Bernard Parker opens up on adjusting to life after Gavin Hunt's departure from Kaizer Chiefs
Briton Stuart Baxter has been at Kaizer Chiefs for only a few days but captain Bernard Parker says the new coach has already had an impact on the players.
Chiefs sacked coach Gavin Hunt after only one season last month and Parker said the reforms currently under way at Naturena — former Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has also been appointed as head of technical and the youth development academy — have brought many players out of their shell.
“The change has brought life out of this squad, not only on the field, but also in the dressing room as well,” Parker said.
“The guys are happy, meaning, I am saying wherever in the world, not only in football, where there is change, we all want to impress the boss. So this is what the guys want to do, they just want to impress the boss.
“Others who did not play, now they stand a chance to impress the boss so that they can get the nod. Others who were playing regularly, it is now for them to reset and also impress the boss. The good thing is with [caretaker] coach Arthur and coach Dillon, they have brought the spark back in terms of belief.
“I believe that will tick all the boxes in terms of confidence, motivation, courage and other ingredients we need to play for. We got the result in the meanwhile.”
Baxter is certainly no stranger to life at Naturena as he was the last coach to lead Chiefs to the winners' podium, and it has been a barren six years since his departure in 2015.
Apart from two league titles‚ Baxter won the 2013 Nedbank Cup and 2014 MTN8 in his first stint at Chiefs from 2013 to 2015.
“Now that Mr Baxter has come home again, I would say, he knows the club in and out, he knows the players in and out, which is also an extra plus as well,” Parker continued.
“So it is exciting times again for the brand and we only want to work hard, work together and have a working relationship to get the brand where it belongs and get the best out of each other as well for the brand to get back to where it belongs.”
Chiefs departed for Morocco on Tuesday night to continue preparations ahead of their Caf Champions League showdown against Wydad Casablanca at Stade Mohammed V on Saturday night.
Parker has won everything on the domestic front and the Champions League offers him, and the club, an opportunity to claim a priceless medal that is missing from the trophy cabinet.
The 35-year-old has spent over a decade at Naturena after arriving in 2011 from Dutch-side FC Twente, and after winning several trophies with Chiefs on the domestic front, he now has the continent's biggest club football title in his sights.
“I feel great, I feel great. Time flies hey, it’s been 10 years already,” he said.
“Won much, I think I’ve won every trophy I would say. I’ve represented a country [Bafana in] over 70 caps. It’s been a wonderful career.
“And what a way to also be blessed with as well being part of the Kaizer Chiefs team that’s going into the semifinal of the Caf Champions League.
“This is massive, this is huge, this is big, this is where we as a team can make history.
“And it will be lovely for me to be part of this history in my 10th year and draw my experiences and draw all my lessons learnt and draw all my positiveness I have had throughout my career, it was for me to lead the team, which I’ve always done, with a big heart, with a whole lot of courage and belief and share that belief among the guys, so that the guys can also have more belief in themselves.
“And believe you me, with belief anything is possible with the squad that we have. So it’s just for us to focus, keep our focus narrow, for the next two weeks [over the two legs of this Champions League semifinal].
“But most importantly, take one game at a time. And going into this first leg semifinal, [it] is for us to go in wholeheartedly with a clear mind and a fresh body. And everything else will follow in terms of our quality, the techniques and the dynamics. So it’s exciting times and happy times.”