Judging a new coach by their first few games is always a futile exercise. When the new manager is brought in midway through the season, it’s even more foolhardy.
Jan Olde Riekerink came midway through the 2019/20 season and won three of his first 10 games. In December 2012, Pitso Mosimane came in midway through the season and also won three of his first 10 league games at Mamelodi Sundowns. However, when a coach comes into a team and sets multiple club records in the space of four months, there may be exceptions to the rule.
Let’s look at some of the records Benni McCarthy has set at AmaZulu.
- McCarthy won 10 of his first 15 league games in the AmaZulu dugout (W10 D4 L1). The 67% win rate is the best 15-game start for a coach in the club’s PSL history and the first above 50% (the previous best was Roger Palmgren, 47%).
- AmaZulu kept six consecutive clean sheets in the top-flight for the first time in their PSL history (March – April)
- Usuthu won six successive games for the first time in the club’s PSL history.
- The KwaZulu-Natal side became the first side to win five consecutive league games this season
- AmaZulu have won more matches (11) and collected more points (38) than any other top-flight side since McCarthy took over.
Not only that, but the records are continuing:
14 – AmaZulu are currently on a run of 14 games without defeat in the league, the longest the club has gone without a loss in the PSL era.
While these records are impressive by themselves, they are even more admirable when you consider the context in which they have come. Usuthu were two points above the relegation zone with six points from six games when Benni watched on the sidelines in the club’s first game after being appointed.
If CT City win and other results go their way, AmaZulu could be level with Sundowns at the top of the table with five games to play until the end of the season. One of the results they need is Sundowns losing to Arrows today, which is not inconceivable when you consider that Arrows are in 3rd place, also enjoying the season of their lives.
However, they must first beat his former club CT City when the two sides meet today. The narrative will all be about Benni’s return to his first club and his performance will most likely be juxtaposed with the man that replaced him. If the side had met a few weeks ago, the juxtaposition would have been even more discernible.
McCarthy was leading AmaZulu on the run of a record successive wins, while Jan Olde Riekerink was overseeing City’s worst run as a club – 8 games without a win. But the City revival has started to gain momentum recently.
3 – The Citizens have won three consecutive league games for only the second time under Jan Olde Riekerink (3 also in March (1) & then in the bio-bubble (2) last year).
They have never won four in a row under the Dutchman, and if questions are being raised on whether it was a mistake to let Benni McCarthy go, he can answer them emphatically with a victory today.
1 – CT City (24) are the only team that has scored more goals than AmaZulu (23) since McCarthy’s first game in the Usuthu dugout.
With Sundowns unbeaten record broken on the weekend, City now hosts the team (and man) of the moment. The City-AmaZulu match would have been a mid-table dead rubber at this stage of the season, but it is now more than that. What looked like a league title procession for the Invincibles just two weeks ago could morph into one of the most intriguing title races in recent years.
This would be fitting as we enter the final month of the 25th PSL season.
Kaizer Chiefs v Chippa United
11 – Chippa are winless in eleven league games (D5 L6 since January 23), the longest winless run by any team this season.
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila v Bloemfontein Celtic
0 – Celtic are the only team yet to win an away game this season (D5 L7).
Baroka – TS Galaxy
1 – Baroka have won just one home game since the start of the year (D3 L4). Only Chippa (0) have less.
Sundowns v Arrows
1 – Arrows have won just one of their last 12 matches away to Sundowns (Drew 3, Lost 8 since 2010).
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By Optab Jabu