Kaizer Chiefs’ title hopes seemed to take a massive blow with the news confirmed on Tuesday that the club will serve a transfer ban over two consecutive windows.
With all other teams – especially defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns – strengthening their squads, it seems at first glance that Chiefs are at an insurmountable disadvantage.
But in Gavin Hunt, and with a talented squad that should have lifted last season’s league title, Chiefs may already have all the ingredients they need to stage a title push.
The 56-year old may inadvertently turn out to be the perfect appointment to guide Kaizer Chiefs through this period of stormy weather.
Hunt, the longest-serving coach in the Premiership and a coach who incredibly has never been fired, also has the track record of having built success instead of inheriting it.
At all of his clubs, the Cape town-born Hunt has nurtured success by building a team from the ground up.
While at Black Leopards, Moroka Swallows, SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits, he never inherited a star-studded team.
Hunt rose to prominence as a talented young manager during his time from 1995 to 1998 at Seven Stars.
In the 1997/98 National First Division season, Seven Stars went unbeaten in 38 matches under Hunt and finished as runners-up to coastal champs Santos.
Since then and since making his debut in the top-flight of South African football Hunt has had a remarkable and extensive period of success.
He took the newly-promoted Black Leopards against all odds to 8th position in the league in the 2001/02 season, a feat which saw him named Coach of the Season.
He then moved to Moroka Swallows where he lifted the Absa Cup in 2004 before being appointed by SuperSport United in 2007.
In what cemented his place in the top echelons of managerial greats, Hunt went on to lift the league title in his first season and would then win three consecutive league titles.
He again lifted a league title at Wits in the 2016/2017 season within two seasons of joining the club after majorly transforming the squad into champions.
Looking back over his career, this Kaizer Chiefs squad is perhaps the closest Hunt has come to inheriting a star-studded squad.
Hunt is the perfect candidate to extract every drop of potential from this already-talented squad.
SuperSport football analyst and former Chiefs midfielder Siyabonga Nkosi shared similar sentiments that Hunt is the ideal candidate to prove a success despite the transfer ban.
“The good thing about Gavin Hunt is he has a solid template as a coach and has shown that previously with other teams,” Nkosi told SuperSport TV in his post-match analysis.
“He won the league with SuperSport United with the first of his three consecutive titles happening in his first season at the club and only took within two seasons to win the league at Bidvest Wits.
“So he’s the type of coach to come in and influence the entire team immediately because the first thing he does is influence the attitude of the players.
“He’s also brave enough to select players who deserve to be in the line-up like in dropping Itumeleng Khune to the bench after last week’s [3-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns] game. He also left out the experienced Willard Katsande for Njabulo Blom.
“Even without being able to make any more signings, Hunt will still be able to make a season out this campaign with the squad that he has.”
Fellow analyst Teko Modise agreed with Nkosi while saying that Hunt had always been successful without inheriting without a squad consisting of star players.
“If you look at Gavin’s history, he’s a coach who doesn’t mind working from the ground up and with all the teams he won leagues titles with, they weren’t star-studded teams,” Modise said.
“He had to work himself up so now is in a similar position with Kaizer Chiefs after not being able to sign players.
“It’s just up to the players to buy into what the coach says and his playing philosophy.”
When looking at the current Chiefs squad it is perhaps the strongest team that Hunt has inherited in his coaching career, possessing some of the best talents in the league.
In the goalkeeping department Chiefs possess two of the top five goalkeepers in the league in Daniel Akpeyi and fan-favourite Itumeleng Khune.
Perhaps the department Hunt would have liked to have strengthened most is his defence. Chiefs have a tendency to at times look very panicky at the back and don’t handle pressure well. Having said that they do possess a right-back in Reeve Frosler who has an argument as being the best right-back in the league. Chiefs also possess a solid enough defensive unit shipped in a respectable 27 goals last season.
In the centre of the park, Hunt has at his disposal veterans such as Willard Katsande, Kearyn Baccus along with exciting talent such as Njabulo Blom. In Lebogang Manyama, Chiefs possess a player who could prove to be a swaying factor if he can rediscover his Player of the Season form from the 2016/17 season.
The Soweto giants are at their strongest in attack and boast some of the best talents in the league.
Zimbabwean Khama Billiat is arguably the most talented player in the league when at his best.
Chiefs can also call on perhaps the best striking partnership in the league of Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro with the Serbian particularly deadly last season.
Also, the squad boasts promising potential with the likes of youngster Nkosingiphile Ngcobo in whom Chiefs seem to have discovered an emerging talent.
Hunt will be aiming to transfer his winning mentality and know-how onto these young players while at the same time making his team hard to beat.
In their win over Chippa United on Tuesday night, Chiefs worked well off the ball in not allowing their opponents any time to play with all the players, including the big-name stars, seemingly buying into Hunt’s philosophy.
Also to Chiefs’ favour is that no team besides perhaps Orlando Pirates have strengthened majorly in the transfer market.
Even with the likes of Sundowns, who signed up to ten new players, you still can only field 11 players at a time.
Hunt commented after Tuesday’s win that his side was starting to look like ‘a proper football team’, and there is no reason to think they won’t be able to challenge for league honours this season.