CAPE TOWN – Benni McCarthy has always been bold enough to admit that he has made errors in his debut season as head coach of Cape Town City. He acknowledges that it has been a tough learning curve, but the experience, as he says, has made him “one year wiser”.
And, with the benefit of that year’s knowledge and experience under the belt, he is confident that he will continue to grow and mature as a coach.
In football, as with anything in life, there is no limit to learning. This has always been McCarthy’s motto, which is why he will continue to store every moment, every game situation, every decision and every 90 minutes. And, once stored, it becomes valuable in plotting his future steps and decisions as a coach.
McCarthy is currently in Northern Ireland to complete his Uefa Pro coaching licence.
On his return, the City coach will tackle the final game of the PSL season - away to AmaZulu on May 12. More importantly, the fixture will signal the end of McCarthy’s rookie season as coach.
It has been an absolute rollercoaster ride for the former Bafana Bafana striker.
After Eric Tinkler suddenly quit City, club boss John Comitis sprang a major surprise by appointing the untried, untested and inexperienced McCarthy as the new head coach in June last year.
Initially, though, it proved to be an inspired decision.
City got off to a wonderful start under McCarthy, brushing teams aside in the league and qualifying for the MTN8 final. They went on to lose the final to Tinkler’s new club SuperSport United - and that then was also the moment when the tide turned.
Inconsistency set in, the goals dried up and, for the rest of the campaign, McCarthy’s real education as a coach began - because it’s during difficulty and adversity that learning take place.
Before jetting off to Northern Ireland, he revealed what he believed was the most difficult challenge in his rookie season as a coach.
“It has to be dealing with the personalities of players in the squad,” said McCarthy. “There are so many - everybody is different and, as a coach, you cannot please everyone. I found it difficult in trying to make everybody in the squad comfortable.”
“There are 26 players in the squad and only 11 can play. So you pick the team and the players on the bench, and those left out look at you like King Kong.”
“I admit there are times I made mistakes, but I can’t see everything. But I think I’ve learnt from the experience this season - and I know that I have to manage the squad of players better. In that way, I won’t have players drifting because they can’t get into the team.”
The other aspect McCarthy alluded to was the off-field challenges.
“Look, nothing is always roses,” he said. “Football has its ups and downs, and, as a player and a coach, you have to accept it. You can’t always just have it your way. In Europe, the manager is in charge, he calls the shots, period.”
“Here, in South Africa, it works a little differently. I’m fortunate that, in John (Comitis), I have an owner who allows me some freedom. But, overall, this season in charge has allowed me to see how things operate in the boardroom - and how to deal better with it in the future.”
Despite the challenges, despite the difficulties, City are still in the top half of the PSL standings, and in contention for a top four or five finish.
There is nothing wrong with that for a first time coach, now is there?