CAPE TOWN - In making the difficult decision to drop star player Lebogang Manyama from the squad to play Bidvest Wits on Sunday, Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy passed his first test as a head coach.
Football is a results-driven business and, as such, coaches are always under pressure to deliver. For City coach McCarthy, to omit current PSL Footballer of the Season Manyama from the team was a bold, brave decision. It could so easily have come back to bite him. But he stuck to the philosophy of how he wants to run the team - and the players on the field rewarded the coach with a performance of spirit and courage.
City emerged victorious 1-0 in the MTN8 first leg semi-final at the Cape Town Stadium, with McCarthy afterwards revealing he had left Manyama out because “his head wasn’t in the right place”. Manyama is the subject of much speculation, with club boss John Comitis negotiating an overseas move for the player.
“Because of everything going on in the media, all this is about whether he (Manyama) was going to go or stay,” said McCarthy. “I thought that, at training, his mind wasn’t here. I had a chat with him, and that was the general feeling I got.
"I knew for the game against Wits we were going to need 100 percent concentration, and 100 percent commitment from everyone. If you are not going to give 100 percent, it’s better you are out the team, and that’s the reason why he was out.”
Gavin Hunt, though, had some sage advice for protégé McCarthy. Wits coach Hunt coached a 16-year-old McCarthy at Seven Stars back in 1995. But, while 39-year-old City coach McCarthy is in his first stint in charge, 53-year-old Hunt has seen and done it all. He’s a four-time PSL title winner and is fully aware of the vagaries of the sport. One day, it’s all sailing, the next day it could all be gloom and despair. So, as Hunt suggests, enjoy it while it lasts, the challenges and the disappointments are still to come.
“He must think football is an easy game,” said Hunt of McCarthy’s fantastic start as a coach. “He’s probably saying, ‘what’s all the fuss about?’. But wait until he’s done 1000 games like I’ve done, then we will see. He’s been great, he’s won every game, he looks the part, so all good and well. Three games or four, wait until he’s done a 1000.”
For McCarthy and his City team, it’s now four wins on the trot - and, needless to say, the former Bafana Bafana striker is chuffed with how things have gone.
“Hey, I’m not counting, just taking it game by game,” said McCarthy. “I’m happy, as long as the players give me 100 percent effort and put everything out there on the field, then all’s good. We aren’t a team of individuals, we do everything together. And, as I always tell the squad, winning must become a habit.
“I’m proud of the boys. Think about it, I’m in my first stint as a coach and then we have to play the PSL champions (Wits) three times. We’ve beaten them twice so far and we haven’t conceded a goal. Hey, maybe the pupil is slightly ahead now”
City now head into the international break and will be preparing for the crucial second leg against Wits in Johannesburg. McCarthy was happy for the breather as he it gives him time to work a on a few areas of concern.
“The break now is a good thing for us,” he said. “I can work on a few specific things, especially our offensive principles. We are lacking something in attack - we need the killer pass, the final ball.”