Kaizer Chiefs’ decision to terminate coach Stuart Baxter’s contract with seven games to go did not come as a complete shock because the writing was on the wall.
The Siya crew broke the news on Thursday morning that the Englishman would see his second stint at Naturena come to an abrupt end, and the club finally confirmed the news later that night having concluded a settlement.
Despite seven DStv Premiership games still to go, the club opted to finish the season without Baxter and Soccer Laduma provides a timeline of how Baxter walked…
The two Ngcobos
Earlier this season, Baxter was grilled by fans – and some section of the media, over the omission of defender Njabulo Ngcobo and midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, two players who stood out last season.
Njabulo, who was signed from Swallows FC, was voted Defender of the Season in the DStv Premiership and was not only rewarded with a move to Amakhosi, but found his way into the Bafana Bafana set up.
His teammate Nkosingiphile was arguably Chiefs’ best player during a gloomy season under then coach Gavin Hunt. But Baxter, seemingly, did not see it that way and wanted the two players to offer him a bit more, even deploying them in different roles from time to time – and it’s believed this had not gone down well with management.
Divisions inside Naturena
Soccer Laduma reported earlier this year that factions were emerging at the club and there were now two camps: one siding with assistant coach Arthur Zwane and the other still respecting Baxter’s authority given his superior role.
Much of it was evident a few months prior, when Zwane took charge of the team for three matches in December while Baxter was out with Covid.
Chiefs had a different approach and tactics, with Ngcobo also playing a key role in that period, suggesting Zwane and Baxter did not agree on certain fundamentals.
Comments post SSU defeat
Perhaps the last straw came last week Saturday night when Baxter told journalists that he was prepared to “walk” if the chairman of the club, Kaizer Motaung Jnr asked him to, following the 1-0 loss to SuperSport United at FNB Stadium.
A few of the fans, who were attending a Chiefs match for the first time since the pandemic, pelted the coach with objects and shouted “Baxter must go!”, to which the Englishman responded by saying that he was the most successful mentor at Naturena over the previous two decades.
That didn’t go down well with management, the Siya crew understands, and so began a series of talks regarding the way forward.
Kaizer Motaung Jnr, the sporting director, is believed to have told the technical team that Baxter would not take the training session on Thursday morning ahead of discussions which ultimately led to his early exit.
Zwane and Dillion Sheppard will see out the remainder of the season beginning with an away match to Stellenbosch FC on Saturday.
The duo will want to prove they can take over, but Chiefs are likely to assess options in the off-season before making a final decision on Baxter’s permanent replacement.
It’s understood Motaung Jnr is a huge admirer of Zwane and sees him as potentially the future coach of Amakhosi, but is he ready?