SET­TING THEBAR

Af­ter years of learn­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the game from the touch­line, Tin­kler is ready to dom­i­nate SA foot­ball, writes

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT -

IT DOESN’T sur­prise Su­perS­port United coach Eric Tin­kler that his for­mer boss, Or­lando Pi­rates’ chair­man Irvin Khoza, holds him in high re­gard and wasn’t keen on los­ing him.

Khoza paid Tin­kler, who is on the verge of tak­ing a sec­ond team to the fi­nal of the Caf Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup, a glow­ing trib­ute and re­vealed that he be­grudg­ingly ac­cepted his res­ig­na­tion let­ter last year. Tin­kler de­cided to jump ship af­ter the Buc­ca­neers hired Muhsin Er­tu­gral, which would have seen him re­turn to be­ing an as­sis­tant, a po­si­tion he out­grew af­ter tak­ing Pi­rates to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup fi­nal in 2015.

The 47-year-old coach opted in­stead to join the am­bi­tious Cape Town City. He built a strong team and stunned the foot­ball or­der by fin­ish­ing third in the league and win­ning the Telkom Knock­out with the new­bies.

“My re­la­tion­ship with the chair­man has al­ways been very, very strong,” Tin­kler said. “It goes all the way back to my play­ing days at Bafana Bafana. I am very proud of what he has gone and said to the pub­lic. But I pride my­self in that any club that I have rep­re­sented or coached can never have a bad thing to say about me be­cause of who I am as a per­son and how I ap­ply my­self as a pro­fes­sional. No­body can ever point an ac­cus­ing fin­ger at me (and say that I didn’t give my all). It doesn’t sur­prise me that the chair­man would say that.”

Khoza’s words and Tin­kler’s ac­com­plish­ments with the Cit­i­zens went a long way in prov­ing his de­trac­tors wrong. Tin­kler’s rise at the Buc­ca­neers, hav­ing ar­rived there as Roger de Sa’s as­sis­tant, was met with a lot of scep­ti­cism with many ar­gu­ing that the coach who holds a Uefa Pro Li­cense, was out of his depth.

The ar­gu­ment was that he didn’t earn that pro­mo­tion, he just hap­pened to be at the right place at the right time, pick­ing up the pieces af­ter De Sa and Vladimir Ver­me­zovic’s res­ig­na­tion. That think­ing ig­nored the years the for­mer Bafana an­chor­man spent earn­ing his stripes. Tin­kler got his first “coach­ing job” as an 18-year-old at Damelin be­fore he served as an as­sis­tant at Bid­vest Wits and shaped the club’s academy.

“It was Jorge Lobo, who was a ref­eree in the old NSL days and is now a match com­mis­sioner, who ig­nited the first spark. Lobo is also a school teacher. He is at Crawford now,” Tin­kler said. “Then he was at Damelin. When he heard that I was com­ing there, he called me into his of­fice and asked me to play for the col­lege team. He wanted me to not only play for the team but also coach them and se­lect the team.”

Tin­kler con­tin­ued: “I have al­ways had peo­ple doubt­ing my com­pe­tency, since I was a young­ster at the age of six when I started play­ing foot­ball. My fa­ther was a coach. The other play­ers would say: ‘Ah, he is only play­ing be­cause his fa­ther is the coach’.

“I lived that through­out my life. To make mat­ters worse, I am a red­head. I was con­stantly called gin­ger-top, this and that. It never af­fected me. I fo­cused on what I be­lieved in and who I am.”

That self-con­fi­dence and thick­skin laid the foun­da­tion for the no-non­sense mid­fielder Tin­kler was in a pro­fes­sional ca­reer that started at Wits, took him to Por­tu­gal, Italy and Eng­land be­fore he re­turned to the Clever Boys as a 35-year-old qual­i­fied coach in 2005,

get­ting his coach­ing badges throughouut his play­ing ca­reer.

But he had to wait be­fore he could prac­tice as a coach af­ter for­mer Wits’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Dereck Blanck­ensee con­vinced him to join the club as a player and an as­sis­tant coach.

Tin­kler thought he fi­nally got his coach­ing break when Boe­bie Solomons was dis­missed in 2007. Wits’ man­age­ment had other ideas, giv­ing him the job on an in­terim ba­sis be­fore he re­turned to be­ing an as­sis­tant upon Roger de Sa’s reap­point­ment.

“I came in at a very dif­fi­cult time af­ter Boe­bie left. We weren’t get­ting the re­sults. Slowly but surely the team was drop­ping into the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

“I learnt a lot about my­self and who I wanted to be dur­ing that spell. Truth be told, that first ex­pe­ri­ence showed me that I wasn’t ready (to be the head coach). My ap­proach was wrong. That was the learn­ing curve. You don’t get that of­ten. I was for­tu­nate to get that op­por­tu­nity and learn from it. I think that was key,

pos­si­bly had it not gone the other way around, and I was of­fered the head coach job then, maybe I wouldn’t have achieved what I have achieved be­cause I wouldn’t have recog­nised my mis­takes or had the op­por­tu­nity to rem­edy them.”

To­mor­row night at Moses Mab­hida, Tin­kler will be in search of his sec­ond tro­phy in two sea­sons at the ex­pense of his for­mer team, the Cit­i­zens, in the MTN8 fi­nal. There’s also a cru­cial trip to Tu­nisia in the sec­ond leg of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup semi­fi­nal to look for­ward to. Every ac­co­lade Tin­kler has, he earned through hard work with noth­ing handed to him.

“That’s who I am. I have al­ways be­lieved in my­self. I work hard. I know that be­cause of what I achieved as a player. I wasn’t the most tal­ented or the most skil­ful. But I achieved what I achieved through hard work and ded­i­ca­tion. I’ve ap­plied the same phi­los­o­phy as a coach.”

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