Butler’s chequered legacy

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It is now official. The Zebras head coach Peter James Butler has parted ways with the Botswana Football Association (BFA). Speculation has been rife this week that South African Premier League side Platinum Stars will announce Butler as their new head coach at any point from now. 

The BFA confirmed via a press statement this week, that they have parted ways with the coach following a consultative meeting. “Peter joined the Association in 2014 and has served this country to the best of his abilities in the capacity of head coach of the Zebras. 

“We are grateful to Peter for his service and time, we wish him well in future endeavours,” the BFA press statement reads. “Oris Boyo Radipotsane will step up from his role as assistant coach to head coach in the interim. He will lead the Zebras to the COSAFA senior challenge scheduled from June 25 to July 9th.”

During his tenure at the helm of Zebras for the past three years, the British coach and former West Ham United player has not achieved much. In essence many local football pundits would agree that Butler is more suited to development than managing a senior national team. Despite failing to qualify for any top tier competitions including Africa Cup of Nations and FIFA World Cup, Butler has proved to be an outstanding talent scout. 

Bold, brash and confrontational, the Englishman has also proved to be a hard worker having scoured the length and breadth of the country searching for new talent in his sponsored VW Amarok.  Perhaps his relentless emphasis on unearthing new talent and developing future national team players was Butler’s downfall as Zebras coach. 

The local football community - both knowledgeable and casual - watched Butler with a close eye. His national team selection had become stuff of legends as supporters waited with bated breath to see which fresh face Butler would introduce next to the Zebras’ fold. However, Butler’s shrewd and rather risky experiments never paid dividends and made him a polarising figure among supporters. 

The Zebras last game, an Afcon 2019 qualifier against Mauritania, might have been a watershed moment between Butler, the BFA and supporters after his 1-0 loss at Francistown Sports Complex. After the loss Butler’s experimental antics of mixing the new and old weighed too heavy on depressed Zebras   supporters who are thirsty for a win even if it means applying quick fixes. 

With Butler having abandoned the cash-strapped BFA, options for a replacement are limited. There is however, assistant coach Boyo ‘Oris’ Radipotsane, former coach Stanley Tshosane and potential dark horse Daniel  ‘Chico’ Nare.  Jwaneng Galaxy’s Mike ‘Dubula’ Sithole and Orapa United’s Madinda Ndlovu can also be thrown into the mix. After taking over from Tshosane the Englishman has constituted an ever-changing squad failing to maintain a consistent first team.

When he arrived at Zebras Butler introduced his famous 3-5-2 formations Moreetsi Mosimanyana, Mosha Gaolaolwe, Thato Kebue, Tebogo Sosome, Thabang Mosige, Lesenya Ramoroka, Otlantshekela Mooketsi, Obonye Moswate and Boitumelo Mafoko have all been in the mix at the back. This meant that Butler could not produce a consistent and formidable defensive structure.

However in a system where the midfield is swamped and a three-man defence is set up, there is obviously no room for error from any of the three defenders. This meant three resilient defenders to understand each other and culminating in a neat and rather clean game. However Butler’s tactics often failed to uphold an unswerving backline as he resorted to rotating defenders with each game.

Moreover the calculating tactician has botched his tactics in the middle of the park. Likewise, consistency is no closer to Butler not with results only but also with selecting his starting lineup. Bonolo Phuduhudu and Thato Ogopotse once played Butler’s right-hand harvests in the midfield.

Nonetheless the Englishman rotated his axis once more, delegating the midfield role to the safeguarding duo of Ofentse Nato and Lebogang Ditsele, something which the fans enormously criticised citing that both Nato and Ditsele are exceedingly identical with their play and shouldn’t be fielded together.

As if this was not enough, Butler also handpicked Lesego Galenamotlhale and Arnold Mampori to engage in a midfield skirmish frequently. This sporadic midfield has contributed nothing, it has rather prompted attacking confusion in the past three years, something which the coach can’t pinpoint to this date.  

At Zebras, Butler never possessed a perilous war chest, with his attacking force having scored more than three goals back in 2015 against a toothless Eritrea side at the famous Francistown Sports Complex.

Although he always relies on Mogakolodi Ngele, Segolame Boy, Onkabetse Makgantai, Omatla Kebatho and Joel Mogorosi to lead his front line, he is yet to discover the right candidate to play the leading role of a target man in his three years and six months stay with the team.

With that being said, Butler has been a good scout during his tenure, discovering prolific defenders like Lesenya Ramoroka, Thato Kebue, and Keolopile Molemi. He also discovered elegant midfielders like Arnold Mampori, Joseph Joseph and Lethogonolo Senwelo accommodating them into the national team set up.

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