Fredericks on challenges faced by Hunt at Chiefs: 'Not being able to sign is a massive blow'

Gavin Hunt is confident star forward Khama Billiat will soon start banging in the goals.
Gavin Hunt is confident star forward Khama Billiat will soon start banging in the goals.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Being blocked from signing in key positions and adjusting to an environment where the old school-style dressing down might have to be replaced by man-management are factors contributing to Gavin Hunt’s rough start at Kaizer Chief‚ Stanton Fredericks has said.

Chiefs – who have a two-window transfer ban – have won two‚ drawn one and lost three league and cup games in 2020-21‚ ahead of their DStv Premiership match-up against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday.

Ex-Amakhosi and Bafana Bafana wing star “Stiga” Fredericks said Covid-19’s new normal‚ no crowds‚ and the psychological effects of that plus the comedown from failing to win the Premiership on the final day last season are added challenges for four-time league winner Hunt.

Hunt replaced Ernst Middendorp‚ who Chiefs opted to not continue with despite guiding a squad that finished ninth in 2018-19 to runners-up in a 2019-20 campaign that ended in uncharted territory of a Gauteng bio-bubble after a four-month lockdown.

“I have to touch on what Ernst Middendorp and [assistant] Shaun Bartlett did with the players at their disposal last season‚” Fredericks told TimesLIVE‚ asked to break down the challenges he sees for his betting and golfing mate Hunt at Chiefs.

“ … Middendorp brought the best out of the players. They worked‚ they never played attractive football‚ but they had a winning mentality. Chiefs fought.

“So here comes a different era‚ and this is the same case for every team out there. I think the Covid pandemic was such a struggle – because we can just imagine; we were not in that bubble.

“The psychological part players are dealing with now we can’t understand. And maybe in two years we’ll look back and say‚ ‘Oh players reacted like this because it was post-Covid’.

“So‚ trying to answer your question on Gavin and having a difficult start‚ I think that defeat they got handed from Orlando Pirates [5-0 on aggregate in the MTN8 semifinals] is really causing a lot of in-depth analysis‚ putting the spotlight on to say‚ ‘Wow‚ how bad are we?’

“We could have been talking a different story now if Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat scored from those early chances in the first leg. But because of the scoreline it now seems like it’s going to be a very difficult situation.

“Huntie coming in‚ not being able to sign is a massive blow. Because wherever Gavin has gone he’ll sign in pivotal positions.

“He’ll get the centreback – Thulani Hlatshwayo‚ Bongani Khumalo‚ Ricardo Katza – he wants. He’ll get the guy in the middle‚ and get his two strikers – one who can hold the ball up and is good in the air‚ one who can connect.

“The second challenge is the injury to Samir Nurkovic‚ because he showed his impact last season.

“I think their squad isn’t where it should be in terms of the pedigree of Chiefs‚ and a few signings can change that. You can see Gavin is trying to find his combinations in the middle‚ and in defence‚ and a signing or two could solve that.”

Fredericks said playing in front of empty stadiums is more of a disadvantage for a team who more than any other are used to a crowd‚ than an advantage to reduce pressure on Hunt‚ whose pedigree and the fact he’s South African would have bought him patience from Chiefs fans.

The ex-winger said a challenge the coach will have to overcome is he is used to smaller-club environments and less players with egos‚ where the hairdryer treatment would be more effective.

“The challenge for Coach Huntie is that you’re going to need to manage your star players‚” Fredericks said.

“There is no doubt‚ we know his pedigree‚ it’s just a matter of time that he’s going to win. But that struggle is: how do you manage personalities‚ how do you manage players who are earning big bucks‚ who are playing at a big team‚ are very famous?

“That is a challenge he never needed to face. And this is an opportunity for him to do that. Because he’s going to have to do things a bit differently.

“I’m part of the old school where if I have a coach like Eddie Lewis or Gavin Hunt‚ and it comes to training or I have a bad match‚ or half time he lashes you – he expects a reaction.

“That’s Huntie’s players he uses. Now it’s a different ball game. You need to tell Billiat‚ ‘Listen’‚ you need to explain to Willard Katsande why you’re dropping him.

“And I’m sure he knew that going into the job. And that is something we will have to see‚ and I would love to see – how he manages that aspect.”