Maritzburg United coach Eric Tinkler says he expects Kaizer Chiefs to be a different proposition under new coach Gavin Hunt when the sides clash in their MTN8 quarterfinal at the FNB Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Kick off is at 3pm (CET) live on SuperSport PSL channel 202, live streaming through DStv Now and ShowMax.
Tinkler gives his thoughts ahead of the game and also explains why he brought Venezuelan striker Jose Ali Meza to the club.
How have your preparations for the new season, and particularly your MTN8 quarterfinal, gone so far?
We have a great opportunity to play against Kaizer Chiefs and get ourselves into the semifinals of the MTN8. I am an ambitious coach that has come to this club, which would love to win trophies. It hasn’t happened yet, but as a coach I would love to try and achieve that here. Right now the squad has been working extremely hard over the last four weeks that we have been back in training. Everybody is looking forward to the match on Sunday.
Chiefs have a new coach in Gavin Hunt, but have been unable to sign any new players due to their transfer ban. Are you expecting a ‘different’ AmaKhosi?
Definitely not the same team. Same players, yes, but it is going to be an extremely different team. Gavin Hunt has shown he is an astute coach that has won leagues and cups, and those players are going to be highly motivated to show their worth to him. He is a winner and plays a brand of football that is difficult to compete against. Last season Chiefs were very good on the set-pieces, I think that will continue or even get better under Gavin. We need to plan and prepare extremely well because it will be a tough battle.
Do you think the way they lost the league on the final day of last season might have left some psychological scars?
That is the hope! But we will only know what state they are in psychologically when the referee blows that whistle. We will only know the effects of them having lost the league when the game starts. But they have a very astute coach, who wants to win and achieve things. The same way I believe my winning mentality and philosophy rubs off on my players, I think it is the same with Gavin Hunt.
You did not finish last season as you would have hoped, managing just three points from a possible 18 in the bio-bubble …
Our momentum was extremely good up until lockdown happened. We were on five games without a loss, the motivation, passion and desire was all there. But playing in the bubble, for us to secure the results we wanted proved difficult. Had the season continued [normally] we could potentially have finished a lot higher than what we did in the league. My ambition and motivation is always wanting to win and achieve things, and what becomes important is that rubs off onto the squad and the technical team. I must carry myself the right way, especially now the way things are. We need to keep these players motivated because it is going to be an extremely tough season without having our ‘12th man’ [the fans], they were extremely important to us, especially at home on a Friday night.
You have brought in striker Jose Ali Meza from Mamelodi Sundowns. What does he bring for you?
I had Ali Meza here last season because there was the potential that he could come on loan. He played a friendly game against Wits and he fitted in like a glove. He helps us with the way I want us to play and is an intelligent footballer. So he fits perfectly into the way I want us to go. Credit must go to Ali Meza, because I think he enjoyed the experience of being coached by me for those three days. He was always speaking to [former Maritzburg and Sundowns striker] Jeremy Brockie and telling him that he wants to be coached by me, and now that is what happened.
We have also seen a rebirth of the career of another forward, Thabiso Kutumela. What is around his change in fortunes?
When I arrived at the club, the first thing I noticed was that Kutumela was carrying a bit of extra weight. To get him into better condition was the first thing that was most important. I must commend him because he put in the extra hours to shed that weight and I think that has made him a lot stronger and quicker. We know his ability, it is also just about ensuring his lifestyle off the field is a better one. Credit again must go to him, he is looking after himself better.