Amakhosi have so far been handed relatively easy draws in the Caf Confed Cup, and Middendorp has no excuse not to make it past the knockout stages
When Ernst Middendorp first arrived at Kaizer Chiefs in 2005, he inherited a team that had just won the PSL title, and he couldn’t emulate the late Ted Dumitru as he finished third on the log at the end of the 2005/06 season.
Fast forward to 2018, he finds a team that hasn’t won a major trophy in three-and-a-half years, and he’s now expected to turn things around and make them a top team again.
While the timing of his return to Naturena might be off given that Chiefs have already missed out on two major trophies this season – MTN8 and Telkom Knockout Cup – Middendorp doesn’t have an excuse not make it past the knockout stages of the Caf Confederation Cup.
Over the years, the Chiefs management made it clear that the club should strive towards doing well in continental competitions, but the performance on the pitch hasn’t quite matched the expectations.
It is for this reason that Middendorp should try harder to make sure that Chiefs make this dream a reality by going big in this competition more so because it is still in its early stages.
Both Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates have already taken a giant step into ensuring that South Africa is among the respected countries in Africa by reaching the finals alongside SuperSport United, who finished as runners-up in the Caf Confederation Cup in 2017.
Chiefs last put South Africa on the map when they won the 2001 Mandela’s Cup Winner’s Cup, but since then, they haven’t really been impressive on the continent.
Middendorp’s appointment as Giovanni Solinas’ successor was met with criticism, especially because Amakhosi fans still remember how he left the club over a decade ago.
The responsibility of ensuring that Chiefs fans forgive him for what happened in 2007 when the club finished outside the top eight rests with the German tactician.
He has to prove to those who continue to doubt him as a coach that he’s different and eager to rectify the mistakes of the past by going all the way in this competition.
Unlike Solinas, Middendorp may be given this campaign to work on his tactics and bring back the lost confidence among the players and the fans.
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However, the only way he can do that is to ensure that Chiefs do well in the Caf Confederation Cup as well as in the two domestic trophies on offer – Nedbank Cup and the league.
He has the material and the backing of his bosses to ensure that he delivers something which many coaches who came after him in the past 11 years couldn’t do.
Failure to help Chiefs achieve at least one of these objectives could see the very same fans who were impressed with his first game in charge, turn against him at the end of the season and those who were critical of his return would again be proven to be right about Middendorp.