Finidi George to Enyimba could be a disaster

Shina Oludare

Finidi George took his first steps into club management on Wednesday, as he signed a two-year deal with domestic heavyweights Enyimba.

Nigeria’s biggest club should be NPFL contenders year after year, but this term they’ll watch on as Akwa United and Rivers United—clubs who cannot match their heritage and history—prosecute the Champions League.

The eight-time champions need a new lease of life, and it didn’t appear like that would have been forthcoming under Fatai Osho, whose contract expired last month.

So in comes Finidi, whose playing career in the sport is almost without parallel among Nigeria greats.

He amassed 62 caps and was a key figure in the Golden Generation who won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations before representing the Super Eagles at both the 1994 World Cup—when they reached the knockout stages—and the 1998 edition.

He was a Champions League winner with Ajax in 1995—one of an elite group of Nigerian players alongside the likes of Nwankwo Kanu and John Obi Mikel to have won European club football’s grandest prize—and subsequently represented the likes of Real Betis and Real Mallorca.

A spell in England with Ipswich Town didn’t entirely go to plan, but it has done little to diminish Finidi’s star in his homeland.

However, signing for Enyimba threatens to test him—and his nascent managerial career—in ways which could make the former wideman rethink his decision to put pen to paper with the People’s Elephant.

The main concern may be whether the 50-year-old will be given enough freedom by the board—and specifically chairman Felix Anyansi-Agwu—to influence the team and to impose his own vision on the side.

Too often, the work of the head coach has been undermined by interference or wavering support and backing from the club’s chiefs.

If Finidi is to succeed, then he must be given ultimate and unswerving control over matters of team selection and strategy. 

He may be inexperienced, but the chairman must back off and give him the breadth in which to operate.

Similarly, the ex-winger must be given control over recruitment and have an input in contractual situations.

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Certainly, he can canvass opinion, but he must be backed in the market, have the financial support to retain players, and not have new recruits foisted upon him.

He must be allowed the freedom to build his own backroom staff, and for that unit to be given the backing of the board, while supporters must be more patient than they have been in the past and give the new man time to establish his philosophy. 

Anyasi-Agwu is a legendary club administrator, and clearly has Enyimba in his heart, but if there are questions or concerns about Finidi’s authority, then this most prominent appointment risks unravelling spectacularly.