Comparing ‘Middendraw’ and ‘Micho’ is like apples and … not apples
The return of Ernst Middendorp as head coach at Kaizer Chiefs came as an appointment out of left field that drew mostly negative reactions from Amakhosi fans … and rewinds the clock some 12 years.
This time in 2006 Middendorp was coach at Chiefs and Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic was in his first stint at Orlando Pirates‚ but while the return of the latter to the Buccaneers last year was largely hailed as a coup‚ the German coach is unlikely to get the same positive response.
Much has to do with what the pair have achieved since they both left their respective Soweto giants within weeks of each other in early 2007.
While Middendorp has hopped from job to job‚ including at five more teams in the Premier Soccer League‚ Sredojevic found notable success in club football in Ethiopia with St George‚ and then excelled with the Rwanda and Uganda national sides. He led the latter to an unexpected Nations Cup finals appearance after a barren run of nearly 40 years.
Therein lies the difference. One is viewed as a coach reaching his peak‚ while the other‚ rightly or wrongly‚ has left his best days behind him.
But there were some good days for Middendorp‚ that should not be forgotten as he takes on the 26th job of his 31-year coaching career.
After a playing career in the lower leagues in Germany‚ he turned to coaching in 1996 and obtained his Uefa Pro License.
By then he was the coach of Arminia Bielefeld‚ who he took from the third-tier to the Bundesliga‚ a feat for which he was later crowned the club’s Coach of the Century.
He left the team in 1998 and had brief spells with KFC Uerdingen 05 and VfL Bochum‚ before taking his first job in Africa‚ with Ghana Premier League side Asante Kotoko.
He failed to win the league in Ghana‚ but did claim the FA Cup and left after three seasons to return to Germany with FC Augsburg.
He returned to Ghana in 2004 to join Hearts of Oak‚ but hung around a matter of months before moving to Iran with Tractor Sazi.
It was from there that he had his first stint at Chiefs‚ signing ahead of the 2005-06 season.
The side won the Absa Cup (now Nedbank Cup) in his first season‚ beating Pirates on penalties in the final after a 0-0 draw‚ but 14 draws from their 30 league games meant they finished third in the Premier League‚ seven points behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
It was statistics like these that earned Middendorp the nickname in South Africa‚ “Middendraw”.
He claimed the SAA Supa8 at the start of 2006-07 with a 1-0 win over SuperSport United in the decider‚ but defeats to Silver Stars in the Telkom Knockout and Lamontville Golden Arrows in the Absa Cup put him under pressure and he buckled.
He was sacked in early March 2007 after a 2-1 home loss to AmaZulu in the league and replaced by Kosta Papic.
When he was sacked Chiefs were eighth in the table and they would finish ninth at the end of the campaign‚ their worst finish in the PSL.
Middendorp had a third spell at Arminia Bielefeld that did not last long‚ before joining Changchun Yatai (China)‚ Rot-Weiss Essen (Germany) and Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus) in the next few years as he bounced from job to job.
He returned to South Africa for the first of three spells with Maritzburg United where he won praise for improving the fortunes of the side‚ but his abrasive style rubbed many up the wrong way too.
He had an unsuccessful spells with Golden Arrows and Chippa United‚ a brief three-month spell with Free State Stars and a decent time at Bloemfontein Celtic.
His job at those clubs was largely to keep them out of relegation trouble and to his credit he managed to do that.
The expectation at Chiefs will be much different and that is the big adjustment he will have to make.
Middendorp was most recently in Thailand‚ where he worked as technical director with Bangkok United.