With McCarthy in Manchester for the next instalment of his UEFA Pro Licence programme, Manousakis is ready to step into the breach
Cape Town City assistant-coach Vasili Manousakis is getting rather accustomed to stepping into the shoes of Benni McCarthy, which is why he’s quite relaxed and quietly confident ahead of tonight’s first round, first leg CAF Confederations Cup tie against Costa do Sol in Mozambique (7pm).
Earlier this season, head coach McCarthy was red-carded and Manousakis called the shots from the bench while the former Bafana Bafana striker spent some time watching from the stands. Now, with McCarthy in Manchester for the next instalment of his UEFA Pro Licence programme, Manousakis is ready to step into the breach again.
While the assistant-coach will have been instructed on the basic game plan by his boss, this will be a good test as to his own reading of the game and tactical response to situations. When McCarthy was suspended, he was still there to relay instructions to the bench from the stands. This time, the head coach is not around and Manousakis will have to carry the can for the decisions he makes; there is no better challenge for a budding coach.
City have used the CAF event as an opportunity to rotate the squad, to give the rest of the squad some game time. Having defeated Swaziland’s Young Buffaloes in the previous round, the Mozambicans are expected to present a far sterner challenge. Nevertheless, as Manousakis insists, he will again look to the younger members of the squad to do the business. It’s a chance for teenagers like Shane Roberts and Zukile Kuweti to continue to grow their experience.
The Cape side left a few players at home, including Teko Modise, Roland Putsche and Thami Mkhize. The trio played an influential role in the Cape side’s 2-0 win over Chippa United last Friday and have been told to put their feet up and prepare for next week’s Nedbank Cup clash against Orlando Pirates. Also not in Mozambique are Masoud Juma, Alan Kateregga, Mpho Matsi and Matthew Rusike, who are all still on the injured list.
“The boys are looking forward to the game,” said Manousakis. “We had a really fun session on the beach on Tuesday evening. We know we’re up against tough opponents who want to impress at home, so it’s important that we are organised in defence.
“The target is to keep a clean sheet and try to get an away goal or two. We had two tough league fixtures last week and, as a result, we have a few niggles and had to leave a few key players behind. That said, it’s time for the youngsters to stand up and be counted, alongside experienced players like (Vincent) Kobola, (Sibusiso) Masina, (Ayanda) Patosi and (Robin) Johannes.”
Manousakis is keen on getting the balance right for the clash. The energy and enthusiasm of youth has to be complemented with the experience and cool heads of the team’s experienced campaigners.
City have always tagged the CAF competition as an opportunity to blood the club’s next generation, like Roberts and Kewuti. In the two legs of the previous round, the duo demonstrated that they are serious performers, with McCarthy suitably impressed. Now, Manousakis wants the young duo to continue to play with the promise they have shown at this early stage of their professional careers.