“Now I can really go fat and not worry about the media slamming me,” Benni McCarthy jokingly said as he looked at the silver lining going into the Christmas break for a brief rest before returning to what he calls a stressful but exciting job.
It’s been six months since Cape Town City gambled with McCarthy, pictured, by appointing him Eric Tinkler’s replacement in a bid to build on the club’s impressive debut season.
The Citizens finished in third place in the Absa Premiership and won the Telkom Knockout last season.
McCarthy, in his first stint as a head coach, could have won his first trophy just three months into the job.
But Tinkler and SuperSport United got the better of the Citizens to win the MTN8 having played extra-time and the last eight minutes of regulation play a man down after Thabo Mnyamane sustained an injury and Matsatsantsa a Pitori couldn’t replace him as they had already made all their substitutions.
That match exposed McCarthy’s tactical naïvety, failing to wrap up a match they had no business losing, having led for the most part of it and were a man up for more than half an hour.
That loss and inconsistent displays are the only blemishes in what has been a good start for McCarthy into his new life as head coach after shorts stints as assistant coach in Belgium at Sint Truden and Hibernian FC in his second home Scotland.
Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goal-scorer left Loftus Versfeld with his chest puffed out while pulling his Louis Vuitton bag after the Citizens defeated the 2016 African champions in their own backyard to end the first half of the season in second place.
It was vintage McCarthy - cocky, stylish and on the winning side after stunning a giant.
“I am feeling much older than I am,” McCarthy said.
“I have grey hairs, and that’s not even the worse part because there are some areas where my hair is not growing.
“It’s a stressful but exciting job at the same time. It gets the adrenalin pumping. Being on the football pitch on a daily basis and helping players improve is richly rewarding.
“My first six months as head coach have been up and down, but to end the year, the first half of the season, in second place ahead of many bigger teams than us - small Cape Town City - I am very happy with that.”
The Citizens’ biggest challenge from now until the transfer window closes on January 31 will be holding onto their best players.
Mamelodi Sundowns have made their intentions clear since last season regarding their desire to lure Aubrey Ngoma back into his hometown of Pretoria.
But City boss John Comitis has been adamant that he isn’t for sale, even writing what Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane calls a “love letter”, expressing their displeasure at the Brazilians speaking to their player without their consent.
“It’s normal, anyone would like to sign a player who gives them a lot of headaches,” McCarthy said.
“I understand. If I was in the Yellow Submarine’s (Sundowns) shoes, I would also want to have Aubrey on my side because he is a rare talent that we have in South Africa.
“When it comes to intelligence, reading the game and being able to know when to take on players, he is in the league of Shoes Moshoeu and Doctor Khumalo.
“I am throwing those names about because they were the crème de la crème when I was coming through.
“Aubrey has that ability within him. It’s not a secret that Sundowns would want him, but he is our player up until I know otherwise from the board of directors and John Comitis.
“Up until I am told that Aubrey isn’t a Cape Town City player, I am going to count on him.”