Josef Zinnbauer has thrived at Orlando Pirates in spite of the odds
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JOHANNESBURG - Whatever happens from tomorrow after his last game of the season, Josef Zinnbauer can look back at his stint at Orlando Pirates with pride. He had his back to the wall from the outset as he was tipped to fail. But I believe that he thrived.
His track record didn’t support his cause. It wasn’t enough for Pirates’ supporters, despite the fact he would have a fully-fledged team and the support of the management. He inherited a team that had finished second in the league for two successive seasons.
In his first season, after arriving towards the end of the year, Zinnbauer led Pirates to third place in the Premiership and qualified for the Confederation Cup. The club made marquee signings during the pre-season, including Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo.
Under Zinnbauer, Pirates were in cruise mode in the first half of the season, winning the MTN8 after winning four games on the trot, including back-to-back wins against Kaizer Chiefs in the semis where they won 5-0 on aggregate.
That success brought back the glory days to “the Ghost”, ending a six-year trophy drought. The club supporters, who regarded Zinnbauer as nothing but a “plumber”, changed their feelings towards him after he delivered the MTN8.
But, of course, the more he succeeded, the higher were the expectations as the club’s supporters started to believe that they could complete a treble, especially with the DStv Premiership, the Nedbank Cup and Confederation Cup still up for grabs.
Pirates, though, started to stutter in the final stretch of the campaign, dropping points by drawing and losing matches they were tipped to win. Zinnbauer had to find answers, lamenting injuries to integral players, including marksman Gabadinho Mhango.
Having had to chop and change his team almost every match day, the wheels started to come off for Pirates towards the end of the season. They were hammered by Mamelodi Sundowns in back-to-back matches in the Nedbank Cup and the league.
Their continental campaign also came to an abrupt end after being thumped 5-1 on aggregate by Raja Casablanca in the quarterfinal. That means Zinnbauer can only save Pirates’ season by finishing in the top three in the league – a position they currently hold.
Even if Pirates secure a thirdplace finish – they need at least a draw against Tshakhuma or bank on Golden Arrows to lose against Stellenbosch – that might still not be enough for Zinnbauer to keep his job.
After all, there were reports that the club’s supporters are planning to stage a protest after the team’s roller-coaster outing. Already, Chiefs supporters gathered at their club’s Village to submit a memorandum to highlight the team’s decline.
Pirates’ management might probably want to avoid that attention by relieving Zinnbauer of his duties as soon as the season concludes. But the German should hold his head up high; he has proven a lot of detractors wrong since his arrival at the club.