Can Enyimba move on without Mfon Udoh?

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Mfon Udoh
Bamigbelu Ademola@Shengolpixs
The powerful forward ended his four-year association with the Aba giants but will they miss his influence or do fine without him?

COMMENT    By Kunle Fayiga     Follow on Twitter

It’s impossible to discuss goalscoring in the Nigeria Professional Football League without mentioning Mfon Udoh.

With more than 40 goals to his name with Enyimba, no individual in the club’s history has more competitive strikes than the former Calabar Rovers player, whose time with the seven-time league champions came to end after five years.

Mfon Udoh Enyimba

Signed from Akwa United in 2014 on the back of scoring an impressive 16 goals which were crucial to the Promise Keepers avoiding relegation to the Nigeria National league the previous year, Udoh made headlines when he scored 23 goals in his debut season in Aba, becoming the first player to break into the 20-goal mark in the NPFL.

Although it was not enough for the People’s Elephant to win the title, which was taken by Kano Pillars, the Aba giants did claim league honours the following year, having scored a decisive goal against rivals Abia Warriors in the penultimate game of the season, this despite spending most of the campaign injured.

The Uyo native scored the winner in the 2014 Federation Cup and scored nine goals during the 2016 Caf Champions League, which was enough to give him the competition’s golden boot even though Enyimba exited at the group phase.

2014 Federation Cup finals

Udoh’s time at Enyimba was blighted with regular knee problems, which obviously frustrated the club hierarchy.

They were looking to sell him, but no suitors came through. They were also not willing to pay for the surgery required for his injury, which reportedly cost about five million naira, as they were paying his salary even though he wasn’t playing.

Just when it appeared as though Mfon wouldn’t be able to play football again, he miraculously recovered and returned to the side. Although he wasn’t scoring as much, his influence was always instrumental to getting the required results.

This was particularly the case in this year’s Caf Confederation Cup, where Enyimba went all the way to the semi-finals before losing 3-1 on aggregate to Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca. Udoh however did not feature in the knockout rounds after he was suspended by the club.

The club never acknowledged his offence, but sources close to the club revealed that he led players into protesting unpaid bonuses and the club hierarchy saw this as a betrayal.

Mfon publicly announced that his contract had expired and he would not be playing again. In a bid not to cause any division in the camp, he was issued a letter relieving him of his association with the club.

It was rumoured that after his debut exploits in Aba in 2014, Udoh had the chance to sign with a big North African club for what would have been a Nigerian transfer record. However, talk of a potential move to Europe and the club’s demand for bigger money meant the deal never materialised.

Perhaps if he had moved on, his injury crisis wouldn’t have been as lengthy as it was, and while it is sad that Udoh couldn’t not have achieved more at Enyimba in his four years at the club, it is clear that he established himself as one of if not the biggest player in the squad.

Perhaps his status didn't help him focus on his injury recovery, and perhaps made it easier for the club to offload him.

The four-year association is now over, and Mfon returns to his hometown club of Akwa United, where his top-flight career began. The Promise Keepers had a fine season that saw them sit in second place on the NPFL log until the season was prematurely ended at matchday 24, and Udoh will bolster a strong squad.

Despite the departure of talented coach, Abdu Maikaba, to 2017 champions Plateau United, the Uyo outfit have been recruiting massively ahead of the new season and getting a player of Udoh’s calibre for free could prove to be a major coup if he does hit top gear and retains his fitness.

For Enyimba, they need to move past his exit, because their inability to win either the Federation Cup or Caf Confderation Cup means they have now gone three years without silverware.

They won't have the opportunity to redeem themselves in Africa next term, either.

With Sunday Adetunji ending his loan spell at the club from Abia Warriors, they will need more lethal options upfront if they are to challenge for top honours once again.

Junior Lokosa

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There are rumours that Enyimba wanted to buy Bonfils-Caleb Bimenyimana from Rayon Sports for big money. However, a domestic investment, and potentially this year’s top marksman Junior Lokosa, could be an excellent addition.

Looking back, Udoh could certainly have offered more at Enyimba, and even though things ended on a sour note, his exploits can’t be erased. They will always see him tied to the Aba club.

After all, no one else in the NPFL has been able to break his record, let alone hit the 20-goal mark in a single campaign.