Roland Putsche was hurt in a collision with Thulani Hlatshwayo. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Benni McCarthy was quick to deflect all the praise for Cape Town City’s fantastic start to the season on to his players.

And, as he prepares his team to take on Kaizer Chiefs in a PSL fixture at Cape Town Stadium tonight (7.30pm kickoff), he has no doubt that his men are up for the challenge.

For City coach McCarthy, it has certainly been a great beginning. Five games, five wins – he can do no wrong.

What’s the secret? According to the 39-year-old former Bafana Bafana striker, the credit doesn’t reside with the coach, it’s all down to the players.

“It has been an unbelievable achievement so far,” said McCarthy.

“I remember when taking this job, people had doubts. They were asking: ‘Can he do it? Is he ready?’

“But the chairman (John Comitis) believed in me, and I’m thankful for that. He took a gamble on me and, so far, the gamble has paid off.

“I came here and had an instant chemistry with the players. I’m blessed with a great squad – and it’s through their effort and commitment that we have started so well.

“They are all humble guys and very easy to work with. There is a great team spirit and we are in a good space because we are winning. There are different personalities in every team, and as a coach, it’s all about how you manage them.

“I know that problems and challenges will set in, but when it comes we will deal with it as a group. At the moment, for us, it’s just feet on the ground, we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and we’ll take it game by game.”

The next game has arrived – and it’s a real toughie in having to take on Amakhosi. But City and McCarthy are up for the test.

“We’re on a five-game winning run,” said the coach. “What has been important is the fight of the players and the fact that they are under no pressure from me or the club’s management.

“There is a relaxed atmosphere, the players are performing with smiles on their faces and, for us, losing is not an option. The attitude is that we want winning to become a habit.”

But, as City ready themselves for the Soweto club tonight, they’ll have to deal with the loss of combative Austrian midfielder Roland Putsche.

Putsche was stretchered off in the MTN8 semi-final second leg win over Wits in Johannesburg at the weekend after a knockout blow from South Africa’s very own “Tyson”.

The City hard man had gone up for an aerial challenge with Wits’ pugnacious captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, but came off second best.

The Wits defender is nicknamed “Tyson”, because of his similarity to Mike Tyson, even though the challenge was fair, there was always going to be one winner, and it wasn’t going to be Putsche.

Hlatshwayo’s head connected with the under-side of the Austrian’s chin and that was it, Putsche was floored.

“I just remember going up for the challenge, after that I didn’t know too much about what was going on around me,” Putsche said on Monday as he stood on the sidelines and watched the team train.

“It’s a pity I have to miss the game against Chiefs, it’s a game I love to be part of.”

Putsche, who has been one of City’s stand-out performers since arriving in the Mother City last year, should however be back and available sooner rather than later.

The gouge was so deep and wide, it opened up all the way to the bone. The player needed 17 stitches to repair the tear, and medical advice is that he rest for the next few days.

But for the encounter against Chiefs tonight, it leaves McCarthy with an interesting selection poser.

Central midfielder Mpho Matsi is the easy, natural replacement for Putsche, but his presence in the team means McCarthy may have to tweak other areas.

Matsi is a solid, reliable footballer, who goes about his business quietly and effectively; he won’t let the team down.

But he is different to the dynamic, jack-in-the box Putsche, in that he won’t cover as much ground during the 90 minutes.

So the City coach may have to rethink about who he picks to patrol the central midfield areas around Matsi.

Against Wits, with Putsche playing, it was Thabo Nodada and veteran Teko Modise. Will the coach do so again, now that the Austrian is not available? That’s the question…


Cape Times