Monday, December 28, 2009

FEATURE: Premier League Coaches Under Pressure

The ongoing Premier League campaign in Nigeria is just eight games to the mid-season and already some of the coaches are faced with the pressure of keeping their jobs following the target set for them by their employers before or during the start of the season. can report that 13 of the 20 head coaches of Premier League clubs are under pressure to win the title or remain in the top-flight or win a place in one of Africa’s club competitions at the end of the season. Here are the coaches under pressure:

Alphonsus Dike (Enugu Rangers): The former Golden Eaglets’ head coach is the man is the under the biggest pressure this season, as he has the mandate of winning a trophy for Enugu Rangers following the side’s lack of winning a trophy since 1984 when it last won the old league. In the 2005 season, the Flying Antelopes was close to winning the league title but finished five points behind Enyimba, who garnered a total of 72 points in that campaign. The Coal City club also came close to winning the FA Cup (now Federation Cup) in 2000, 2004 and 2007 by losing in the final to Niger Tornadoes and Dolphin Football Club (in 2004 and 2007) respectively. Now Dike has the onerous task of ensuring that the club wins a trophy or at worse reach one of Africa’s club competition – a feat last achieved under Lawrence Akpokona as coach in 2005.

Imama Amakapabor (Sharks FC): In spite of guiding his side to two wins in its last two games, he is the coach whose job appears to be on the line. This is because the management of the club is already in talks with Austin Eguavoen and Monday Odigie to fill the role originally held by Kadiri Ikhana, who left after a row broke out over issues bordering on contract renewal. Amakapabor’s days as head coach of the club is just a matter of days away, and it may not come as a surprise if the Rivers State sports ministry under Boma Iyaye, which oversees the running of the club, decides to name a new manager for the side.

Emmanuel Amuneke (Ocean Boys): The former Julius Berger Football Club gaffer was only employed in November this year and though the details of the contract are unknown, understands that his contract at Ocean Boys would run till the end of the season and subject to renewal is based on performance in this season’s campaign. Amuneke, who has a UEFA coaching licence has the job of ensuring that the 2006 league champion grabs a continental ticket or else he could be thrown into the unemployment market since Ocean Boys is notorious for sacking its coaches irrespective of their achievements.

Phillip Boamah (3SC): When he was appointed as Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) head coach to replace Franklin Howard, who won the promotion to the Premier League, a few followers of the league raised eyebrows on the decision. But today Boamah’s men are early battlers in the relegation after just 11 games and now the pressure is on. The Ghanaian has even slated the squad he inherited saying that the players have no quality to compete in the top-flight and Shooting Stars has had to spend to bring in new players but that decision is yet to yield result. But the alarm bells are ringing at the Jericho secretariat for Boamah except he guides the side away from the bottom.

Ladan Bosso (Wikki Tourist): The 43-year-old coach has stayed at Wikki Tourist for five seasons and is yet to win a trophy. Bosso remains the only coach in the top-flight that has stayed long at a club in the Premier League. Only recently, the Kogi-born coach endured a three-match ultimatum to retain his job. The former Flying Eagles’ coach’s best performance at the club is leading it into the Super Four in 2006 when the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) adopted the abridged format for the league. However, chairman of the club, Patrick Pascal, made it clear to that Bosso has the target of winning the league. But an African club competition berth could placate the Wikki Tourist management.

Solomon Ogbeide (Sunshine Stars): Last season in spite of guiding Warri Wolves to third place in the Premier League, he was shown the exit door by the Warri club. But the former Bendel Insurance manager was appointed at Sunshine Stars before the start of this season and started on a brilliant note. Ogbeide has the chance of becoming a cult hero at Sunshine Stars if he succeeds in winning a ticket to one of Africa’s club competitions in 2011. That status could even grow to that of a legend if he guides the side to its first-ever title in the domestic scene.

Okey Emordi (Enyimba): He guided the Peoples Elephant to retain the CAF Champions League in 2004 and won the African Coach award same year. But his return to the club at the start of this season’s campaign after five years is coming at a time Enyimba has not won the league in three seasons. Though Emordi has been modest about his side’s ambition this season, away wins at Sharks Football Club and rival, Warri Wolves, has proven that the former Heartland Football Club technical consultant knows that it is the league trophy or nothing.

Justin Tenger (Kwara United): He switched from Niger Tornadoes to Kwara United after guiding the former from a relegation fighting side to a title contender last season. Tenger has been saddled with the responsibility of leading the Afonja Warriors to a continental place. The Benue State – born coach has acknowledged the fact that he needs to achieve something at the Ilorin-based club in order to prove his worth at the domestic league.

Lawrence Akpokona (Warri Wolves): The former Enugu Rangers’ manager decided to stay away from football coaching for about three seasons and only returned last season with Ocean Boys. But that union was shortlived after he was handed a suspension that was never lifted until his contract ran out. Though he joined Wolves before the Super Four in Ilorin, where his side’s performance was disappointing, Akpokona appears not to have lost touch in the job of coaching, as Wolves is regarded as one of the title contenders. But he needs to win the league after the club’s spending spree on acquiring players and one team stands in his way and that is Enyimba.

Godwin Uwua (Niger Tornadoes): His predecessor, Justin Tenger, may have made the job of handling Niger Tornadoes tougher for Uwua following his performance last season. Just like Tenger at Kwara United, a lack of a continental ticket would not be tenable excuse for Uwua to the management of Niger Tornadoes. The former Lobi Stars and Enyimba handler since joining the Minna-based club has remained unusually quiet and has kept Tornadoes within touching distance of the top four in the Premier League so as to redeem his pledge.

Kelechi Emeteole (Heartland FC): The pressure is cranking up on the man known as ‘Caterpillar’ during his playing days. It is two straight seasons and he has led the Naze Millionaires to second place finish on both occasions. The 2009 CAF Champions League finalist started this season’s campaign on a poor note but has bounced back and is now two points behind league leader, Enyimba. Though there is no official word on Emeteole’s target for this season, the former El-Kanemi Warriors’ man knows that he must end his side’s 17-year wait for a first domestic title.

Stanley Eguma (Dolphin FC): After guiding the Port Harcourt side to promotion to the top-flight last season, Eguma was handed the task of making sure that Dolphin Football Club pick a continental ticket and that means finishing in the top three. At the same time, the club could also use the Federation Cup to actualize that target. Eguma’s men are six points behind Enyimba at the top of the Premier League log and needs to step to be counted as one of this season’s best sides.

Ben Duamlong (Gombe United): At the start of the season, he was unsure of his place at the club and decided to try out at neighbouring Kaduna United before Belgian coach, Maurice Cooreman, was handed the job. Duamlong’s job at the Desert Scorpions is full of pressure from the management and even the players, who are yet to get the balance of their signing-on fees of last season. In the face of these, Duamlong still has the target of leading the modest side to one of Africa’s club competitions – a tall task when you are head coach at Gombe United.

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