Keeping with tradition, Chiefs have quality between the sticks
JOHANNESBURG – A question that was complementary in nature turned Ernst Middendorp grumpy, even using the word sh*t in his response as he remembered Kaizer Chiefs’ troubles last season.
Itumeleng Khune’s injury in the last campaign left Amakhosi in a ditch.
Bruce Bvuma was forced to grow up faster than the club anticipated while the club’s management made what looked like a panic buy at the time in signing Daniel Akpeyi, who had erratic tendencies.
The club renowned for having quality goalkeepers - dating all the way back to the days of Eshele Botende, followed by Brian Baloyi, Rowen Fernandez and Khune - was suddenly thrown into a goalkeeping crisis.
A year later, Amakhosi are sitting comfortably at the summit of the Absa Premiership and Middendorp has a good goalkeeping headache - having to choose between Khune and Akpeyi.
Khune is the most capped Bafana Bafana goalkeeper in history and the club’s longest serving player. Akpeyi has been brilliant this season, providing a safe pair of hands and first in line in the consideration for the Premiership Goalkeeper of the Season award.
But Middendorp didn’t enjoy being asked about the good job goalkeeper coach Lee Baxter is doing at the club this year.
“Dealing with this department, comparing to what happened last year, and I still stick to it, if we had these goalkeeping performances in January and beginning of February, it would have been a different season,” Middendorp said.
“There’s no doubt about it. Last year the goalkeeping department was absolutely not sorted, in a way, with the players who were getting the goalkeeper’s jersey at the time.
“But it’s all part of sorting out things at the beginning of the season, changing strategically what was not good and what was not adequate. Everybody is contributing in a performance-related way - the sports science, goalkeeping department and performance analyst. That’s what it is.”
He continued: “We still have a limited group of experts around, I think five. Other teams have 15. We have to work a little bit more and I don’t know how long it is possible.
“I was already on the phone (after beating Royal Eagles on Saturday) looking at how we can analyse Maritzburg United.
“We are never satisfied, just because you have a sh*t result left or right, it’s not interesting. We are working. Everybody is contributing, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the goalkeeping coach or the sport scientist.”
Chiefs’ riches in the goalkeeping department will put them in a good position in the fight for the championship. The club’s goalkeepers are calm under pressure with plenty of international experience. Their presence will give the club confidence in the final stretch knowing that regardless of who plays, they have a reliable No 1.
The only tricky challenge will be managing them. Khune is eager to reclaim his No 1 jersey at the club and Bafana Bafana, but Akpeyi has been the club’s undisputed No 1 who has kept Chiefs in many matches.
That competition means that whoever the club puts in will give their all.