Pressing Issues: Angels fear to tread near the coaching dugout

2015-03-15 15:00

Just how permanent is a coaching job?

But the question should rather be about whether the word ‘permanent’ can even be used in the same breath as “soccer coach”.

I found myself pondering these questions when I heard my old friend, 62-year-old Clive William Barker, was given the heave-ho at Mpumalanga Black Aces on Friday.

Well, as clubs usually do, they offered the tired bulls**t that he had been deployed to work in their development arm. We all know what that means. Siberia.

If you follow your football closely, you should have expected that Barker would be relieved of his duties sooner or later after a string of not-so-good results.

To be exact, by Wednesday night, Barker’s charges had only recorded a single victory, drawn four and lost five in their last 10 league matches since December.

Not a good record for a man who won the Africa Cup of Nations trophy with Bafana Bafana in what now seems like the very distant and faded past.

And being the old dog he is – excuse the pun about a man whose nickname was earned during his playing days at Durban City as The Dog – he must have seen it coming.

As the saying goes, it comes with the territory.

Having followed the game of the pigskin from the days I was still suckling milk from a bottle – thanks to my late father, Michael Dumezweni Mseleku, AKA Ace of Trouble – I have always wondered what lures people into this hazardous profession.

Not only does your job depend on 11 individuals who chase madly after a mercurial orb on a field with the aim of getting it between two poles and an upright, but you are also accountable to tens of thousands of people among an even crazier bunch known as fans.

This is the lot who take the word ‘fickle’ to another level. As a coach once opined, when the club wins, the fans shower the players with praise, telling anyone who will listen how good this lot clearly are.

But let the club lose just once, and the coach becomes useless – and the loss has nothing whatsoever to do with the players.

In almost the same boat as Barker is Ernst Middendorp, who goes by the monikers and Middendraws.

He was received with great fanfare by Chippa United fans when he replaced Roger Sikhakhane, a man with an on-again, off-again relationship with The Chilli Boys.

However, Middendorp’s relationship with the same fans has become so fraught that in the club’s last game they sang Thina Sifuna u Roger (We Want Roger).

Middendorp was welcomed by throngs of angry poster-waving fans when the club returned home. Fans, sure, but not his fans.

Speculation is Sikhakhane will soon be back in the saddle for the umpteenth time at Chippa.

Now tell me, what would make a man put himself in such harm’s way – repeatedly?

Elsewhere on this page, you will read about Fani Madida’s relegation battle. He was just given the Moroka Swallows coaching job “permanently”.

Looking at where they are on the log – second from bottom – I wouldn’t like to guess at how unalterable that arrangement might prove.

On the other hand, Eric Tinkler is yearning to be given the Orlando Pirates hot seat on a permanent basis.

There must be something wrong with these coaches, or we are just not cut from the same cloth.

In my few years of covering football, I have seen ghastly sights – grown-up men being escorted by police, or even soldiers, out of a stadium full of fans baying for their blood. This sometimes happened in the presence of their children and wives and while their families watched on television.

No thanks – they can keep their coaching jobs, no matter how much the pay.

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