Former Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has for the first time opened up about his premature exit from Amakhosi, following a mutual agreement between both parties to terminate his contract with seven DStv Premiership games to go.
The club immediately appointed Arthur Zwane, his assistant, as the interim coach until the end of the season alongside Dillon Sheppard.

Baxter exclusively discussed his brief second spell at Naturena with SABC Sport.

“First of all, my history with Chiefs is something that I think is a bit special. It’s a got special part in my heart, and my experiences with Chiefs until coming back now was only positive…only filled with happiness, with passion, with motivation, with a relationship with supporters and the players I had worked with. So, that’s important that I made that point. That’s why I came back. That’s why I considered coming back because you try not to go back to places you have worked before,” said Baxter.

The Englishman’s first stint at Amakhosi between 2012 to 2015 was memorable – he won a total four trophies, including two league titles.
The Glamour Boys are still yet to clinch any silverware since, and Baxter’s return was expected to change all that.
However, the former Bafana Bafana coach only lasted 10 months this time around, and he feels he was just at the initial stages of his grand plan for the club.

“When I came back, I knew what had been going on before. I knew what happened before I came the first time, I knew what happened since I left and I just I got this passion to do what I could to put things right,” the coach explained.
“To pull things back together again…so that’s the second point. And everything that had been said between me and Chiefs led me to believe that, that would be the case. So, coming back- a lot of work to do, not because coaches before me have not done the job properly. But because the circumstances there were still that there was an embargo (FIFA ban), then Covid. There were so many things…do we sign new players? Do we bring them from the academy, can we replace a new culture, can we do all of that and can we be successful and win something? So, that was what I was trying to do.”

Baxter believes the Glamour Boys, without a trophy since May 2015, were well on their way to clinching a runners-up spot behind eventual winners Mamelodi Sundowns in the Premiership, guaranteeing Amakhosi a place in the CAF Champions League.

“When you don’t get to finish that, of course you are not happy. Of course, I’d have liked to continue and see what we could do. But I have to say, the conditions became not conducive for either me or Chiefs,” added Baxter, who left the club despite still having a year left on his contract.
Amakhosi had also inserted an option to extend his contract until June 2025.

“So, we sat down and agreed to part company. And that is sad for me because of what I’ve just said. Therefore, I would have liked to continue because I think we could’ve finished Top 2 and I don’t know where in the table the team will finish now, but I just think that there’s a sadness for my side that we didn’t get to do that. It wasn’t the way I thought it would be when I actually came back. As things unfolded it wasn’t what I thought It would be.”

Everyone thought Baxter would be the right fit, and so did he. The coach said he was close to finding the perfect winning formula.

“When you bring back a coach that’s been successful, whether it’s Jose Mourinho, Stuart Baxter or Fred Blog…it doesn’t matter. The club are obviously thinking this guy has got a bit of a recipe that suits us. And we can get along,” the coach went further.
“Am I the same coach that I was when I was at Chiefs last time? No, of course I’m not. I mean my coaching philosophy has moved forward the modern game is developed, and if you are a coach, you keep pace with that you don’t stand still, you develop. I wanted to bring that development to Chiefs and find a new way,” the 68-year-old former Amakhosi mentor concluded.

Baxter still wanted to keep the Amakhosi ethos.
“What you don’t change too much are the supporting walls in the building. The culture around the team. That I had to put into place, and I felt that gradually we got them more or less in place and then to build on that. We didn’t get the chance to build on, that’s immaterial now,” the coach said.
“But that is what I wanted when I came back. As I said, it became obvious to us that the differences in opinions were insurmountable.”

By Mazola Molefe

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