IOL SPORT soccer writers Eshlin Vedan and Herman Gibbs reviews Gavin Hunt’s start to his coaching career at Kaizer Chiefs and gives their verdict if he is still the right man for the job.
SOCCER writers Eshlin Vedan and Herman Gibbs looks at Gavin Hunt’s start to his coaching career at Kaizer Chiefs and gives their verdict if he is still the right man for the job.
NO, says ESHLIN VEDAN
If there is someone who is the epitome of stability in South African football, it is Gavin Hunt. In a coaching career spanning 25 years, Hunt has never been fired from a job, his other jobs ending as a result of resigning or the club folding.
This is a stellar achievement which is rare. The only other notable manager who can boast about such a feat is Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Not even other South African coaching legends such as Pitso Mosimane, Manqoba Mngqithi, Clive Barker and Gordon Igesund can say that they have never been fired.
Yes, Hunt’s management so far as Chiefs mentor has not been without its flaws. He has made several questionable decisions such as playing veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune over Daniel Akpeyi which cost the side a win over Black Leopards and a draw against SuperSport United.
Realistically, Chiefs were not expected to win trophies this season as a result of their transfer ban combined with the fact that they ended last season in poor form, losing out on the title on the final day of the season to Mamelodi Sundowns. This would have had a massive negative psychological impact on the Chiefs players.
In his book I think before I play, Italian football legend Andrea Pirlo highlighted that AC Milan’s famous 2005 Champions League loss to Liverpool had a major impact on his psychology, to the extent that he briefly fell out of love with the game and even considered retiring before the age of 30.
Milan was leading Liverpool 3-0 at half-time in the Istanbul 2005 Champions League final before the English side mounted an incredible comeback in the second half and eventually won the tournament in the penalty shoot-out that followed.
It is likely that the psychological impact Pirlo experienced is being experienced by many of the experienced campaigners of the Chiefs squad as their meltdown towards the end of last season was similar to Milan’s meltdown in the 2005 Champions League final.
Chiefs need to realize that their rebuilding process will be a marathon and not a sprint. In addition to never being fired, Hunt has also been coaching on a non-stop basis for the past 25-years, having never taken a break in that time.
Chiefs fans just need to be patient. Yes, there are bumps now but winning a marathon almost always comes with bumps and major challenges before the glory at the end.
YES, says HERMAN GIBBS
Gavin Hunt must shoulder the blame for Kaizer Chiefs’ poor start to the premiership season which sees them languishing in a lowly 13th place.
Seemingly, Chiefs were scarred mentally after their dramatic end-of season slump two months go.
This caused Chiefs to lose the Premiership title after leading the log by nine points at one stage.
Lately, there are media reports which suggest that the mental torture of losing out on last season’s Premiership title may well be at the heart of the team’s fall from grace.
Former Chiefs midfield wizard Abel Shongwe was recently asked about the team’s poor results.
“I do not know if they need counselling or not,” Shongwe concluded. This counselling comment points to a possible mental issue in the team.
Two days ago, Hunt remarked in a media interview that at the start of the season the players were not responsive at team talks. “You could see through their heads and out the back. Now we are at least seeing matter,” Hunt said.
Hunt was able to identify a mental issue at the start of his tenure as head coach of Chiefs. The fact that Shongwe is asking about counselling at this stage of the season suggests that the issue has not yet been adequately resolved. As head coach, Hunt must shoulder the blame for not addressing the matter adequately.
Many critics pointed to the fact that Hunt is working basically with the same squad that came within a whisker of lifting the title last season. This is a fact, but Hunt will point to the absence of Samir Nurkovic, the team’s match winner last season.
Hunt had the option of keeping the bulk of last season’s first choices in his starting XIs this season, but instead, he opted for large-scale changes and sacrificed consistency in selection.
This has not had the desired effect and after eight league games, the team has one win and four draws.
Almost without fail, Hunt said team mistakes were the root cause of poor results in post-match interviews.
Earlier this month after the Black Leopards clash, Hunt lamented: “Mistakes, big mistakes from big players, so you don’t expect that, but it’s been happening since I’ve been here.”
Instead of consigning errant players like Itumeleng Khune to the substitutes bench, Hunt has persevered with them.
Perhaps a clean out, starting with the goalkeeping department could set Hunt on the road to recovery.