Nine times, Enyimba FC have won the League title, and nine different managers have achieved this feat for the team from Aba.
The recent manager to have led the People’s Elephants to the League title is legendary Finidi George. Enyimba won their ninth league title on the 11th of June.
For the fans, it was about the excitement of being League champions once again and the bragging rights that comes alongside it on the streets. Of course yes, they can brag, being a fan of the most successful side in the Nigerian League is worth that.
But Finidi George and the players, it was beyond that mere excitement. Prestige was at stake for the manager, financial implications were also a factor and looking at the money they received for being Champions, a hundred Million Naira (N100m), Finidi and his boy will always smile and be proud they achieved the feat.
Finidi came in at the end of the 2021′ season, and Enyimba ended that campaign in 2nd, behind Akwa United. Finidi’s first season was the 2021-22 season with the People’s Elephants and it was a displeasing one to both the fans and even the neutrals, considering the pedigree of the side.
Enyimba lost more games than they won that season and finished in 7th place. All of the grotesque memories that came with that season have been overridden and there are happy moments in the camp of Enyimba right now.
When I spoke with Finidi at the end of last season, he was extremely confident they would bounce back. The league title won a few days ago is proof of his confidence, but how did he achieve it? In this interview with Elegbetetv.com he talked about how the season went for them, his approaches to games and how key the assistant manager he brought in at the beginning the season was of much importance.
Speaking about what ensued so much confidence in him that the recently concluded would be good, he said:
” Yeah, like I said at the end of last season that Enyimba would bounce back. I knew if we could make some good recruitment, the team was definitely going to be better than what we had last season, and we did so. We got in some new players, young, energetic, willing to go.”
” The Dedication was there. So all of these coupled together, I think, we’re naturally built for something great. I knew what happened in the first season and I didn’t want a repeat of that. So we had to get rid of some players and we brought in new players that were willing to work, and willing to play. “
” They had that dedication, they had that zeal to go and we showed them how we play football here at Enyimba and they got it right, so I must give it up to the players that came in. Also, the older ones that were here really helped to shape the new ones that came in and then that combination really helped. That’s the reason why I had that confidence that we would definitely have a better season than the previous. “
On how Enyimba approached games in the just concluded season, Finidi said:
” Normally, we approach every game to win, this is Enyimba and we don’t shy away from winning. Every game was approached in a manner that will get us a win. Even though we know it’s impossible to win all the games, our first intention is always to ensure to win and not to lose. This is what we do heading towards all games. I had no headache with any game, I only had headaches from Players attitudes.
” Whilst doing our jobs, some players who were not having enough playing time tried to instigate others, which wasn’t nice, but I tried to manage that situation well. We didn’t have the consistency to win 2-3 games in a row, and it boiled down to some of the players attitude, they train, but they show nonchalance, and this affected the team a bit “
Enyimba had financial struggles and it’s not always rosy when a team is battling it financially, but with the struggles, Enyimba went ahead to win the title and obviously it would have been an herculean task for Finidi to manage his team properly and ensure they kept their focus. How did he get to keep his players going?
“ Every Club have their own struggles, we had ours, and we could control it in a way which wouldn’t affect the players, and because of the respect they have for me, they kept their cool even when there was no Money and i must commend the boys, despite all we went through financially, and they had a goal that they wanted to win the League. Even when there was no money, the players were still focused, worked very hard. Their mindset was good “
Managers have always trusted assistants who help them at clubs manage, and most cases when these managers move to other clubs, they always still ensure the assistant manager moves along with them to their new club. At the beginning of the season Coach Yemi Daniel was brought into the new club. Coach Yema, as fondly called over the past few years, has risen as one of the most talented coaches in Nigeria, renowned for his extensive understanding of the game and exceptional dedication to his craft. He has previously worked with Vandrezzer and MFM Fc.
Finidi stated how much of a huge addition Yema was to the team and how he aided him;
‘’When Enyimba signed me in my first season, I wanted Yema, but it was difficult, but my idea from the beginning was to bring him in and knowing how vibrant he is, I wanted us to work together. Despite his youthfulness, he has vast experience in the League and knows the players and he is a very good coach. We had spoken at length, but other coaches on the ground didn’t make that possible in the first season. Coming into the second season, I stressed on it, and it eventually happened. I needed someone who we think football alike. Yema‘s knowledge is top notch. He always challenged me, put me on my toes and wasn’t scared to be expressive and the work we both did together is visible to see’’
Asides Enyimba fans themselves, even the neutrals always want to see Enyimba play on the continent representing Nigeria, and they will be playing the CAF Champions League [a competition they have won twice in their history] next season having missed out the previous season.
Finidi understands how important squad depth is imperative for such and he said they will recruit rightly to give the best performance in the competition.
‘’ The CAF Champions League will be a difficult one no doubt, it is good to see us back there. We have a good team, but we still have to beef up the team, we must have depth in our team, and we would definitely bring in players where we think we lack and the process in ongoing to see those who will come in and those who will also leave’’