Monday, 30 April 2012

Roy Hodgson: My part in his rise to England manager


Out of Africa: Roy Hodgson, front row centre, in 1973

ROY HODGSON’S Wikipedia entry claims: “Hodgson started his managerial career in 1976 at the Swedish top division side Halmstad.”
No doubt everyone will be picking that up and using it tomorrow as the world debates the pros and cons of the 64-year-old West Brom boss being made England manager ahead of the people's choice, Harry Redknapp.
And they’d be wrong.
I can exclusively reveal Woy (as he is known, for obvious reasons to anyone who has heard him talk) actually started his coaching career in Pretoria, South Africa. I should know. I was one of his earliest products in 1974.
Hodgson (note, appointed England manager at 4pm on May 1)  arrived a year earlier at my local club in what was then the whites-only National Football League. Berea Park were a very average team in a league dominated at the time by foreign players unwelcome in FIFA-sanctioned countries.
Though Roy was billed as a Crystal Palace star, he had actually been released by the club and came to Berea as a fairly ordinary player from non-League Ashton Town after stints at Gravesend and Maidstone United, then the best non-League side in England.
Still, with Bobby Houghton and Colin Toal, he was one of three cut-price English footballers who arrived in Pretoria despite the Apartheid Sports Boycott in 1973. Apart from playing football for Berea professionally, Roy also tried his hand as a physical education teacher at the local Hillview High School.
He’d coach our Under 14s occasionally at Berea Park and in 1974 I spent three months training with him twice a week at Brooklyn Primary as part of a Northern Transvaal Under 13 representative team which included Roy Wegerle – who went on to play for the United States, Blackburn, Coventry and QPR – and Noel Cousins – who went on to become South Africa’s most expensive player when he moved from Arcadia Shepherds to Moroka Swallows in 1984.
Hodgson was a superb youth coach. He taught us to bend our passes with both feet “like Norman Hunter” and emphasised movement off the ball. He wasn’t too good at dealing with angry parents – soccer mums, as every coach knows, are the nemesis of all youth coaches – but he certainly enhanced our skills on those long afternoons in Brooklyn.
My parting words with Roy? “Sorry son, I don’t think you’re going to make it as a footballer. Nice long throw though.” Tough, but true. We’ve talked about it a few times over the years since.
Hodgson and Houghton went on to coach Berea to relegation that year. The club never really recovered. Then, as a duo, they went to Sweden. Houghton took Malmo to the European Cup final in 1979, the first – and last - Swedish side ever to compete in the continental showdown. They lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest in Munich.
Hodgson, while helping Houghton, coached nearby Halmstad to unprecedented heights. Years later, when I interviewed Sven Goran Eriksson after he got the England job, he admitted Houghton and Hodgson had played a major role in his coaching career. Sven recalled going to watch both Englishmen coaching in Sweden in the late 70s and borrowing from their training regimes.
After leaving Sweden in 1980, Hodgson started coaching in England with Bristol City, then came the many ferries to Scandinavia, with Oddevold and Orebro before a return to Malmo where he won two league titles and two cups.
After that came Switzerland, where a job with club side Neuch√Ętel Xamax – and a European victory over Real Madrid - was followed by a successful stint with the Swiss national side.
Inter Milan offered a glimpse of the big time but Hodgson’s two years there were far from comfortable despite reaching a UEFA Cup final, as was his stint at Blackburn Rovers as they slumped from title-winners in 1995 to also-rans under Hodgson by the time he left the club in 1998.
He returned to Inter without great success in 1999, then was off back to Switzerland’s Grasshoppers Zurich in 2000, followed by a title-winning season with FC Copenhagen in Denmark.
Italy called again in 2001, a brief “never should have taken the job” stint with Udinese was followed by international management with the United Arab Emirates. Then, in 2004, it was off to Scandianivian obscurity with Viking and Finland before the second coming.
Mohammed Al Fayed, scouring the world for a Fulham boss, plumped for Hodgson and three strong seasons there saw him move to Liverpool. Average results and an impatient Kenny Dalglish ended that reign and last year he moved to West Brom.
Having kept them up, England came calling over the weekend. The Baggies agreed to let him talk to the FA and Harry Redkapp – the popular choice – said yesterday: “Good luck to the lad. I’m not one to hold grudges. He’s a fabulous fellow, Roy. I hope he does well.”
But the truth is of course, Hodgson is a safe pair of hands. Redknapp, with his tax problems and wheeler-dealer image on top of Tottenham’s recent slump – Sunday saw their first win since early April – became too much for the conservative old farts in the FA.
Out of contract in June, Hodgson, though never successful at the bigger clubs, will do the job quietly and competently. But dear old ‘Arry would have got the nation roaring before Euro 2012 and caretaker Stuart Pearce migh have been a better choice.
Hodgson is the easy option. And, given Tottenham’s reported demands for compensation, a cheaper option.
Personally, I hope Roy succeeds with England where bigger, better names have failed. And not just because I was there when his coaching career began 38 years ago.
But I’m not holding my breath.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Tell the missus Saturday night's sorted: It's Messi v Ronaldo. One day you'll tell the grandchildren about them.

