Benni McCarthy during the Absa Premiership 2018/19 game between Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates at Athlone Stadium. Photo: Bertram Malgas/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Benni McCarthy likened Cape Town City to a grenade last season. The Cape Town City coach, who was a rabble-rouser in his previous life as Uefa Champions League-winning striker, said this with a huge grin.

He enjoyed the role the Citizens would play in deciding where the league title would go with their final stretch in the Absa Premiership putting City against the teams that were fighting for the league while the Cape side were also in with a shout.

They dropped out of the race but derailed Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and ultimately Orlando Pirates whose 2-2 draw in the Mother City meant that Bucs went into the last game with their fate not completely in their hands.

“We play to win! It’s painful when you lose,” McCarthy said. “As much as it was expected for Sundowns to run us down, but for us in the dressing room it was painful (when we lost to them in Pretoria). We back ourselves against anybody.

We like to take the hand grenade, pull the pin out and throw it in that mob there (fighting for the Absa Premiership). We then see what happens, who blames who. Like I said, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We beat an exceptional strong Wits team, a team that can still go on and win the league because they have crazy depth. For us to show that fighting spirit is good.”

We play to win! It’s painful when you lose, said coach Benni McCarthy. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
We play to win! It’s painful when you lose, said coach Benni McCarthy. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Pirates ended up losing the fight for the league title as Sundowns did enough in their last game to win a record ninth title in the Premier Soccer League era. City finished fourth. A repeat of that finish in the 2019/20 season would be a disappointment even though City are just three years old.

The Citizens have punched above their weight since their arrival in South African football after purchasing the status of Mpumalanga Black Aces in 2016. In three years they have reached three cup finals and won two trophies - the Telkom Knockout in 2016 and the MTN8 two years later.

The next step should be fighting for the Holy Grail, the league. McCarthy has the squad to do that and has been in the team long enough to know which buttons to press to get the best out of the Citizens.

The first season was about finding his feet in his first managerial role as a head coach. The second season, where he guided them to an MTN8 title, was about consolidating on the ground work he had put in. This season, the third one, will test his tactical acumen as City start among the favourites to win the league. For City to deliver on their promise, they have to be consistent and be prepared to set the tone instead of waiting to react.

City’s best quality last season, their character to come back from the dead, was also their weakness as they gave their opponents the initiative before digging deep to come back.

Benni McCarthy's Citizens have punched above their weight since their arrival in South African football. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

In some instances, their fight from behind was too late or they were just facing a force too strong to allow them to produce another dramatic comeback.

If they improve on that, they can bring the ultimate prize to the Mother City. The Citizens have to graduate from a hand grenade to a bazooka though to do that.

IOL