South Africa return makes most sense for Baxter after sack in Turkey
The only certainty a football coach has is that any contract he signs will have an end date at some point. Stuart Baxter, the Scotsman who was in charge of South African club Kaizer Chiefs last season, knew as much when he left South Africa for Turkey, which is why he only penned a 10-month deal with the Turkish club. However, he did not know his tenure would last just two matches.
Baxter was shown the door by Genclerbirligi before he'd even had a proper chance to introduce himself for reasons Baxter does not seem to understand. He won all his preseason games, which sounds good enough, then lost the first two in the league -- hardly cataclysmic considering the margins.
Genclerbirligi went down 3-2 in the season opener against Rizespor, despite leading 2-1 with a minute to go. However, an 89th minute penalty and a last minute goal undid Genclerbirligi, which Baxter later explained to Kickoff.com, "These things happen, especially when a side is new together." They also led against Antalyaspor but conceded after what Baxter said was the referee missing a bad tackle. In the end they lost 3-1. Neither of those results should prompt a sacking, but in Baxter's case it did.
He was called in by club chairman Ilhan Cavcav and then shown the door. "The chairman calls me in and rants at me, even going on about my family. Then he stops ranting and simply says; 'Okay, you can pack your things and go,'" revealed a disbelieving Baxter.
Baxter can't say he wasn't warned. When he set off for Turkey, Muhsin Ertugral, a Turkish coach who has managed extensively in South Africa and is now at Mpumalanga Black Aces, explained that coaches are treated differently in Turkey to the way they are in South Africa. "It was always going to be tough for him or any coach because Turkey is a volatile and high-paying league and during the season clubs change coaches a lot," Ertugral said. "The coach's impact is minimal and everything there is emotional."
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Baxter can now relate. "Anything I experienced in South Africa is nothing like this," said Baxter. This now will only lead to inevitable questions of what he experienced in South Africa, when he will return and which job he may get. Baxter was in charge of Kaizer Chiefs between 2012 and 2015, took them to two league titles and a record unbeaten run of 19 matches, and said he felt the pressure of coaching one of the country's best supported clubs.
"At some other clubs you can sweep it under the carpet if it doesn't look too good or results aren't going your way. At Chiefs you cannot. You're in the limelight and you'll take flak," Baxter said after his departure, when he was believed to be pursuing opportunities in Europe.
He was replaced by former national coach Steve Komphela and expressed confidence in Komphela's ability to pick up where he left off. "He understands stuff we've been doing. And I think when he looks at the material I've left behind, he will go, 'Yeah, I get that,'" Baxter said.
But Baxter also made it clear that he would consider returning to South Africa, particularly for family reasons. "I am under a little bit of pressure to come back to South Africa in the future, and I would have no problem with that," he said.
It probably won't be at Chiefs, where they are trying to build a new outfit under a new coach. It probably won't be at the other big club Pirates, where Eric Tinkler is trying to plot the way forward. It may be at one of the smaller clubs, which would come without the public glare or the exaggerated expectations. But it will still come with an end date on the contract, and Baxter already knows that.
Based in South Africa, Firdose is a cricket, football and rugby correspondent for ESPNCricinfo, ESPNFC & ESPN.co.uk