JOHANNESBURG - At first it looked like a joke, from arguably the most harmless fans in Gauteng, but as the situation went from bad to worse a handful of SuperSport United’s fans threatened to storm the pitch.
Those who remained in the stands chanted coach Eric Tinkler must go. It was a meek protest, 13 fans surrounded the perimeter fence and the chants were more a whisper than anything. Their angry voices were masked by the music of the brass band that played on just like that band on the Titanic, carrying on with their job while the ship sank.
Even though their action was meek, SuperSport’s fans got their point across by voicing their frustration towards a team that has won just two matches in 13 outings. The 4-1 drubbing Bidvest Wits handed Matsatsantsa a Pitori on Saturday was the club’s worst performance in those 13 matches because they just simply switched off in the second half.
“It’s only normal for the fans to be angry,” Tinkler said. “I would feel the same way. But they must understand that we feel just as bad if not worse than what they feel. We’re professional sportsmen, we don’t like losing. I am a coach who doesn’t like losing. I hate losing. But it’s part and parcel of the game.
"I can’t blame them for feeling the way they feel. But like I said, this is a team that has had two long seasons. We are seeing the effects of that. We just have to keep pushing because we know we have enough quality to get ourselves out of this position.”
Matsatsantsa played five matches in a space of 15 days in December as part of their catch-up programme. By the end of this month the Tshwane side would have played eight games. The last of those eight games is their clash at home to AmaZulu on Wednesday.
Angry SuperSport fans letting Tinkler and the bench have it. pic.twitter.com/hfYQKEqCiX
“You just have to keep on working,” Tinkler said. “I am not going to create miracles here. I am a person who has a lot of belief in his ability. I am a hard worker. I have never given up on challenges in my life and I don’t plan to start now. That is the message I need to transmit to the players and they must understand that.
"We’re in this patch, this situation, and only we can get ourselves out of that. Nobody is going to come and help us. We have to help ourselves. The only way we can do that is by lifting ourselves to come and perform in the next game. There’s got to be a fight in every game for 96 minutes. It can’t be a fight like we saw against Wits, only for 45 minutes.”
SuperSport’s performance against Wits, especially how they switched off in the second half after taking the lead, had the hallmarks of a player protest. There have been allegations of unhappiness in the camp due to how Tinkler has managed the club’s transition, bringing in a lot of young blood to transform the experience-heavy team he inherited from Stuart Baxter. But Tinkler insists he hasn’t lost the change room: “I still believe I do,” he said. “I still believe I do have the players’ confidence.”