It's adapt or die for Stuart Baxter at Kaizer Chiefs, says Farouk Khan
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JOHANNESBURG - FORGET ABOUT his previous achievements with Kaizer Chiefs for Stuart Baxter faces arguably the biggest test of his coaching career in this second spell in charge of Amakhosi.
With the club yet to win any silverware since he led them to the league championship in 2015, Baxter has been recalled to Naturena in the belief that he can bring back the ‘glory days’.
And unlike those who followed in his footsteps, the Englishman has been given the perfect tools to deliver with the club having gone on a shopping spree that has delivered great quality.
The challenge for Baxter, says one of South Africa’s foremost technical brains, is whether the two-time Bafana Bafana coach can use the material he has correctly.
“The coaching philosophy is going to be very important for Chiefs this season,” renowned analyst Farouk Khan argues “For me, Stuart is now like a baker who has all the ingredients at his disposal and all he has to do is bake a delicious cake. But the question is can he change his philosophy for the good of the team? Because the way I look at it, the kind of squad Chiefs have assembled is the kind that can deliver the classy attacking football Chiefs are renowned for. “
Not Baxter’s cup of tea, the man who has also coached SuperSport United known more for his organised, transitional play – his teams usually depending on punishing the opposition from dead ball situations and counter attack than initiating things and dominating play.
“I think this could mean Baxter having to change his philosophy just looking at the material he has. He might have to swallow his pride and get Chiefs playing the way they used to in the olden days because they have the players to do so. I think he has to adapt or die because I don’t think you change a philosophy for one person against many, it has to be the other way,” Khan reasoned, adding that such is the quality squad Chiefs have put together this time around that they will have no one but themselves to blame should they not return to their glory days of old.
“If they don’t end up winning cups this season, then there’s something seriously wrong at the club”.
Following last season’s one-year transfer ban imposed on them by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after they flouted the rules when they acquired the services of Madagascar striker Dax, Chiefs embarked upon a signing-spree that has got their long-suffering fans excitedly anticipating the upcoming campaign.
And Khan who has previously won trophies at Chiefs as an assistant coach believes the excitement is justified.
“They have signed some fantastic players in Keagan Dolly and Njabulo Ngcobo. It is like back in those days when they had Ace and the other brilliant playmakers – Dolly can do that for them. And Ngcobo reminds me of Lucas Radebe – solid defender who can play from the back. Cole Alexander might be a little old but he brings vast experience to the team. I think this is an opportunity for them to get back to the Chiefs of old when they were called the Glamour Boys. They have the material to bring back the glory and I am sure when they say ‘bring back the glory’ they mean Chiefs being serial winners. And not only just winning, but doing so playing great football.”
He says Chiefs should get back to playing their good old possession-based football where they rained the ball, put together delightful combination plays and confidently knocked the ball about anywhere on the field.
Added to their ‘amazing’ goalkeeping depth, the man who owns the renowned Africa Sports Academy that has churned out numerous talented players is impressed by the Amakhosi defence.
“Other than Ngcobo, they’ve also brought in the left back Sifiso Hlanti,who is a very skilful defender. Baxter will do well to allow him to play his own game and not limit him to solely doing defensive duties.”
He praised the club for holding on to their more experienced players whose contracts had expired and made particular reference to Khama Billiat and Lebogang Manyama.
“Billiat and Manyama are excellent players but they have not been very effective in the previous season, perhaps because they were in a comfort zone, though Billiat struggled with injuries. But now there is so much depth in the club that everyone is going to want to play and that will make for great competition. And that will see everybody lifting up their game. Chiefs have to do well this coming season, they have no other option.”
And they get the opportunity to put down that marker this afternoon in the pre-season Soweto Derby against Orlando Pirates in the Carling Black Label Cup at Orlando Pirates.
Will Baxter allow the players at his disposal to dictate the way Chiefs play or will the veteran coach stick to his trusted ways?