Johannesburg - Coach Stuart Baxter was relieved of his duties by Kaizer Chiefs after a controversial second stint at the club.
IOL Sport football writer Mihlali Baleka looks at five talking points that might have led to his sacking.
No regard for the fans
A portion of Chiefs’ supporters chanted “Baxter must go” following their 1-0 defeat to SuperSport United at home on Saturday upon their return to the stadium after more than two years.
But the Brit didn’t appear to be bothered. He said he was open to walking if that’s what the majority of Amakhosi’s faithful and the chairman Kaizer Motaung wanted.
Before that, though, Baxter had stressed that he’s not bothered by the criticism he gets on social media as people hide behind keyboards thinking that they know more about the game than he does.
Overlooking young blood
Chiefs invest a lot in their development structures. So, it’s no-brainer that the club and its supporters want to see more of their youngsters graduate to the first team.
But Baxter stuck with the tried and tested as he appeared to be all about re-assembling experienced campaigners like he did in his first successful stint, when he won the title twice.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo was the notable victim of Baxter’s approach. So much so that even when he made a telling cameo, his place in the next match-day squad was not guaranteed.
Tension between Baxter and his assistant Arthur Zwane appeared to spark during the recent Soweto Derby, where Chiefs won 2-1 against their bitter rivals Orlando Pirates.
As Chiefs broke the deadlock through Reeve Frosler’s stunner, the technical team was captured on camera with Baxter ignoring the handshake from Zwane while he embraced his other assistant Dillon Sheppard and goalkeeper coach Lee Baxter, his son.
By that time, though, there were already calls for Zwane to replace Baxter from the public. The former did a stellar job when he steered Chiefs to the top-eight finish and the final of the CAF Champions League after Gavin Hunt was sacked last season.
Zwane, not Baxter, was also in charge of Chiefs’ last three league games last year when they returned to camp following the outbreak of Covid-19 at their base. He won two games and lost one.
There were also reports that Baxter missed the mid-season preparations with the team in January, while Zwane was in charge of the camp in Cape Town.
Itumeleng Khune remains one of the most beloved players in local football. When he decided to renew his contract during pre-season, instead of moving to the Middle East, Chiefs fans were delighted, especially when Baxter named him club captain.
But that was a false dawn as Khune has only played one game to date, the MTN8 quarter-final.
Club Statement on Stuart Baxter— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) April 21, 2022
After a series of meetings, Kaizer Chiefs and coach Stuart Baxter have come to a mutual agreement of an early termination of his contract with immediate effect.
More on https://t.co/ektYRGBARu#Amakhosi4Life pic.twitter.com/F0hFoNwkKl
He put in a good showing in the Compact Cup where he was selected by the supporters, inspiring the Warriors to the trophy. But still Baxter overlooked him, selecting Brandon Petersen as his No 1 instead.
Baxter is a firm believer in a compact defence. He prefers to start with three central defenders, while using wing-backs, who get freedom down the flank.
However, with the game being modernised, that was not working for Chiefs, especially considering the need to have a central player and a ball player in the midfield.
Chiefs didn't have a ball player under Baxter, given that starters Cole Alexander and Phathutshedzo Nange are defensive. That’s why they needed Ngcobo in the mix, but Baxter would have none of it.
He became so obsessed with twisting and changing things that the current Premiership Defender of the Season Njabulo Ngcobo was also converted to a midfielder. A “special role” he named it.
That change of formation that didn’t work for Chiefs at all.