Pre-season programmes have started and clubs in the top flight are using the opportunity to re-jig their squad ahead of the season's opener which is still to be decided
By Kolade Oni
Taraba United, Giwa FC, Crown FC and Abia Warriors are the four clubs that were promoted from the Nigeria National League (NNL) at the end of last season. They took the place of Kwara United, ABS, Wikki Tourists and 3SC who were relegated to the National League. What are the challenges before the newly promoted clubs? Goal looks at the goings on among the four teams and what should be expected of them ahead of the league season.
The Jalingo based club has former Super Eagles' midfielder,Tijani Babangida as chairman and they sealed a spot in the top flight after a final day 1-0 win over Giwa FC of Jos. The club came third in the just concluded Super Four after they lost on penalties in the semi-finals. A 2-0 win over Crown FC of Ogbomoso guaranteed a top three finish.
Tunde Abdulrahman who marshalled the team's progress to the elite division is rumoured to have been forced out by Babangida who has also been quoted by the media staying that Taraba United is in search of another coach.
The signs within the Taraba United camp do not look good ahead of the club's maiden appearance in the elite division. If they do not find a lasting solution to their problems, the club may be courting relegation even before the start of the league season.
Everything good has been going the way of Giwa FC and the club is poised to give a good account of their promotion to the elite division based on the early signs so far.
The club led by Ambassador Chris Giwa booked a spot in the premier league about three games to the end of the season based on the points between them and others in their group. They eventually picked the ticket alongside Taraba United despite losing the final day fixture to the Jalingo-based side.
Giwa have signed four players and they confirmed their readiness for the start of the league season with their win in the NNL Super Four after a shootout victory over Abia Warriors in Abuja recently. The club is a typical example of a club with direction and one that has set priorities ahead of the new league season.
The Umuahia-based club nicked a spot in the premier league after their final day 4-0 home win over Akwa Starlets. They picked the ticket alongside Crown FC of Ogbomoso in a fiercely contested battle between the two promoted clubs and Remo Stars who almost got the ticket at the last minute.
Abia Warriors handed the reins of leadership to former Nigeria defender, Emeka Ezeugo and took the job from coach Chijioke Osuagwu who led the club to promotion. He was demoted as second in command to Ezeugo. The club did not do too badly in the Super Four as they only lost on penalties to eventual winners, Giwa FC.
The Umuahia club is reported to have signed premier league experienced players. It is only when the season starts that would tell if the club actually went for the right set of players. Abia Warriors should not have problems remaining in the elite class with the experienced bench they have and also a proven administrator in High Chief Emeka Inyama who is the club's Chairman and also a member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) where he serves as the Director of Media.
The Ajilete Boys are among the most stable clubs in the land until their failure to win any game in two outings at the just concluded Super Four in Abuja. Crown FC wiped away the tears of 3SC of Ibadan faithful who were still sad at the demotion of the Oluyole Warriors from the premier league but they may not last long in the elite division if they do not address their early season's blip.
The top hierarchy of the club retained the technical crew led by coach Oladunni Oyekale and also asked some players to look elsewhere for their daily bread while others were told to stay. With the level of work that is presently ongoing in the team, Crown FC should remain in the top flight if they are not their own greatest enemies just like their sister club that got demoted last season.