By Sab Osuji:
Rivers United begin the 2016/2017 Nigeria Professional Football League season with a crunchy home fixture against El-Kanemi Warriors, but they're looking to continue from where they left off last term, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The Pride of Rivers came within a touching distance to the NPFL trophy last season, but finished in the second position behind Enugu Rangers. The Stanley Eguma charges are aiming to go one step than they did last season this time around.
Technical Manager, Stanley Eguma has the bragging right of going through the best of pre season preparation which included concentration camping at Real Madrid of Spain.
Eguma who is fondly called ‘Capello’ by admirers underlines the importance of starting the new season on a high.
“The first match of the season is always very crucial and difficult,” Eguma starts in a frank session with Completesportsportsnigeria.com.
“Winning the title in a season begins with the first game. And as well, losing it could also start with losing the opening fixture.
“We know how tough and rugged El-Kanemi Warriors are, more so with an experienced coach like Ladan Bosso in charge of their technical affairs.
"We can only respect them because of who they are and what they represent in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
“Similarly, we know we cannot take them for a ride; it’s not going to be a stroll in the park, but we must work hard enough to merit an opening day victory.
“That way, we can hold our noses in front for a jolly good ride in the campaign”.
Rivers United lost the title last season on account of poor away record, especially in the second stanza and ‘Capello’ believes plugging all loose ends took centre stage in their preseason recruitment and buildup.
“It was sad that we did not do pretty well on away grounds especially in the second period last term.
“This was particularly addressed in our pre season recruitments. We brought in some goal-scoring midfielders like Esosa Igbinoba from Nasarawa United.
“We also have Efosa Eguakun who is coming back home after a stint in Europe. We equally brought in some goal-eyed attackers like Nzube Anaezemba, and these add up to the players we retained amongst the 30-man squad we registered for the season.
“Hopefully, we will get things right especially if we avoid injuries during the season”.
Rivers United will, along with Enugu Rangers represent Nigeria in CAF’s Premier interclub championship next year but Eguma says they are not unaware of the expected fixture conjestion that goes with competing in three major competitions.
“No doubt, we are in for a fixture congestion since we’re going in for the CAF champions League, the NPFL and the Federation Cup,” Eguma admits.
“That’s the reason we signed 30 players so that there will be freshness in the squad in every game. Yes, rotation is going to be key.
“There will also be a blend of youthfulness and experience as we made sure we put the two on the table before going into the transfer market.”
The former Enyimba and U-23 National team assistant coach added that Rivers United will draw from the experience of their preseason for a successful campaign.
“No doubt, we had a good preseason which took us from Port Harcourt to Abuja, then to Gombe and later the Super Four tournament in Enugu before we headed for Spain.
“It was a good plan, and I commend the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and the management of the club for a painstaking plan and its execution.
“It’s now time for us to draw from the experience we gathered to face the league.”