That’s what friends are for ... Dillon Sheppard backs Arthur Zwane ‘100%’ at Kaizer Chiefs

Kaizer Chiefs head coach Arthur Zwane and assitant coach Dillon Sheppard during a Kaizer Chiefs media day at Kaizer Chiefs Village

Kaizer Chiefs head coach Arthur Zwane and assitant coach Dillon Sheppard during a Kaizer Chiefs media day at Kaizer Chiefs Village on the 15 September 2022. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Mar 9, 2023


Johannesburg - Dillon Sheppard is an assistant coach personified, fully backing his superior Arthur Zwane to weather the storm amid Kaizer Chiefs’ recent struggles.

Zwane and Sheppard were appointed as Chiefs’ head and assistant coaches respectively this season, as they were tasked with reclaiming the club’s glory days and style of play.

This was themed as a match made in heaven as the duo had a lot in common, including being classmates for their coaching badges in Ireland.

Moreover, they played against each other during their heyday before coaching against each other in the development ranks prior to being Gavin Hunt’s assistants at Chiefs in 2020.

But they have since hit a bumpy road as Chiefs’ fully fledged coaches this season due to an inconsistent run, while Zwane felt most of the heat due to his leading role and knowledge of the club’s demands.

Zwane, though, has since bought himself time at the helm, thanks to back-to-back wins against arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Richards Bay, in the last two weeks.

The club’s management, led by sporting director Kaizer Motaung jnr, have been backing Zwane as their man as they pleaded with supporters for patience.

Sheppard, moreover, disclosed during the team’s Nedbank Cup last-16 pre-match press conference against Casric Stars on Sunday, what has been his role to Zwane amid the tough times in recent weeks.

“My role as an assistant is to assist him in every possible way,” said Sheppard who spoke in the absence of a “sick” Zwane at the PSL headquarters yesterday.

“I am there to support him. I need to be there for him so that when times are tough, I’ve got his back 100%. That’s very important (as his assistant).”

In recent months, the Premiership has been littered with coaches put on special leave by the clubs amid poor results, while their assistants were tasked with holding the fort on an interim basis.

Sheppard, though, has insisted that he has no intentions of betraying Zwane, hoping that he sleeps well at night knowing that he has his back.

“I hope he knows that when he goes to bed at night he can sleep well knowing that he’s got all the support in the world that he needs,” Sheppard said.

“We know what this job comes with – the pressure that comes with coaching at Kaizer Chiefs and the little bit of history (could be very difficult).”

Despite a difficult season, Chiefs can still salvage their campaign by qualifying for the continental football next season by either finishing in the top three in the league or winning the Nedbank Cup.

They are fourth on the log, level with the third-placed Pirates who hold the CAF Confederation Cup spot and five drift from second-placed SuperSport United who occupy the Champions League spot.

While their fate of finishing in any of the two spots will be decided after the last eight games of the season, they could still qualify for the Confederation Cup if they win the Nedbank Cup.

Sheppard, though, says they are not putting their eggs in one basket, as they want to challenge for all the remaining top honours – the Nedbank Cup and coveted runners-up spot in the league.

“I had pressure of winning the league as a player and avoiding relegation,” Sheppard said. “And these are two different patches as well.

“But obviously, we know where we are with regards to being at Kaizer Chiefs and the pressure that comes with that. After not winning a trophy for a while, the demand from the fans is high.

“We know where we are. But It’s also important for us that while we are under pressure we keep the quality of our work high and know that we can work together as a club.”

IOL Sport