a better assignment in his first adventure as the head coach of a football team. In ambitious Cape Town City, he has an owner who has made it abundantly clear that there is absolutely no pressure on the 39-year-old former Bafana Bafana striker.
Club boss John Comitis is a football man through and through. As a former professional player himself, with Wits, Hellenic and Cape Town Spurs, he doesn’t just know the game, he feels it deep within his soul. As such, he understands the twists and turns of the sport, and how important luck and the roll of the ball are at times.
He won’t be rushed into the type of suicidal, often comical, decisions that that have come back to haunt some club owners in the PSL.
Even though City finished third last season, Comitis is not expecting McCarthy, in his debut season, to equal or better that result.
In fact, the club boss has stressed the word “patience”: “We set a benchmark last season by finishing third, but the mandate given to Benni is to keep us in the top eight this season. We will be patient with the coach; I can assure you that Benni won’t be judged on this season.”
McCarthy is a decorated footballer, the leading all-time Bafana goalscorer and the only South African to have won the Uefa Champions League - but, as yet, he has no coaching pedigree.
But forget that word “pedigree”, as he said himself when accepting the City job, “everybody has to start somewhere”. You can only build pedigree and experience when you are given an opportunity.
That opportunity is at hand and McCarthy is determined and more than motivated to make the most of it.
He’s got the coaching badges. In fact, the City post has forced him to put on hold the finishing of a UEFA Pro Licence (the highest qualification in Europe).
But it was a coaching chance, especially in his home town, that was impossible to refuse.
If there’s one thing in McCarthy’s favour it’s that he will immediately have the respect of each and every one of his players.
The City squad will have grown up watching McCarthy starring for Bafana or on the European stage.
If he can bring just half of that charisma, knowledge and experience to permeate his players, then his job is done.
Important, too, is the fact that, at City, he takes charge of a really unified and committed bunch of players.
They’re a squad who make no secret that individualism is for the birds, everything revolves around their wonderful team ethic and spirit.
That alone should make McCarthy’s first tenure as a head coach a little easier - and allow him to inculcate his philosophy of a high-press, possession-based style of football to take root.