THE race for the Absa Premiership Coach of the Season looks wide open as the league hits the halfway mark – and players and coaches enjoy a festive-season recess.
But one coach stands out at this stage: and that is rookie Benni McCarthy.
The all-time leadin
g Bafana Bafana goal scorer and only Mzansi-born player to have won a European Champions League winners medal – under Jose Mourinho at Porto – has impressed in his first five months as a head coach.
McCarthy has hit the ground running after taking over the reins of Cape Town City at the start of the season.
He had big boots to fill, as his predecessor, Eric Tinkler, had secured a third-spot league finish and lifted the Telkom Knockout in 2016.
But despite his complaints against referees and the way he fights back against the public criticism of his players, McCarthy has guided City to second place at the halfway stage.
He has also reached the final of the MTN8, only to lose to Tinkler’s new club, SuperSport United, in the final.
But by the way things are developing as the year ends, another hot favourite is Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.
The Brazilians ended the first round at the top of the standings with 28 points, four ahead of McCarthy’s City, and what is more, with a match in hand.
Mosimane’s experience and proven track record will be crucial in seeing him crowned once more Mzansi’s best coach. He is definitely well placed in the contest for the title Coach of the Year.
An honourable mention goes to another rookie coach, Teboho Moloi, who has been earning rave reviews with Chippa United.
Also for the attractive way the former Orlando Pirates midfield dynamo has got the Chilli Boys playing since he took charge in September.
Another coach who could be the dark horse in the race is Free State Stars Belgian-born mentor, Luc Eymael.
Ea Lla Koto have set a club record of collecting 22 points from their first round-15 matches under Eymael’s close attention and coaching skills.
Stars are usually propping up the table by this stage of the season – and getting ready for a relegation dog fight in the second round.
But under Eymael, they’re set to enjoy their best season in the top flight. For Free State stars, a top eight finish is now a real possibility and not a wild dream
Among the contenders for Young Player of the Season are SuperSport’s budding stars Teboho Mokoena and Sipho Mbule.
And let’s not overlook that exciting midfield prospect from Platinum Stars, Katlego Otladisa.