Johannesburg - With there being some trigger-happy club bosses, the big question is which of the 16 coaches who are under pressure to deliver success will get the boot first?
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The Absa Premiership has three new faces - Wedson Nyirenda, Jozef Vukušic and Joel Masutha; four returnees - Dan Malesela, Owen Da Gama, Giovanni Solinas and Steve Komphela; and nine coaches who finished last season with the same clubs.
Here are mentors who started the Absa Premiership season this weekend:
All eyes will be on Solinas, who has inherited an underperforming Kaizer Chiefs. Solinas faces the mammoth task of bringing glory back to Amakhosi. After three trophyless seasons under Komphela, the Italian has his work cut out for him. He has to hit the ground running to turn the Glamour Boys’ fortunes around. At least he knows South African football, having already coached Free State Stars.
The same cannot be said about Nyirenda and Vukušic, who have joined Baroka FC and Polokwane City, respectively. The two, who are based in Limpopo, face a baptism of fire in their Premiership debuts. With no experience of South African football, they might find the going tough. They will find acclimatising to the differences in play, tactics, media relations and club politics very challenging. However, the unpredictability of adjusting to the Premier Soccer League (PSL), mixed in with an unfamiliar style of football, could be what makes their arrival in the league really exciting.
They have a chance to impress in their maiden season.
Da Gama returns to the Absa Premiership after steering Highlands Park to the promised land. Highlands dominated the National First Division last season, and the coach will be hoping for a similar campaign from his charges.
But the Premiership is a different kettle of fish and the former national Under-23 coach should brace himself for a tough challenge.
The last time Masutha was in the elite league was when he was still a player. Now he comes back as a coach after guiding Black Leopards through the promotional play-offs. Masutha must be well aware of the daunting task he is facing in the elite league.
Malesela is also back in the hot seat with Chippa United. Having been shown the door last season for failing to deliver, the former defender knows that another poor showing would mean another firing by the trigger-happy Chippa Mpengesi. To his credit, Mpengesi has reinforced the side with some quality players, including Daine Klate and Thabo Nthethe, which should help Malesela’s cause.
After failing to win trophies at Chiefs, Komphela has found a new home at Bloemfontein Celtic. But with the club struggling to meet its financial obligations towards the players, odds are heavily stacked against Komphela to redeem himself. Celtic have been rocked by a player go-slow protest about late payments and non-payments. A move to a small club like Celtic is what Komphela needed to forget his time at Chiefs. And if the club can get its house in order and make the environment conducive, Komphela might just have a chance to redeem himself.
Of all the familiar faces, Mosimane’s is still the man to beat. All others will be aiming to wrestle the title away from him. If last season is anything to go by, Pitso Mosimane still looks poised to conquer the league – even without Percy Tau and Khama Billiat.
But he will face stiff competition from Milutin Sredojevic, who did well in his debut season with Orlando Pirates last season. The Serb will be looking to go the extra mile and take the title away from Mosimane.
Despite struggling to ignite Bidvest Wits, and surrendering the league title without a fight last season, Gavin Hunt shouldn’t be overlooked this time around.
Benni McCarthy and Fadlu Davids are expected to continue where they left off last season, but not really bring the house down. A top-eight finish – again – is another possibility.
Luc Eymael, Cavin Johnson and Clinton Larsen will once again fight to finish within the top eight, but could find it difficult.
Meanwhile, Kaitano Tembo will be looking to repay the SuperSport United management’s faith in him by delivering. United struggled for the better part of last season and Tembo has a chance to right that.
As is the norm in football, it is not only about who will win the title, but which coach will be the first to bite the dust.