Baxter's promise to the Chiefs fans: 'The work we do here at Naturena will prepare these soldiers for battle'

Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter during the Caf Champions League semifinal, sceond Leg match against Wydad Athletic at FNB Stadium on June 26, 2021.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter during the Caf Champions League semifinal, sceond Leg match against Wydad Athletic at FNB Stadium on June 26, 2021.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Stuart Baxter refrained in his first press conference in South Africa back as Kaizer Chiefs coach to promise trophies or a return to the glory days‚ but he did commit to producing a team of “soldiers” who will aim to restore pride to the club.

Speaking in a virtual digital press conference on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s Carling Black Label pre-season match against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium‚ Baxter said it would be unwise to make “hot air promises to stir up enthusiasm”.

Already the return of the coach who oversaw Chiefs’ last period of trophy success before their unprecedented six-year drought has stirred up expectations among the club’s millions of supporters.

The appointments of another ex-Bafana Bafana head coach‚ Molefi Ntseki‚ as head of technical and the academy‚ and Kaizer Motaung Junior as sporting director‚ plus eight ambitious player signings‚ have further raised hopes of an upturn in fortunes at Naturena.

Baxter was asked what can be expected of Chiefs in the 2021-22 season.

“As a coach you’ve got to be very careful making hot air type of promises just to stir up enthusiasm‚” the coach responded.

“Kaizer Chiefs have not won anything for a long time. They have gotten close‚ but they’ve not won anything. When I first came it was the same sort of situation.

“Now I didn’t promise that I would win something in the first year when I was here before‚ and I won’t promise that now. Because those sort of over-optimistic promises in some way put pressure on these players who have got to go out and deliver that.

“But what I will promise them [the supporters] is that the work that we do here at Naturena will prepare these soldiers for battle. And when we go into battle I will promise them that we will not sell ourselves cheaply.

“That will be a promise that I will make them. Now hopefully that will lead to results‚ confidence in the group‚ belief in what we’re doing‚ and that will fuel better results‚ and we will then kick on‚ and start to bring some pride to the supporters‚ pride to the players.

“And I’m not saying it’s not been done before‚ but I’m just saying that is what needs to be done if we’re going to have the sort of results that we need to pick up some silverware.”

Baxter – after coaching Bafana in a tempestuous first stint in 2004 and 2005‚ failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup – returned to SA football amidst much scepticism as Chiefs coach in 2012. He impressively won league and cup doubles in 2012-13 and 2014-15.

He coached Bafana again in 2017 to 2019‚ failing to reach a second World Cup – Russia 2018 – but reaching the quarterfinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt by shocking the hosts 1-0 in the second round.

In 2012 Baxter took over a Chiefs that had been left in some state of disarray by predecessor Vladimir Vermezovic in a trophyless 2011-12. Then‚ as now‚ his start was marked by Amakhosi going into the transfer market with purpose.

Baxter also won his trophies in that stint at Naturena by getting the best out of some stars who had previously failed to reach their potential at Chiefs‚ including Bernard Parker‚ Mandla Masango‚ George Lebese and Tefu Mashamaite.