Bigger roles for assistant coaches today
That’s the view of Mandla Ncikazi who is the second-in-command for astute Steve Komphela at Lamontville Golden Arrows. The pair have formed a formidable technical team combo having worked together at Free State Stars and Maritzburg United in the past.
In an interview with Independent Media, Ncikazi explained that assistant coaches are now expected to shoulder the same burden on technical matters as the head coaches.
The former African Wanderers player believes that in modern football clubs hire coaches of a high calibre as assistants who will make meaningful inputs. “The role of an assistant coach is a very interesting one. If you look at the landscape of South African football - take Mamelodi Sundowns, for example - they’ve got Pitso Mosimane and Manqoba Mngqithi. Pitso is the head coach and Manqoba his assistant and a former head coach himself. At Orlando Pirates you have JZ (Jozef Zinnbauer) as the head coach and Fadlu Davids as his assistant. Fadlu is also a former head coach. Steve is head coach at Arrows and Mandla is a former head coach and he is assisting him.
“At Highlands Park, Owen Da Gama is the head coach and Allan Freese the assistant. Allan was a very successful head coach at Platinum Stars. So, that clearly tells you that clubs are strengthening their technical teams with experienced individuals. Maybe the job of a head coach has become too demanding. Even at Kaizer Chiefs, there’s Ernst Middendorp at the top and Shaun Bartlett as his deputy. Bartlett is a former head coach himself. Clearly, modern football demands assistant coaches that have a wealth of knowledge in the game.”
Ncikazi is of the opinion that head coaches today have a lot to deal with, including ambassadorial work for the club, hence they need independent minded assistants for second opinions in a number of areas.
However, according to Ncikazi, there are clubs that still have assistant coaches that contribute very little on the technical side. “That happens when the head coach arrived at the club where the assistant coach was already there. In such instances, you’ll find the head coach maybe doesn’t trust his assistant or the relationship is not good.
“And, of course, other assistants are just there to monitor what the head coach is doing and report to club bosses. It still happens in other clubs but it is a very low percentage.”
But Ncikazi supports the notion of developing future head coaches by appointing them as assistants as part of succession planning and continuity.
“It is good to see situations like the one that happened at Pirates. Micho (Milutin Sredojevic) left and Rhulani Mokwena took over the coaching reins. We need that for the advancement of football. Even overseas, it is happening. Pep Gaurdiola left Barcelona and Tito Vilanova took over and you never saw the difference. It was the same thing with Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti left and Zinedine Zidane was appointed as the manager and he continued on the same lines as Ancelotti had done."
Ncikazi’s role at Arrows is unique in that he is directly involved in all technical aspects of the team with his head coach. “It differs from coach to coach. But in my case, Steve is involving me in everything."
Independent on Saturday