If he had been offered a season opening run of fixtures featuring TS Galaxy, Baroka, Royal AM, Mamelodi Sundowns and Marumo Gallants at the beginning of the season, Stuart Baxter would have volunteered to swim all the way from Scotland to take it.
For starters, he would have looked at the names and thought to himself that four of these sides were not even in the top-flight when he was last at Chiefs (the oldest, Baroka were promoted the season after he left Chiefs). The Royal AM case is debatable. Secondly, he would have looked at last season’s log table and seen that four of these sides finished below Chiefs last season, who themselves were 8th.
8 – Sundowns’ fixture aside, Chiefs’s opening five fixtures follow the exact order in which the teams finished behind Chiefs (8th) last season – Galaxy (1st game) Baroka (2nd), Royal AM (4th, as Celtic) and Marumo Gallants (5th) finished 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th on the table.
We put the Sundowns fixture aside because there is no harm to your reputation should you lose to the defending champions, especially on their current form. Whether that defending champion is Chiefs, Pirates, Sundowns or SuperSport United, if there is one match a team can be allowed to lose, it’s against the defending champions. What of the rest?
Three of the other fixtures have come and gone, but Chiefs have won one, drawn one and lost the other. It’s the nightmarish nature of the last defeat that has sowed seeds of doubt (where there were none) in Stuart Baxter’s ability to revive Amakhosi’s fortunes. The trepidation that surrounds Baxter’s second era at Chiefs is in stark contrast to the jubilation that accompanied the first.
But that’s the thing with “second comings” – you’re not building on a blank canvas. Expectations are that you’ll restore the club to the standards that once elevated your reputation and cemented your status as a club legend.
94 – Baxter has been in charge of 94 league games as Chiefs coach. He needs 6 more to become only the second coach to manage 100 league games for the club in the PSL era.
As the current fixtures stand, the Soweto derby against Orlando Pirates in six weeks’ time is penned in to be his 100th league game at the club. True to their glamorous nature, the Glamour Boys likely have major celebrations planned for that event. Even if the unthinkable happens, and he loses every game between now and then, he is still guaranteed to have the best win rate of both coaches to reach 100 league games at the club. You probably can only whisper it now, but the growing feeling is that he may not even get to 100 games.
Baxter has six games to prove that he is worthy of the celebration come 6 November.
Fortunately for him, they travel to one of the few sides performing worse than Chiefs this season this Sunday – Marumo Gallants. The ironically named Gallants are currently rock-bottom, with a solitary point but still without a goal to their name in the league this season. Aiming to reverse that trend against a team with the reigning defender of the season, Njabulo Ngcobo, would not have been relished by Gallants coach, Sebastien Migne. Except this Chiefs defence have been surprisingly generous so far.
7 – Seven goals in the opening four league games is the joint-worst defensive start in PSL history for Chiefs, and the first time this has happened in 13 years (7 goals in 4 also during the 1997/98 and 2008/9 seasons).
The idea that three games into the PSL season, Marumo Gallants against Kaizer Chiefs would be a relegation six-pointer may have sounded preposterous a month or two ago.
Yet, here we are.
Royal AM v TS Galaxy
Royal AM and TS Galaxy face off in the other Sunday fixture fresh off contrasting results. The KZN side beat Chiefs by a three goal margin last weekend, while The Rockets lost by the same margin. Royal AM became only the third PSL side to score four goals in an away league game at Chiefs, but the first to score 4 and also win by 3+ goals away to Chiefs.
2007 – John Maduka played for Celtic against Owen Da Gama’s Platinum Stars, scoring the opener as Celtic beat Stars 2-1 then.
By Opta Jabu