Johannesburg - Former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has called on all South Africans to get behind new national coach Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba in a bid to improve the standard of soccer in the country.
Mashaba was confirmed on July 26 by the SA Football Association (SAFA) as the new man in charge of the national team, and Baxter believes South Africans should give him their unconditional support.
"We have all got to get behind him. We have to take the good and the bad and we’ve got to stick with it, whatever policy. We’ve got to make sure that it works," Baxter said over the weekend.
"We’re better than what we’ve been seeing. That’s no criticism of any of the staff. I think we as a country can produce better than what we’re producing."
On Wednesday, Mashaba will be in the country for the first time since his appointment was made public, when he arrives back in South Africa with the national under-20 team from a four-match tour of west Africa.
"All the coaches at all the clubs want very badly that South African football is profiled in a more positive way. We need to get fully behind and help whoever is the national coach," Baxter added.
"Shakes has got the opportunity to continue and have a little bit of continuity with some of the younger boys he’s worked with.
"He’s going to need help to do that. The help has got to come, not only from us, but from the Premier Soccer League, from SAFA, and from the supporters."
Mashaba and his young Amajita outfit returned a mixed bag of results on tour, drawing twice, against Senegal and Burkina Faso, and losing to Ivory Coast and Mali.
Meanwhile, another former Bafana coach Clive Barker said he was delighted to see a local coach take charge of the team after it was widely expected that two foreigners - Carlos Queiroz and Stephen Keshi - were favourites to take over the vacant post.
"It’s fantastic that he’s a local coach and he’s got an ability to work with young players, which is a good thing," Barker said.
"I’m just so happy for him. He’s a good guy and it just shows that good guys do come first sometimes. I’m right behind him and I think he’s going to produce the goods, like he did with the Benni McCarthy-era. It was a fantastic time then.
"I have no doubt about it, Shakes has got my support, and I’m sure he’s got the rest of the country’s support."
Mashaba’s first assignment will be to prepare Bafana for their opening 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan on September 6.