CAPE TOWN – As the 2018/19 Absa Premiership campaign heads towards the business end, the mind games begin in earnest.
Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy may be fairly new to coaching but he has clearly picked up a few lessons from the many top coaches he has worked with during his illustrious playing career.
There was a bit of the Jose Mourinho touch in his post-match conference following his team’s 3-2 defeat at Mamelodi Sundowns as McCarthy looked ahead to the next few matches that will have a huge bearing on the destination of the league title.
Though his club are currently fourth and definitely still in the running, McCarthy moved to push away the pressure from City by describing them as also-rans.
“We’re not title contenders, it’s just that people see us in fourth position and think that we’re title contenders,” McCarthy said.
“We don’t fall into that (category). We just want to enjoy ourselves and our football. We want to improve, grow and win football matches. If we end up in a good position, it’s a plus for the effort that the players have put in. That’s it.”
The fact that he described City as having played at 60 percent against Sundowns tells the story of a team with the potential to contend for glory until the final day.
And they will have a direct say in where that title will go as they have matches against all of Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates.
“We are not looking at what Wits, Sundowns, (Kaizer) Chiefs and Pirates are doing. We’re running our own race, focusing on our plate and expect the best.”
The Citizens visit Wits tomorrow and then host Sundowns on Tuesday. Their second last match of the season will be against Pirates at Cape Town Stadium on May 8.
Win all of those and the title could easily be theirs, dependent, of course, on how they do in their other matches.
“It’s definitely not getting easy for us,” McCarthy said. “We couldn’t have asked for a tougher run. We’re looking forward to welcoming them (Sundowns) in Cape Town. Sundowns were excellent but we scored two goals. We didn’t disappoint or let ourselves down too much, and that was us not at our best, yet we were able to lose only by 3-2. We were operating at 60 percent.
“It wasn’t our best performance and I know that a lot of players will not like to hear me use that term, but we weren’t fully at our best. The positive is that come next week, we’ll be at our best and ready to play - it will be an interesting encounter.”
But before Sundowns, City must face a tough Wits side who had monopolised the No 1 position before the Brazilians took it from them.
“We will try to win all our games and we know that it’s not possible with the side that we have,” McCarthy said. “We aren’t as big as other teams and we don’t have the experience of the teams who have won titles before. We don’t have a lot of those in our dressing room.
“But we don’t want to come to teams like Sundowns, roll over and give them three points. We want to compete. We’re not in the title race. For me Wits, Pirates and Sundowns are the title chasers. We’re just there to accompany them and try our best to ruffle feathers (of the teams in the title race).”
Many a time when Mourinho won titles - one of those the Uefa Champions League with a Porto FC that boasted one Benni McCarthy in attack - he had spoken down his team’s chances in the same way the Citizens coach is doing now.
Talk about learning from the best.