CAPE TOWN - Benni McCarthy kicked off his coaching career rather cosily, but was soon reminded that it’s not all that simple. The challenges, the adversity, always lurk around the next corner.
Appointed as Cape Town City coach in June this year, the former Bafana Bafana striker rapidly got going, steering the fledgling PSL club to a spectacular run of victories. But, just as quickly, it all turned, as City plunged to a series of defeats.
Before the international break, City managed to right the ship somewhat with a narrow win over Bloemfontein Celtic - but now the challenge, for both club and coach, is to maintain that momentum. City host PSL log leaders Baroka FC at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday night (6pm kickoff) - and the only motivation necessary is that a win will send the Capetonians to the top of the league standings.
For McCarthy the tough times are about to start. From now on, he will be judged. When appointed, he was new and was allowed space to do his thing. Now, a few months into his tenure at City, he’s had time to adapt. He’s been able to get to know his players, their strengths and weaknesses, and get a feel for coaching in the PSL. Importantly, he has experienced the highs and lows of victory and defeat. It’s time to plough on and plot his, and the team’s success.
Nine days ago, McCarthy celebrated his 40th birthday. In coaching terms, he still has much to learn and plenty of room to grow. They say life begins at 40 - but, as a coach, too, it all begins now for McCarthy. The hype around his presence in the Mother City is over, now it’s time for him to bring consistency to the team while, at the same time, continuing to mature as a coach.
Happy birthday to our coach @bennimccarthy17 i wish you all the success and hope God gives your heart’s desires🎁🎉🎊🎈 Have a great day
In Baroka, City face a difficult, unpredictable opponent. A few weeks ago, Baroka knocked City out of the Telkom Knockout, so they won’t be tentative for tonight’s encounter; they know they have it within them to beat the Cape side.
The big plus for City, though, is the return of star winger Aubrey Ngoma. The tricky left-footer was an influential member of the team’s great start last season before being struck down by injury while on duty with Bafana. He hasn’t kicked a ball yet this season, but will be back against Baroka.
Indications are that McCarthy won’t play Ngoma from the start, but will use him off the bench. The plan is to bring the player along slowly and ease him back into the action. Rest assured, once ready, Ngoma will be a big player for City as the season progresses.
The other senior player making his way back from injury is goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters. The 35-year-old last played in the MTN8 final defeat a month ago. Replacement Sage Stephens hasn’t let the side down and McCarthy faces a difficult decision whether to stick with the incumbent or opt for the returning veteran.
Importantly, though, if City are to emerge victorious on Tuesday night, they are going to have to improve in attack. McCarthy’s big problem has been getting the team to score goals - ironically, an area of the game where he, himself, as a player, was very strong. Nigerian Victor Obinna is still recovering from injury, which means the onus in attack falls on the shoulders of 31-year-old Lehlohonolo Majoro. But, as McCarthy has often stressed, a football team shouldn’t only rely on a striker to score goals; the City coach wants the entire team to come to the party to make the most of the opportunities.