The football coach who can manage and survive a crisis is a rare species.
It is easier to build a long career with short coaching stints at many different clubs, than it is to build a long career with long spells at only a few clubs. Gavin Hunt has done both.
When it comes to length of games, his earlier stints at Seven Stars (12 league games), Hellenic (83) and Black Leopards (34) pale in comparison to his later stints at Moroka Swallows (150), SuperSport United (180) and Bidvest Wits (210).
There is also a clear chasm in terms of success.
League titles at SuperSport (3) and Wits (1) were probably the sections on his CV that made the Chiefs hierarchy decide he was the man for the job last year, and even the Swallows seasons (average position 5) can be considered a relative success.
5 – Gavin Hunt’s average finishing position in top-flight seasons where he is in charge for the entire season is 5th.
Having finished second last season & fired Ernst Middendorp, one would have believed that the main objective for Hunt was to improve on that and take Chiefs to first. A four-time title winner would be ideal. Yet, the management may have foreseen a scenario where the transfer ban would make things a bit more complicated. A coach with 21 PSL seasons under his belt and approaching his 700th PSL game would be ideal. Hunt has done both.
2 – Gavin Hunt has finished outside of the Top 8 in just two of his 21seasons where he was in charge for the full campaign.
Those two seasons were Hellenic in 2000/01 (14th) and Wits in 2016/17 (13th). The Wits slowdown may have been easier to stomach for a side that had just won the title. A season later, Wits finished 3rd – only knocked out of the title race in the 29th game. But, for a Chiefs fanbase that came so agonisingly close to the title last season, finding your team so far behind your rivals must be hard to take.
23 – If Chiefs fail to win this Sunday against Mamelodi, it will become mathematically impossible for them to catch Sundowns in the league, with seven games to play.
That said, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Recent results against Pirates, Wydad AC and Horoya show that writing Chiefs off is done at your own peril. In the moments that really matter, Hunt’s troops tend to show up. They should be motivated by knowing that Sundowns have never won three successive games against Chiefs in the PSL era.
0 – Sundowns have never completed a league double over Chiefs in PSL history.
They would not want to be the first side to lose home & away to Sundowns in the same season.
In fact, Chiefs are one of four teams that have won more league games (20) than they have lost against Sundowns (15). With one eye on invincibility, there is always the possibility that Sundowns may be more afraid to lose the remainder of their games and play with the handbrake on.
20 – Downs have lost more league matches against Chiefs (20) than any other PSL era side.
But this is a different Sundowns side, whose eyes are set on breaking and setting multiple PSL records. Sundowns are unbeaten in 21 league games this season (23 overall since the end of last season) – the longest unbeaten run from the start of a season in PSL history. Should they remain unbeaten until the end of the season, not only will they become the first side unbeaten in a season, but they will set a new 32-game unbeaten record for South African top-flight football.
1 – Chiefs have won just one of their last 10 games in the league (D6 L3). Chiefs (9 points), Chippa (7) and Leopards (5) are the only three sides that have won less than 10 points since that run began.
Can Gavin Hunt manage and survive this crisis?
Other Sunday matches.
Chippa United v Golden Arrows
20 – Arrows have won 20 points away from home this season, more than they managed in any of the last 10 seasons before this.
By Opta Jabu