CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town head coach Stanley Menzo manned up to the parlous position he finds himself in. He didn’t avoid the fact that his job is in danger, but he remained confident that he, and his team, could turn things for the better.
Menzo has played at the highest level - for Ajax Amsterdam and the Netherlands - and he understands the precarious nature of coaching: if things don’t happen for a team, invariably the coach is in the firing line. With Ajax’s struggles this season, Menzo accepts that he will have to carry the can. As such, as Ajax head into two crunch PSL fixtures this week, there is no room for error. The Capetonians desperately need points.
Ajax will spend the week in Johannesburg for the two games. With the ongoing venue issues affecting the Mother City’s football clubs, the Cape side will play both of this week’s fixtures at Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg. On Wednesday, they take on Wits (7.30pm kickoff) and on Saturday night, which is a “home game”, they tackle Chippa United at the same venue.
“I have to be honest, I have to be realistic,” said Menzo. “My situation is not easy and I accept it. It’s part of the game. I have to try to solve it. I have had discussions with Ari (Efstathiou, club chief executive) and it’s not easy for him, either.
"But, for me, I am not afraid of things I can’t do anything about; I only look at what I can do, and how I can get this team to be better. I have to give the team confidence, I have to give them belief.”
But, as much as Menzo is feeling the heat, so, too, the players should be concerned. If they want to avoid an embarrassing relegation battle, then they have to start to perform to potential, they have to make less errors, and they have to turn possession into goals with greater consistency.
“I hope the players are feeling the pressure,” said Menzo. “Because it’s there, it’s always there, and it’s something that is normal in football. They have to deal with it, while performing on the field too. As a coach, I can tell them that it is now urgent.
"It’s no use for them to worry about other issues, like Wits are Telkom champions, that is unnecessary energy spent. They just have to focus on what they can control, like their own performances.”
Wits and then Chippa, though, will be a tough ask for an already under-pressure Ajax. Wits are fresh from the weekend’s success in the Telkom Knockout, while Chippa have been in superb form over the last few weeks.
Menzo is fully aware of the challenges he and his team face this week.
“It’s always difficult when things don’t go your way,” said the Ajax coach. “Wits have been boosted by winning the final and they have their back four back. But we just have to think about ourselves; these are things we cannot change and we have to deal with it.
“It’s all about taking things game by game. We will try to win the one, and then move on to the next one. Hopefully, soon we will have enough points for me, the team and the club.”