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Nothing left to chance

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Ernst Middendorp makes sure his team is prepared for anything, and it shows.

The responsibility of having to guide Kaizer Chiefs back to the pinnacle of South African football doesn’t give coach Ernst Middendorp sleepless nights, but the German mentor conforms to thorough planning on matchday eve.

Following the robust celebratory scenes that erupted at FNB Stadium on Wednesday night as Chiefs celebrated their 50th anniversary – in front of a crowd of 40 000 – many couldn’t help but wonder “what it would be like if Chiefs were to be champions at the end of the season?”.

This follows after Amakhosi went about their business diligently – almost vying to give the millions of faithful around the continent something to further cheer about.

Chiefs are the most successful club in South African football, having amassed 93 domestic trophies – official and unofficial.

On Wednesday, Middendorp and his men added fire to the milestone celebrations, pulling off an impressive 3-0 win over Highlands Park as they extended their lead at the summit of the Premiership to 38 points, six ahead of defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns in second place.

But with 14 matches before the curtain comes down on the domestic season, it is too early to tell whether Chiefs will bag their record 13th league title come May.

However, one thing for sure is that Middendorp is leaving no stone unturned, working tirelessly to ensure that his team keeps improving.

“My sleeping habits are quite normal. But of course, before each and every game, I don’t sleep too much – researching and looking at the possible options in the squad: what we need to do in terms of tactical elements,” he said.

Grabbed

“If this (hunger) is not there anymore as coaches, where we need to have a certain area of being nervous and being grabbed into the environment (then we need to stop coaching). And if I don’t have that anymore, I can promise you, I’ll stop coaching immediately.

“I haven’t (lost it).”

Proving that planning yields the results, Middendorp rewrote the history books in the first half of the season, becoming the first ever coach to win the Absa Premiership Coach of the Month accolade three times in a row, between August and December.

Speaking after each award, Middendorp credited the work that had been put in by his playing personnel and technical team.

But in the bigger scheme of things, though, many would argue that his subordinates and troops adhered to what he presented on match-day.

Against the Lions of the North, the German mentor created an unorthodox block, starting with four infield midfielders – Willard Katsande and George Maluleka behind Kearyn Baccus and Lebogang Manyama – instead of the diamond that has wingers.

“That’s why your sleeping days get shorter one or two days (before the match), because you try to figure out what needs to be done,” Middendorp said in his post-match analysis on Wednesday night.

“It was important to create something where we feel comfortable with the players that we have available. I think the movement was dragging the opposing players to certain directions, stretching them to here and there – horizontal and vertical.

“We had a clear idea of the way we wanted to do things.”

Middendorp and his men will be hoping to close off what’s been an eventful week with full points when they welcome Cape Town City to FNB Stadium on Sunday (3:30pm).