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Silly season kicks off

This time of the year isn’t known as silly season for nothing. The player and coaching merry-go-round tends to hit overdrive. All around the footballing world, players and coaches will swap allegiances for varying reasons.

Now that the local league is in recess, the coming months become a flurry of activity with the transfer window fast approaching. Football agents will be offering players to clubs and requesting trials for their clients.

Having been part of the system, I can talk with some authority on how the transfer process in South Africa works.

Agents first offer the top players to the richest clubs in Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns. It’s generally a win-win for both parties as the agents earn themselves big commissions, while the clubs get their first-choice targets.

The players that the glamour clubs turn down, will then be offered to the likes of Wits, Swallows and SuperSport United and other teams towards the middle of the pack. Clubs closer to the foot of the table will ultimately get the shortest end of the stick.

It’s therefore crucial that these clubs don’t just wake up once the season has ended and then decide to pursue players. For example, SuperSport United have been proactive in their recruitment drive and other teams can learn from this approach. Their planning, scouting and pre-contracting is top-notch.

It’s essential that a club has a top scouting network working throughout the season to identify players. In my view, a club needs at least two or three scouts watching players for a number of weeks and months in order to gather sufficient video footage of the relevant players’ strengths and weaknesses.

If this process is followed, I believe clubs would make more informed transfer decisions, ultimately guarding against last-minute panic purchases.

The transfer window does help certain teams but there is no doubt it hinders others. From past experience, one is inundated with calls from agents and trials for players and as such it’s crucial to surround yourself with the right people who can assist in the process.

The relationship between the head coach and the CEO is key. For this partnership to prove fruitful, both parties have to share an understanding of each other’s roles and know what makes the other tick.

Turning to coaching reshuffles, Gavin Hunt’s move from SuperSport United to Wits seems to be the worst kept secret in South African football. If he does indeed join the Clever Boys, he would be reunited with his former CEO Jose Ferreira. All the signs are pointing to Hunt bidding farewell to Matsatsantsa.

However, knowing Gavin well, he would certainly have weighed up his decision carefully. While he has always been a coach who enjoys building continuity, perhaps the time is now right for a new challenge.

In Brian Joffe, Wits have an ambitious boss who wants to win trophies. The Braamfontein-based side are a well-organised, well-structured club and have become competitive in the transfer market.

While Hunt would be joining a similar setup, sometimes as a coach it’s key to tackle new projects and step outside one’s comfort zone.

If Hunt does indeed join the Students, there are suggestions that Cavin Johnson will fill the void left at SuperSport United. This will be a big call for Cavin to make after having enjoyed such a great season with Platinum Stars. Only he will know if the time is right to move on.

Some coaches remain loyal to clubs and others don’t, there is no right or wrong in this situation. It all depends on the stage of development coaches are at in their careers. For example, a young manager may choose to remain at a club to continue his footballing education, while a more seasoned campaigner may chase a fresh challenge.

From a personal perspective, I was one who wanted to stay with a club as a long as I could. During my 20-year playing career, I only represented three clubs.

However, the reality is that modern football is an increasingly results-driven business and many of today’s owners, coaches and players are more impatient than they once were.

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