There was intense focus on Remo Stars last term as Kunle Soname's club made their debut in the Nigeria Professional Football League. As a privately owned club, many were intrigued to see how the business tycoon's side would fare in the tough and rigorous top-flight environment.
Ultimately, they were outclassed, finishing bottom before returning to the Nigeria National League.
Despite the disappointment, there were a few positives from the team, with Victor Mbaoma in particular standing out.
The 21-year old captained the side for the season, and though they failed to churn out positive results on a consistent enough basis, Mbaoma was the silver lining as he finished top scorer with 10 goals and making an additional four assists.
For a player bursting with pace, agility, finishing and set-piece prowess, he certainly wasn’t going to return playing second-tier football again. Instead, the big suitors came in, and he attracted Mountain of Fire FC. However, despite agreeing a loan move - and scoring twice in preseason - that deal fell through, and he ultimately moved to Akwa United.
The Abia State native has already scored twice in four games, with Abdu Maikaba’s men winning three of their opening four matches to sit joint top of the NPFL log alongside last season’s champions Plateau United.
Proud to open my goal scoring account in the colours of the promise keepers, many thanks to my teammates and technical crew who made it possible. We look forward to the next game. #Godplsz pic.twitter.com/r20V6Q322u— Victor Mbaoma (@VictorMbaoma) January 21, 2018
In an exclusive with Goal, Mbaoma reveals that failure to strike a deal with MFM made the move impossible and has no regrets about not playing for last season’s fast-rising runners-up.
"It was a contract dispute that made it fall through," the striker told Goal. "MFM could not meet with the demands [of Remo Stars] so I just had to leave. I don't have any kind of regrets because I place all my trust in God so I’m sure he was the one that brought me down here.
"I feel very cool to play for Akwa United."
Mbaoma scored his first goal in the colours of the Promise Keepers to open proceedings against newly promoted Yobe Desert Stars in a 2-0 home victory, before getting the winner in an impressive 2-1 victory over Niger Tornadoes.
He's vowed that it's just the start of his scoring spree.
How it feels to score a winning goal is beyond description, spirited team display and passionate prosecution of another game. Great team work, glad the goal came and I'm hoping 4 more. @AkwaUnited_fc we keep moving.. Thanks for ur support people, on to the next game.— Victor Mbaoma (@VictorMbaoma) January 25, 2018
God plsz... pic.twitter.com/QDsAsX3rev
"I feel very happy. The goals have been influential because it gave us the win," the attacker continued. "God has made it possible and I’m grateful to him. My focus now is our next game [Kwara United at home, where I'll] put in my best to get another positive result.”
With Akwa United investing heavily during the transfer window to bring in quality players, the forward line boasts a number of big names including Christian Pyagbara, Musa Newman, Gabriel Okechukwu and Ajibola Otegbeye. This means competition for starting berths will be intense, and despite starting every game played so far, Mbaoma just wants to prove his worth.
"We have good strikers here and I’m not in competition with anybody," he added. "I'm concerned with giving my own best which I hope to keep doing while I will leave it to the coach to decide who he uses."
With a tie against Hawks of The Gambia to come in the preliminary round of the Caf Confederation Cup next month, Mbaoma also believes the current makeup of the Akwa United squad is good enough to see the Uyo-based outfit go far.
"Akwa United are a good team with good players and I hope to see us go very far. It will be a different ball game entirely because we have the team that can cope and not just cope but contest.”
The season might still be young but Mbaoma has already been able to display his form of last season early enough and at such a very short notice.
His purchase has the potential to represent a masterstroke for United, and should the Promise Keepers have a successful 2018 campaign, you can expect the explosive forward to play a key role.