Amakhosi have reached the Caf Champions League final on the back of a miserable campaign…remind you of anyone?
While Kaizer Chiefs are firm outsiders to win their first Caf Champions League title on Saturday, when they face Al-Ahly in Casablanca, it’s simply remarkable that they’ve even made the final at all.
Amakhosi have reached the showpiece on the back of a miserable campaign—domestically at least—in which they have struggled to dispatch some of the PSL’s lowlier sides, been humbled in some big games, and never even threatened a title challenge.
Admittedly, the club were labouring under a considerable disadvantage—the ban on registering new players—which allowed a tired squad to stagnate even further.
However, Gavin Hunt’s failure to adapt to the testing conditions, and his inability to bring his considerable nous to beat to get the best out of an experienced squad ultimately led to him losing his job.
Stuart Baxter has arrived to take the helm, although even with his considerable pedigree, he will be aware that Ahly are the strong favourites to ensure that Chiefs’ wait for silverware continues.
The Glamour Boys only have to look at the example of Chelsea, however, to see how the most glorious success can be born from the most miserable disasters.
Both of the Blues’ grandest successes—the Champions League victories of 2012 and 2021—came against the backdrop of terrible domestic seasons.
In the first instance, Andre Villas-Boas was sacked only nine months into the job, following a run of three wins in his previous 12 games.
His replacement—Roberto Di Matteo—was able, however, to galvanise the squad and guide a chiselled Pensioners side to UCL glory as they dispatched Bayern Munich on penalties in the final, becoming London’s first European Cup winners in the process.
Chelsea actually ended the 2011-12 Prem season down in sixth—a whopping 25 points off eventual winners Manchester City—but all that mattered was that they had got their hands on the biggest prize in the European game.
It’s been a similar story for the West Londoners in recent years; an inexperienced coach took the helm, had to contend with a transfer ban, sought to introduce a modified playing style, clashed with senior players, and ultimately lost his job.
Defensively, Chelsea were dismal at times under Frank Lampard, and while things weren’t perfect under Thomas Tuchel—remember that defeat by West Bromwich Albion?—they nonetheless rallied to reach the Champions League final.
Earlier in the campaign, few would have given the Londoners too much chance of defeating Manchester City in the UCL showpiece, but galvanised by Tuchel’s arrival, they did just that.
Could Chiefs take inspiration and write their own final chapter to a taxing campaign against Ahly on Saturday?