By James Agberebi:
Ahead of the resumption of the second half of the Nigeria Professional Football League, former Rangers coach Lawrence Akpokona has claimed that Plateau United have what it takes to emerge champions this season, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Following a long break, the second stanza of this season's NPFL season will commence this weekend.
After the conclusion of the first round of the league, Plateau United are top on 35 points and are closely followed by MFM who have 33 points, while El- Kanemi and Niger Tornadoes are third and fourth on 33 and 30 points respectively.
"The league so far this season has been very unpredictable," Akpokona told Completesportsnigeria.com.
"From the first stanza, teams like MFM, ABS at some point, were on top on the log for almost 14 weeks. But ABS have dropped almost to the middle of the table. The only consistent teams have been Plateau United, MFM and surprise of all, Niger Tornadoes.
"I see this trend still continuing. I see teams like Akwa United, who did not start very well but picked up later, coming in strongly. For other teams I really don't know. Rivers United, Kano Pillars are struggling. But so far the consistent team has been Plateau United and if they continue like this, I see them going all the way."
Akpokona whose Rangers team failed to qualify for the final of the 2005 Confederation Cup after losing out on head-to-head to Ghana's Ashanti Kotoko, clamoured for the use of points deduction on teams whose fans cause trouble.
A rash of crowd violence issues had to be dealt with by the League Management Company in the first half of the seasons, leading to sanctions.
"It's just unfortunate that we still have things like crowd trouble in our league," Akpokona added.
"The emergence of cable TV which enables us to watch teams over the world, makes us see teams lose at home and referees making very bad mistakes that cause home teams to lose and we don't see fans react the way we do here.
"I think we should learn that football is just a game and anybody can lose anywhere, no matter your status. But I think the administrators are putting in a lot of effort but they still need to do more or else our league will be derailed and I think the most effective way to deal with the issue is points deduction and playing behind closed doors. That would be the most effective way to check this menace.
"If there is a fight in a particular stadium and the home fans are found out to be unruly to the match officials or visiting team, points should be deducted. Because if you play behind closed doors, some fans will still find their way into the stadium. Even when teams are banished to a different venue, some fans will still go there. But if they know that six points deduction will send their team down or deny them from being champions, everybody will sit up.
"Also heavy fines must be imposed on the team which must be paid in a week. I believe if this is done, it will bring sanity to our league."