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Editor's Blog

Give It To Baxter!

Kaizer Chiefs made their intentions for 2021/22 crystal clear when they announced their new signings, extending existing contracts, while also letting other players go. Whatever happens this season, you can’t accuse Chiefs of not trying to reclaim their glory days. Just like you can’t claim not to know what they are all about this campaign.

If there was one season where Chiefs look like redeeming themselves, it has to be this one. The last time Amakhosi won any piece of silverware was under coach Stuart Baxter and the closest they’ve been to the podium, since his departure, was as cup runners-up and losing their league lead on the last day of the campaign, two seasons ago. Is it a coincidence that the Soweto giants have now roped in coach Baxter, in an attempt to reclaim their glory? I think it isn’t. If anything, they’re sending out a strong message. Having said that, what’s interesting is the fact that the last time Chiefs made a meaningful venture into the market, was the last time coach Baxter was at the helm. The club has not had a team stronger team than they had in Baxter’s last tenure and, for the first time since then, they’ve really gone big on the transfer market this time around. There are players who were signed before Baxter’s arrival and he’s also brought his own, but there’s no denying the fact that the team coach Baxter last had at Chiefs and the one he’s going into this season with are the best two Chiefs have had between his two stints. You can argue the quality and experience between the two groups of players, but the bottom line is that no coach has had a better team than coach Baxter at Chiefs, period! 

Remember when coach Baxter left the Naturena-based outfit? One of the reasons was the club’s inability to get him some of the players he had earmarked. Since his departure, the Glamour Boys haven’t been the same at all, so much so that some people were quick to praise him for seeing into the future and leaving when he did, in order to protect his image and reputation. If you look at the tools made available to the coaches after coach Baxter’s departure and before his return, it is chalk and cheese. Is it a coincidence or by design? You be the judge! Chiefs were constantly linked with the 67-year-old mentor since his departure from his second stint with Bafana Bafana and it would seem that the recent Amakhosi FIFA ban didn’t make the move appealing and therefore the timing wasn’t right. Ask coach Gavin Hunt about the impact of that well-documented ban as much as he had almost the same team that had finished as runners-up the previous campaign, under coach Ernst Middendorp. Hunt was subsequently relieved of his duties even though he’d made history by guiding Chiefs to the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League. One thing is for sure, Hunt couldn’t have joined Amakhosi at a worst time. In football terms, we’d say he didn’t time his runs perfectly because everyone will just remember him by the results or lack thereof at Chiefs. No one will care much about his history-making continental exploits and the ban that prohibited him from bringing in any new faces. 

Coach Baxter, on the other hand, timed his runs perfectly and waited for the ‘right moment’ and that has worked in his advantage so far. He has beefed up the squad and looks content with the quality at his disposal. He’s also been involved with the team during the short off-season and even took part in the Champions League. Now he goes into the new season knowing exactly what he’s got and what he still needs, rather than having to make do with whatever was made available to him. Can you blame coach Baxter for that? Certainly not! Can you cast aspersions on him for joining Chiefs at what looks to be the right time? Absolutely not! Every coach has a right to decide if or when they need a job and therefore to each his own. You can’t blame Baxter for other coaches joining Chiefs at what looks to be the wrong time or them not getting the same quality of tools that is always made available to him. Coach Hunt knew what he was letting himself in for when he joined Chiefs with that ban hovering over them. He felt it was a good decision to join them and did his best under the circumstances. However, if Baxter felt he could never join Chiefs until they had the ban lifted or that he would only join Chiefs on condition that the team gets reinforced, then no one can blame him for that. 

When coach Steve Komphela had to rely on youth development products, he was part of the decision. When coach Giovanni Solinas walked into a team that was almost readily assembled for him, it was his decision to do so. It was also his decision to see Khama Billiat as Chiefs’ Messi and he remains the only coach who has managed to bring the best out of the Zimbabwean international to date. The same thing happened with coach Middendorp, but coach Baxter clearly doesn’t jump into any situation unprepared. He knew there wasn’t much left off the team he had in his last stint, as some key players were not going to renew their contracts while others were approaching their sell-by dates and decided to leave the dance floor while everyone was still clapping for him. This time around, he has made it a point that he comes into a team that he can trust and believe in. Nothing wrong with that and you’ve got to give it to Baxter for always being available at the right time. It is every coach’s dream to have a strong team with enough ammunition to challenge for honours, not just to get employed as a coach’s future is determined by results. It makes life easy to have enough quality and depth rather than finding yourself in a situation where doing damage control is the order of the day.  





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