Sport

Soccer coaches are always one foot 
out the door

Mark Gleeson

Resignations and pressure to win every single match has sparked a soccer coaching merry-go-round.

Ready replacement: Eric Tinkler has taken over as a caretaker coach for Orlando Pirates after the resignation of Roger de Sa. (Lefty Shivambu, Gallo.)

Eric Tinkler chuckled with an air of conspiratorial insider knowledge this week after his first game in charge of Orlando Pirates.

"Coaches live with one foot in the door and one foot out," he said as he reflected on several days of turmoil at the club in the wake of Roger de Sa's resignation last Friday.

Tinkler was talking after his first game as new coach on Tuesday, having taken over from his former colleague as caretaker while Pirates decide on their next move.

De Sa cited fatigue and a lack of desire for his abrupt resignation. "Gatvol" is the Afrikaans expression that best describes it.

Now the air is full of anticipation as fans and observers alike await the next move from Pirates' chairperson Irvin Khoza.

The precarious nature of the coaching profession has been given ample airing over the past days, not only at Pirates but also at fellow Premier Soccer League outfit Ajax Cape Town, where a caretaker sits in the hot seat as a new man is awaited.

Most focus, though, is on Gordon Igesund and his tenure with the national team. He has been told his fate will be decided at a meeting on Thursday, where he is expected to present a report on the disaster of the recent African Nations Championship. 

Hosts South Africa could not get past the first stage.

By all accounts Igesund will need to do some fast talking to stave off immediate dismissal. The meeting is likely to be a charade as South African Football Association (Safa) officials have already made up their minds that they see no future in keeping him.

But it makes little sense to force the immediate change with a friendly coming up against Brazil on March 5 and possibly two more internationals in May and June, after which Igesund's contract runs out.

Unless they have an ace up their sleeve – which, for Safa, would be highly unlikely on several fronts —the recruitment of any decent new coach is best done after the World Cup, when competent names become available again.

To put a caretaker coach in now would just exacerbate an already fluid situation and display poor crisis management by Safa, which is not exactly cash flush either as it enters the marketplace for a new man to lead the national team. Igesund is best left to see out his contract and then, if they deem it so, a new man brought in.

Safa should be looking for a candidate who can combine the gravitas and authoritative bearing of Carlos Alberto Parreira with the tactical acumen of Carlos Queiroz, the people management and public relations skills of Clive Barker and the doggedness of Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba, whose record is the best of any past Bafana boss.

At Pirates, they will likely leave Tinkler in charge for a while, if he continues to produce results. In recent years the coaches at the club have had to contend with the shadowy influence of Stanley "Screamer" Tshabalala, who is able to influence tactics and team selection, in effect spotting and recommending players for the club to purchase.

De Sa was never territorial about his job and happy to be able to take a second opinion from someone with a deep knowledge of the local game. But ultimately the pressure wore him down as well as the constant sense that the next game was the last.

Pirates had a Belgian coach waiting in the wings over the past months, according to league insiders.

Some say it is the current Kenya coach Adel Amrouche, who is a Belgian citizen of Algerian extraction who has worked across Central Africa over the past decade.

The other name bandied about is Luc Eymael. One of them has been patiently waiting for De Sa to exit, but they've been left cooling their heels as the Pirates owner vacillated on making the replacement.

By last week Eymael seemed to have given up and has gone to coach in Rwanda, and Amrouche reportedly signed a contract extension with the Kenya national team.

At Ajax Cape Town, unknown Ian Taylor was promoted from assistant to interim coach and told he had three matches to prove himself. He replaces Muhsin Ertugral, who has left Ajax three times now.

Taylor lost the first two, albeit away at Orlando Pirates last week and to a late goal at AmaZulu on Tuesday night. On February 7 he hopes to break his duck in the home match against Wits.

But Ajax have an alternate shortlist already. Owner Ari Efstathiou said he had submitted five names to their mother club in Amsterdam for approval – three are foreign, two are local. He also says De Sa's name is not on the list, but that he could be a late consideration. Which probably means De Sa is in line to be the next Ajax coach and so the merry-go-round gets some more oil on the wheel.

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