Stuart Baxter believes he has returned to a DStv Premiership that is better now than when he last coached Kaizer Chiefs some six or so years ago.
Baxter swept up two Premiership titles in his first spell at Chiefs, as well as a Nedbank Cup and MTN8, before also going on to win two Nedbank Cup titles at SuperSport United.
In his time at Chiefs, Baxter had a fierce rivalry with Mamelodi Sundowns and Pitso Mosimane, but Sundowns have now become far-and-away the dominant force in the country, while Chiefs have mostly lagged behind.
This season, it has been far from plain-sailing for Chiefs, even though the transfer ban has been lifted, and they have been able to strengthen their squad. Baxter has managed just one win in seven games in all competitions.
It is all a far cry from when Baxter arrived at Chiefs in 2012, and despite losing to Sundowns in the MTN8, went unbeaten in his first 11 league games, winning eight of them as Chiefs won the league title and the Nedbank Cup.
“I think one thing you have to think is that we are living in different times,” said Baxter this week, in a press conference ahead of Amakhosi’s meeting on Saturday with their former head coach Gavin Hunt and his Chippa United side.
Baxter was asked specifically whether he still felt Chiefs could become the dominant force in the South African game.
“I don’t mean Covid, I mean look at the other teams when I was there (in my first spell). Probably the standard of coaching is now better. More teams are well-organised and can beat each other.
“The ‘bigger’ teams have pushed on at the same pace, more than Chiefs. I think it will take more time to find that edge and …. put themselves in the position of a Bayern Munich or a similar dominant force. Have they the potential to do it? Yes. Is it as easy as at that time? No, people have closed the gap and some have kicked on further.
Baxter continued: “good coaches before me have not reached the results they wanted and the reason behind that is probably what I am experiencing. Teams are better now than when I first came, more teams can cause an upset and yet still, Chiefs are a marquee name that everyone wants to knock over.”