Kaizer Chiefs’ decision to fire Stuart Baxter on Thursday would seem to open the door for Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard to stake another claim to be the men to lead Amakhosi into a better future, and not just as a stop-gap until the end of the season.
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The timing of this latest axe-wielding bears some similarity to the sacking of Gavin Hunt last season, though then there were only two games to go in the campaign, and Chiefs were still mathematically in danger of relegation from the DStv Premiership.
Zwane and Sheppard steadied the ship to the extent that Chiefs sneaked into the top eight, while also guiding Chiefs into the Caf Champions League final, while Baxter awaited his work permit.
There were many Chiefs supporters upset that Baxter took control of the team in time for the Champions League final, though as the new Amakhosi head coach it was his duty, once his work permit came through, to sit on the bench.
The main sentiment behind this, however, was that many felt Zwane, in particular, deserved a chance to show what he can do. When Zwane and Sheppard were appointed caretaker head coaches after Hunt left, it appeared clear that Sheppard was happy to let Zwane assume more of a leading role on the touchline.
It will be interesting to see if the same situation evolves now. Zwane, at times, looked a little sidelined at Chiefs during Baxter’s reign, with Sheppard seemingly more of a trusted advisor to the Amakhosi head coach.
If Zwane and Sheppard can lead Chiefs to a successful conclusion to the campaign, and there is still a realistic chance they can qualify for next season’s Champions League by finishing 2nd in the table, then calls will no doubt grow for them to be handed the role on a permanent basis.
After all, Chiefs ploughed through coaches at some rate over the last few seasons. Steve Komphela was axed towards the end of the 2018/19 season, Ernst Middendorp was sacked at the end of the 2019/20 campaign despite only just missing out on the title to Sundowns, while Hunt, despite a trophy-laden career as a PSL coach, came and went in eight months.
Now Baxter has also gone, after failing to repeat his golden first spell in charge of Amakhosi. Even without the financial issues of having to pay out a coach every time you terminate a contract early, surely it would be prudent for Chiefs to give Zwane and Sheppard a chance?