Doctor Khumalo has backed the hiring of Stuart Baxter as Kaizer Chiefs coach, but warned the Briton not to be aloof when he takes over the reins next season.
Khumalo interacted with Baxter on Monday just before he was confirmed as the new Amakhosi trainer, and the Chiefs legend said he was impressed with the former Bafana Bafana coach, who has been hired on a two-year contract by Kaizer Motaung.
“I spoke to him … he met us and the players. He seems like a guy who understands what’s required at a club like Chiefs,” Khumalo said yesterday.
“He pointed out that he’s not a dictator and will be expecting input from us, and that he won’t try to instil European mentality in the players. I think he’ll prioritise African flair.”
In what seemed a dig at former Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic, Khumalo added Baxter would do well not to “isolate himself” or be disconnected from the dressing-room. “He’s a coach who’s here to work with the people and everybody at the club. He’s told me he won’t isolate himself, and that’s what you need to be successful. You can’t isolate yourself as if you’re living on some island. Stuart has a good work ethic and I’m certain he’ll ensure there’s harmony in the team. He can restore pride in this team.”
Baxter will be watching tonight’s Absa Premiership clash between Amakhosi and Ajax Cape Town (Peter Mokaba Stadium, 7.30pm), surveying the team he’s about to inherit, but Khumalo said the new man’s presence shouldn’t necessarily mean that players would go out to impress him.
“Of course there are players who know they may have to leave at the end of the season and may want to go out and make an impression. But it’s not about that. We have to finish strong – continue where we left off last week when we beat Mamelodi Sundowns.
“Right now, every point is critical. There’s the battle for the title, top eight and relegation. We need to win all our remaining games to ease the tension which had built up when we lost four games in a row. We had a bad patch, but we need to show that we can finish strong.”
Chiefs’ 2-0 win over Sundowns last week – their first under Khumalo and Ace Khuse following the sacking of Verme zovic – was mainly orchestrated by Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who was returning from a long injury lay-off. He was man of the match, and Khumalo admitted he was surprised at the impact made by the Bafana midfielder.
“Yeye (Letsholonyane) was great. To come back and win man of the match in your first game is remarkable. There’s no doubt he’s added a positive energy in the team. It speaks volumes about his impact. Surely, and without taking anything from the rest of the players, we could have been in a better position had we had him earlier.”
Chiefs hammered Ajax 4-0 at Polokwane last season, and the Urban Warriors again arrive in Limpopo in a desperate state, needing a win to claw their way back into top-eight contention.
Khumalo promised his charges won’t show any remorse to the Cape side, who have beaten only Jomo Cosmos in their last 10 games. “We want to continue where we left off against Sundowns,” he said.
In the other match tonight, AmaZulu host bottom side Jomo Cosmos (Princess Magogo Stadium, 7.30pm).