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Football | Nigeria Features

Sunshine Stars © BackPagePics

Risky business: Sunshine, Samuel take a gamble



The Sunshine Stars hierachy may have proven they don't understand the soul of the club by hiring the young, relatively untried Abimbola Samuel as gaffer for the new season.

Samuel is the biggest gamble in the history of Sunshine and the latest Premier League rookie boss.

Untried, untested and young

He has never worked at this level before

It’s an incredible throw of the dice and perhaps illustrates the fact that the club hierarchy doesn’t understand the soul or heartbeat of the club.

Sunshine Stars have replaced a club legend with a managerial rookie.

Samuel has certainly had an eventful few years as second assistant to John Obuh at the Under17s in 2009 and later as first assistant at the Under20 team in 2011.

But I’m sure he never imagined he would end up at Sunshine Stars if he retraces his steps to a couple of seasons ago.

For a club that reached the semifinals of the Caf Confederation Cup in 2011 and the Caf Champions League in 2012, an established name was expected.

It leads me to wonder how the appointment took place.

Did the other candidates say no? Was Samuel first choice?

Anyway, for Samuel and any other manager for that matter, you would be silly to turn down such a prestigious job.

In recent years, Samson Unuanel and Festus Allen got their top flight debut as managers of young sides, Prime FC and ABS, respectively, that were promoted from the lower division.

Even Ladan Bosso got his chance with Niger Tornadoes in the lower division and brought the team to the elite class.

Experience

Samuel has no Premier League experience and has spent more time at the national camp as assistant to Obuh.

His last club assignment was with lower division side, COD United and before working with the Lagos club, he was at Gateway United.

It was lack of experience that cost him the Kwara United and Niger Tornadoes job after applying like several others.

Look at the managers down the years. The legendary Kadiri Ikhana, Fatai Amoo, Lawrence Akpokona, Solomon Ogbeide and then Gbenga Ogunbote.

None of these coaches started their Sunshine Stars careers as rookie managers.

Even Ogunbote was not seen as a gamble at the time because he was a two-time manager of Gateway in the top flight before joining Sunshine Stars as an assistant to Ogbeide.

In fact, he brought Gateway twice to the top flight and worked as assistant at Sharks, Eagle Cement (now Dolphins) amongst others.

Ikhana was and always will be worshipped by Sunshine Stars faithful.

Any target for Samuel?

Ogunbote’s shoes are definitely too big for the new manager.

In his first season as manager of the club, Ogunbote finished second behind Dolphins, which is the best in the club’s history.

Despite the distraction of the Caf Champions League, Ogunbote earned a decent fifth position on the log.

There’s no doubt that Samuel is getting into a job that will put him under intense pressure. And so what will be considered a good season by his employers?

Win the league with players he doesn’t even know will remain for the new season?

Samuel will be unveiled on Friday and I can’t wait to know what his new employers want from him.

Fans/Idoko Power

It is dangerous to underestimate the supporters. They will back Samuel, support him and give him everything.

But there’s still an aura and an atmosphere at the club.

There’s an expectancy, tradition and a demand at Sunshine Stars, and I’m not sure the Ondo State Sports Ministry, Ondo State Football Development Agency and lastly, Mike Idoko understand that.

Another interesting angle is the Mike Idoko factor.

It’s good to have Idoko with him. But the question again will be who’s actually in charge? Idoko or Samuel.

Tough times ahead

There are tough times ahead. The Nigeria Premier League. The Federation Cup. And the continental tickets at the end of the day.

That’s a tall order to cope with.

Samuel might be a good coach and played lovely football at Gateway and COD. He might even have learnt good football lessons from his former boss, Obuh, at the Under17 and Under20 teams.

But that’s not enough to have absolute powers at Sunshine Stars.

They have set the bar so high.

It will be so tough, especially with the likes of Kano Pillars, Enugu Rangers, Dolphins and Warri Wolves trying so hard to maintain success.

Samuel has so much to prove and so much work to do.

At any rate, every rookie manager gets his chance one day.

Will Samuel be Nigeria’s version of Andrea Stramaccioni, the 36-year old rookie manager, who is doing well at the famous Inter Milan?

Perhaps, the new gaffer will bring a new approach and philosophy to the game.

Only time will tell.

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