Anthony McLennan
4 minute read
27 May 2019
10:03 am

Chiefs have backed themselves into a corner with Middendorp

Anthony McLennan

What initially appeared to be a questionable decision to appoint Ernst Middendorp as coach in December has come back to bite Kaizer Chiefs after the club's dismal form in the latter stages of the season.

Ernst Middendorp, coach of Kaizer Chiefs with Bobby Motaung (Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)

Amakhosi put in a rather nervy, lacklustre performance in the Nedbank Cup final against TS Galaxy, with Dan Malesela’s men full value for their 1-0 victory which saw them becoming the first-ever team from the lower divisions to win the competition.

The club’s hierarchy would have been hoping that a win at the Moses Mabhida Stadium would have bought them more time by appeasing the supporters with what would have been a first piece of silverware in four years.

That would, however, only have served to paper over the cracks; Chiefs’ problems are more complex than simply winning or losing a game to a National First Division side.

Indeed, there were Chiefs fans on social media writing they had been hoping for a defeat, in order for the club to fully own up to an increasingly dire situation.

As it was, the Glamour Boys twice needed extra time to beat two third tier teams on the way to the Nedbank Cup final. The other two matches, 2-0 against Cape Town City and 4-2 against Chippa United, were probably two of the best games they played throughout an underwhelming season.

READ: Chiefs set to sack those too big for their boots?

At the end of the day, Nedbank Cup trophy or no trophy aside, the league table does not lie. A ninth-place finish was the club’s worse in the PSL era, and their league form over the last two months of the campaign has been dismal – four draws and three defeats in their last seven matches.

Overall, Middendorp’s record this season in the Premiership reads: 16 games played, five wins, five defeats and six draws, a win ratio of less than 33 percent.

The German admitted after Saturday’s showdown in Durban that he’s unsure about his future at the club, while also highlighting that the Soweto giants’ issues run deeper than their recent slump in form.

“I think that we definitely‚ in general‚ have to sit down and see what’s happening not only in the last months but what’s happening with Kaizer Chiefs probably in the last years. We will definitely have to have a discussion‚ we definitely have to make a decision‚” he said.

Regardless of Middendorp’s vast experience and his qualities as a coach, his return to the club in December last year seemed strange.

Of course there are mitigating factors that he could point to. This wasn’t a squad he assembled. There were no major signings in January. He had enjoyed no pre-season and had not yet been afforded enough time to mould his players to his way of thinking. Plus there were injuries to key men.

However, having been hounded out of the club by the Chiefs fans 12 years ago at the end of his first spell, the Amakhosi faithful were always going to show less patience than they may have afforded a new man.

Those supporters still remember well the words of the club’s Football Manager Bobby Motaung, who seven years ago stated that “Bobby Motaung goes nowhere. I’m not elected here. I was not appointed by ANC or IFP. I will be here as long as this company exists. I didn’t apply with a CV for the job, so that must be clear to those that have a dream that Bobby Motaung must step down. Kaizer Chiefs is a family business. The Chairman is my father.”

The Chairman, Kaizer Motaung, subsequently apologised for his son’s words, but by then the damage had been done.

While Middendorp’s constant chopping and changing of his starting XI has been called into question, the bigger problem many fans feel, is the club’s poor recruitment in recent years, for which it is believed Bobby Motaung is largely responsible.

Now, with the knockout blow suffered at the hands of Galaxy, and as a growing number of ex-Amakhosi stars join in with criticising the team, the Chiefs management have been forced to make a very tough call.

Will they maintain faith in Middendorp and risk incurring the wrath of their already angry supporters? Or do they admit that like the previous coach, Giovanni Solinas, who was fired in December after only five months in charge, Middendorp was not the right fit for the team? Should they consider hiring an impartial Director of Football?

Do they now go all out in the transfer market and rebuild the team, under a manager with proven PSL success; like Stuart Baxter or a Gavin Hunt for example. Or, do they bring in a ‘big name’ overseas coach who has enjoyed success in Europe and / or the African continent?

That would likely take time, but at least the supporters would feel that they’re being listened to; Chiefs massive financial muscle is after all largely based on the fact that they’re the best supported club in South Africa.

Either way, Kaizer Chiefs have some huge decisions to make in the next month or two as they try to start moving forwards again, rather than backwards.

 

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