Kaizer Chiefs’ interim coach Cavin Johnson’s credentials have been backed by former player Siphelele Mthembu who starred under his guidance at Platinum Stars.
Mthembu played some of his best football over his career at Diwkena as Johnson led them to second place in the league back in the 2012/13 season and qualified for the CAF Champions League.
At the time, Stars were lauded as an enterprising attacking outfit, with Johnson earning major plaudits for his development of young talent, which was primarily due to his deep history in youth coaching before his rise to head coaching in the South African top-flight.
“He’s a typical Pitso style, Sundowns style back then. Also with that School of Excellence background, where you keep the ball when necessary to keep it, you counter-attack, play on transition, everything in one,” Mthembu tells iDiski Times.
“It all depends on which team he’s with. For us [at Platinum Stars] it was easy because everyone was working hard so we were always on the attack, playing an open game. I remember when we played against Chiefs they said they like playing against us, because we played openly, and we never parked the bus.
“He gave us no reason to fear, but to go forward [and attack] more. As I said it was freedom, a fluid system but maintaining your [tactical] position.”
Mthembu, who now campaigns in the Motsepe Foundation Championship with Pretoria Callies, ironically, joined Chiefs after two season under the guidance of Johnson with 13 goals and six assists in 48 games leading to his dream move to Amkhosi.
“Coach Cavin, you have freedom when you work with him, he gives players a break when they need it, he pushed us, he gave us that belief when you in the field,” he explained about his impressive form under the former Al Ahly assistant coach.
“He’s someone who said sometimes the coach can’t give you everything, sometimes you need to think for yourself, he offered that freedom but yet we had to respect him as our coach. What made us perform so well?
“[Coming second]… it was the freedom of playing style, movement. He’s a very hard-working coach, very dedicated in his job.
“But all in all, what made us tick was just the [fluidity] of tactics, whether you playing up front or in midfield and belief in players. He’s like a brother, father, cousin, uncle, he will show up in all forms just to reach and understand us.”
The towering forward went on to explain how Johnson’s youth development background was able to translate into professional football – and the psychological factor behind nurturing them.
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“He likes youngsters, especially when they work hard, he will bring them, and give them a chance. He doesn’t throw away players because they do bad things,” Mthemba continued.
“He’s more of a visionary person who prepares youngsters for the future. He never threw them into the deep end, he swam with them to help them – he believed in young talent and could balance the team.”
Johnson will lead Chiefs this weekend when they take on high-flying Golden Arrows at the Mpumalanga Stadium after he was announced as interim coach to replace Molefi Ntseki.