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NPFL: Remo Stars must learn tough lessons if they're to realise their potential

2:54 am AEST 5/6/19
Remo Stars
The Sky Blues gained top flight promotion for the second time, but their managerial change was the beginning of their problems and ultimate downfall

Remo Stars' promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League in 2017 was filled with promise, but the road was never going to be easy for them.

They ultimately finished rock bottom of the log following a miserable season in which they won just seven matches and were hit with a mammoth 23 loses.

Down they went, but it wasn't to be the end.

There was hope that Remo would gain promotion back to the top flight swiftly, and so they did, finishing top of their group in the NNL.

One of the things that helped the Shagamu-based team prosper again was their ability to retain coach Fatai Osho and key members of the squad.

Osho came in to replace Nduka Ugbade after their poor start in their maiden NPFL campaign, and while the latter secured their debut promotion, his successor built a closer relationship with the players. This helped in improving the image of the club, and also promoted a style of play that won them many admirers.

Players like Shuji Oshobe, Lasisi Saheed and Edozie Ewelike remained and played in the NNL, while captain Victor Mbaoma went on a successful loan spell to Akwa United but came back to help their promotion charge during the play-offs.

Promotion was secured, and everything looked to be better for the Sky Blues ahead of their second stint in the NPFL, only for club management to make a shock announcement that Kennedy Boboye had been appointed as the new manager, to work in close collaboration with Osho.

Obviously the Remo hierarchy were aiming higher and thus wanted to go for a proven name. The arrival of league winner Boboye was seen as a coup.

He's one of the top dogs in the country, with his success with Plateau United in 2017 boosting his reputation. However, taking the job of a team that was still growing and developing was not the right choice.

Were Remo Stars thinking of challenging for the title or booking a spot in the Caf club competitions by plumping for such a high-profile coach?

It would be a rather ridiculous objective for a club still trying to find their feet, while there was also a clash of identity. 

Boboye and Osho are two contrasting coaches, with the latter focusing on player development and nurturing talent, while the more experienced man preferred to opt for proven names.

It also came across as disrespectful to Osho to make him work with another respected coach in Boboye.

"I will never work under another coach in Nigeria as this will affect my football philosophy, which I have worked hard on,” Osho said after his resignation. “I want to take responsibility for what I do.”

Since his resignation, Osho has spent time with his family in the city of Osogbo and was recently spotted hosting coaching sessions with youngsters at Olanisile Football Academy in the Osun State capital in an interim capacity.

It's no doubt that the former Crown FC gaffer will get back into management, but it's a shame that he had to leave at a time when he could have steadily built the fortunes of the club, in the same way Fidel Ilechukwu is doing at the church-run Mountain of Fire FC. 

Indeed, Ilechukwu and Osho have similar philosophies, with both focusing on nurturing youth and playing attractive possession-based football.

It could have been so different, but now Stars are facing up to life in the NNL.

They'll likely have to plan ahead without Boboye, who's unlikely to countenance managing in the second tier of Nigerian football.

The whole episode has served as a reminder that, even though the terrain in the Nigerian top flight is tough, it pays to be patient and let a team grow.

Akwa United, for example, are a team who have progressed steadily over the last decade, and are now reaping the rewards.

They represent an ideal model for Stars - particularly if they can tempt Osho back - to follow.

Certainly, the club must prove they can learn from this sad episode if they are really concerned about future growth.