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Can MFM FC move on without Stephen Odey?

15:06 GMT+3 19/01/2018
Stephen Odey
The Olukoya Boys saw their star forward move to Switzerland towards the end of 2017; how will they move on in his absence?

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Within two years of exposure in the Nigeria Professional Football League, Mountain of Fire FC have been able to win over many supporters thanks to their entertaining and exciting brand of football.

While credit goes to coach Fidelis Ilechukwu, who has been with the club since their formative years, one name that will be remembered is Stephen Odey.

The forward was groomed under Ilechukwu and quickly became a fan favourite in MFM’s maiden NPFL campaign in 2016 where he scored nine goals as the church-owned club narrowly avoided relegation back to the Nigeria National League.

He would double that tally in 2017, netting an impressive 18 goals before being snapped by Swiss outfit FC Zurich last October.

Odey leaving could be seen a loss for MFM in light of what he brings into the game, with his technique, pace and finishing making him a class apart.

It would have been expected that the Olukoya Boys move for another proven and established striker in his absence, particularly considering the fact that they will play in the CAF Champions League this year. They had initially signed Victor Mbaoma - Remo Stars' top scorer last season, but the deal fell through and he moved to Akwa United.

MFM haven’t started the season on a convincing note, losing 2-0 on the opening day at Abia Warriors before narrowly beating newly promoted Kwara United 1-0 at home.

It was a game in which the attack wasn’t as sharp as usual, and this left Ilechukwu visibly frustrated for much of the game. Adebayo Waheed might have saved the team’s blushes with his goal, but it doesn’t hide what was a subpar performance from a team many hold in high esteem now.

After the match, Goal caught up with MFM assistant coach Alli Suleman Obinna, and though he acknowledged it wasn’t a superb performance, he is confident that results will improve and Odey's loss will not hurt the team.

"We have some players that were brought into the team and that was a reason for the struggle but I know we would get better," he told Goal. "We didn't see Victor Mbaoma as a loss but with our new players, I still believe we are still going to get our rhythm.

"If you look at the way Waheed played today, it was the same way he played against Abia Warriors, so I believe he can deliver the goals and do better than Odey.”

Waheed has been with MFM since last season, but has been used as a substitute most times. His decision-making in the final third might not be top notch, as evidenced against the Harmony Warriors. but he does have self confidence and determination, both key factors as he scored the winning goal and earned the Man of the Match gong.

Suleman also expressed confidence that MFM were happy with the players they have at their disposal, and were not looking to invest further.

"We already have new strikers in the team. We have Abiodun (Ayinde) from Niger Tornadoes," he continued. "He's a very good player but he needs to gel with the team in order to understand everyone."

The aforementioned Ayinde was a signed from last season’s Federation Cup runners-up Niger Tornadoes, but had very limited game time and, having replaced Chukwuka Onuwa against Kwara United, he offered very little.

This muted showing raises questions about his long-term effectiveness, although Salisu Yusuf's decision not to take Sikiru Olatunbosun to the CHAN has at least allowed MFM to keep hold of one of last season's star men.

However, it remains to be seen whether Olatunbosun, Waheed and Ayinde can both replace the goals lost with Odey's exit and ensure that MFM FC - still a new club after all - can compete on both fronts.

For this reason, fans have the right to remain skeptical, even though it's too early to judge whether the Lagos-based club have left themselves short up top.

It's up to them to prove that they can replicate last season's progress without considerable investment.