Gavin Hunt-Kaizer Chiefs: Marriage of convenience that flopped dismally

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The famous Willard Katsande ‘kunzima Rob‘ expression aptly sums up Gavin Hunt’s appalling eight-month tenure at Kaizer Chiefs.

The awful report card left behind at Naturena by the four-time Premiership-winner says it all.

For the first time in their history, Chiefs had a goal difference in the negative [-3] going back to their first top-flight campaign in the 1971 National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).

The 36 points they amassed after Arthur Zwane guided them to wins in the last two games of the season marks their lowest points tally going back to 1971 [36 points].

In fact, their eight wins this season are the least number of victories in a league campaign in 50 seasons in the top-flight. Their previous least was nine in 2018/19.

In total, the 56-year-old oversaw 43 games, winning only 11, drawing 17 and losing 15, a pathetic record for the former SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits coach.

FARPost walks into the corridors of Naturena to gather why Hunt and Chiefs weren’t as compatible as they would have loved.

Mariage de convenance

In French they say mariage de convenance in reference to a marriage contracted for reasons other than that of love and commitment.

The man was going to be out of a job after Bidvest Wits were sold and needed a new job.

Chiefs, on the other hand, had just parted ways with Ernst Middendorp after he failed to deliver the League title.

Hunt was the only reputable local coach who was available at the time. But there was no chemistry between the two.

He often cut an unaffectionate and detached figure from the affairs of the club.

“The bottom line is that it is not what I think. It is what the club thinks. I know what is needed and what is not needed, but right now, it doesn’t matter what I think,” was the succinct reply when asked how he could transform the team’s fortunes.

Truth be told, if you work for a club like Kaizer Chiefs with a deep-rooted culture and history, you don’t count hours, minutes and seconds.

They don’t exist. It’s a 24/7 type of job, every single day is a learning curve. You want to invest your time in understanding the players, the staff, the board, the gardener and most importantly the supporters. Was Hunt ready for that? Absolutely doubtable!

Trying to change a lot

At his previous clubs he had the latitude to change a lot of things to suit himself, but at Chiefs he found a functioning system that had been in place for years.

For instance, he was reportedly not a fan of going to camp before matches and attempted to scrape them off.

However, he was met with opposition and that may have been a rude awakening that things wouldn’t work the way they did at his previous clubs.

It may have led to frustration knowing that he couldn’t have his way with everything at the Soweto giants.

Telling players they’re useless

The same players that came close to winning the League title the previous season were not good enough for him.

Hunt never hid that from them through the media. They were also aware he “had no wingers” to play the type of football he wanted to play.

“We need Khama [Billiat] back. As you saw today, I could not make a change. We had nobody on the bench to make a change. We have to get Khama and [Leonardo] Castro fit again so they can add numbers upfront, that is the biggest thing we can do,’’ he said.

It was also known among the players that he was going to sign certain players to replace them.

There was no way players could ‘play for him’ knowing they didn’t have his confidence.

Failing to create a conducive environment

The Bafana Bafana class of ’96 will tell you how their Afcon-winning coach Clive Barker was a father figure to them.

The environment was conducive for everyone to work. There was a sense of interest in the personal welfare of each of the players from him.

Because of that approach, the players would die for Barker. They were ready to wage war just for him.

The approach was apparently different from Hunt. It was the “if you don’t want to play, take your clearance and go” type of environment.

“We really need to look at our squad and have people who want to be here and play and the signings going forward is the key,” Hunt said.

He lost the dressing room

As a result of several factors, Hunt lost his dressing room. It is common knowledge that you need to trust the people you work with to get the best out of them.

The players would often discuss how the man had no confidence in them, something that disturbed the harmony of the team.

“We’ve made some unbelievable mistakes in the first round, you know, individual mistakes, which I haven’t seen in my time,” Hunt was quoted as saying.

His outdated methods

Hunt’s outmoded methods were at odds with the structures at Amakhosi. For instance, the video analysis personnel were left redundant.

He never hid the fact that he didn’t believe in modern ways like video analysis to prepare for a game in advance.

But it is a fact that football has evolved and technology is a massive part of it. In the past, teams would send scouts to watch and analyse opponents before games, but that has since been replaced, or rather partially replaced, by technology.

“…I’m old school. I don’t believe in too many videos and analysis. It’s all covering up for lack of knowledge, sorry to say…,” he is on record as saying in the video above.

While he may have been able to manoeuvre with that kind of approach at other clubs, it never worked at Chiefs.

With results not coming in the domestic League, it got people questioning his coaching methods.

In Rulani Mokwena’s words, South Africa’s most successful coach Pitso Mosimane is astute, knowledgeable and extremely in touch with modern trends.

“He does a lot of homework, he invests a lot of time into his coaching,” Mokwena told FARPost in a previous interview.

Working in isolation

He found people that had been at the club for long, but he would never listen to them or give thought to what they believed were solutions.

“He never listened to anyone one, I think he was used to working in isolation at his previous clubs. But it is different at Chiefs because this is a big team,” said a club source.

You would think a man like Arthur Zwane with all his Chiefs experience would be the man to help him navigate life at Naturena, but “he knew too much to listen to anyone”.

Thinly veiled public digs at management

Earlier in the year, Hunt publicly took a thinly veiled dig at the Chiefs management for signing Anthony Akumu as a midfielder, saying, “He’s not a midfield player‚ no chance. I don’t know what he was signed as but he’s definitely not a midfield player.

“And he’s played the last three — four games at centre-back, because obviously, we’ve got problems, but he looks a lot more comfortable.”

It is well known how transfers happen at Chiefs and his statement was seemingly exposing the loopholes in their approach.

An unceremonious exit was just inevitable. It was merely a matter of when!

RELATED STORY: The good, the bad and the ugly stats behind Hunt’s Chiefs tenure

By Mthokozisi Dube

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