Increasingly in modern football, owning the “dressing room” is one of the key elements in determining how long a coach can survive in a club — other than good results, that is.
Irrespective of a coach’s pedigree, his relationship with the players is equally crucial and it is whispered that influential footballers have sometimes had a hand in ensuring poor results that have eventually led to a coach’s demise.
When Kaizer Chiefs, for the first time in history, lost a top eight spot on the log table in the 2002-2003 season, coach Muhsin Ertugral lost his job. Later, a former player told the Mail & Guardian that the club’s poor run that year was because of sabotage.
“We were the ones who sabotaged Ertugral. Many players didn’t like him because he shouted a lot. To me he was just a typical European coach. They are like that. They are passionate. I understood him,” said the player.
The spotlight was again on the dressing room when Supersport United sacked coach Eric Tinkler towards the end of last season.
Tinkler recently raised eyebrows when he substituted veteran midfielder and captain Mark Mayambela for what he termed ill-discipline during Chippa United’s 1-0 loss to Orlando Pirates in a Telkom Knockout game on October 20.
Defending Mayambela’s untimely first-half substitution during a post-match interview, Tinkler insisted the change was necessary for disciplinary reasons and also hinted at a possible hearing.
This followed an incident during the game when Mayambela was caught out of position and Tinkler reprimanded him from the sidelines. Mayambela reportedly then back-chatted the coach.
Tinkler, a former Bafana Bafana midfielder, says he still stands by his decision and says Mayambela, as a club captain, should have known better. “As a captain, you lead by example and [should] always be professional. He has apologised to all of us, including his team-mates and the technical team, and the relationship is good. There are a lot of emotions involved in a game of football but it’s also important to know that, as a captain, you are also a leader.”
The former Cape Town City coach also refuted claims that he had strained relations with some players at Supersport.
“I had good relations with the players at Superport,” Tinkler says. “I command respect everywhere I go.”
Former Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says it is important for coaches to have great relationships with players — but not at the expense of respect.
“I have always had a fantastic relationship with players in the clubs I have coached. But you also need to be firm and honest and expect hard work from the players. Respect the players. They must know you are there for them but they must also know who’s in charge,” says Igesund, the only coach in the domestic league to have won four league trophies with four different clubs.
He also says inconsistency in dealing with discipline issues can divide the players and that can lead to sabotage.
“For instance, if a player comes late to training and you fine him R2 000, do the same thing to another player who commits the same offence. In that way, players will know that, even though you are firm, you are also fair,” he says.