Ernst Middendorp deserves more credit for getting Kaizer Chiefs so close
CAPE TOWN – Just how on Earth did Kaizer Chiefs drop the ball and lose the Absa Premiership title having been 13 points ahead of eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns?
At one stage during this longest of seasons, it looked like Chiefs were marching towards the title, and the only thing that was going to stop them was going to be their own ineptitude. And, that’s what happened.
From a winning position, Ernst Middendorp’s Amakhosi dropped points at will, and Saturday’s result was perhaps, inevitable. It was going to down to who was mentally stronger of the two sides. Having won the title in the previous two seasons, Sundowns were the tougher of the two.
Now, a lot of Chiefs’ fans have been calling for the Motaungs to drop the axe and fire the coach. On the surface, sure, that appears to make sense. Chiefs squandered a 13-point lead and ended up losing the title by two points. That’s inexcusable. But, on the other hand, Middendorp turned a bunch of overpaid superstars who finished ninth in the previous season, into a cohesive unit.
Following Stuart Baxter’s depature from the club all those years ago, Chiefs, the biggest football brand in the country has been underachieving. They had the best players, an could offer some of the best contracts, but they seemed to struggle to live up to the standards expected by the club’s fans.
In his first season back at the club, Middendorp has transformed the team and got them playing as a unit. Under the German, Amakhosi adopted a direct style of play that saw them win a lot of games.
The plan is simple, move the ball forward, get it into the box and Samir Nurkovic will bang in the goals. That system was best displayed when Chiefs hammered Stellenbosch 4-0 in Cape Town towards the back end of last year.
The pace and trickery of Khama Billiat and Bernard Parker on the outside, with Lebogana Manyama’s creativity in the number 10 role made Chiefs dangerous. With Kearyn Baccus and Willard Katsande providing steel in the heart of midfield, that side on that day would have ran anyone off the park.
Perhaps an area that needed addressing was the defence, which conceded too many goals after the lockdown. A team chasing the title should not be conceding so many goals towards the back end of the season. Only Middendorp and the players can answer what happened.
As for the calls for the coach to be sacked, that’s just ridiculous. Middendorp should be allowed to build upon what he’s achieved this season. He’s shown what he’s capable of, and with more time, he could turn Chiefs into a force as dominant as Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns.
Unfortunately, fans and former legends are calling for his head, and the decision will be a tough one for the club’s bosses. But, before they pull the trigger, they shouldn’t forget where they were the season before, and how close the German took them to the title.