Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp draws delight from the fact that he might be on the right path to lead Amakhosi to a domestic top three finish and continental competition spot.
This after Chiefs celebrated their 50th birthday yesterday by reminiscing January 7, 1970, the day chairman Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung formed the club.
It’s mostly been a half-century (50 years) of thrills for the Glamour Boys, having been the most successful club in South African football with 93 domestic titles - official and unofficial.
But the Mighty Amakhosi are enduring a four-and-a-half-year trophy drought.
They haven’t shone bright in the continent either - only winning the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 2001.
But having returned for his second stint a year ago, Middendorp knows well that nothing less than a championship contending finish and CAF competition spot is worthy of being celebrated.
“I believe that it’s a crucial frame to follow because if you look at the ranking of the club, not only inside South Africa, where Chiefs are No 2 behind (Mamelodi) Sundowns, it’s really important to produce a sustainable situation where Kaizer Chiefs is at least in the top three rankings and challengers,” he said.
“Anytime, they should be in a situation to win the title. In the beginning of the season, we said it would be from everyone’s interest in the club to focus on this direction. Not only the run of this year, where there’s a 50th birthday, but for a longer term to really produce a season that shouldn’t happen once but again and again.”
In his efforts guide Chiefs to a top three and make the long-awaited return to continental football, Middendorp is heading towards the right direction - his men are at the summit of the log standings with 35 points after 15 matches.
“It is special for me to be part of the process of bringing a sustainable top three finish for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa, and of course, going forward into this international business of the Champions League side of Africa in general,” Middendorp said.
While it is a matter of “so far, so good” for Middendorp as he aims to restore Chiefs to the pinnacle of South Africa football, he knows his troops have to guard against jumping the gun especially during this part of the season.
In their last two matches, Amakhosi put the foot off the gas after drawing and losing to Maritzburg United and SuperSport United respectively.
In their next assignment, tonight (7.30pm) Chiefs will welcome Highlands Park at the sold-out FNB Stadium, where more than 80 000 supporters are expected after free tickets were issued as part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“It’s definitely part of our job to be present and follow the opponents that we’ll play. (Assistant and goalkeeper coaches) Shaun Bartlett and Lee Baxter did that on Sunday, reporting (from Makhulong when Highlands hosted Black Leopards),” Middendorp said.
“We need the spirit from everybody. Obviously, if you play Kaizer Chiefs and there’s a big crowd coming from FNB (you equip yourself as an opponent), we are aware of that. But our basics must be right.”