They both endured horror debut matches in charge, with their two clubs leaking a combined seven goals, but since that nightmare, Rahman Gumbo and Darlington Dodo have been the toast of the Castle Lager Premiership.
Gumbo’s first match at TelOne could not have gone any worse, a 0-3 thrashing at Nyamhunga at the hands of ZPC Kariba, although, he can provide the alibi he hardly knew any of the players he fielded after having arrived at the club a few days earlier.
Dodo also received a baptism of fire, with CAPS United conceding four goals at Ascot against Chapungu and, although his men scored twice, the dominant narrative afterwards was that the Green Machine leaders had gambled badly to invest their trust in him.
Tasked with filling the big shoes left by Lloyd Chitembwe, CAPS United’s most decorated servant as a player and coach, was never something that was going to be easy and the four-goal mauling sent critics into overdrive slamming the decision to give Dodo the assignment.
Things, argued the critics, could only go downhill for the Green Machine from there and a good opportunity, for them to win the league championship in a season where none of the clubs have imposed themselves, was set to be wasted.
“I think it was natural for people to question our decision, especially after what happened at Chapungu in his first game in charge, because when a club like ours concede four goals, it sparks a lot of debate,” said club president Farai Jere.
“And, with a new man in charge, people were always going to ask questions and say that we had made a big blunder to trust Dodo with this responsibility.
“But, we didn’t panic, which was key, because we have been in such a situation before.
“Remember, when Charlie (Charles Mhlauri) came, there were a lot of people who asked if he had the profile and credentials to coach a club like CAPS United because they didn’t know him.
“But, he was given a chance and he won over those who were doubting him by leading us to the league championship in 2004 and 2005.
“Even when Lloyd (Chitembwe) came in, there were some voices that doubted if he could stand the heat, with some even saying he was too young, but we knew his quality and he delivered in a big way for the club.”
Dodo — an unassuming character who was plucked from Swaziland, where he was coaching by Chitembwe to boost his backroom staff — has led CAPS United to four wins in their last five league games, including three victories on the trot.
Those wins have come against Black Rhinos (2-1), Harare City (1-0), Triangle (2-1) and Mushowani Stars (2-1), where the Green Machine became the first club to beat the hosts at their Trojan fortress in the Premiership.
Only a wild 3-3 draw against Bulawayo Chiefs spoiled what would have been a perfect five for Dodo and his men in their last five league matches.
Still, those four wins and a draw, which have powered Makepekepe to a five-point lead at the top of the table, have been the best return, by a club, in the last five league matches in the league.
“We took ourselves to the top and it’s us who are going to make sure that we try and maintain what we want to achieve,” said Dodo.
“These boys really know what we want.”
Former Warriors coach Gumbo, who went to the 2019 AFCON finals as assistant to Sunday Chidzambwa, has won the domestic championship before and also captured league titles in Malawi and Botswana. On August 22 this year, he was unveiled as the TelOne coach together with new signings, King Nadolo, David Temwanjira, Charles Mutero, Fredrick Muza and Gift Bvundura.
His mandate was to help the club avoid relegation.
“From what I have seen from the players, relegation can be avoided. What is lacking is confidence and through my experience and value, I can bring that,” Gumbo said.
“I am not under pressure, I am coming to enjoy myself. I am an established coach and TelOne are on a building exercise. If it was a big team, maybe I would feel pressure, but this is an up-and-coming project.
“And it would be good to build the team to a higher level, so that younger coaches take over after that.”
Since the 0-3 loss at Myamhunga, just four days after arriving at the club, Gumbo has led his team to three wins and two draws in the league — the second best return, in the last five games, to CAPS United’s tally.
His men have not conceded a goal in their last four league matches and, the only goal they have conceded in the last five, came in a 4-1 thrashing of Yadah Stars.
If they can maintain this consistency, which has seen them take 11 out of a possible 15 points in their last five games, they can dream of surviving the chop.
Manica Diamonds and Highlanders, the two other teams that changed coaches during the course of the season, find themselves among the best performing four clubs, in the last five league matches, with the Manicaland team taking 10 out of a possible 15 points.
Bosso have taken nine out of a possible 15 and it could have been better if they had not thrown the lead against Herentals in a 1-1 draw in their last match.
However, they are just one of four clubs — the others being CAPS United, TelOne and Dynamos, who are unbeaten in their last five league games.
The Glamour Boys have turned into draw specialists, drawing four of their last five games and winning just one, and have reaped as many points (seven), within that period, as Yadah Stars who have won two, lost two and drawn one of their matches.
Chitembwe’s Harare City find themselves second from the bottom, in the mini-log for the last five games, with just one win and four losses in their matches.
Only Herentals, who have picked just two points from a possible 15, have done worse than them during that period.
Castle Lager Premiership Standings
Last Five Games
P W D L F A Pts
CAPS Utd 5 4 1 0 10 6 13
TelOne 5 3 2 0 6 1 11
Manica Diamonds 5 3 1 1 8 5 10
Highlanders 5 2 3 0 6 2 9
ZPC Kariba 5 2 2 1 5 2 8
Byo Chiefs 5 2 2 1 8 7 8
Black Rhinos 5 2 2 1 5 4 8
Dynamos 5 1 4 0 6 5 7
Chicken Inn 5 2 1 2 7 7 7
Yadah Stars 5 2 1 2 5 6 7
FC Platinum 5 1 3 1 3 2 6
Mushowani Stars 5 1 3 1 4 4 6
Ngezi Platinum 5 2 0 3 3 4 6
Chapungu 5 1 2 2 3 5 5
Triangle 5 1 0 4 10 12 3
Hwange 5 0 3 2 2 4 3
Harare City 5 1 0 4 3 6 3
Herentals 5 0 2 3 2 9 2