CAPE TOWN - The two coaches responsible for Cape Town City’s rapid rise to prominence - Benni McCarthy and his predecessor, SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler - face off in the MTN8 final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night (kick-off 7pm).
Tinkler was the man called on after John Comitis purchased the franchise of Mpumalanga Black Aces to establish City as a Cape club in June last year. The combative former Bafana Bafana midfielder did fantastic work in moulding a squad from the remnants of Aces and the new players brought into the system. City went on to win the Telkom Knockout Cup and finish third on the log standings.
Ever ambitious, though, Tinkler quit and signed on to coach SuperSport this season, where, no doubt, he believed he had found a club that better suited his long-term objectives as a coach.
Into the vacancy stepped McCarthy, for his first stint as a head coach. After a stellar career as a player, the charismatic former Bafana striker returned home to steer City’s fortunes - and he’s certainly proven to be up to the task.
If there’s a man who knows both cup final coaches very well, it’s City assistant-coach Ian Taylor. He’s had the privilege of working with both Tinkler and McCarthy. So, as McCarthy prepares for Saturday’s final, he will lean heavily on Taylor and goalkeeper-coach Calvin Marlin for information on how to nullify the Tinkler football philosophy.
“Eric is obviously much more experienced than Benni,” said Taylor. “Under him, SuperSport will go on to win trophies. He will have them organised defensively and he also has an experienced squad to execute his game plan.
“Both Calvin (Marlin) and I have worked with Eric and we know what to expect. We know what he likes in defence and we know what he likes in attack. I don’t think he will change too much with regard to tactics. It’s just that, at SuperSport, the personnel will be different. And, because his players have more experience, he will be able to make clever tactical decisions.”
For Taylor, there is a great similarity between the two coaches, though he singled out McCarthy’s man-management skills as being a particular asset.
“Benni is in his first final as a coach,” said Taylor. “It may be new to him, now that he is in the next phase of his career, but he is a winner. It’s the one thing both Benni and Eric have in common, they both hate losing. The preparation this week will be critical as both coaches plan in detail.
“For Benni, it’s great that he has been able to make it to a cup final at such an early stage of his coaching career. What’s it been? Just 10 games as a head coach? It’s another feather in his cap and something he can store in his vast bank of experience.
"The occasion of the cup final won’t be too big for him - remember that he has played in far bigger games as a player. It’s just that, as a coach, it comes with a great deal more responsibility, but he will have Calvin and I alongside him in support.
“Benni’s biggest strength is his player management. The advice he gives the players and the confidence he is able to inspire from them. Even though he may be inexperienced as a coach, he is still very calm; he never gets flustered, and that’s obviously because, as a player, he’s been in such situations before.”
And don’t discount Taylor’s contribution. He’s not an assistant merely responsible for putting out the cones before training. The former Battswood player is an astute tactician, and coaches rely on his sharp football brain for input and advice. It’s no surprise, therefore, that, in the space of two years, he’s lining up for his fourth cup final.