Aware of the task that awaits Nigeria in September 5 AFCON 2015 qualifier in Dar es Salaam, Super Eagles’ goalkeeper trainer, Aloy Agu, opens up on team’s chances, opponents’ strength and the coaching crew’s resolve to raise a crack side Nigerians will be proud of in this exclusive interview with Complete Sports’ DAVID MESHIOYE
It’s your first time as Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer. Do you owe that to fate, hard work or Sunday Oliseh?
I think all thanks must go to God because I would not be right to say my hardwork has brought me thus far. There are lots of good coaches around. I really want to thank God for his mercies. Super Eagles job is no child’s play and anyone given the lifetime opportunity to serve must be ready to give it his best shot. We are aware of the pressure that comes with the job itself, knowing fully well that Nigerians require you to win all the time. We know what is expected of us, that is why we are working hard to ensure only the best legs represent Nigeria in any major tournament.
Soccer cynics are of the opinion that the league itself is not producing the right material that coaches can work with, especially in the areas of goalkeeping now that Vincent Enyeama is nearing his exit from the national team.
Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide have been doing great for Nigeria and I really have to thank God for their lives and God given talents. It will be great to have them around serving the country as long as their legs can carry them. Of course we know there will come a time when these goalkeepers won’t be able to carry on in the national team, that is why are doing everything to ensure we get replacements in due time. Paramount before us now is to start looking for good goalkeepers in the league that will serve as understudies to Enyeama and Ejide, so that their departures won’t have any form of adverse effects on the national team.
The feelings among home based goalkeepers are that they have no chance of standing between the sticks, except they ply their trades abroad. Should they expect a new order under this coaching crew?
I don’t really believe in that school of thought that says you must be based oversees before you can play for the national team. There are some home based players who were part of the national team in the past and they coped extremely well with the pressures that came with it. Once a goalkeeper is in top shape, such a player will be consider for a shirt at all times, simply because he is top shape at that time irrespective of where he plies his trade. But of course if the foreign based goalkeeper is in good shape with all his experience required to play at the top level, of course he would be our number one. Every coach wants to succeed and no coach will put his best players on the bench.If you want to succeed, you have to use the best legs you have within and outside the country.
Age should not to be a factor to goalkeepers given the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Pat Jennings among others but the reverse is the case here in Nigeria. The order seems to be changing now with clubs and national team managers opting to go for youth rather than experience. How do you intend to go about making Super Eagles goalkeepers the best around, even when Enyeama is no longer there?
I think that statement is not true because we still have lots of top goalkeepers like Buffon still active. In the past the likes of Peter Rufai,Dino Zoff, Peter Shilton were aged and yet they still performed well between the sticks. The keepers we have here in Nigeria are no different from their European counterparts. All we need to do now is combine both in terms of experience and youth, but that is not to say the aged ones will be discarded, once you’re still good then you can carry on. We hope to have Vincent around for more years but I can assure you that we are working on discovering Enyeama’s heir before he leaves. That goalkeeper will understudy him and hopefully become another Vincent in the coming years.
Are you saying you will be disposed to dropping a foreign based goalkeeper provided the home based keeper is in top shape, not minding what the fans will say?
It is not about names now but performance. The current coaching crew is ready to give everyone equal chance in team selection. If the home based keeper is in top shape to stand between the sticks, we will be more than willing to give him all the support to do so and same applies to the foreign based players too. I just want to assure our footballers to continue to work hard and never allow their success to get into their head. All invited players will be selected base on performance, tempo and the division they play for. That is what this coaching crew has resolved to do. We feel only the best should represent Nigeria. I can still remember Van Brooklyn; he kept for Holland for years until someone came in to replace him. Once a player is dedicated and hardworking, he should have no problem breaking into Super Eagles
How did Sunday Oliseh and the coaching crew talk Vincent Enyeama into accepting to stay on as Super Eagles skipper after the Kaduna incident?
Vincent Enyeama has done marvelously well for this country and must be appreciated. We are all working towards one goal, which is making Nigerian football great again and this is what we told him. We made him realize that his services are still needed and he willingly opted to play on.We don’t need to fight, Enyeama needs Nigeria and the country itself still need him.
Super Eagles face Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in September, how are the preparations like? How will the coaching crew correct the trend of Eagles’ inability to win away from home?
We know the Tanzanian inside out because our junior team have played them before and that gives us a clear picture how they play. Besides, we have valuable information about them and we intend to work with that. Yes, the national team may have struggled away from home in the past but by the grace of God we intend to work and correct that with the Tanzanian game. Our responsibility is to raise a formidable team and Oliseh is not closing his eyes in his effort to give Nigerians the national team they can be proud of. We will not fail Nigerians in Dar es Salaam, God willing Eagles will deliver against Tanzania.
Clemens Westerhof says you are not experienced enough to succeed as Super Eagles coaching crew. What is your take on this?
I don’t really think the coaching crew lacks the much needed experience to succeed. Oliseh has been there for years and has hit the ground running since he took over the reins, while i have worked for some of our national teams in the past. We will continue to get better on the job God willing. I don’t think we lack the requisite experience to succeed as Super Eagles coaching crew.
Are you under pressure to deliver given the huge success story of Ike Shorunmu over the years?
(Smiles)….. I think every job comes with its own pressure and it is up to me to give it my best shot. Super Eagles job is not like any other job, but it requires a lot of dedication and that is what I am going to give. All I need to do is to return all my pressure to God in prayers and then do my bit as a coach, while leaving the rest to him.