The 2016/2017 Nigeria Professional Football League season has come and gone. The campaign produced the best and worthy champions in Plateau United (even though some will disagree), who were top for 34 matchdays and consistent both home and away all through for their first ever league title.
In the drop zone, Shooting Stars (more like Sunderland) couldn’t escape relegation this time around after being lucky for the past three seasons. New boys Gombe United, Remo Stars and ABS FC all returned back to the Nigeria National League after failing to survive amongst the big guns.
Here’s a review of how the season went wrong for them.
Shooting Stars: Deserving relegation casualty
Shooting Stars finished 17th on the final standings after another disappointing season which has left many in amazement that the five-time league winners and one-time continental champions were getting relegated for the second time in five years. This doesn’t speak well of a team of such status. After Gbenga Ogunbote led the team to a ninth place finish in the 2015/2016 season, the team couldn’t tie the current Enyimba coach down and the best players left for greener pastures.
The only solution the team’s administrators could think of was to recruit players from open trials to replace those that have left when they should have got more quality players from other top-flight teams. It is being said that a manager is as good as his players and the club brought in former Dream Team VI assistant coach, Fatai Amoo, to pilot the ship that was sinking even before the season kicked off but it didn’t really pay-off.
The Oluyole Warriors failed to win four of their nine home games in the first stanza which is a bad record for any team with serious ambition in the NPFL. The performance in the second half also didn’t start well after they lost 3-0 to FC Ifeanyi Ubah in front of their own fans. From there on, it was a battle for relegation survival but they lost.
With the team relegated, now is the time to reposition the club and solve all lingering problems for a swift return back to the topflight. Their fans will miss them, Naija football enthusiasts will and as a fan of the team, I will too.
ABS: Just unlucky
After starting the season on fire, ABS won home games and even picked away points from difficult grounds in Akure and Lokoja. They also got a big money sponsorship deal with kit manufacturer Puma but after the deal was signed the team failed to win any of their next four games.
Perhaps the greatest undoing of the Saraki Boys was failing to strengthen during the transfer window. They kept most of the players that got them promoted but didn’t add experienced names in the topflight. It’s sad to see them go considering they had a brilliant manager in Henry Makinwa.
Gombe United: They were their own problem creators
Across the Niger, The Savannah Scorpions came into the season after gaining promotion in magnificent fashion. Even though they had a relatively good transfer window as they got Austin Oladapo from FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Afolabi Abdulwaheed from Shooting Stars among others, their major fault was drawing too many games at home.
Coach Manu Garba also underperformed at the Pantami Stadium despite coming in with a whole lot of experience. At a point he was given a three-match ultimatum to turn the team’s fortunes around but he couldn’t and I was surprised he kept his job till the very end. Fracas in their final game of the season against Wikki Tourists led to their stadium being banned for two years. Life in the second tier might be a very a long one for them.
Remo Stars: Too much paparazzi, little impact on the pitch
The Sky Blues’ woes started from the opening day 2-1 loss to eventual champions, Plateau United. Nduka Ugbade – who brought them into the NPFL, left soon after yet the team satisfied their fans with all sorts of enticing freebies in order to bring them in on matchdays. The problem of Remo on the pitch was still lingering and Fatai Osho was brought in from Crown FC to steady the ship but he failed in that regard.
The mid-season transfer window presented an opportunity to bolster the squad but the team didn’t bring in many names with Bright Ejike from Heartland, the only addition. As expected it had no impact on the team’s position. Little wonder they spent 145 days at the base of the log and eventually got relegated.
These four teams will try to aim getting promotion back to the NPFL and must learn from their mistakes of the just concluded season so they come back stronger and better. Remo Stars and Shooting Stars will compete in the NNL Southern Conference while Gombe United and ABS will feature in the Northern Conference.
I wish them the very best.
What are your thoughts on the relegated NPFL relegated teams? Kindly share in the comments section below.
Follow Samuel on Twitter: @Undisputed_Jsam
Photo Credit: LMC Media