SuperSport's poor form doesn't mean the wheels have come off but rather that Eric Tinkler's reign has just begun.
AT FACE value it looks like SuperSport United’s wheels have come off with just one win in their last seven matches in all competitions, but there’s more to their slump than that.
The wheels haven’t come off, Matsatsantsa are just at a crossroads with the high they were on when they reached three Cup finals in a year waning due to their Caf Confederation Cup final disappointment.
Eric Tinkler’s tenure has officially begun. He was still in a honeymoon period as he took over a club that was on autopilot in June, cruising with little guidance from him to the MTN8 crown in October to add to the Nedbank Cup they won in May under Stuart Baxter.
Kaitano Tembo did most of the heavy lifting in the Confederation Cup after Baxter laid the foundation, leaving Tinkler with the job of taking SuperSport over the finish line – a task he was perfect for having been involved in two continental Cup finals at Orlando Pirates as an assistant and head coach. Tinkler lost yet another Confederation Cup final but because of his competitive edge, he was quick to recover from it. But the same can’t be said for his players who were appearing in their first continental club final.
Tinkler slammed them after their 3-1 loss to Baroka FC on Sunday, questioning their commitment and desire.
Tinkler can’t use fatigue as an excuse since he has refreshed the squad, having learnt the hard way at Pirates how detrimental it is to keep using the same players who were involved in a gruelling continental campaign.
Players who were on the sidelines in the Confederation Cup are coming to the fore along with those who weren’t registered. How this group adapts will determine the season SuperSport will have.
The goals have dried up and what used to be a solid defence has been easily breached. Free State Stars rudely exposed that with their fast offensive approach by playing the ball behind the slow central defensive trio of Morgan Gould, Clayton Daniels and Azubuike Egwuekwe.
Tinkler will look to ensure that won’t happen tonight at Dr Molemela Stadium against Bloemfontein Celtic who have a similar attack.
Celtic’s coach, Veselin Jelusic, will be back in the technical area. He was in Serbia working on his Uefa A Licence in the 4-1 loss to Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday, leaving his assistant Lehlohonolo Seema in charge.
“We want to finish the year on a high note,” Seema said. “We have had a good start to the season compared to what happened last season. But games like the one against Sundowns open our eyes and say, don’t get carried away but open your eyes and work harder to rectify your mistakes. We aren’t going to be complacent now that we are here. We still have to do more.
“The games are coming in thick and fast. Maybe this break, I don’t even want to call it that because it’s just a short opportunity for the boys to spend some time with their family before they come back later this month, comes at a right time to give the boys a chance to recharge the batteries a bit.”
The 15 points up for grabs in SuperSport’s five games in hand would see them join the leading pack. But that requires them to shake their slump, fix their rickety jalopy and return to being the mean automobile that left the competition in the dust.