How does that old saying go? 'You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.' Most Kaizer Chiefs fans seem fairly happy that Amakhosi have got rid of Ernst Middendorp, on the back of another trophy-less season, Chiefs' fifth on the trot in a desperate era for the black and gold.
READ MORE: Chiefs await CAS decision on transfer ban appeal.
Even if Chiefs' capitulation in the bio-bubble can be placed on Middendorp's shoulders, however, the rot at Naturena started well before he came in for a second spell in the middle of the 2018/19 season. There is a decent argument, indeed, that Middendorp did well to guide Chiefs to 57 points in 30 games this season, especially if one looks at the efforts of Steve Komphela and Giovanni Solinas before him.
Whoever takes over at Chiefs, with Gavin Hunt the current favourite, will have plenty to work on, with the added issue that they may not be able to buy players, if Chiefs' transfer ban is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. Here are five challenges for anyone taking up the hot-seat at Amakhosi.
The potential transfer ban
Whoever comes in at Kaizer Chiefs, it is debatable whether they will have a squad capable of challenge Sundowns for the 2020/21 Absa Premiership title, especially if they cannot add to their ranks. Middendorp actually did pretty well for most of the season to get the best out of a squad that lacked depth, as shown when George Maluleka left the club during lockdown, and Chiefs were a far worse side for it when football resumed.
Even if there is no ban, will the new Chiefs coach have autonomy in the transfer market?
Let's be honest, it hasn't always been the head coach at Kaizer Chiefs who has decided which players to bring into Amakhosi. Part of the reason for Stuart Baxter's decision to leave Chiefs in 2015 is said to be his anger at the club failing to bring in striker James Keene, who was ultimately snapped up by Bidvest Wits. If Gavin Hunt does take over, he will surely want to know just how much impact he can have on signings, provided the Fifa ban is lifted.
Can the new coach get Khama Billiat flying again?
Khama Billiat did net twice in his last two Absa Premiership games for Chiefs under Middendorp, but that was not quite enough to get them over the title line and it is safe to say that the Zimbawean attacker has generally underwhelmed at Chiefs since joining from Mamelodi Sundowns in 2018. Just 12 goals in 60 appearances in all competitions is a poor return for a man who was so stellar in a Masandawana shirt. Billiat had his run-ins with Middendorp, and any new Chiefs coach will surely have to get the 30 year-old onside ahead of the new season.
The Itumeleng Khune conundrum
Itumeleng Khune is another player Chiefs could do with having fully fit and back to his best, though there is a question over whether the former Bafana Bafana captain and current Amakhosi skipper will ever return to his glory days. Khune played the last two games of the season for Chiefs, when Daniel Akpeyi got injured, and signs of his glorious ball distribution were there but he also looked more than a little rusty. Akpeyi was a pleasant bonus for Chiefs this season, his superb displays meaning the side didn't miss Khune too much. But will he be able to sustain that next season, or will the new coach have to get Khune back in the groove?
Living in the shadow of Sundowns
It's hard, let's be honest, for any coach to win trophies outside of Mamelodi Sundowns, the dominant side in the game by some distance, that have just captured a third league title in a row, and will seal a domestic treble if they beat Bloemfontein Celtic in Saturday's Nedbank Cup final. The pressure is on at Kaizer Chiefs to get trophies, but Sundowns are buying up a host more players right now, with their new signings set to only make them stronger next season! Gavin Hunt did well as Wits coach to compete with Sundowns, but still only won one league title, in 2017. Will there be a similar understanding for a new man at Naturena, that fighting Pitso Mosimane's amazing team is no easy task. The same understanding was certainly not given to Middendorp.
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