Comparisons have been made in Stuart Baxter’s second stint as coach of Kaizer Chiefs to his first, though the coach admits this time around Amakhosi are that margin more demoralised.
When Baxter last took over in 2012, Chiefs had won nothing for a single campaign under Vladimir Vermezovic in the 2011-12 season. While the at-times tempestuous Serb had left Amakhosi in some state of disarray, they had managed a middling fifth place in the Premiership.
In his second stint Baxter arrives back to an Amakhosi who have won nothing in an unprecedented six seasons since the two league and cup doubles in three years he steered them to in 2012-13 and 2014-15. They scraped eighth place in the league in 2020-21.
As Chiefs kick off their 2021-22 Premiership season against TS Galaxy at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday the ex-Bafana Bafana coach admitted that represents a greater degree of demoralisation, and more in the mental aspect to work on.
“That is probably the biggest challenge,” Baxter said.
“Because I think there is a good vibe at the moment. People saw that when we played Pirates [in the pre-season Black Label Cup], and when we played Sundowns [in the MTN8].
“But the biggest problem I will get is when there is some sort of negativity that the players are confronted with, because then you go back in your development.
“I think at the moment everybody is quite optimistic – they know we’ve got work to do. I think we’re about 70% of what I would like to see. The players also see that.
“But the mental part that you’re alluding to – that’s a massive one for Chiefs at the moment.
“And so I’ve said we need a few good results to be there or thereabouts until we can get that stabilised mental state. And then I think we can kick on.”
Other similarities to Baxter’s 2012 arrival are that Chiefs, often too frugal in the transfer market, have made a string of signings who appear to have potential as match winners.
Also, in 2012 Chiefs under Baxter started with a 4-1 MTN8 opening round thrashing at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns, before their league schedule.
In 2021 they began with a penalties loss to Downs in the MTN8 on Sunday, after a 2-2 normal time draw.
The performances have been a touch on the patchy side from a team who had a shortened pre-season after they lost 3-0 to Al Ahly in the 2020-21 Caf Champions League final on July 17.
But there have been signs, in both the Black Label penalties win against Orlando Pirates and MTN8 defeat to Sundowns, that the signings can offer something, and Chiefs could be a force if and when Baxter manages to get the new-look combination gelling.
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)
BY MARC STRYDOM