Benni McCarthy is about to enter his second season of coaching at Cape Town City after a roller-coaster first campaign in which he led the side to fifth in the Premier Soccer League and the MTN8 final, but failed to achieve his "personal goals".
He says a new 'hard-arse' attitude to coaching, together with improvements to the squad, now means the club is targeting silverware on all fronts, including the league title.
McCarthy recently completed his UEFA 'Pro' License, but also learnt much about man-management, South African referees and the lackadaisical attitude of some of his players in a turbulent first season in charge.
He outlines his ambition for this campaign as the club prepare for their opening league fixture at home to SuperSport United on Saturday.
How has your pre-season gone and how eager are you to get the new campaign underway?
After our pre-season I am very excited, much more than I was when I started last season because I am a year more experienced now. I am not a rookie anymore. The players and coaching staff I have give me a calmness. We work really well together and I see how the players have upped their game 50 percent from last season. I am optimistic, and with the new faces that in the team, they have come in and made us real contenders now. I've got a very balanced squad with two or three players for every position and that is a luxury for a coach. I am excited for Saturday ... we want to get the monkey off our back in the first one.
What lessons have you learnt from your first year as a coach that you can take forward?
I think to be more direct [with the players], because last season I wanted to be liked. I wanted to get on with my whole squad, I wanted my players to feel comfortable, and sort of baby'd them a little bit. We are past that stage now. They know what's expected of them, they know what we want, they know how we want to work, so we are not here to baby nobody, they must be professional when they go there. They go out there to do a job. I don't care if I'm liked or not liked anymore. It's about getting the job done. They have responded better than I thought they would, so it's going to a brutal season this year. That's the lesson I've learnt ... players rather want it straight than beating around the bush.
What are your expectations for this season in terms of silverware?
We don't want to get ahead of ourselves; we are a very good side and we play compact football. We play very nicely on the ball and have worked throughout the whole pre-season to be more composed on the ball. We have added [goalkeeper] Peter [Leeuwenburgh, from Ajax Amsterdam], who has come in to beef up the squad nicely. He is so relaxed and so experienced, he brings a calmness to the group. With Sage [Stephens] there we have two goalkeepers that allow us to play out from the back. We have tightened up where we lacked the most [last season]. Matthew [Rusike] looks like a new player, he is full of energy and wants to get going. Shaka Zulu [Siphelele Mthembu] has come in and brought a completely different dimension to us. We can play, but now we've also got an outlet, a striker who can hold the ball up nicely for us. We want to take it game by game. Every game is a new final, a new day and we want to be 100 percent committed to every game.
Is there added pressure from owner John Comitis to win something now that you are in your second season?
"He's quite easy going, I don't know what he's got in his mind. But for me and my staff, we don't want to come here every single day and not have the mentality that we want to win cups and so on. If we don't have that then we might as well go home. You work here because you want to win; we want to win every game that we play, and that means that every competition you are in, you want to try and go all the way. We don't want to limit ourselves. Our collective goals is to win silverware."
Do you foresee any more signings before the end of the transfer window?
I am already having a headache and I'm praying that flu will come and hit [the squad] so that my 18 selection doesn't become too difficult! No, we have got enough players; we have rounded up the team nicely, we have added where it is mostly needed. There are a lot of good players out there, but I am very satisfied with the players we have brought in and made the side more solid than last season. If we get another lucrative one out there then ... but it has to be someone that is going to change the whole dynamic of the league, not just my squad, then I would say go for it.