Ever more football clubs are entrusting their former players with coaching responsibilities. In a handful of cases, head coaches are being assisted by their former team-mates.
It’s a growing trend in the English Premier League in particular, where powerhouses Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all have their former players heading their respective technical teams.
United is guided by their legendary striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær as the head coach, while his erstwhile team-mate Michael Carrick is his deputy.
Similarly, Chelsea’s technical team is led by one-time players at the team – the Blues great Frank Lampard is the main man and the club’s former midfielder Jody Morris is his assistant.
Arsenal have former midfielder Mikel Arteta in charge, with his old team-mate Freddie Ljungberg serving as assistant.
Locally, only a handful of former professional players make up the head coach-assistant combination at the PSL clubs they used to play for.
The Black Leopards duo of Morgan Shivambu and Mongezi Bobe recently became a rare set to take charge of their old club, albeit on a caretaker basis.
Their elevation was prompted by the resignation of head coach Alan Clark, who quit last month to join the Kosovo SuperLeague club FK Llapi.
Shivambu (38) and Bobe (39) start their joint responsibility against an in-form Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium this afternoon.
The duo said they were grateful for the opportunity because “not many clubs have trust in young coaches”.
“Our task is not simple, but this is a scarce opportunity for former professional players to be in charge at a PSL club,” said Shivambu, who has served as Leopards assistant coach since his retirement two seasons ago.
Bobe chipped in: “We are really thankful to the club’s management for giving us the platform to grow as coaches.”
The former attacking midfielder is still a novice in coaching, having only started his journey as the head coach of Leopards’ reserve side in the MultiChoice Diski Challenge at the beginning of this season before it was cut short by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in March.
Bobe, however, believes his two-decade long relationship with Shivambu stands them in good stead in their mission to save Leopards from relegation.
“We came a long way with Morgan. We first crossed paths during our playing days. He was still at Moroka Swallows, and I used to admire his style of play and nicknamed him Vieira [after the France and Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira],” said Bobe, who hails from Carltonville on the West Rand.
Shivambu, from Malamulele in Giyani, Limpopo, also recalled how “Dida”, as Bobe is known among his peers, convinced him to “come back home” and join Leopards.
Little did they know that they would one day share notes as coaches.
Interestingly, they were both signed by Leopards in August 2014, although it was Bobe’s second spell at the club.
The pair said they drew inspiration from their former team-mate, the legendary Leopards goalkeeper Joel Masutha, in their transition from playing to the technical bench. Masutha came through the coaching ranks at Leopards and, alongside Shivambu, guided Lidoda Duvha to promotion through the play-offs two seasons ago.
In fact, Shivambu, a defensive midfielder during his playing days, was a player-coach for most of Leopards’ games during the 2017/18 season that culminated in their return from the NFD wilderness.
Leopards boss David Thidiela said it was Vieira and Dida’s turn to convince the club not to look elsewhere for coaches this time around.
“Yes, we walked the road with our former player Masutha before, now Morgan and Mongezi must show us what they are capable of and we’ll talk at the end of the season. I have been wasting money on coaches and not all of them delivered,” said Thidiela.
Bobe said: “The club refers to us as coaches and not ‘caretaker coaches’. So it’s for us to prove how badly we want this opportunity on a full-time basis.”
Shivambu added: “We’ll help Leopards survive relegation.”
Looking ahead to their mission, the pair is excited to have FNB Stadium as their “home ground” for Leopards’ remaining games. The coaches said the venue suited Lidoda Duvha’s attacking game.
In today’s other Absa Premiership fixture, SuperSport United take on Bloemfontein Celtic at Bidvest Stadium at 6pm.
The fixture will pit the technical teams made up of the two club’s former players.