The Monday Column: Give SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler his due
Posted: 16 October 2017 Time: 13:00
SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler has come through the ranks, put in the hard work and is now reaping what he has sown as his ever-impressive rise as a PSL coach continues.
The former Bafana Bafana midfielder painted a picture of utter joy and elation as he sprinted across the Moses Mabhida pitch on Saturday evening to embrace club owner Stan Matthews as Matsatsantsa lifted their first top eight trophy in 13 years.
The emotions must have been running high: it was the first piece of silverware up for grabs this season, Tinkler’s first final at his new club, his first game against his former employers, and watching his charges cramp and tire out, before holding on and capturing the MTN8 trophy via penalties … that celebration was certainly warranted.
Yet the source of that eruption of joy dates even further back for the now 47-year-old coach.
Having enjoyed a relatively successful career for both the national team and at club level, where he plied his trade in Portugal, England and Italy, Tinkler put in the hours – in this case, the years – as assistant coach at Bidvest Wits. For seven long years he slogged it out, learning the trade, sponging as much information as he could – mostly from long-time teammate and friend Roger de Sa – as he played second fiddle, all the while building up his practical knowledge as he obtained his Uefa B, and the A, licence.
He was then again assistant to De Sa at Orlando Pirates between 2012 and 2014, before finally, for the first time in his career, being handed the reins as head coach - firstly as a caretaker – at The Buccaneers, guiding them to a fourth and then seventh-place finish across one-and-a-half seasons in Soweto. More impressively though, he managed to take the Sea Robbers to the final of the 2015 CAF Confederation Cup, falling at the last hurdle to Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel. He also steered them to the 2016 Nedbank Cup final where they lost out to SuperSport.
A new and exciting adventure in the Mother City then ensued, as Tinkler was roped in to lead new boys on the block Cape Town City in their maiden PSL season. And despite the critics, despite the relocation, despite the oddly put-together squad of the Mpumalanga Black Aces core combined with free agents and trialists, despite differing training venues every week, Tinkler galvanised the Citizens and left the entire country surprised as, just 156 days after his appointment in June 2016, he led the club to their first trophy, the Telkom Knockout Cup, before an impressive third-place finish in the league.
The ambitious coach was then coaxed in to replace Stuart Baxter at ever-improving Pretoria club SuperSport United at the start of the campaign, and again continued his upward trajectory, needing just 128 days in the nation’s capital to win the MTN8 crown, his second trophy in successive years. On top of that, he’s led the side into the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup, the furthest the club has ever been in African competition, while losing just one of the 11 matches in which he has been in charge this season.
Saturday’s final came in between the CAF semi-final home and away fixtures, a delicate time after a heavy schedule for the club. Yet Tinkler was able to rally his troops after going a goal down, and hang on despite going down to 10 men – instilling the fight, bravery and spirit the coach himself asserted in his playing days. The fact that he took off key players Jeremy Brockie and Reneilwe Letsholonyane in such an important final showed his tactical acumen, reading of the game and ability to utilise his players efficiently, bearing in mind this weekend’s taxing trip to Tunisia.
And on that front, despite the precarious position his side finds itself in after a 1-1 home draw against Africain, Tinkler can draw back to Pirates’ 2015 CAF Confederation Cup run, where he led The Bucs to memorable away victories against AC Leopards, CS Sfaxien and Al Ahly en route to the final.
Although still relatively young in coaching terms, Tinkler has already impressed. His rise up the coaching ranks to where he is today is an example of how hard work, patience and commitment pays off.
He’s now at a stable club that is willing to spend, while also throwing themselves in the pot as one of South Africa’s ‘heavyweights’, having added four trophies to their cabinet over the past three years.
SuperSport is Tinkler’s oyster … he’s reaping what he’s sown, and is no doubt raising his hand as one of South Africa’s premier coaches as he seeks the next accolade to put on his expanding CV.