JOHANNESBURG – Eric Tinkler was visibly annoyed on Tuesday when asked about having to tackle the backlog that SuperSport United’s continental success has created.
SuperSport, who will play TP Mazembe in the Caf Confederation Cup final next month, have dropped down to second-from-bottom on the Absa Premiership table, though they have five games in hand.
They clearly have their work cut out.
Tinkler’s response, although he moaned about being asked the same question every time the club makes it to the next round – on how he will deal with playing catch-up – makes absolute sense.
He is also experienced at it, and the assumption is that he is probably more meticulous in how he will deal with it given that he’s been in that boat before.
While he was at Orlando Pirates in 2015, the 47-year-old coach also went all the way to the final of the Confederation Cup, but was unfortunate to lose to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel.
Pirates’ form domestically was porous, to say the least. The Buccaneers were simply a shadow of a side that was so brave and aggressive on the continent.
They finished in seventh place in the PSL at the end of that season and, while the players were also hammered for being lacklustre, Tinkler took most of the hits.
These Matsatsantsa players appear to posses a different type of mentality that is in contrast to the one the Pirates players, at the time, had.
Tinkler never really had a lot of time to work on tactics and training drills, so he had to do a lot of talking as and when needed.
Maybe that was the problem then, as well as the true depth of the Buccaneers squad when the players were tested with games coming in thick and fast.
But Tinkler is a lot more mature now.
“I think it is the press that keeps planting this idea of fatigue everywhere, and the players start taking it seriously and it sticks in their heads,” Tinkler said.
“All they want to do, to be honest, is to play. The less time spent on the training ground for them, the better.
“That we are fatigued, and we have travelled up and down the continent and we will suffer as a result, is just rubbish.”
He was spot-on. SuperSport’s players really just want to get on with it.
Of course they could use a bit of rest here and there, which is why it is important to have a squad of more than 30 players who are capable and experienced.
The real question, though, was on how differently would Tinkler approach the scenario this time around, but he blew his top before the reporter could even finish the question.
His answer would have been pleasing, regardless of the context.
With senior players such as Morgan Gould, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and captain Dean Furman leading some of the youngsters and less experienced, there is no doubt SuperSport’s current status as relegation candidates and a challenging fixture backlog is only temporary.
In Sunday’s game against Club Africain, with every fan at the venue cheering for the hosts, Tinkler’s men looked incredibly convincing, like they could tear Mazembe to shreds.
Tinkler shouldn’t lose sleep over this or worry about what the press have to say – his players are a different breed.