By James Agberebi:
Enyimba head coach Gbenga Ogunbote has boasted that he was sure the club would finish high enough in the 2017 Nigeria Professional Football League to qualify for continental competition, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
After a shaky start to the season, Enyimba eventually finished third on 61 points and picked the CAF Confederation Cup ticket for next season.
Reflecting on Enyimba’s campaign, Ogunbote stated it was a collective effort from everybody associated with the club.
“It’s not just about the (Head) Coach,” Ogunbote told reporters in Calabar. ” I am thankful to the management, the government releasing the funds, the coaches, the players, the supporters, the fans, and of course the good people of Cross River state. We cannot but appreciate everybody. It is a win for all of us.
“From the beginning of the season, I knew the worst result we were going to get was a continental ticket.
“Even when the team was 13th on the log, I did say Enyimba had unfinished business in the continent. I knew we had the materials to do it.
“At the beginning, you could see we started slowly. When the team peaked in the middle of the season, it started getting points home and away. So I think, like I said, the continental ticket is a [source of] pride for everybody.”
The former Sunshine Stars and Shooting Stars coach highlighted some of the challenges Enyimba faced in the course of the season, especially at their borrowed UJ Esuene Stadium home ground.
He added: “We had a lot of challenges [getting used to] the pitch. We were not able to train on the pitch as often as required, but we understand: there are as many as four or five teams making use of the field. If they had allowed us to train day and night there, it would not have been available for games even. So that was the major challenge.
“Initially, we were training just one day, and if a team was coming to play here, they would also get one day of training on the pitch. So there was no advantage accruing to us as the home team.
“Be that as it may, by the time we got used to it, the management of the stadium was kind enough to increase it to two days, and were able to get used to the pitch. Once that happened, the team started playing well.
He says Enyimba could still play in Calabar next season as long as the Abia Township Stadium is not ready to host matches.
“If the field in Aba is not ready, of course who says we won’t come to Calabar? The team will want to return. The Calabar people have been very good to us, they made us feel at home, and it was as though we were in Aba. We could not have asked for anything better than that.”
And on his future with Enyimba for next season and if there would be new signings, Ogunbote said: “The team is there, it’s not going to be a (wholesale) thing, that’s if I still remain in Enyimba.
“It’s just going to be looking at the areas of need, and filling the gaps to create a team that can stand the test of time, and win laurels in the domestic scene and on the continent as well.
“You know Enyimba for being a team that always wants to win. So definitely the team needs to be beefed up, but it’s not going to be a wholesale thing.”