KickOff.com’s Tiyani wa ka Mabasa asked Chiefs fans for some questions for Baxter and had a one-on-one with the coach on Thursday. This is how it went…
Are you satisfied with the way the team has been playing this season?
“I’m not satisfied with the results, because you always want more. I could look at every game, break it down and rationalise it. At the end of that, I’m think if we gave 5-10% more in those games we could have won every game but we didn’t give that 5-10% and that’s the challenge we’ve got now to try and get it from the players… We’ve had an okay start; it is not bad, but it is not great. It is something to build on… There are no easy games. I’m of the opinion that if we play the way we can play, we can beat any team in the League – that’s me as a Chiefs coach, but I also know if we show those inconsistencies and lack of focus then we can shoot ourselves in the foot and almost anybody in the League can roll us over.
Are you confident the team can defend the League?
If I say I’m not confident, then what am I doing in this job? I am confident. I’m confident in my ability and I’m confident in the players’ ability. Now, does that translate into me blowing the trumpet and say we gonna walk over everybody that comes? No, it doesn’t… If you ask me halfway through the season and we’ve been scratching around and not really delivering then I will give you a more honest answer.
From what we gather, most Chiefs fans are concerned that you don’t have the depth to repeat what you did last season after buying only two players in Knowledge Musona and Simphiwe Mtsweni. The fans feel the team may struggle when you are hit by injuries and suspensions. Your thoughts on that?
We don’t want to bring in players that we think will create problems. For example, if we bring in someone as good as Bernard [Parker] and that new player doesn’t play, then certainly this guy is gonna be a problem for us because he would be complaining all the time that he’s not being played.
So that could be bad for team spirit…
Yes, what we have had over the last 12-14 months is a very good, solid attitude from the players. Now, I don’t want to change that but at the same time we don’t want to be caught out when we have injuries or suspensions. So to answer the question, it is a very difficult one to solve. We are aware that we got to beef up when we go out to Africa, we are aware of that. We are aware that if we get yellow cards and injuries, it could be a bad thing. I understand if our fans say that, but I will remind them that they probably said the same last year and we solved it. We hope we can solve it, but if we don’t then the transfer window will open again [in January].
I think we definitely need a central midfielder and time will tell whether we need another attacking player – a wide or central striker. Definitely, we need a central midfielder for obvious reasons; we don’t have a natural replacement for Willard Katsande. Yeye [Reneilwe Letsholonyane] can do it if we need him to change from his normal position, but we don’t have that natural replacement for Willard and given his style of play, and the amounts of games he’s played for Zimbabwe and Chiefs, I think we must seriously look at that and that’s why we have been looking at Ivan Bukenya, because he can cover for Willard and for our centre backs.
Moving on, why do Chiefs use the airplane more often this season compared to last season when you often travelled by bus?
Certainly, we want to minimise the fatigue on the players. By the start of last season, we didn’t have so many players in the national team, so now many of my players go to the national team [Bafana Bafana] and a couple more go to Zim. So during that period, I have 12 players working with me at the village and then the national team players return and it is game after game… We are walking a tightrope.
Some people argue that players such as Messi and Ronaldo play 60 games a season, so why is it that you always talk about your players risking being fatigued when the most they can play in a season is about 40 games?
Tsepo [Masilela] told me that he has not had a break in two years and with Ronaldo, I can guarantee you that when the season finishes he has 10 weeks [for a break] and he’s gone, and he doesn’t do a thing. He would go jogging on the beach so when he’s back he’s recuperated and he can go on with the 60 games. So that’s why the bus trips were killing the players last season and we have to try finding a way to lighten the load on the players.
Lastly, are you making headway with the youth set-up at the club because that’s part of your mandate?
It’s going very quickly. We designed the development programme and that is now a working document. We’ve done assessments on the coaches and our technical director Bo Augustsson has arrived, and he together with Conti Kubheka are trying to implement the working document. So we’ve done the player audit and scouts have been informed of where we need to beef up the youth squads. So the process is moving and the infrastructure at the village has started. We are at the Nike Centre [in Soweto] now – it is not perfect because a lot of people can go there, so Bo and Conti are trying to get all that in place so when we pick the youth players in eight to nine months to the village, I’m hoping everything is in place.
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