CAPE TOWN - Benni McCarthy has always been ambitious. As a player, he always pushed himself to be better and to never shirk a challenge. As a coach, he is exactly the same: he’s ambitious, he loves a challenge and, importantly, he wants to win things. Now, in only his second year as a head coach, he has a second shot at a trophy when Cape Town City tackle SuperSport United in the MTN8 final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday (7pm kickoff).
It’s a repeat of last year’s final when McCarthy, just a month into the City job, saw his team lose to SuperSport on penalties. This time, he’s determined it will be different - and he’s had his team hard at work to ensure the trophy comes to the Mother City.
“There’s no pressure, even though it’s our second time in the final and we lost it the last time,” said McCarthy. “But for me, and for the team, this is what we have been working towards. When I took the job, I always said that I didn’t want to wait 10 years to work for honours. And now I’m in my second year as a coach and I’m in my second Cup final. The team deserves to be in the final and I want this victory for the players - because we don’t want to be a team that gets to finals, but then doesn’t get over the line.
“The atmosphere at training this week has been fantastic. I haven’t seen any butterflies kicking in and the boys have been really calm. I just hope that, on match day, they are as hungry as ever to make this Cup final count the second time around. We have to build on the positives of the second-half comeback against Pirates. Importantly, I want to have a headache when it comes to selection.”
Last week, City came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Orlando Pirates. While there was a lot to like about the team’s second-half performance, McCarthy also realised that SuperSport will be a tough hurdle to negotiate.
“It won’t be easy,” he said. “SuperSport have found their range now and are playing well. But I won’t be focusing on their performances against other teams, like the weekend’s 4-0 win over Black Leopards; I think that’s a bit of (a) smokescreen result and I’m not making too much of it. I am looking at the games we’ve played against them over the last two seasons.
"We’ve played SuperSport four times and, for every game, they’ve used the same personnel about 90 percent of the time. We’ve analysed those games, checked their patterns and focused on our weaknesses against them; that is what we have been working on improving at training this week.”
The one aspect that has been bothering McCarthy is the fact that City are starting games too slowly. They sleepwalk their way through the opening 15 minutes and, before they know it, they are behind and have to fight to get back into the game. In Saturday’s final, McCarthy is demanding something different.
“From a playing point of view, we need to change our approach a bit,” said the City coach. “I think we’ve allowed ourselves time to settle at the beginning of games in recent weeks and we’ve been caught out. What we need to do now is to make our presence felt from the first minute. We have to make sure that we get into the game quickly, and that we start fresh and go at the opposition from the opening whistle.
“I think the team that makes the least mistakes, the team that has the biggest heart, will succeed. The winner will be determined by courage, hard work and the team that is prepared to lay it all down on the pitch on match day.”