CAPE TOWN - It was a weekend of gloom and despair for the Mother City’s two PSL clubs. Both Cape Town City and Ajax Cape Town crashed out of the Telkom Knockout Cup in the opening round of the competition - and will now look to this week’s league fixtures to regain some measure of form and pride.
City host Free State Stars at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday, while, on the same day, Ajax are in Rustenburg for a reunion with former coach Roger de Sa, who is now in charge of Platinum Stars. Both games kick off at 7.30pm.
For City’s Benni McCarthy, especially, this coaching thing is now seemingly not as easy as it looked. In his first stint as a head coach, the former Bafana Bafana striker got off to a quick and successful start. But now, after four successive defeats, he’s realising just how difficult and capricious a coaching career can be.
In City’s case, it’s not so much the results that are concerning, it’s the manner of the defeats. In the last three games, they’ve been palpably off-colour, lacking in energy and passion, and comprehensively clueless about how to break down the opposition. On Sunday, in the 1-0 Cup defeat to Baroka FC in Polokwane, they regularly gave the ball away like school kids, failed to string passes together and, overall, looked a disjointed, unhappy squad.
“We were nowhere near in the first half (against Baroka),” said McCarthy. “We went down 1-0, rightfully so, and, after that, we were always chasing the game. My players just never stood up to be counted."
This bad run of form, of course, is unfamiliar territory to City. They may have lost on a few occasions, but they always found a way to bounce back. People are starting to question their character and fortitude. And, importantly, the big question: Has City burst its bubble?
Tough situations build strong people,remember even your worst days have 24 hours. @parks_kobola pic.twitter.com/wsHCA2CqNo
The only way for City to answer that question is a firm, positive response and a winning performance in Wednesday's game. To do so, many things have to happen: McCarthy, for one, needs to get to the root of the team’s listlessness, and inject some vigour and confidence into his under-performing players, the City squad, itself, needs some introspection and they need to realise that this is a new season. The success of the previous campaign is over - every club in the PSL now has their number and they need to constantly find ways to re-invent themselves.
Make no mistake, Wednesday is a big, big night for City. They cannot afford another defeat.