Low periods help Middendorp enjoy the highs
JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp described 2019 as an effective year, having endured a number of highs and lows.
The highs have seen the German named Absa Premiership Coach of the Month on three successive occasions in the 2019/20 season while Amakhosi have led the pack for the most part of the first half of the season.
But before these highs, there were the lows of losing the Nedbank Cup final in May to first division side TS Galaxy. Chiefs finished that season outside the top eight, serving as inspiration for them to bounce back stronger. Middendorp is celebrating a year at the club in December in his second stint. He was brought last year to fix the mess that Giovanni Solinas and Steve Komphela had left behind as Chiefs had forgotten what it felt like to be champions.
“It was a huge advantage being able to come in, in the second half of a run of Kaizer Chiefs in the last season,” Middendorp said.
“The knowledge, assessment and what I picked up on how certain things should be done in managing the team and guiding them was a huge advantage for me going into this season. This is despite the results not being there in the first half of 2019. But in preparing the run for the 2019/20 season, fantastic! You learn from both sides on what it takes to be a coach of Kaizer Chiefs, losing a game, losing a final and dropping out of the top eight. But that’s part of the business, that’s part of the profile of being a soccer coach. We are good now. Personally, it was an effective 2019.”
The Glamour Boys will end 2019 with a clash against Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium. The club will go into the new year at the top such is the gap they have created at the top. It’s that good run that has earned Middendorp his third Coach of the Month accolade yesterday. But the German remains grounded.
“To be here for the third time in the first half of the season is colossal,” Middendorp said. “It means a lot. But don’t celebrate too much and don’t be discouraged too much. I always try to remain level-headed and keep it as normal as possible because the target is very clear. The target is not achieved in the middle of something. Therefore, I am very settled, I am grown up and experienced enough to handle it adequately.”
Being No 1 in the new year, especially on January 7 (the club’s 50th birthday) will be a huge boost for Chiefs who want to bring back the glory days that have eluded them for four seasons. The goal this season was to ensure that the club celebrates its 50th birthday in style by finishing the campaign as South African champions.
“Of course it means a lot to celebrate 50 years as a club and a brand, but at the same time being successful,” Middendorp said. “Can you imagine languishing in position nine or worse during this celebration?
It is definitely something that we discussed a lot with everybody going into this season, making them aware what is needed as another stimuli to get the mind prepared for game by game, training by training to be a united force to be able to come back regardless of the score.”