As regular readers will know, I am no fan of these long breaks from the PSL for cup and international football. However, this time the most recent break will surely have some benefit for us all. Stanley Menzo needs time to work with his players, and for the players to get to know his methods and what he expects of them. It is to be hoped this will finally see an upturn in our results this season. After all ii is hard to see how things could get any worse.
A new coach that is appointed during a season usually arrives at a crisis point. The team is likely to be struggling, with the previous coach often resorting to ever more cautious tactics in a bid to stop the run of poor results. Morale will be low and a negative mindset may have crept into the players, while some players may even be on the point of giving-up. Once the new man is in place, however, players that have been underperforming may suddenly up their game to impress the new man and keep their place in the team. This can lead to the phenomena of a “new manager bounce”.
Here is a statistic from the EPL to prove the point. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, 42 coaches placed in charge during the course of a Premier League season were responsible for a total of 57 more points in their first three matches than in the previous three games of the old coach. That is an average of an extra 1.3 points over a three-match period. Stanley Menzo already has one point from the Free State Stars fixture before the break and given that we next line up against last season’s strugglers Maritzburg United, he has the opportunity to experience the bounce. With another tough game away at Platinum Stars to follow and then a visit from Sundowns this game is really starting to look like a must-win fixture if we are serious about beating the drop this season.
It has been argued that the “new manager bounce” does not really exist. Coaches get fired at a point when their teams are misfiring, perhaps due to bad luck or injuries. Inevitably results will eventually improve. Perhaps this is true in the high pressure scenario of leagues such as the EPL, where doing nothing is often the hardest thing for an under-pressure owner. At AjaxCT we know that the downturn was a long-term issue, with almost a year of bad results. We know RDS had injuries and some bad luck this season, but he also had 30 points from the last 32 games. Not great.
Stanley Menzo comes from a different culture to RDS, and we are expecting to see a different footballing philosophy emerge in the next few weeks. While we should not be surprised to see a “new manager bounce” we should also hope to see this extended over the rest of the season. When clubs simply circulate the same old managers between themselves it is really no surprise to see results stay more or less the same. We have a situation now where we could be about to see something fresh and innovative come into this desperate season.
Will that something be the return of Thulani Serero? We saw him score a wonderful goal for Bafana during this international break and it seems such a waste that he is frozen out of the squad in Amsterdam. Stanley Menzo has wetted our appetite by linking him with a move back to Cape Town, but I have to admit it was a comment I would have preferred he did not make in public. Unless he is certain that he can pull of such a deal he really should not have raised supporter’s expectations, or alerted other clubs to his intentions. Perhaps the two men know each other well through their Ajax connections and maybe this is something that could really happen. Perhaps they have chatted this weekend, while Serero was back in the country. It is also something that could just fizzle out as finances get discussed or get hijacked by the rich clubs in the north. You cannot blame him for being so enthusiastic at the press conference on his appointment, but in the cut-throat world of football transfers it usually pays to keep your cards close to your chest.
A long week lies ahead for us all than as we count down to the arrival of Maritzburg United next Saturday. It really feels like a pivotal moment in the season and we will all be curious to see how the new coach sets his team up for his first home game. It could be a nervy evening. It will get tense and it may be difficult to watch at times, but we really need to see that bounce happening.