Following Telkom Knockout success and an impressive third-place finish in the league in City’s first season after their formation, it was with much surprise that former coach Eric Tinkler decided to part ways with the club just a year in as he made the switch north to join SuperSport United.
Yet even more surprising was City’s decision to rope in Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goal scorer as the new man to lead the team, with McCarthy vastly inexperienced, having only played second fiddle as assistant coach at Belgian club St Truiden prior to his appointment.
Yet his relationship with City boss John Comitis, formed when he was still a player at Cape Town Spurs when Comitis was the club’s chairman, put him in good stead as the Cape-based businessman pulled out all the stops to recruit the South African icon.
Amid much fanfare and media hype at the Radisson Blu hotel in the Cape Town CBD, McCarthy was officially unveiled as the new Citizens coach on 13 June 2017, with the new coach entering the venue’s conference room with TKZee’s fitting number “Shibobo” blaring in the background.
A year ago today, @bennimccarthy17 walked through the conference room doors with TKZee's apt number blaring in the background as the former @BafanaBafana striker was unveiled as the new coach of @CapeTownCityFC ⚽???? pic.twitter.com/W5ZYj5PJtP— Fabio De Dominicis (@fabiodedoms) June 13, 2018
Taking to the training pitch a few weeks later, McCarthy’s first assignment on the bench was a MTN8 quarter-final match-up against Polokwane City, where a Sibusison Mbonani own-goal saw the coach end his first game in charge victorious, despite losing his voice and admitting to being the most nervous he had ever been in his life before a match.
A dream run then followed, with McCarthy winning all five of his first matches in charge, including three consecutive victories over Bidvest Wits and their coach Gavin Hunt, who he had played under as a young striker.
At the first time of asking, McCarthy led his side into a cup final, yet the fairy-tale run wouldn’t end in glory as City came up short in the MTN8 decider, going down 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw with SuperSport United.
Three consecutive losses after that final defeat put the Citizens under pressure as they were bundled out of the Telkom Knockout at the first hurdle, despite being defending champions, yet still managed to maintain their top four position in the league after the first half of the season, entering 2018 in second place after a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns in December.
Constantly publicising his disappointment in his strikers, McCarthy’s frustrations in his strikeforce grew over January and February, with City going 14 games without scoring more than one goal, yet still managed to grind out results as they tackled their league, Nedbank Cup and CAF Confederation Cup fixtures.
City’s Nedbank Cup campaign ended in the quarter-finals after going down 2-1 to Mamelodi Sundowns, while failing at the second hurdle to Costa do Sol on away goals in the Confederation Cup.
With not much to play for and their top eight Absa Premiership position secured, City won just one of their last six league games to end the season in a respectable fifth position in McCarthy’s first season at the helm.
In all matches across all official competitions, McCarthy’s debut season reads as follows:
Win percentage: 45.2%
Critics had questioned McCarthy’s capabilities as coach, and despite his inexperience and often blunt and candid responses when quizzed about his players, the Uefa Pro-licenced coach, with all his experience as a top player, was able to form a cohesive unit at City, with various players repeating their gratitude at working under such an accomplished South African hero.
Despite being linked to Scottish club St Mirren, Comitis insists McCarthy is going nowhere and expects him to report for duty on 25 June, when the City squad assemble for preseason.
Interesting fact: It took 15 games into his reign for McCarthy to experience his first draw, a 1-1 stalemate against Baroka FC in an Absa Premiership encounter played in November.
What did you make of McCarthy’s first season at the helm?