When Gordon Igesund took over Manning Rangers in 1996, f ew people would have thought that he would last long. But more than 100 games later, he is still in charge. Peter Auf der Heyde looks at this remarkable achievement.
Gordon Igesund has coached more clubs than most other coaches in thios country. His stay has been normally short lived and his employers have not exactly been glamour clubs. When he took over the Mighty Maulers, he had a reputation of taking over clubs from the Second Division to the first, but then not hanging around very long thereafter.
"That is something I have not chosen to d. I have just had the misfortune of having been involved with struggling teams that have not given me the opportunity of taking them somewhere, as they wanted instant success."
Igesund, who played professional football in Austria, has now been in charge of Manning Rangers since 1996 and has become the first coach to be on the bench for 100 games since the formation of the PSL. The only other coaches to have come close to Igesunds of games he has been on the bench are Cosmos owner, Jomo Sono who would have been equal with the Rangers coach had he not given the coaching reigns to Lucky Stylianou for a short time and Peter Nyama. The present Qwa Qwa Stars coach has also been coaching since the start of the PSL but missed some games when he moved from Celtic to Stars midway through the first season.
The reason why Igesund is the first coach to achieve this distinction of being in charge for 100 PSL matches, is not hard to see. He has brought so much success to the formerly struggling Durban based club, that he was even considered the favourite to take over the job as the national team coach. When Rangers apporached the former Highlands Park striker to take over the coaching, they were very much a club going nowhere. The best league result they had achieved was 8th and once they had only managed to avoid relegation by buying the franchise of another club.
In the season before Igesund took over, the Mighty Maulers fnished 12th out of 18 teams, losing 13 out of their 34 matches. And it was with this team that the management expected ther new coach to bring glory to the club.
"I knew that I could go places with team if I could strengthen the side in a few positions. I set out to get those players and the officials enabled me to do that."
Igesund used the Coca-Cola Challenge competition to adapt his squad to his style of playing and by the time the first PSL season started, he knew that he had a squad that could challenge for the title.
"I knew that we were going well, I was confident that we could win the Championship, although it was not always so easy."
The foundation for Rangers success was built on Igesunds tactical knowledge, which showed itself particularly when the team was playing away from home. Rangers their first ten games on the road and lost only twice during the inaugural PSL season.
"When we play away from home, the opponents always have to come at us and this allows me organise my team to play to their strengths and their opponents weaknesses."
Another strong point in Igesunds repetoire of coaching tricks is that he manages to bring the best out of his players. A typical example are the two strikers George Koumantarakis and Kerryn Jordan. Both had been on the 'not wanted' list of other clubs when they found a new lease of life under Igesund. Both even became full international players under his tutelage. After Rangers won the inauguaral PSL title, they were regarded as one-season wonders. And although they failed to hold onto the championship the following season, they still confounded the experts by staying within striking distance of the leaders throughout the season and finished a credible 5th.
Igesund also came within a game of bringing African glory to the Durban based club. In the end, they failed to qualify for the African Champions League by a single point. There was consolation though when they beat the eventual winners ASEC at home. The club is presently the highest ranked South African team in the world rankings and this season, they have had a similarly good run in the League as they had when they won the Championship.
With well over the two thirds of the competition having been completed. Rangers were sitting in second place, having lost only twice in 15 matches, providing yet further evidence of Igesunds remarkable coaching success.