All-white chalk & red-and-blue cheese
Right, drop whatever it is you’re doing Saturday night. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are on the box. Together. The Flea and CR7. Our goalden gods of the electronic age. The miracle workers of our times. One day, circa 2032, we will be able to look back and tell our grand-children: I was alive and spellbound when those two were ripping up record books.
Apparently impervious to injury or exhaustion, they are red-and-blue cheese and all-white-on-the-night chalk: one a tiny Argentine with twinkling toes who needed growth hormone therapy to reach 1.69m (5ft 7in), the other a Portuguese colossus, 1.86m (6ft 1in), and capable of sheer perfection.
They have dominated the best league in the world for three years, two foreigners inspiring a football-fuelled nation which currently boasts both the World Cup and European Championship. Though Messi and Barcelona have had the edge, Ronaldo and Real Madrid are threatening an astonishing comeback this season.
On Tuesday night, CR7 and Real went to Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final first leg. Jose Mourinho’s men lost 2-1 to a late Mario Gomez strike but that Mesut Ozil away goal – made by Ronaldo - should see them safely through to the final with the second leg at the Bernebeu.
On Wednesday, Messi and Barca lost 1-0 at Chelsea – for once the Flea, though dangerous, failed to score as the Spaniards hit the woodwork twice and succumbed to an oft-inspired but oft-tumbling Didier Drogba. You still wouldn’t bet against an All-Spanish final in Munich come May.
The fact that neither Messi nor Ronaldo managed a goal this week has been widely highlighted. But their unexpected blanks will only serve to heighten expectation on Saturday night at the Nou Camp, when the Spanish giants meet in the long-awaited El Clasico.
It’s a showdown which will surely decide the destination of La Liga, with Real a precious but precarious four points ahead in the bitter battle between southern Catalan and central Castillian, two nations in one. Three if you include the northern Basques.
The battle between them holds such irony. Messi has on the Ballon D’Or as the world’s best for three years on the trot, but we all know Ronaldo is only a shade adrift since he won it in 2008; he’d be head-and-shoulders better than the rest – Iniesta, Gomez, Van Persie, Robben – if Barca hadn’t spotted an undersized 13-year-old with magic feet a decade ago.
The truth is, there has simply NEVER been anything like these two in the 150-year history of professional football. You can throw up some names. Dixie Dean, who scored 63 goals in a season for Everton just after they changed the off-side rule in 1927-28. Ferenc Deak who scored 66 goals for Hungary's Ferencvaros in 1948-49. Or the great Pele, who equalled that for Santos in 1958. And how about Der Bomber? Germany’s Gerd Muller struck 67 for Bayern Munich in 1972-73.
You can forget those records now. Messi, still only 24, has scored 63 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season. Ronaldo, 27, has got 53 for Real Madrid. And they’ve both got plenty to come this season, with five to play in their head-to-head battle for La Liga and a probable two more in the Champions League.
Last weekend, fittingly, they broke the Spanish scoring record together. Ronaldo, who reset the mark last year with 40, nodded home an Angel Di Maria cross in the 74th minute of a 3-1 win at the Bernabeu against Sporting Gijon to reach 41 League goals. Two hours later, Messi joined him on 41 with both goals in Barca’s 2-1 win at Levante.
Afterwards the ever-modest Messi, who has never cut his hair fashionably, said: "Luckily things are going well for me, but the important thing is that the team performs well so we can challenge for the title.”
The more flamboyant Ronaldo, crasher of sports cars and father of a mystery child, went for: “I always believe in myself, knowing that from one moment to the next I can do important things. We are very confident and we have our fate in our own hands which is crucial for the final stages of the season.”
Any further confirmation of the Messi/Ronaldo effect can be seen in the goals scored column. Though both global stars have failed to inspire international success – that could change when Portugal compete at Euro2012 this winter and Argentina chase the Copa de America – Real Madrid now have 107 goals, Barca offer 99. Both have played 33 times. In Germany’s Bundesliga, the leaders Dortmund and second-placed Bayern have 69 from 31. In England, Manchester City lead the way with 85 from 34. The Dutch are closest with Ajax registering 84 goals in 30 games. In South Africa, second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns are the best on offer, with a meagre 40 from 25 matches.
Problem is, no other league boasts a pint-sized fireball like Messi. Or an all-singing, all dancing act like Ronaldo. To have both scoring when they want in the same division is something of a modern sporting miracle.
So, Saturday night. Put it in the diary. In front of the telly, with SuperSport3 and HD2 from 7.55pm. Share an evening with the world’s best paid footballers, Messi ($660,000 a week) and Ronaldo ($584,000 a week), and one day you, too, can tell the grandchildren: I remember them well.

