Tuesday Aug 03, 2021. 12:00
Kaizer Chiefs manager Stuart Baxter has acknowledged a rise in expectations for his team, but emphasises that there is a lot of hard work ahead if they are to end their trophy drought.
Chiefs, after the disappointment of being thrashed by Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final last month, have brought in several new signings and gave a promising performance in this past weekend’s Carling Black Label Cup against Orlando Pirates.
Though the game ended 0-0, the Amakhosi were the better team throughout and deservedly won 4-3 on penalties.
“I think when you bring new players into a club it always creates expectation,” Baxter said after the match, as quoted by Times Live.
Ending a painful trophy drought which now stretches back more than six years is the key goal for Chiefs. They have come agonisingly close in the past year, with the above-mentioned Champions League defeat following a final-day capitulation in the 2019-20 PSL title race under former manager Ernst Middendorp.
“I think our supporters’ expectations are tempered by their relative disappointment in the last few seasons, apart from Ernst’s title run. I think they are quite realistic.
“I think this will encourage them to be unrealistic because I think we played a lot of good stuff, and a lot of the new lads were very bright.
“None of the new players who have come in have disappointed me. I thought there were enough shoots of green grass [on Sunday night] to indicate we may be able to make a pretty garden out of this one.
“But it will be difficult. It will be hard for them [the signings]. They’ve got to prove they are Chiefs players.
“I think some of them did [on Sunday]. They showed they can play with a bit of pressure against the old enemy. I think it’s interesting.
“On the expectation, I’ll give you a quote from Phil Jackson, the Chicago Bulls coach with Michael Jordan. He’d won the league two years running and went to the press conference and said, ‘We’re going to win the league again next year’.
“The players came to him and said, ‘Hey, boss, we’ve got to get on the court and do that – you’ve just put pressure on us’. He said, ‘Make it a friend. Make it a friend – don’t dodge it’.
“So expectations, we don’t dodge, we do what we can. But you can’t play with a knife at your throat — you’ve got to make a friend of it. Those expectations, we’re top athletes and we’ve got to make those demands upon ourselves.
“You can’t promise winning leagues, you can’t promise winning cups, but what you can promise is that you’ll deal with the pressure and give your best performance. On the day that may not be good enough, but don’t give it substandard because you couldn’t handle the pressure.”
Chiefs’ 2021-22 campaign will open on the weekend of 14-16 August when they face Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8, followed by their first DStv Premiership match of the season, away to TS Galaxy, on 22 August.