Fired-up Benni’s countdown begins

Benni McCarthy will surely cut an imposing figure in the Cape Town City dressing room in the next week. Passionate as much as he can be impetuous, these are the periods that coaches like him live for. It’s a disposition he will now look to pass on to his players.

In just five days he will have to set out line-ups for battles against both Soweto giants in league games that could manoeuvre a fantastic position in the top eight. They’re one game away from equalling their finish last season and they’ll take on SuperSport United at Moses Mabhida Stadium in the MTN8 final in two weeks’ time.

The international break would have done its bit to allow positivity to creep back into the coach’s mindset. So inferior was the performance against Free State Stars in the last game out that not even a 95th-minute equaliser could banish the scowl from McCarthy’s face.

Although lax effort from his charges was certainly at play, the spaces in his formation made it too easy for Ea Lla Koto to attack with speed and power.

Kaizer Chiefs is the ideal fixture to reignite the fire and momentum. The Uefa Champions League winner revealed this week that he’s still haunted by Bobby Motaung’s words when he first returned to South Africa. Amakhosi’s football manager described him as “finished” before the striker ultimately went on to join rivals Orlando Pirates.

“Bobby’s comments were that I was finished, I was past my best, that I was washed up and that I wasn’t a big fish anymore,” he lamented.

“So I always had that in the back of my head, which is why I was happy to sign for Pirates — to show Chiefs how washed up I was; I would show them what a big fish looked like … I guess still now you can say that whenever I play against Chiefs, even as a coach, they know I will be out to try to hurt them.”

Depriving them of a point at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday will most certainly hurt them. Five games later and coach Giovanni Solinas is still searching for his first win in the league.

The pressure is boiling like lava under his feet; the self-appointed judges in yellow and black will not accept much more disappointment.

He’ll bring a few subplots with him to the Mother City.

New signing Lebogang Manyama could make his debut against his former club after returning from Europe.

The attacking midfielder built his reputation at the Blue and Gold Army, leading the goal scoring charts the season before last en route to winning the Premier Soccer League’s Player of the Year award.

Meanwhile, Madagascan international Andriamirado “Dax” Andrianarimanana is finally eligible to play after a protracted clearance saga.

City has its own good news in Tokelo Rantie, another to return to South Africa this season. McCarthy said this week that his forward is progressing better than expected in his return from injury. An appearance against Chiefs might be too much to ask but the minimum hope is that he’ll make the MTN8 decider.

“It would be foolish if we are already thinking about the cup final,” City’s Ebrahim Seedat told the Sowetan, however. “For now we have three cup finals — the Chiefs game and then the game against Pirates four days later.”

As fired up as McCarthy might be, a shrewd and calculated approach in the next two weeks, beginning on Saturday, could go a long way to seeing his stock as a manager exponentially rise.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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