Football’s rich list (Daily Mail, 12 March 2012) Includes salaries, bonuses and endorsements
£27.5m Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
£26.2m David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
£24.3m Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
£19.4m Samuel Eto'o (Anzhi)
£17.2m Wayne Rooney (Man United)
£15.7m Sergio Aguero (Man City)
£14.7m Yaya Toure (Man City)
£13.9m Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
£12.9m Kaka (Real Madrid)
£11.9m Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)

This story first appeared in The New Age as part of my Neal & Pray series. You can read Neal every Tuesday in www.thenewage.co.za and follow him on twitter at www.twitter.com/nealcol.

Monday, 16 April 2012

El Clasico, Eish Clasico and Alex Clasico: who's going to win what

IT’S that time of year for the football-speaking world as the end of season crowds gather. The reigning season.
Let me draw your attention to the big ones. The title-deciders I was asked to talk about on South Africa’s eNews channel this morning, with Mr William Lehong and his perfect suit. El Classico at the Nou Camp, the self-styled Eish Clasico in Soweto and the Sir Al Clasico in Manchester.
Let us for a moment skip past the Champions League semi-finals, difficult though that is. Real Madrid go to Bayern Munich tomorrow night in an attempt to stop the Germans, currently second to Dortmund in the Bundesliga, from engineering a home final in May.
On Wednesday, Barcelona are off to London, where Chelsea at Stamford Bridge may be a stumbling point. Unfortunately, the Blues are coming off the back of an excruciating 5-1 win over Spurs, with Drogba, Lampard, Ramirez and Malouda joining referee Martin Atkinson on the scoresheet in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Nou Camp could be disastrous for Roberto di Matteo.
Few would bet against an all-Spanish Champions League final, but for both the La Liga giants, Europe pales into insignificance on Saturday, when Jose Mourinho’s all-whites travel to the heart of Catlunia and the blue-and-red Nou Camp.
Has there ever been a bigger El Clasico? With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both breaking the all-time La Liga scoring record of the weekend – they’re locked on 41 each – the stage is set for something extraordinary.
I’ve spent most of today writing for The New Age about this extraordinarily odd couple. Modest, unassuming Messi, 24, with his growth hormones and crap hairstyle against flashy, sports car-crashing Ronaldo, 27.
And on the sidelines, the relatively sane Pep Guardiola versus the madness that is Jose Mourinho, who recently missed his 45th pre-match press conference (the Spaniards count these things).
But before that little lot, we’ve got South Africa’s own title showdown: champions Orlando Pirates, holders of all the nation’s domestic trophies, against upstarts Moroka Swallows in Dobsonville.
Soweto’s oldest derby comes at an intriguing time. Eish. Gordon Igesund has turned the Dube Birds from relegation fodder into title contenders in just over a year. Peruvian caretaker Augusto Palacios has taken over from Brazilian Julio Leal with surprising aplomb in Orlando. A win over the Buccaneers, unlikely though it may seems, would put Swallows within a point of the lead.
With the ancient Siyabonga Nomvete, the SAPL’s top scorer, up against the bang-from-suspension Benni McCarthy, it’s not quite Messi v Ronaldo, but it’ll do for us!
And then, on May 30, the English showdown of note. Manchester United travel to Eastlands, Manchester City’s home at the Commonwealth Games Stadium.
After their glitch against Wigan, United bounced back with a 4-0 destruction of a pitiful Aston Villa on Sunday. Wayne Rooney, subbed and chastised against Wigan, scored twice. Ashley Young did one of his gold medal winning dives. Sir Alex chewed gum and admitted Young “might have overdone it”.
City meanwhile, are on a roll with Mario Balotelli suspended. Carlos Tevez, a footballing slave I have always defended, scored a hat-trick in their 6-1 win over Norwich. I guess the former United striker would love a couple more where they came from against Sir Alex.
Sir Alex said after the weekend’s fun and games: “We’ve got a nice healthy lead, but the derby is bound to have an impact on the the eventual winners.”
In Spain, the gap is four points. In South Africa, it’s the same. In England, it’s five.
These are the three big ones, El Clasico, Soweto’s oldest derby and the Manchester showdown. My picks? Real Madrid to get at last a point at the Nou Camp, Swallows to stun the Buccaneers, City to edge United at home. But the title winners? Jose Mourinho, Gordon Igesund… and, yet again, Sir Alex Ferguson.
You can follow me in www.thenewage.co.za and on www.twitter.com/nealcol. But don’t be scared to leave a comment…

