Johannesburg - While everybody hails Eric Tinkler for reaching his second CAF Confederation Cup final, SuperSport United’s achievement was more of a team effort and the result of a strong foundation laid by his predecessors Kaitano Tembo and Stuart Baxter.
Each member of the trio has made a meaningful contribution to the team’s good run.
No smooth sailing
This is not to take anything away from Tinkler, who masterminded victories in the quarters and the semifinals.
But United’s run in the continental competition came because Baxter created a solid foundation way back in the preliminaries. Tembo took over the baton in the group stages and now Tinkler is helping the team get to the finish line.
Although on paper their journey looks like it was a good one, in reality there was no smooth sailing at the beginning.
They scraped through with a narrow home victory in the preliminaries to go past Madagascar’s Elgeco Plus.
After playing a goalless draw away in Madagascar, they won the second tie 2-1 at home to progress to the first round.
They found their footing in the first round of the tournament after walloping Sudanese side Al-ahly Shendi 6-3 on aggregate, despite losing the away leg 3-2. United finished the job at home with a comfortable 4-0 victory.
Group stage matches
Baxter’s men were again ruthless in the final round when they thrashed Liberian side Barrack Young Controllers 6-1 after two legs to reach the group stages.
United drew 1-1 away in Monrovia and made a meal of their opponents at home with a 5-0 drubbing.
Once Baxter had completed his shift, Tembo took over the reins as the Englishman headed for the plum Bafana Bafana job.
The former Zimbabwe international defender was in charge of four group stage matches, while Baxter presided over two home games, against TP Mazembe and Horoya AC, before leaving for the South African national team.
United started sluggishly when they drew 2-2 with visiting Guinean side Horoya AC.
But in his first game in charge, Tembo led them to a convincing 5-2 win away in Gabon, when they beat hapless CF Mounana in front of their home supporters.
United again showed their mettle in Lubumbashi when they came back from 2-0 down to draw the game with TP Mazembe. They held the same DR Congo side to a goalless draw at home.
They completed the group stages without a loss – two victories and four draws – and finished second behind fellow finalists Mazembe.
Then it was Tinkler’s turn to use his experience to take the team forward.
He was in the stands in the final group stages game against CF Mounana after his appointment.
Tinkler previously reached the final of the competition with Orlando Pirates in 2015 and his experience came to the fore when he guided United to the semifinals.
Not many gave him a chance after drawing 1-1 with Zesco United at home, but his side prevailed away in Zambia after a last minute goal secured them a 2-all draw to advance on the away goal rule.
Again, Tinkler guided the Pretoria side to the final with a convincing display against Club Africain away in Tunisia at the weekend.
After coming short with Pirates when he lost in the final to Étoile Sportive du Sahel, Tinkler will be hoping for a better outcome against Mazembe next month.
With Tembo next to him on the bench, the duo can bring it home.