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NPFL: Can Tony Bolus take MFM FC to greater heights?

3:50 PM GMT 04/09/2019
MFM-Rivers United-NPFL
The former Giwa FC manager has taken over the reins of the Agege Stadium from Fidelis Ilechukwu, but is he good enough to sail the ship?

When Mountain of Fire FC are mentioned, Fidelis Ilechukwu is the name largely associated with them. After 13 years at the helm of affairs of the Lagos club, the charismatic coach has headed further south to Heartland in Owerri.

There were reports that Ilechukwu’s long-time assistant, Suleman Obinna would replace him, but that hasn’t been the case, rather it was Tony Bolus who was confirmed as the new head coach.

Bolus is not a popular name in the Nigeria Professional Football League, with his previous stints in the top flight being as assistant to Imama Amapakabo during Enugu Rangers' league triumph in 2016, and as coach at Giwa FC.

He comes into the country’s commercial capital from distant Katsina state, managing Malumfashi FC, guiding them to third place in the Northern Conference of the Nigeria National League last season, narrowly missing the playoffs by four points.

Bolus is considered a big risk in his new job due to his relative lack of achievement to date.

Indeed, managing a club that has reached the highs of avoiding top flight relegation at the first attempt, to almost winning the NPFL title and featuring in the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup in subsequent years, represents a mammoth task for the coach.

Much more difficult is that the bulk of players who forged such a formidable team under Ilechukwu have all been allowed to leave, with Stephen Odey, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Chukwuka Onuwa, Stanley Okorom, Ospino Egbe, Jonathan Zikiye, Austine Opara, Chijoke Akuneto and Julius Emiloju all departing for better opportunities.

This means MFM are starting from ground zero, but does Bolus have the ability to handle the enormous task?

Speaking to the media after he was unveiled, the new man acknowledged the big job in front of him: “You know we are starting all over again, so they [the fans] just need to have patience with us,” he began. “I need their support to succeed, and I promise that we will give them good football and the desired results."

Bolus is equally aware that the he needs to build on Ilechukwu’s legacy, which is developing young talent to become stars in the future.

That is probably why the club hierarchy opted for him, seeing he has dealt with young players like Chisom Egbuchulam, Godwin Aguda and Obinna Nwobodo – all instrumental towards Rangers’ first league title in 32 years in 2016 - in the past.

Bolus has been handed a three-year contract, but he has a huge act to follow - and a sharp learning curve ahead of him - if he's to match Ilechukwu's tenure.

Setting objectives like winning the league or qualifying for the Caf club competitions are far too grand at this stage, but Bolus's initial task will be to assemble a team that's strong enough to secure the desired results at home or away.

If this is achieved, bigger targets can be set as the existing players will have grown into his methods. The coach must ensure his players can walk before they can run.

This new appointment represents a turning point for the Olukoya Boys, and fans will look on a little anxiously to see whether Bolus is the man to continue the good work of his predecessor.