Stuart's 'feeling good'

20 May 2013 - 02:51 By MARC STRYDOM
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Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter. File photo
Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter. File photo
Image: DUIF DU TOIT/GALLO IMAGES

"It feels good to prove your critics wrong," said Stuart Baxter after watching Kaizer Chiefs lift their first Absa Premiership trophy in eight years on Saturday.

Chiefs lost their final game 1-0 against Pretoria University at Mbombela Stadium, but had already clinched the title after a 1-1 midweek draw over Supersport United.

Baxter, who was largely hounded out of his job as Bafana Bafana coach in 2005 by a hostile press and public after failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, has returned to become the first foreign coach to win the PSL title in their maiden season.

"It's very satisfying," he said. "When people ask me a question like, 'Did you feel you needed to redeem yourself?' - the word redeem suggests you've done something hugely wrong. I didn't think I did anything hugely wrong when I was with the national team.

"I think we tried to do certain things, but were denied though they would have helped; and our group in Ghana was more difficult than anyone wanted to believe.

"After I left, I think what happened would suggest that was probably the case - that Ghana were better and we needed to do a lot of things we had suggested.

"But certainly I wanted to change people's perceptions. which were that this is a failed coach, this is a coach who didn't do what he should have; and I certainly was confident I could do that."

Baxter admitted it was a career risk returning to coach in South Africa.

"When I made a decision to come back, it was fraught with potholes, really. When I worked with the national team some people thought I did a poor job, some thought I did okay, some thought it was a suicide mission and so let's move on to the next coach.

"Given that background it was no light decision because I needed to be at a club that had a clear vision for what it wanted to do - not just with the goal of winning trophies.

"Chiefs wanted to remodel the whole club and the academy, which we are doing.

"They wanted to 'Reclaim the Glory' or, as I interpreted it, get the club back into shape - playing football that supporters could identify with, motivating the players and organising them.

"So, when I got that offer I said: 'Yes, okay, I'll accept that challenge'."

Having done the hard work in the first two-thirds of the season Chiefs pulled away from the pack but they stumbled over the finish line with just three wins from their last 10 games.

"We got through the Africa Cup of Nations with a lot of players feeling fatigued," Baxter said.

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