JOHANNESBURG - The Coach of the Season winner will surely divide opinion regardless who the recipient of this award is come end of the 2017-18 campaign.
It’s not as clear cut as it has often been in previous years, like the premise that whoever leads their team to the Absa Premiership title is the obvious conqueror. No, it is not a slam-dunk by any stretch of the imagination this time around.
Consider the potential candidates this season and you will immediately see why any of them would be worthy winners. Pitso Mosimane, assuming current leaders Mamelodi Sundowns go all the way and win the league, will of course be on the list. It just seems unfair to not have the triumphant coach as a nominee.
But the real debate will be around Fadlu Davids of Maritzburg United and his Free State counterpart Luc Eymael. I’d be at peace if either one walked away with the prize.
There might be an argument for Micho Sredojevic at Orlando Pirates, but that is probably a bit of a hard sell considering the Buccaneers have struggled with consistency up until the second round of the season, which is when they were suddenly considered genuine title contenders as they closed the gap on the Brazilians.
Davids and Eymael, however, have caught the eye by building formidable sides that have not only held on to positions in the top five on the Premier League table, but have also looked good while doing it.
Davids, one of the two youngest coaches in the top division (the other is Baroka FC interim coach MacDonald Makhubedu), was given a huge task at the start of the campaign.
Maritzburg chairman Farook Kadodia handed the club’s new coach what seemed an ambitious mandate when he asked Davids to reach one cup final and finish the season in the top five. We were all quick to argue that the boss was setting him up for failure - but maybe he knew the former striker had a couple of tricks under his sleeve.
Prior to last night’s visit to reigning champions Bidvest Wits, David’s men were way ahead of the “insane” targets as they occupied third place - five points behind Sundowns - and had booked a Nedbank Cup semifinal date with the very same Sundowns team later this month.
On this achievement alone, the man deserves to at least be considered a worthy candidate for the Coach of the Season award, especially bearing in mind the limited resources Maritzburg have compared to the usual suspects in Sundowns, Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, SuperSport United and Wits.
Eymael is not far off either, although a bit more experienced than Davids and with expectations perhaps slightly higher. But that doesn’t change the fact that in four consecutive seasons, Stars were relegation candidates until the Belgian, hired two matches into this season, showed up.
This is why these two coaches should get their shiny suits ready for the glittering awards ceremony next month - their story is one you would want to hear over and over again.
The transformation of Stars under Eymael is proof that if you are hired to do a job, you can’t moan about the quality of the playing personnel when you talked your way into being given the job in the first place. With quite literally the same players his predecessors complained about, Eymael ensured Ea Lla Koto were dark horses in the title race and by so doing, fuelled rumours of a move to Chiefs, where Steve Komphela has not won a trophy in nearly three years.