Eric Tinkler parted company with Orlando Pirates having established himself as a real fighter of a coach.
The former Bafana Bafana midfielder may not have won any silverware during his time in Soweto, but he did lead the Buccaneers to the CAF Confederation Cup final last year in what was his only full season in charge.
His reputation was certainly enhanced and he did not have long to wait before another opportunity popped up. It was via Cape Town City, who purchased the Premier Soccer League status of Mpumalanga Black Aces during the winter.
The PSL interviewed Tinkler:
PSL: What was the driving force behind you deciding to take the head coach job?
Eric Tinkler (ET): I think the challenge, you know. Obviously I got an opportunity to sit with chairman John (Comitis) and he explained what vision he had for the club and what he had hoped to see, where the club would like to be in the next five years. So just to be part of that project I thought that would be something extremely challenging and hopefully something I could be part off.
PSL: The takeover of a club can never be an easy thing, especially for those involved in the action, which are the players and coaches. This must have been even tougher considering the club has shifted cities. Tell us about that challenge.
ET: Yes John has done an exceptional job because I think he made the transition slightly easier. He got the players to come down here a lot earlier than our pre-season actually had to start, so players were already here in June when officially our pre-season only started on July 4.
So when he brought the players out here, he already made sure that they had accommodation, he took them out and showed them what the city is all about, what the vision of the club would be, where they would be training and I think that transition became a lot easier.
I think the other factor was that of the Aces squad only 14 of them actually stayed, it wasn’t a large number of players that had to make that transition. Some of those players have actually been in Cape Town before, Shuaib Walters as an example. I think that eased the burden to a degree.”
PSL: We have seen the club already make a lot of new signings. How tough has it been to try and put a team together?
ET: The biggest challenge is rebuilding the squad because of the 14 players that did relocate to Cape Town, I would say around only five of them were regulars in the Aces starting line-up. Of those five, only one was a defender, so we had to really rebuild the whole defence of the team.
That’s been extremely difficult because to find central defenders, and I think if you speak to any coach in the league, they will explain that that is not an easy task, finding quality central defenders. I feel that we need to achieve that and then obviously strengthening the team in the areas that we believed the team needed to be strengthened. The fact is that you only basically had seven weeks to try and achieve that really, so it was a big challenge.
PSL: We’ve seen some interesting names arrive. Roland Putsche, Joseph Adjei, James Brown, Renars Rode and Matt Sim, all unknown foreigners, is that not a bit of a gamble?
ET: I think we’ve done our studying quiet well. Not only did we get an opportunity to actually watch them on video, and we didn’t just sign them of the videos we watched, we requested that those players come out here and actually train with us so we could get a better perception on their abilities. How they would adapt to moving to South Africa, moving to Cape Town and then obviously how they would adapt to playing in our PSL, which is quite frantic, high paced style of football that we play here in South Africa.
Then on the other hand, we went fetched a guy like Robin Johannes with a lot of PSL experience. Tshepo Gumede is another one you know I’m just thrilled that he’s the right type of defender to play for a club like ours. We have (Lehlohonolo) Majoro, so we’ve signed players with a lot of experience of the PSL as well. Then we have some very talented young boys that have come through the system here in Cape Town and those inherited from Aces, so I think we have created a good balanced squad.
PSL: Lastly, what are you hoping to achieve in your first season? Aces did brilliantly to end fourth last year. Can you match that?
ET: We want to approach it game-by-game. We go into every game with the same mentality that we go there to try and collect three points. The target that I set myself is that I want to hit that 30 point mark as quick as possible.
To finish in the top eight, that has to be our aim and I think the massive blue sky scenario would obviously being able to finish in fourth place like Aces did last season. If we could manage something like that it will be an absolutely remarkable achievement for such young club like ours. Yes we’ve started well, but it’s only two games in. It’s a marathon not a sprint and you know we need to remain focused, we need to remain disciplined, we need to remain hardworking to ensure we reach all those goals.