Wits coach Gavin Hunt showers praise on Kaizer Chiefs counterpart Ernst Middendorp
Ernst Middendorp has managed to get the best from the players he has at his disposal in 2019-20‚ Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt has admitted of his Absa Premiership-leading Kaizer Chiefs counterpart.
Chiefs – ninth-placed finishers in 2018-19‚ where a loss against GladAfrica Championship side TS Galaxy in the Nedbank Cup final saw Amakhosi go to four seasons without a trophy – have confounded expectations leading the chasing pack under Middendorp‚ previously considered more of a journeyman coach and relegation fixer.
Hunt credits Middendorp and his technical team with getting the best out of a squad that‚ bolstered by some clever but previously largely unheralded signings‚ led the league with a four-point gap‚ having played a game more‚ over champions Mamelodi Sundowns when the league season was suspended due to the coronavirus on March 16.
“I think they made one or two good signings. And I think what they’ve done well this year at Chiefs is found a way to play with the players that he [Middendorp] has got‚” four-time league winner Hunt said.
“They do play a little bit differently to most teams in South Africa – the way that the team is set up. And that’s all credit to Ernst and his coaching staff.
“That’s experience. And he’s got that experience. I mean he’s been around for ages‚ and he knows what to do and not to do‚ and he’s proved again this year he knows what’s happening.
“To play with those two strikers [Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro] up-front the way he does – obviously it’s what he’s got.
“I’m sure he’d want to play with wingers‚ which he doesn’t have so he uses the fullbacks‚ blah blah.
“I know they’ve been criticised for the style‚ but I haven’t even looked at that. I just look at the points‚ and say right now they’re doing well and they’re the team to catch.
“If you look at the old Kaizer Chiefs teams‚ do they have that same swagger and same guile? No they don’t.
“When Stuart [Baxter] was there he won the league playing counterattack football. And fair play – he’s won trophies‚ you can’t take it away from them.
“Everybody wants to play like Barcelona or Real Madrid. But you’ve got to have the players to do that.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to find a way to get the best out of what you’ve got.
“You’ve got to give Ernst and his team credit this season for where they are.
"How they’ve got there – the first games where the goals were disallowed and the referees – that’s gone.”
Before the Covid-19 crisis Wits were in sixth place on 38 points from 21 games‚ 10 behind Chiefs (48 from 22) when the league was suspended‚ though still in with an outside chance at the title as they were due to meet Amakhosi twice before the end.