Wits are learning some harsh realities

Gavin Hunt coach of Bidvest Wits (Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

Gavin Hunt coach of Bidvest Wits (Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

It’s all a bit surreal watching Bidvest Wits lose game after game at the moment in the Absa Premiership.

You keep thinking this will be the moment that the Clever Boys turn it around, this will be the match that ignites the defending champions to, while they now surely have no chance of winning the title, at least surge up the table. And then they get beaten again, like they did at home to Platinum Stars in their last game before Christmas, and like they did at home to Free State Stars in their first game of 2018.

So now it has to be said, relegation to the National First Division is a real possibility for Wits, an event that would put them in a select list of clubs worldwide to have won the title and dropped out of their elite division in the very next campaign.

It has happened to some major players in the game, it must be said like AC Milan (champions 1978/9, relegated, 1979/80) and Manchester City (champions 1936/37, relegated 1937/38), but it is an unwanted record, of course, and one that would heap serious embarrassment on Wits and their coach Gavin Hunt.

It felt like Hunt had his watershed moment at Wits, as they won the Premiership title last season for the first time in their history.

The criticism had mounted despite some high finishes since Hunt took over in 2013, and there were those who felt that with the amount invested in the club, the title should have come earlier, but this felt like vindication, and like a platform that Wits would build on.

There were signings in the off-season that even appeared to strengthen the squad, but instead of building Wits have fallen off the platform and plunged to the bottom of the ocean, with their only saving grace a run to the Telkom Knockout title.

It has got so bad that Hunt’s future at the side has to come into question – just how long do the Wits hierarchy persist with a coach who has brought a lot of success to the club that right now appears to have lost the knack of winning a league match playing either bad or good football?

Winning ugly has for a long time been the Clever Boys’ mantra – they have never been the most attractive side to watch under Hunt, but their resilience and power has been impressive in itself. Now they are losing or drawing ugly almost ever week.

There have been problems with injuries, for sure, particularly in defence, where Wits have rarely had the back four that did so well for them last season. But in attack there are not really such excuses, and the goals have dried up horribly.

Wits’ pre-season transfers have also mainly flopped, with Steven Pienaar and Slavko Damjnaovic already out of the club and Daylon Claasen doing little to persuade anyone he was worth taking a punt on.

Amr Gamal has also shone only in patches, and Wits have now taken a punt on the experience of Lehlohonolo Majoro, but it remains to be seen if that one will pay off. I still can’t help feeling Wits will recover from this, but as I said before, every time I think this is the game they will bounce back, they don’t.

It is time for the Clever Boys to start waking up, or the NFD beckons. No one, as the old cliche goes, is too good to go down.

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