Legend of the week: Eric Tinkler


Born on July 30 1970 in Roodepoort, former Bafana Bafana midfielder Eric Tinkler enjoyed a journey that took him from Wits University to England and from England back to South Africa in his successful football career.

FARPost journeys back and looks into the road travelled by the hard tackling, tall and strong former Bafana destroyer.

Tinkler started his journey with Wits University between 1990 and 1991 playing 18 games for the ‘Clever Boys’ before moving abroad to join Vitoria Setubal in Portugal, which is where he established himself as a key member of the squad staying four seasons between 1992 and 1996 clocking a total of 84 games for the Portuguese club who were playing in the second tier at the time.

Tinkler donned the famous white and green colours of Setubal 84 times scoring 2 goals in the process while playing as a defensive midfielder.

He was also involved with the South African national team after re-admission to international football after an absence of decades due to sanctions that were imposed on the then apartheid government.

Tinkler participated in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaigns with SA failing to qualify for both tournaments. Later Tinkler would be a key figure in the middle of the park for host nation SA in the 1996 Afcon where Bafana were crowned champions under coach Clive Barker.

This is where the midfielder proved his worth in the midfield defending the back four with his life as Bafana went on to make history on home soil.

Tinkler’s performances for club and country earned him rave reviews all over Europe which led to him being lured to what was considered the best league in the world at the time, the Italian Serie A.

He signed for Cagliari for a reported 650, 000 Euros to move to Italy where he played 20 games in the 1996/7 season for the Island club.

English Premier League clubs would come calling for Tinkler a season later with Barnsley eventually signing him from Cagliari in 1997.

The SA international stayed in England with Barnsley for five seasons as he arrived in the 1997 season just after they gained promotion to the top flight, but a season later would be back in the second division again where they would campaign for sometime.

In 2002, Barnsley got relegated from the second division which prompted Tinkler to leave the club and moved to Portuguese club Caldas. Tinkler had clocked a maximum of 99 games scoring 9 goals in total for Barnsley while playing as a defensive midfielder in the five years he spent there.

The midfielder featured in the qualification campaign towards the 1998 FIFA World Cup, but would later miss out on the final squad to France ’98’ where SA was knocked out in the group stage phase of the tournament. Tinkler retired from international football in 2002 having played 45 games and scored a solitary goal for Bafana Bafana.

Back in club football and now at Portuguese club Caldas, the midfielder played a good three seasons with the club in which he featured 54 times scoring 15 goals before moving back to where it all started, Wits University.

In June 2005 the Afcon winner returned to his home land of Johannesburg where it all began for him. Tinkler opted to join Bidvest Wits in the last two seasons of his playing career. The midfielder would stay for two seasons with the ‘Clever Boys’ playing 29 games scoring three times before hanging up his boots .

He clocked a total of 303 career league games accompanied by 29 club goals in all the leagues he had featured in around the world. Tinkler is now a well established coach having coached Orlando Pirates, Cape Town City, Chippa United and and is currently with Maritzburg United.

Tinkler announced his arrival in the coaching scene with a bang in 2013 as caretaker coach at Soweto giants Orlando Pirates. Who would ever forget the 2015 CAF Confederation Cup campaign where Tinkler led the Buccaneers to the final before losing to Tunisian outfit, Etoile du Sahel.

Later Tinkler left Pirates to take to up a project in Cape Town with newly formed Cape Town City giving him the responsibility to spearhead their ambitions for their domestic season after football boss John Comitis had bought Mpumalanga based Black Aces.

Tinkler took the ‘Citizens’ to a top three finish in the league in the 2016/17 season. He also went on to reach yet another cup final winning the Telkom Knockout 2016/17 against SuperSport United. Tinkler would leave for Supersport United the following season where his bad run of performances in the league eventually had him sacked.

Contrary to the league form Supersport did well in the cup (MTN 8) under him and won the competition.

Tinkler then had a short stint with Chippa United in 2018 before moving to Maritzburg at end of the 2018/19 season saving the KZN club from relegation. His heroics earned him a long term contract with Maritzburg where he is currently coaching.

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By Prince Sobayeni

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