Harambee Stars: It's time for Kenya's Jesse Were to prove Migne wrong

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Ken Okaka.
With the former Tusker striker returning to the national team squad, it's time for him to show Kenyans what they have been missing

“[Jesse Were] is not good enough to play for Kenya right now, he has had the chance to impress for Kenya but on many occasions, he never lives up to the task,” former Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne told Goal when asked why he had not picked the former Tusker striker in the squad for the Africa Cup of Nations .

“He has enjoyed over 26 call-ups but he never scores goals for the team,” Migne added.

The 30-year-old Were responded to the snub by insisting he would never give up in his quest to play for the Harambee Stars.

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“I will have a chat with [Migne] because I want to know where I need to improve to impress him. It’s disappointing, It’s very frustrating but I am not the kind of player to give up easily,” Were told Goal.

Kenya coach Sebastien Migne and Jesse Were.

Were was axed despite the team's obvious struggles and over-reliance on striker Michael Olunga in the attacking department.

Kenya experienced a hard time in front of the goal under Migne, with the likes of Masoud Juma failing to impress owing to limited experience at international level.

Migne went on to take the untested John Avire, unattached Juma and Olunga to the Afcon, leaving Were, who had scored 17 goals in the Zambian league for Zesco United, in the cold.

The writing was on the wall; the Stars failed to deliver in Egypt, especially in the attacking department, where they scored just three goals against minnows Tanzania, and struggled to break down Senegal and Algeria in their Group C matches.

Francis Kimanzi, who served as the Frenchman's assistant coach, has been given a mandate to steer the national team for the next two years, and his first assignment will be to down Uganda's Cranes in a friendly on September 8.

While naming the provisional squad to prepare for the friendly, the surprise inclusion was Were, with the new man clearly disagreeing with Migne's logic regarding the striker.

So is Kimanzi right to give the towering striker another chance after he had been overlooked by his predecessor?

He clearly has faith in the forward, and Were will be boosted by this show of faith from the new man.

We have seen attacking players given key roles for their national teams in the past, despite struggles in front of goal. The perfect example is former Arsenal and current Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, who did not score a single goal for France in the World Cup, but helped the team with his intelligent runs and link-up play.

Jesse Were of Zesco United.

Were is a player who can make a big impact whether he scores or not, and Kimanzi is definitely aware of this. 

Kimanzi is aiming at fixing the Harambee Stars' attack, and clearly Were, who scored 64 goals for Mathare United and Tusker, has the potential to be a big part of this.

The striker needed fewer than three years to break Zesco United’s all-time record of 65 goals held by Jackson Mwanza, and he's particularly impressed in the Caf Champions League, playing against some of Africa's top defences.

Having played against the best Africa can offer, he can no longer be overlooked.

Were's presence also removes some of the burden on Olunga, as increasingly, it's felt like if the Japan-based striker doesn't fire, Kenya offer no other goal threat.

With Were now back in the fold, Olunga will find himself with a hard-working partner and with less pressure to be the Stars' saviour.

Michael Olunga of Harambee Stars and Kenya.

The match against Uganda will be a perfect platform for coach Kimanzi to try both of them in tandem.

With the game against Egypt in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers on the horizon, the tactician can try to create some chemistry between the two strikers and find the right balance to help Kenya get goals.

“Were is a performer and has been tried in several teams and leagues as well. I think Kimanzi might bring the best out of him and make him effective for Kenya,” former Harambee Stars defender Sammy Omollo told Goal.

“A partnership with Olunga might be just one of the ways to improve our striking.

“[Were] is a quality striker who can give you a goal when less expected. I understand he has not scored for Kenya in the last 26 appearances, but does not mean he cannot deliver, it takes nothing from him.”

“Maybe the technical bench should try and understand Were more," Omollo added. "By doing so, they will help him get the elusive goals for Harambee Stars.

“He has an admirable club record meaning there is something which fits him there, and it is up to the national team bench to find out what it is.”

For his part, AFC Leopards Team Manager Tom Juma believes Kimanzi’s decision to recall Were came at the right time.

“Were is an exceptional player who can drift defenders out of their positions. His runs are timely and clever, and to find a player like him is hard,” Juma told Goal.

Francis-Kimanzi-Harambee-Stars.

“He [Kimanzi] has done a good thing by calling him to the team and I am sure Were will prove him right.”

Juma’s sentiments are echoed by Kisumu All Stars head coach Henry Omino.

“Were has made many of those 26 appearances as a substitute," Omino told Goal. "Even the last 10 games he played were friendly matches which are meant to try several tactics and formations.

“You cannot gauge a player by those matches, and I think Were is unfairly judged. He is a unique player who will improve our attack if used well and wisely, Kimanzi has done well by calling him into the squad.”

With almost two weeks before Kenya take on Uganda, the lanky Were has a perfect chance to prove to Kenyans that he deserves a place in the national team. Proving Migne wrong would make things all the sweeter.

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