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Can Majoro fire Kaizer Chiefs out of the doldrums?

We already knew Lehlohonolo Majoro had balls. It was written all over his t-shirt when Kaizer Chiefs downed Moroka Swallows 3-0 back in February.
After his record-breaking four-goal Nedbank Cup blitz against the rarely-spotted Leopards in Polowane , he earned the match ball – and on Saturday against Platinum Stars he was at it again, scoring the first in a 2-1 win which puts the Amakhosi right back in the title hunt.
For South Africa’s estimated 15 million Amakhosi fans, a goalden Majoro could be the difference between another season of frustration and an autumn of wild celebration – his record 16-minute first-half hat-trick ensured a place in the Nedbank quarter-finals and a few more to finish the season will leave Vladmir Vermezovic’s men handily placed to snatch the double if leaders Orlando Pirates stumble – and I suspect they might.
Though we must keep an eye on Sundowns – who play Leopards tomorrow night at the Peter Mokabe Stadium – and Moroka Swallows are certainly my pick as dark horses – Chiefs remain a potent threat with their huge following and depth of squad.
Majoro, affectionately known as Laser, didn’t quite match the world’s fastest-ever hat-trick in that Nedbank Cup clash – that was set in Scotland in 1964 when Thomas Ross scored three in 91 seconds for Ross County against Nairn County – but the statisticians are struggling to find anything quicker than 16 minutes in the record books, if you discount the 24-0 Sundowns hammering of the shocking Powerlines in the last round.
With the impressive Steve Khomphela’s Free State Stars to come in the quarter-finals (the draw also gave us Amazulu v Santos, Supersport United v Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United), Majoro knows there’s plenty of hard work to come.
But what a change from a month ago. On March 9, after unveiling his “I do have balz” undershirt after scoring against Swallows, the former Amazulu striker told Supersport after being fined for getting things off his chest: "I just wanted to answer my detractors. I had to make a point. The message on my vest was light-hearted, I wanted to make my point politely, but in a meaningful manner.”
Today, the ridiculous R30,000 penalty handed out by the “offended” PSL for his vested interest appears historical, hysterical. The goal against Swallows was followed by his first Nedbank Cup strike against Cape Town All Stars, a supersub effort against Orlando Pirates, another in the 2-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic. Then came all four in the 4-0 cup triumph and Saturday’s strike at the afokeng Sports Palace. He now has nine in his last nine games, with 14 so far this season.
Majora was glowing when he told us: “There was so much expectation when I came here and yes, I did struggle. They were saying I was a one-season wonder at Amazulu (where he scored 14 times in 27 games last season) and that I was a mistake.
“But I pushed myself. The results are showing now. But credit to Siphiwe Tshabalala too. He knows the runs I make, his passes always put me in a good goal-scoring position. We win as a unit, that’s what swings games in our favour.”
Born in Ladybrand on August 19, 1986, Majoro started kicking ball for Manyatseng United Brothers before playing for Free State University and then Bloemfontein’s Young Tigers. Then he was off north to the University of Johannesburg and Highlands Park before Amazulu spotted his spiky-haired, fleet-footed talent and nose for goals.
The rest is history. Capped once by Bafana Bafana – against Tanzania in May last year – Majoro deserves to be seen as a potent answer to the nation’s goalscoring problems before AFCON 2013. Are you listening Pitso?
Neal Collins (@nealcol on twitter) is a South African sportswriter who dodged national service for 25 years by working among the madmen on Fleet Street. The World Cup brought him home.
This story first appeared in The New Age, the latest in my Neal & Pray series which appears every Tuesday in South Africa’s newest daily newspaper. www.thenewage.co.za.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Orlando Pirates: Did they pay off coach Leal... or did he leave with nothing. The truth is out there...

