Orlando Pirates are at home to the University of Pretoria tomorrow evening, a side that beat Jomo Comsos on Saturday, but a team that has been in horribly poor form under Sammy Troughton. If Pirates cannot beat Tuks, I cannot see a future at Bucs for Eric Tinkler.
His position has been under some scrutiny basically ever since he took over as caretaker coach when Vladimir Vermezovic resigned in December 2014.
Tinkler ensured Pirates finished fourth in the Absa Premiership that season, losing just two of 18 league games, and also kept the Buccaneers alive in the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup.
It was a fine effort, though a lack of silverware would still have grated with the Bucs fans. Pirates were knocked out in the last-16 of the Nedbank Cup.
Still, Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza decided to stick with his man, and appointed Tinkler as head coach on a permanent basis.
“There is no reason to change anything as this might have a negative effect on the momentum Eric has managed to build,” said Khoza at the time.
The 2015/16 season has thus far been one of a clear divide – between Pirates’ achievements on the continent and their awful domestic form. Tinkler did brilliantly to take Pirates all the way to the final of the Confederation Cup, but he did so at the expense of severe suffering in the Absa Premiership.
Once Pirates lost the final to Etoile du Sahel, many felt it might be Tinkler’s last act, but the club have stuck with him, no doubt hoping that without the distraction of Africa, a surge up the table is more than likely. A 1-1 draw with Platinum Stars at home on Saturday, however, was a sticky beginning for Tinkler to 2016.
The excuse of a continental campaign is no longer there, especially as the Christmas break afforded ample time for tired legs to get their rest. Tinkler is no quitter – as he has repeated over and over again in the last few weeks and months, and he speaks passionately opposite in his own defence.
But fail to beat Tuks and my feeling is the decision will be taken for him.
On the other side of the coin, coaches riding the crest of a wave at the moment include Muhsin Ertugral and Clinton Larsen. Both are doing fantastic jobs at unfancied clubs and we speak to the pair in these very pages.
We also speak to Zeca Marques, who talks frankly about his old club Moroka Swallows, threatening to die an indecent death in the National First Division. The sadness in Marques’ comments is palpable.
Elsewhere, we look at how the bad pitch at FNB Stadium for Saturday’s Chiefs-Sundowns game could yet be beneficial for both sides.
Will Chiefs use David Zulu in Africa, as he seems to have simply warming the bench ever since he joined Amakhosi in January last year? It seems unlikely, and we look at other strikers who have done well in the NFD, but have flopped when they have landed in the big time of the Absa Premiership.
We also speak to Ajax Cape Town youngster Olwethu Nguye, who is hoping he can make the step up to a regular place in the Ajax first team, though for now he has to be content with shining in the MultiChoice Diski Challenge.
And we take a look at the two unlikely clubs currently leading the NFD – Baroka FC and Mbombela United.