At the end of last season, Kaizer Chiefs fired head coach Ernst Middendorp after losing the league title on the last matchday. Amakhosi needed only three points against relegation-threatened Baroka to win the title. They drew (1-1), their supporters cried, and German mentor sealed his fate.
In mid-September, Kaizer Chiefs announced Gavin Hunt as their new coach. The arrival of Hunt, South African football second-most winningest coach, breathed new hope in a deflated fanbase.
Gavin Hunt, however, has begun his Glamour Boys adventure in the worst possible way. His team has lost three, drawn one, and won two of its first six games. In those matches, they have scored three goals (two set pieces and one own goal) and conceded nine. Kaizer Chiefs’ performances have ranged between “not too shabby” to “this is the worst I’ve seen a Kaizer Chiefs team play in my life”.
Amakhosi cannot make any signings this season because of their FIFA imposed transfer ban. This is the squad Gavin Hunt is going to have to encourage to play better than “not too shabby”. Let’s take a look at the Kaizer Chiefs picture—and the factors that could shape their future under their new coach:
What is the Kaizer Chiefs management expecting from Gavin Hunt this season?
Gavin Hunt was a free agent after Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila F.C. (TTM) bought the PSL status of his previous team, Bidvest Wits. It took days of negotiations for Kaizer Chiefs to meet Hunt’s demands. Satisfied with what Chiefs were offering, the 56-year-old put pen to paper and signed on as their new head coach.
Having a coach like Gavin Hunt doesn’t come cheap but you’ll probably get what you pay for. Hunt’s reputation comes before him, he has won four league titles and four trophies in South African football.
What would the Chiefs top brass consider to be a good season for the team?
Amakhosi are a big team who should compete for every available trophy, every season. Ernst Middendorp got Kaizer Chiefs, with the same players, to 30 minutes away from winning the league. It would only be fair for Hunt, a far more accomplished coach, to do him one better or to at least win a cup.
But, Gavin Hunt has inherited a team low on confidence. The loss last season did have an effect on them, you can see it in their performances in the first few games. Without the ability to bring in new players to lift spirits and quality of play, it would only be fair to give Gavin Hunt a bit more time.
What are the supporters expecting from Gavin Hunt this season?
Kaizer Chiefs fans celebrated (on social media anyway) as if they won the league after their new coach was announced. They put their team’s heart-breaking slip up on the last day of the season behind them, and looked toward a brighter future, filled with trophies and happy face emoji’s.
What would Chiefs fans consider to be a good season for their team?
Amakhosi supporters may have rejoiced a bit too early and also misjudged the type of season they had under Ernst Middendorp. Yes, they didn’t win anything in their last campaign but they did well considering the talent pool the German coach had at his disposal. Middendorp was working with a small ageing squad that had not been replenished with top talent in years. He worked miracles to get them playing as effectively as they did.
Mamelodi Sundowns (3-0) and Orlando Pirates (3-0 and 0-2) have already exposed Kaizer Chiefs’ lack of quality and squad depth this season. These three losses against their closest rivals hurt but I have not seen or heard a Chiefs supporter placing the blame at Gavin Hunt’s feet – yet. Kaizer Chiefs are now in their six-season without silverware. Their trophy cabinet is gathering dust, their supporters are the butt of memes and not-so-funny TikTok videos. Will the fans be okay with another cup-less campaign? How much longer will Chiefs fans take the abuse from their opposing peers before they are grumblings of discontent?
How many of the young players will Gavin Hunt integrate into his Kaizer Chiefs first team?
In his first 6 matches as head coach, Gavin Hunt has given young players a chance to play in his Kaizer Chiefs first team. This is a trademark of Gavin Hunt, giving the youngsters opportunities to show their worth, he did the same during his time at Supersport United and Bidvest Wits.
But how does he get the balance right?
Against Sundowns and Orlando Pirates he subbed on his young players when both games were all but decided. Throwing teenagers into the deep end in a losing effort kills their confidence. Youngsters like Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Njabulo Blom have performed well but others like Keletso Sifama and Happy Mashiane haven’t impressed. The latter two are as talented as the former but have not adapted as well to Gavin Hunt’s youth integration methods. His fast-tracking of the handful of young talent has not worked so far. Hunt would be better suited to include one of two young players into the squad at a time.
How many of the experienced players will Gavin Hunt axe from his Kaizer Chiefs squad?
Gavin Hunt doesn’t rate most of the Kaizer Chiefs stalwarts. Players like Willard Katsande, Eric Mathoho, and Itumeleng Khune have found it difficult to break into his first team.
Hunt’s constant chopping and changing of matchday squads gives you an idea of the amount of confidence he has in his new players.
Who stays and who goes?
Right now, Gavin Hunt does not have the luxury to axe players. Again, Chiefs have a small squad, cannot sign any players, and their youth players aren’t ready to play at this level.
Kaizer Chiefs do have decent players in their ranks. Maybe Hunt should let players play through their dip in form, especially ones that have proved their quality in the past. The Chiefs squad’s confidence is low right now. Ideally, Coach Gavin would want to build up their self-confidence rather than changing his team every week.
How will Gavin Hunt handle the goalkeeping situation?
Itumeleng Khune couldn’t get a sniff of the starting goalkeeping position last season under Ernst Middendorp. We (the Twitterverse) figured the German had personal issues with Itu. Why else would he drop him? We had confidence Itumeleng Khune was a new technical team away from restoration to Kaizer Chiefs’ number one keeper.
Well… things haven’t quite worked out that way. Itumeleng Khune, after starting the first two games, has found himself on the bench – again. More than one coach now thinks Daniel Akpeyi is a better keeper the former SA number one.
How does Gavin Hunt’s choice of goalkeeper affect his job?
Itumeleng Khune did, in their 3-0 loss to Sundowns, make two errors that cost Chiefs two goals. Everybody makes mistakes, right? Khune’s shot-stopping, handling and distribution skills are superior to Akpeyi. Plus the Nigerian keeper did concede five goals against Orlando Pirates in two games.
Khune is the captain of the team. He is loved by the supporters. He is has a big personality and highly respected by the management and players.
Having unhappy popular players – who have influence – in a dressing room is a recipe for disaster for a new coach. Could Hunt bench Itumeleng Khune the while whole season without any backlash from supporters and the management?