ON the South African “who’s who” website Dominic Buti Ntsele, born on October 30, 1966, is listed thus: “He has handled some of the toughest corporate crises and issues in South Africa and the US. He is a communications strategist.”
Yet again this week, Dom found out that corporate crises are nothing compared to sorting out a football club.
Though Mr Ntsele is listed as having several high-powered executive roles, it’s his position as a director of Orlando Pirates FC which has seen him come under fire the day after the Buccaneers finally parted company with Brazilian coach Julio Leal.
The problem is this: Dom went on the excellent Robert Marawa show on MetroFM on Monday night and assured listeners: “Leal did not receive a pay-off for leaving Orlando Pirates after seven months of his three-year contract.”
And on Tuesday morning, The New Age’s equally excellent Patrick Baloyi grabbed the front page rather than the back to tell readers: “Leal departs R2m richer.”
Baloyi reports an unnamed director as saying: “Leal is legally sharp and would not have left Orlando without a fight.”
The unloved Brazilian, suspended last month when he said he “couldn’t see a way forward”, was paid R350,000 a month. In his short seven months at the Pirates, where he surprisingly replaced treble-winning Dutchman Ruud Krol, Leal won the MTN8 and Telkom Trophies, to ensure the Buccaneers had their hand on every domestic trophy in the country.
The key to Leal’s departure came with the mounting criticism from within the camp that grew before their African Champions League opening round failure against Angola’s Recreativo do Libolo. I wrote at the time that Leal was on his way out http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2012/02/revolting-buccaneers-threaten-to-sink.html and though it was roundly denied by all – notably team spokesman and goalkeeper Monieb Josephs - it was of course true.
Since his suspension, Peruvian caretaker Augusto Palacios has seen the Pirates crash out of the Nedbank Cup but did manage to orchestrate a 3-2 win over Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Wednesday's 1-0 win over Amazulu puts them level on points with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who suffered a third consecutive 0-0 draw despite having 26 efforts on goal against Golden Arrows.
But on the social networking sites, the talk is of Leal’s pay-off. Did he or didn’t he? Did Ntsele, the spin doctor, lie to the fans on air?
So I called Ntsele, the master communicator. No reply. Left a message, sent a text. Then he called back.
And he couldn’t have been more certain. Ntsele told me: “In the absence of real news, fantasy and fiction seems to prevail. I can categorically tell you Leal was not paid to leave Orlando Pirates.
“The man wanted to walk away. We would not pay him to leave under those circumstances. It’s not just unlikely, it just wouldn’t happen. You are asking me for the truth, you want to tell the fans what is happening: There it is, straight from the horse’s mouth.
“I am a director of the club, I would know if we paid off Leal for the remaining two and a half years of his contract. I can categorically say we didn’t.”
So Ntsele is emphatic. But so is The New Age. The black-and-white clad Ghost are confused. But there is a solution.
The problem here seems to be the immense salary offered to Leal when he mysteriously took over from the record-breakingly successful Krol.
Ntsele admits there is a question over the remaining five months’ money paid in advance to Leal – his first year’s salary in a three-year contract. Ntsele says they won’t be claiming that back. Simple mathematics will tell you five times R350,000 comes to R1,750,000. That’s pretty close to R2m.
To pay off Leal for the remainder of his contract would have amounted to far more than that, just under R10m.
With the fans baying for the truth and claiming Ntsele lied on MetroFm, it’s just possible both Baloyi and Ntsele are perfectly within their rights. No, Leal did not get paid off R9,800,000 for the rest of his contract. But yes, the over-paid Brazilian will be following his wife back to Brazil with nearly R2m after barely seven months in the job.
There, sorted.
Oh, and on the subject of a new Pirates manager Ntsele is equally forthright. With Nigeria's Sampson Siasia being roundly touted for Leal's job, Ntsele told me this morning: "Look, we haven't even started talking about a permanent coach for next season. I can reconfirm Palacios will be in charge until the end of the season.
"Of course, Orlando Pirates is a huge club. We are being approached by all sorts of people, from all over Africa, Eastern Europe and beyond.
"You can expect agents to leak names to newspapers but we won't even be thinking about the new appointment. That's the truth."
But then there is the thorny problem, much like last season, of what happens if Palacios, against all the odds, wins the title now that he has put his trust in Tokela Rantie up front alongside Benni McCarthy, a dynamic duo which seems to work. Surely they can't get rid of the championship-winning coach two years on the trot?

