Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has singled out the spine of the team as the main force behind Amakhosi’s success this season.
Although he said it was not easy to single out certain individuals, he paid tribute to his goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, central defender Tefu Mashamaite, midfielder Willard Katsande and striker Bernard Parker as having made the difference.
He referred to Khune as the best goalkeeper on the continent and “one of the best I have worked with”.
“The other goalkeepers have made lots of saves but Khune’s general approach put us in the driving seat and he was outstanding throughout the season,” said Baxter.
He said when they bought Morgan Gould at the beginning of the season they thought he would be the leader of the team but injuries prevented him.
“We had Mash (Tefu) and Tower (Molomowandau Mathoho), who was inexperienced but Mash for me came to the party.
“He grew in stature and matured quickly and many people were surprised by him. When I came here I was told he was not one of the best but I am sure without him we could have been sixth in the league.”
Baxter also paid tribute to Katsande, whom he had given an ultimatum to, forcing him to change his game.
“When I came he was a rush-tackling hooligan in the middle of the park. That’s what I called him. We played a friendly game and he nearly broke somebody’s leg and conceded a penalty.
“I told him he’s got to learn to play good football and he said to me ‘if you take time to teach me I’d learn’. He has turned out to be one of the best defensive midfielders in the country and has kept the team together.”
About Parker, who missed out on the top goal scorer award as he finished on twelve goals – one less than Moroka Swallows’ Katlego Mashego, Baxter said he had always admired the Bafana striker’s attitude and personality.
“I remember I saw him when I was in Sweden and I was interested in him. If you put him in the right areas and ask him to be a little patient, you have a top class player.”
The former Bafana coach said all the players played their roles in ensuring Chiefs won the trophy.
He said he had already identified players who must be recruited to the team for next season as they look to retain the title and conquer Africa.