Johannesburg - Former Bafana Bafana skipper Neil Tovey has satisfied Mpumalanga Black Aces management with his professionalism and passion for the game which has led to the team appointing him coach of the team that has started the season in erratic fashion.
It was a tight race between him and fellow Durbanite Gordon Igesund but in the end, Tovey just pipped his competitor to the past and is the man who will replace Aiki Ayiomamitis who was fired after only three games in charge.
Although Ayiomamitis guided Aces to a play-off finish where they lost to Black Leopards in the first leg but regrouped to finish off their opponents in the second leg in a dramatic penalty shootout to regain their Premiership status, it had been pretty tough going in the new season.
Aces went on an unprecedented shopping spree during the off-season, bringing in a record 18 new players. But even then, that has not stopped the team from going on a free-fall, losing their opening three games.
A painful 3-2 loss to Platinum Stars in their opening game at home gave them hope. However, it was followed by a 2-1 loss away to defending champions SuperSport and that appeared to ring alarm bells within the camp. And when they went down 1-0 to Santos at home, it was more than management could stomach. They fired him.
Now it will be up to Tovey not only to restore confidence in the team, but to bring out all the motivational skills he has learned along the way while he was still at Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaZulu and helped resuscitate spirit in a team with so much potential but has not been able to realize their true worth.
Aces come up against newly promoted Vasco da Gama at the Puma Rugby Stadium in Mpumalanga on October 17 and that will be a real test of character for Tovey which should give everyone an indication of whether he has what it takes to steer them out of the drop zone.
To his credit, he has less than 10 days available to at least knock the team into shape, but that’s a pretty short time.