|TEN FOR TENDAI: Ndoro is in a rich run of form|
SIMPLY NDORABLE. The fairytale of Tinkler Ball. An Orlando Pirates revival that has become too impressive to ignore. And too bizarre to leave unexplored.
In truth, WWWWDWWWW since February 21 should never have happened. Coach Eric Tinkler was widely touted for the axe after the CAF Confederations final defeat at the start of December, but his chairman Irvin Khoza just never got around to chopping off his coach's head.
The man popularly known as #Tinklerout remained in charge confiding in me “what will be, will be, that’s football” as he struggled from game to game before Christmas. At one point the mighty Buccaneers, double treble winners just four years ago, looked a hopeless case in 13th position, just above the top three. Unthinkable for a side NEVER relegated.
It got worse. Kermit Erasmus went overboard without warning, and left for France, Thamsanqa Gabuza walked the plank, disappearing from the squad with apparent burn-out. Tinkler, scrambling for a life jacket in an ocean of despair, turned to a 27-year-old from Luwewe in Zimbabwe called Tendai Ndoro. It was sink or swim.
A Chicken Inn product, Ndoro was impressive at Aces, where he scored 14 goals in 41 games, before the big move to Soweto. But despite what looked to me to be a sharp pre-season, Ndoro languished on the bench at Pirates for months. He was lucky to even get a seat as Tinkler stuck with Erasmus, Gabuza and the curiously sluggish Lehlohonolo Majoro.
|TOLD YOU SO! My tweet in September last year|
questioning the disappearance of Tendai Ndoro
On September 15, 2015, I tweeted about Ndoro being surplus to requirements and sent an SMS to Eric Tinkler, a coach who is always polite enough to reply. He said Tendai was not training well, and had confidence problems.
But needs must. Let’s return to the low point: 3-0 down at half-time to rock-bottom Maritzburg United on January 16, Ndoro comes on at half-time, fails to score but they grab a point, 3-3.
There’s a few up and downs after that but February 21 is the key point. With Gabuza and Erasmus gone, Ndoro scored in the 3-1 win over an in-form Aces in Mpumalanga.
And then the run began. With Chiefs STILL stuck winless since February 20, here’s the full story of Pirates revival with Ndoro’s goals listed:
21 Feb: 3-1 Aces (a) Ndoro 1
27 Feb: 1-0 Celtic (h)
5 March: 2-0 Chiefs (a) Ndoro 2
12 March: 5-0 Cosmos (h) Ndoro 1
16 March: 0-1 Wits (a)
3 April: 3-1 Cosmos (a) Ndoro 2
9 April: Free State Stars 1-0 (h) Ndoro 1
16 April: Arrows 4-1 (a) Nodder 2
23 April Sundowns 2-0 (a) Ndoro 1
Nine games in all competitions, one defeat.. and TEN GOALS for Tendai Ndoro. Pirates have gone WWWWLWWWW while rivals Chiefs are on a run of DDLLLLLD since mid February. Incredible.
During that time, Tebogo Moloi, the long-running assistant boss at Pirates, has disappeared on long leave. Fitness coach Warren Engelbrecht and effervescent goalkeeping trainer Rowen Fernandez sit alongside Tinkler.
Captain Oupa Manyisa has been out injured and has yet to return. Gabuza has played twice for Bafana but not for Pirates. Crowds at the Orlando Stadium have dipped below 3,000. The Iron Duke called a press conference not to announce exciting new developments but to mark the retirement of near-legendary centre-back Siya Sangweni.
The pressure has never eased. Even at 0-0 against Sundowns on Saturday night, the Ghost were haunting Tinkler. Saying he was tactically inept, should have made changes, was hopeless.
But Tinkler just gritted his teeth and held on, as he has ever since Roger de Sa left for Ajax Cape Town two years ago, even when unlamented Vladimir Vermecovic was making a hash of it. Tinkler doesn’t quit. He hangs on despite the odds. And it worked. Down to ten men, Ndoro scored in extra-time, then made the second goal.
And Tinkler, through to the Nedbank Cup semi-finals, was left smiling: “We were down to 10 and I had to play that way. I knew they would be vulnerable to the break away… and they were.”
Ndoro, with his streaky hair and slick demeanour said simply: “We work hard. We work as a team. We want the Nedbank Cup.”
Now breathing over the shoulders of arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the PSL and threatening the top four, Tinkler and Ndoro lifting silverware would be the icing on the cake.
And given the position at Christmas, a true footballing fairy tale.