Cape Town City are well-placed to launch a challenge for the PSL title when the season resumes in January. The jury’s still out as to whether the squad has the strength in depth to go all the way, but much will depend on how they use next month’s transfer window.
City dispatched PSL log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 at Loftus on Tuesday, and finish the first half of the campaign in second position. There were those who believed City’s first season was just a flash in the pan. In fact, when last season’s coach, Eric Tinkler, left to join SuperSport United, many suggested that was it; now the Cape side would implode. They scoffed at the appointment of the untried, inexperienced Benni McCarthy as coach. Look at him now
In short, while it has been an up-and-down, often frustrating, time over the last few months, with all the hassles and disappointments, City are still in second spot. It’s ample proof of the quality in the team, their determination, and the overall belief of all at City in the overall vision of the club.
Here are six talking points:
1. Let’s start with McCarthy. In his first six months as a head coach it hasn’t been all plain sailing; in fact, it was a real rollercoaster ride at times. After a great start, City hit a bad wobble and everybody was waiting to see how McCarthy would respond. On Tuesday night, City stopped the runaway Sundowns train in its tracks - and everybody had their answer: McCarthy and City had reacted to adversity in positive fashion. The former Bafana Bafana striker’s big strength is his willingness to reward hard work. If you show you are committed, if you give more than 100 percent, in body and mind, he’ll give you a chance. For example, this season, players like Thabo Nodada, Taariq Fielies and Craig Martin have blossomed with opportunity. On Tuesday, McCarthy did it again when he gave Ghanaian Nana Akosah-Bempah his first start in the PSL, and he was rewarded with a goal. A coach with an attitude like this sends a message that the starting team is never cast in stone - and, as a player, that’s all you want. It gives you the confidence to keep working, to keep believing.
2. And let’s also talk a little about Nodada, Fielies and Martin. Nodada struggled with injury last season and never saw much game time, while Fielies and Martin were playing in the lower leagues. Now the trio are among the regular starters in the team. Nodada is perseverance personified, he just never gives up trying; Fielies has been sensational in the centre of defence, while Martin has impressed with his energy and sheer pace. If you had to sum up City’s six months under McCarthy, it would be encapsulated in the wholehearted enthusiasm of this trio.
3. The major stumbling block for City, though, is their inability to turn possession and opportunity into goals. They’d be all over the opposition and create a host of scoring chances, without scoring. And then, the opponents would snatch a goal at the other end. Now, with the transfer window opening next month, it’s vital that club boss John Comitis and McCarthy bring in a reliable goalscorer.
4. And talking about signings Comitis has certainly kept the team in the spotlight with high-profile names and an innovative promotional strategy. In January, no doubt Comitis will be looking to add even more quality and glamour to the squad. The thing about football is to never stagnate, to keep providing greater competition for places.
5. The big question in the January window is whether Comitis can hang on to star winger Aubrey Ngoma. It’s no secret that Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is a big admirer of the player. Now he may just persuade his billionaire boss, Patrice Motsepe, to make the City owner an offer he can’t refuse. Because, like it or not, it may be about football, but it’s a business too, big business in fact - and the books have to be balanced.
6. The arrival of City has done wonders for football in the Mother City. The support base is certainly growing. Last week, in the win over AmaZulu at Cape Town Stadium (a game which ordinarily wouldn’t attract many), there was a sizeable crowd - and the way in which the fans got behind the players during the game was fantastic, and the manner in which they then applauded them afterwards was something Cape Town hasn’t seen in a long, long time.