Was Palacios listening when I wrote this abuot Rantie last October? http://www.neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

Monday, 2 April 2012

Given the choice between Palacios, Vermezovic and Komphela, who would you choose?



The biggest question in South African football is the simplest one of all: presented with Vladimir Vermezovic, Augusto Palacios and Steve Komphela, who would YOU choose to coach your football club?
Not difficult is it? Kaizer Chiefs boss VV isn’t that bad. He produces answers we can understand without sub-titles, though the Serbian has yet to explain satisfactorily the curious absence of midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha in recent weeks, following an alleged training-ground bust-up.
Lehlohonolo Majoro's four-goal Nedbank Cup blitz against the Leopards at the weekend certainly did VV no harm. The lad with "balz" now has eight goals in seven games and may just turn things around for the patient Amakhosi millions.
Palacios, the Peruvian caretaker at Orlando Pirates, remains difficult to read or listen to. His tactical decisions in the Buccaneers’ 2-1 extra-time Nedbank Cup defeat against Komphela’s Free State Stars were hard to fathom, just like those of his suspended Brazilian predecessor Julio Leal. He gained measure of revenge in the League game against Komphela’s men, but I’m still not convinced.
And then we have Komphela and his little Stars of Bethlehem. Not only has the former Amakhosi midfielder produced a multi-national company to be proud of in South Africa’s remote “House of Bread”, he also gives a cracking interview – and was able to raise his shell-shocked troops to victory in extra-time after the late, late equaliser from Daine Klaite last week.
The Nedbank Cup quarter-final against Kaizer Chiefs now looms for “Ea Lla Kotto” (Basotho for ”fight to the end”) and even a possible title tilt, though the three Soweto giants – never forget Moroka Swallows - and Johan Neeskens’ currently impregnable Sundowns stand firmly in their way.
The point is this: With Palacios is temporary charge at Pirates and VV under huge pressure at Chiefs, surely Komphela should be the coach of choice for Irvin Khoza and Kaizer Motaung, South Africa’s footballing king-makers?
It’s not like this is a new story. Google “Neal Collins Free State Stars” and you’ll find http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011/12/o-little-town-of-bethlehem-all-you-ever.html, my pre-Christmas epic which wrapped up and presented Komphela’s men, including Zambia’s Afcon winning goalkeeper Kennedy Mweena and top-scorer Edward Manqela two weeks before Santa popped down the chimney.
Curiously, Kaizer and his son Bobby have emphatically denied any link between their family business and Komphela, who served under Bafana Bafana boss Palacios a full 20 years ago.
All the talk is of Bloemfontein Celtic coach Clinton Larsen or Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Mathaus heading for the big time, with former Pirates’ treble-winning boss Ruud Krol waiting in the wings with his notebook and pen resplendent at so many SAPL matches this season.
Madness. In a nation crying out for local coaches of quality at all levels, Komphela, who played 24 times for South Africa in a playing career which covered Chiefs, Stars and two stints in Turkey, stands out like a sore but prominent thumb.
His post-match interview on Saturday was a thing of beauty, as it so often is with the philosophical Komphela.
He generously paid tribute to the Buccaneers who walked the plank in a cup competition for the first time since 2010, saying: “There was a moment when I felt that it was not meant to be our night (that was probably in the inexplicable 5th minute of injury time when Klaite’s free-kick found a route past the miserly Mweene) but my players showed great fighting spirit.
“We knew the Pirates profile. We knew they were dangerous. My team’s performance was close to perfection. It had to be.”
Despite a subsequent Rantie/McCarthy inspired defeat on the cabbage patch that is the Orlando Stadium, Komphela remains an over-achiever this season.
As for his relationship with then-national boss Palacios in 1992, Khompela grinned: “I remember well how Augusto made me captain of the national team. It was Palacios who introduced me to leadership – so it was interesting to achieve victory against my leader, my mentor, my coach.
“Augusto came up to me before he game and said: ‘We have to kill each other today,’ but no son can be happy murdering his father. We just scored beautiful goals.”
Read it carefully. This man Khomphela has the verbal acumen of Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp and, arguably, the recuperational skills of Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill. Give him the longevity in management offered to Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, and South Africa will have a coach to conjure with.

NEDBANK CUP QUARTER-FINAL DRAW:
Amazulu (my choice) v Santos
Kaizer Chiefs v Free State Stars
SuperSport United v Jomo Cosmos
Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United

This column first appeared in www.thenewage.co.za. A newspaper well worth a read… my column Neal and Pray appears every Tuesday… and it’s only R3.50!