JOHANNESBURG – When a Premier Soccer League coach is feeling the heat, there are obvious trigger words to his plight.
Pressure is the most common one, but Bidvest Wits mentor Gavin Hunt has hardly used any of them so far this season.
Even as the Absa Premiership defending champions slumped to their fifth defeat of the campaign after nine matches on Wednesday night, the three-time title winner was visibly irritated with yet another poor result, but he’s hardly looked a man desperately holding on to his job.
“South African football is crazy,” Hunt said this week as he prepares to take on log leaders Baroka FC in a Telkom Knockout quarter-final tonight.
“Every week it (the call for coaches to get the sack) changes. But for me it’s about focusing on what I do, how I prepare the team on the training ground and what’s available. You have to look at this holistically, from top to bottom.
“The problem is expectations have been raised here because we won the league and cup double last season. We are motivated, of course, but I don’t want to be called a motivator. That means I am not a good coach. We are getting paid here and playing for our lives.”
Hunt has received a vote of confidence from management, being labelled as a record-breaker for ending a 96-year title drought at the oldest club in the country.
For his colleagues, any statement from the hierarchy about job security is often seen as the dreaded vote of confidence, which often means the coach is on his way out.
But it is far from being the case at Wits, and you get that sense when Hunt, extremely moody after defeat and incredibly pleasant when you catch him at the club’s training grounds, speaks.
“I am disappointed,” he said when asked about the inconsistent results which have led to the Clever Boys surrendering their MTN8 title and currently second from bottom of the league table.
“But football is not about getting mad and disappointed, just get even. There is no need for me to throw my toys out the cot. I just need to make sure I put it right. The players have got to understand that they’ve got to be better.
"I think we’ve got to go back to basics pretty much in every position.
“Last year I thought we were the best team without the ball. This year we are not very good without it, typically. If you want to do anything, you need to be good without the ball.”
Hunt also has injuries to key players, but he hardly used that as an excuse, admitting that Wits simply haven’t been good enough.
“Because of the injuries we couldn’t integrate the new players in properly, so we had a problem from the start. But the thing is we’ve just been a yard off the pace,” he explained.
“The difference is a yard or two. The left-back is giving the right-winger five yards instead of three. Does that make sense?
“He does that and the centre-half also does the same, and the next minute the opposition is having a shot at goal, like what happened against Chippa United (2-0 home loss). Our centre-forward lost the ball on the halfway line and... the centre-back didn’t go tight where he should have, and the boy (Samuel Julies) turned and, goal.”
Hunt is sure to tinker with his line-up for tonight’s cup clash at Bidvest Stadium and although the topic around what has gone wrong has probably come up in conversations with his bosses, there seems to be no suggestion he is vacating the post any time soon.