JOHANNESBURG - LOOKS can be deceiving.
Stuart Baxter’s stylish appearance – which is made up of a goatee and suits consisting of double breasted shawl lapel and jacket pocket blazers – doesn't mean his football philosophy has been as attractive. Far from it!
His look could easily earn him the August and September Stylish Coach of the Month awards in the PSL – if there was such a ridiculous thing. But he would have to forget about his name popping up on the list of candidates for the existing Coach of the Month award.
Brought back by Kaizer Chiefs to stoke back the fire that died down after he left in 2015, Baxter has done little to show that he still has the required skills to light up an inferno – albeit the team providing the necessary requirements: signing new players.
Chiefs recently endured back-toback defeats to Mamelodi Sundowns and new kids on the block Royal AM last weekend. Some of the club’s supporters felt that the defeat to Sundowns loss could have been avoided had Baxter started with Njabulo Ngcobo at the back.
But the Brit had opted for Austin Dube who endured a nightmarish debut against Sundowns’ lethal striking contingent. Baxter, though, finally succumbed to fan pressure, starting the PSL Defender of the Season, Njabulo, against Royal AM.
But just like Dube, Njabulo looked out for place on the day, helpless in the four goals Chiefs conceded against the top-flight rookies who have recently had their off-field struggles aired under new, flamboyant, owner Shauwn Mkhize who bought Bloemfontein Celtic.
Sure, Ngcobo could have done “a lot better”, like Baxter said, after an “okay debut”. But why did the former Bafana Bafana coach deploy him in the left centre-back role even though he is a right footer was comfortable on the right at former club Swallows FC?
Baxter, to his defence, suggested that he felt his qualities were situated on the left.
And perhaps therein lays the problem at Chiefs. Baxter has often come across as someone who wants to prove that he – not Molefi Ntseki, the technical director or the Motaungs – runs the show.
Well, if that’s the case he is getting it all wrong. The arrival of Phathutshedzo Nange and Cole Alexander was welcome news to fans who believed that they would plug the holes in midfield.
But few had expected Baxter to focus on compacting the midfield by sacrificing a creative player like Nkosingiphile Ngcobo – arguably the team’s best player last season. Baxter, though, had a response, saying “Mshini” was deflated but he was picking up form.
He went on to say that Nkosingiphile played well as a false No 9 in friendly matches. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t he give him a start ahead of Samir Nurkovic who has been far from his best, despite starting in the last five games without scoring a single goal?
Well, by now, after Baxter took long to adhere to the petition that Njabulo should start, many should know that he is not one to be told what to do, until he “feels it’s the right game”. After all, it was the same script, but a different cast when he was still the Bafana coach.
It took all sorts of advocacy for the PSL Footballer of the Season Thembinkosi Lorch to play at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. And when he did, his solitary goal for Bafana earned them a famous win over host Egypt in the knockout stage before they were booted out in the quarter-finals.
Well, while the dazzling look of Baxter on the sidelines and during press conferences are attractive on the eye, perhaps he will soon know that the on-field results are the ticket to the glamour. Or else, the #BaxterOut petition could very well gain some momentum.