The current Castle Premier Soccer League campaign has churned out more than its fair share of excitement. It has been quite remarkable for a plethora of sub-plots within the intriguing title race story. Lashias Ncube takes a closer look.....
But lost in the hysteria of the closeness of the title race, in the loss of count about how many times the PSL summit has changed hands this season, and in the enthralling relegation squabble, is the part played by the men who invariably pay the price of failure - coaches.
Coaches are the soft targets as scapegoats for failure. Club hierarchies are more inclined to point the coach to the exit door than order a massive player clear-out despite the fact that players often get their coaches the sack by failing to produce results on the pitch.
Running the rule over the current crop of PSL coaches reveals some interesting developments - a bucking of trends; giving the lie to the erroneous fact that established coaches are synonymous with and best bets for success; and a refreshing injection of youthful exuberance within the coaching echelons of the game.
Success is no longer the preserve of the leagues big teams, nor is it the monopoly of the countrys respected coaches such as Jomo Sono, Gordon Igesund, Trott Moloto, Muhsin Ertugral, Ted Dumitru, Viktor Bondarenko, Paul Dolezar, Clive Barker, etc.
There is a new breed of swashbuckling young coaches, who have more than held their own against wily old campaigners in a league with a heavy tinge of experienced and former national coaches.
They are the Gianluca Vialli-type of coaches, those who have completed the transition from player to boss seamlessly and have taken to their new roles with gusto and some alacrity.
Notice how three of the four teams still in the running for the PSL title are presided over by novices - the more arrogant and less generous critic would even call them charlatans.
By contrast, two of the clubs involved in the relegation dogfight are presided over by massively experienced coaches.
With the exception of Orlando Pirates coach, Roy Barretto, who comes with a wealth of experience, having had several stints with the Zimbabwe national side, either as head coach or assistant, and quite established as a club coach in that countrys top flight, the other three have no pedigrees to speak of.
They are Supersport United coach Pitso Mosimane, Wits Universitys Roger De Sa, and Moroka Swallows Gavin Hunt.
They have not received the credit they deserve. Their sterling efforts as coaches have been lost in the anonymity of the success of the clubs for which they are at the helm.
Indeed, they have even outclassed the games senior coaches. While Mosimanes charges are in contention for the title for the second season in a row, a gagantuan, one former Bafana coach, Clive Barker, suffered the indignity of being sacked when he settled for mediocrity during his second spell at Manning Rangers.
Another former national coach, Trott Moloto, roped in to help Bush Bucks, and also in his second spell at the squad, has not been able to use his wealth of experience to arrest Imbabalas slide into the relegation mire.
De Sa, working on a shoe-string budget has transformed unfashionable Wits University into an exciting outfit, who have underlined their title credentials by putting together a string of excellent results during an unbeaten run stretching over ten games.
Then there is the leagues most successful coach, Gordon Igesund, who in the process of plotting his sides escape from relegation must have forgotten to remind his Urban Warriors when they went down 3-0 to resurgent Black Leopards recently that the surefire way to stave off relegation is to beat fellow strugglers.
If national coaches, like players, were selected on form, Mosimane, Hunt, and De Sa would have been automatic selections this season, while the axe would have fallen on several big names.
The trio mentioned above, and the Kaizer Chiefs double-act of Donald Khuse and Doctor Khumalo are taking massive risks by going into coaching at such a tender age.
These could be make-or-break tenures for them where failure could mean career suicide. For that they should be acknowledged for their courage, while the clubs that have given them these massive responsibilities should be commended for their faith in candidates with little experience. For the sake of the future of the game, long may the trend continue.
Hopefully the employers of these fledgling coaches will give them enough time and the financial wherewithal they need to built on the foundations they have already laid.