Monday, July 13, 2009

Wolves Can Win Premier League Next Season - Okoyoh

He is 17 years old and for the first time in his career played in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) with Warri Wolves. Michael Okoyoh, who turns 18 next month, was one of the few revelations in the top-tier of the Nigerian league and having played for just two clubs in the past, Ebonyi Angels and NPA Seasiders, which metamorphosed into Warri Wolves, the teenage midfielder spoke on his experience after his first season in the Premier League. The Warri-born playmaker recalls the high and low points of his Premier League outfit. Excerpts:

Warri Wolves finished in fourth place last season, would you say that it was a decent performance from you and your team-mates?For me, I would say we did our best and that was why we came fourth. We would have loved to have won the league but we didn’t. But I am not disappointed because it was our first time in the Premier League and we did well than some of the big clubs.

What would you say was responsible for your team’s failure to win the league last season?
Like I said, we were playing in the Premier League for the first time. Most of us were playing in the Premier League for the first time against teams and players that have several years experience in the Premier League. So we were inexperienced. Remember that at some point in the season, we were leading the table and then we dropped to second, third and ended in fourth place. Apart from our inexperience, some of our players were injured too. One of them that I can remember that got injured is Solomon Oboh, though he recovered later. Those injuries affected us.

Just close to the end of the season, your club suffered an unfortunate incident when one of your goalkeepers, Orobosa Adun, died.

For all of us, the death of Orobosa is still like a dream. Orobosa was like a big brother to so many of us here (at Warri Wolves). The death of Orobosa was like the end of the season for us because he was one of the leaders in the team and we were all dreaming and hoping that we will play in one of the continental competitions next year. But he just died and there is nothing that we can do. We are still sad about his death.

Last season, you scored a wonderful goal against Kano Pillars at the Oleh Township Stadium in a game that your club won by 3-1. Would you say that goal was from a training session stuff?
That goal was voted goal of the month from what I heard. I have been trying it in training by controlling the ball with my chest and trying shots from long range. In training you know that it is easier to score such because you are not under pressure at all. But in match situations, it is a different ball game entirely because you have to be fast and calculative. You know that most opponents will not give you the chance to shoot the ball in front of their goal post. Before I scored that goal against Kano Pillars, I have tried it several times against a number of clubs but I did not score. But on that day, I scored that goal because and may be the Kano Pillars’ defenders and goalkeeper did not expect that I would shoot from that distance. I was happy with the goal because at the end of the day, we did well and we won that game by 3-1.

Before your last match against Bayelsa United, there were allegations that Warri Wolves would sell out. Was there such a plan?
I was surprised when I heard that some people said we were trying to sell our match to Bayelsa United so that they can win the league. But people forgot that we wanted to win so that we will have the chance to play in the (CAF) Confederation Cup next year. At least, they watched the match on television and saw how we made it difficult for Bayelsa United before it ended in a 2-2 draw. I will tell you that we are still disappointed that we did not win (that match) because when we played in the first match, they defeated us by 1-0.

So in your own words, do you accept that Bayelsa United is a worthy champion?
Yes, they deserve the title because they played well throughout the season. The moment they got to the top of the league, they did not surrender it and that is something that is difficult to do. Again, they have some of the best players in the league and they are very experienced too.

Throughout last season, Warri Wolves did not lose any game at home. How did you and your team-mates achieve that?

We worked really to make sure that we did not lose any match. It was good for us that we did not lose at home even though we were newcomers in the league last season. We have to thank our supporters for always staying by us throughout last season even when it was difficult to win and even in matches that we drew at home. We nearly lost the game against Bayelsa United but we came back late in the match and scored the equaliser.

Now that the season is closed and your club is about to begin its training tour to Europe, what are your expectations next season?

I believe that there would be an improvement next season in our team. I hope that we will still have most of our players here for next season because that will make us stronger and dangerous. Last season, we defeated some of the big clubs and I am sure that we just need to improve on our away matches and may be could be talking about the league trophy next season.

Your club just hired a new coach in Lawrence Akpokona. Are you surprised about it and what do you expect from him?

I must say I was not the only one who was surprised by the appointment of a new coach. But I believe that the club management knows better in the area of who becomes coach and which players they want to buy. My own job is to play football and ensure that the club gets a good result at the end. I have heard about our new coach before and I am ready to work with him to make sure that Warri Wolves do well next season.

Realistically, do you think that Warri Wolves can win the league title next season?

In football anything can happen. I believe we can win the league. But we will need to work hard to achieve that and a bit of luck too.

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