A perennial criticism of football in the PSL is that far too often it neglects local coaches. Clubs are too keen to bring on board foreign coaches and in the process, the country is unable to grow the experience of its own.
Not so with City and Maritzburg. Both have placed their faith in young, inexperienced coaches – 40-year-old McCarthy and 37-year-old Davids – and the clubs were rewarded with admirable campaigns last season.
McCarthy and Davids are both from Cape Town. Both are former strikers. McCarthy is from Hanover Park and went on to enjoy a stellar career on the European stage with clubs like Ajax Amsterdam, Celta Vigo, FC Porto and Blackburn.
Davids is from Surrey Estate and played for Avendale Athletico, Vasco da Gama, Silver Stars and Maritzburg United.
Early on in his career, he also had the opportunity to play in Bulgaria with Chernomorets Burgas and he had a training stint at Italian Serie A club Inter Milan.
Now, with their playing days behind them, both McCarthy and Davids are determined to make it as coaches and based on what they’ve delivered so far, they certainly have the potential.
Their current clubs are but a stepping stone and no doubt in years to come, they’ll find themselves at bigger and better teams.
Unlike McCarthy, Davids had to earn his stripes as a coach the hard way.
He had quite a few stints as a caretaker-coach but even though he did quite well when taking temporary charge of Maritzburg, invariably a new head coach would be appointed and Davids would go back to his role as the assistant.
But, and this is Davids’ strength, he is a learner, not a complainer.
For him, there was always a positive in playing a secondary role because, from every coach he worked for, he picked up new things and added the information to his rapidly-growing coaching nous and experience.
He made sure he filed all the knowledge so that when his opportunity came, he would be ready.
And when the chance came, when he was finally appointed as Maritzburg’s head coach, he could give full vent to what he had learnt.
Last season, the KwaZulu-Natal side finished fourth in the PSL and secured a place in the prestigious, season-ending Nedbank Cup final (which they lost to Free State Stars).
In doing so, Davids had taken a struggling team and inspired them to greater heights; he succeeded in instilling some pride in KZN football.
Maritzburg were no longer just another team, they were a club to fear and respect and because of his fantastic work, Davids rocketed to prominence in the PSL; he was a coach to watch, a coach on the rise.
But now, as Maritzburg prepare to tackle City in the MTN8, and especially after his team lost both their opening league games, Davids has a huge task on his hands: he has to turn things around.
For all his success as a player, when McCarthy was appointed as City head coach at the beginning of last season there were quite a few sceptics.
They said he didn’t have the experience; good players don’t always make good coaches; is it too soon, shouldn’t he think about being an assistant first? And so on.
But what they didn’t reckon with was McCarthy’s extraordinary confidence and unshakable belief in his own ability.
The characteristics that shaped him as a player were the same characteristics he would use to plot his coaching career.
A solid first season in charge saw City finish the campaign in fifth position on the standings and a spot in the MTN8 final (which they lost to SuperSport United).
He certainly got off to a good start.
No doubt his reputation as a player helped in that players immediately listened and carried out his ideas.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. By McCarthy’s own admission, he made mistakes, there were things he could have done differently, but it was all part of the learning curve.
All in all, if you’d have asked McCarthy before the start of last season if he would take fifth and a place in a final, he would have grabbed it.
Now, however, with McCarthy in his second season, and as City head into the MTN8 quarter-final against Maritzburg, he knows the challenge will be far steeper.
He is no longer a rookie, he has experience under his belt, he has already alerted the rest of the PSL that he is a coach to be respected, so more is expected.
McCarthy has already alluded to the fact that he learnt a lot and that he has a better understanding of what he wants to do, especially with regard to man management.