In Nigeria‚ in a tiny room at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium ahead of Bafana Bafana’s June Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo‚ Stuart Baxter played the local press like a concert violinist.
Baxter had the Nigerian media soaking up his witticisms and common sense in such a calm‚ confident‚ accomplished display that any doubts one had over his appointment were almost put aside.
The next day South Africa beat Nigeria – a promising‚ emerging Nigeria who had a three-week camp in France preparing – 2-0 for Bafana’s first competitive victory against the Super Eagles.
It was a bombshell.
Bafana have a habit of starting well under new coaches. Still‚ Baxter had been very impressive – on the field‚ alongside it‚ off it.
Fast forward just three months‚ and Baxter has dropped a bollock to such an extent with two defeats against Cape Verde‚ two sets of starting line-ups that were so dubious‚ and two such poor performances that the question can even be asked – is Stuart Baxter still the right man to coach Bafana Bafana?
At one level: no. And it has nothing to do with the coach’s ability purely as a coach.
Public sentiment has just turned so far‚ so quickly against Baxter – never a popular appointment in the first place – that it is hard to see him recovering from two defeats that will surely cost Bafana their place at the 2018 World Cup.
Baxter seems to have an unenviable knack for walking into a minefield‚ and stepping on all the landmines.
From his appointment – controversial in what was perceived as the dictatorial manner in which it was handled by Safa president Danny Jordaan‚ which did Baxter no favours – and that win against Nigeria‚ the slide has been alarmingly quick.
Leaked stories reflected that there were many within Safa who were against the appointment.
They contributed to the messiness of the noise around Baxter.
The coach found himself defending accusations that he had asked for his son‚ Lee‚ to be appointed his Bafana goalkeeper-coach – and not convincingly.
Baxter’s reluctance and fussiness were emerging as attributes that‚ like predecessor Shakes Mashaba’s stubbornness‚ might be his downfall.
Faced with the inevitable withdrawals of players that every Bafana coach must deal with Baxter created a negative energy around the Cosafa Cup and the Chan.
At the same time‚ the coach was doing a lot of things right.
He was meeting with PSL clubs‚ and talking to their coaches.
But he seemed selective in who he was asking advice from‚ strengthening strong ties that already existed‚ but perhaps not mending some weaker ones.
The semi-appointment of Quinton Fortune – who had turned his back on Bafana as a player so many times – as assistant-coach turned up the negative volume.
Then‚ Cape Verde. Where Baxter had appeared to do his research to the tiniest detail against Nigeria‚ he appeared to slack off against the islanders.
The gameplan was awry in Praia‚ and worse in Durban‚ where Baxter’s array of creative weaponry on his bench outweighed what he put out on the field‚ and the result was a conservative‚ stodgy‚ static eyesore.
So‚ the question was: is Stuart Baxter the right man to coach Bafana Bafana?
Answer: right now it’s not looking good.
The coach might redeem himself. Bafana might somehow beat Burkina Faso at home and Senegal away and qualify for the World Cup.
But if that seems unlikely‚ so does Baxter’s success after this disaster. – TimesLIVE
Source: TMG Digital.