YEAR IN REVIEW: How Tusker wobbled in botched title quest
Booted Tusker FC skipper James Situma says luck was not on their side as their dream to win a 12th league title went up in smoke in the 2017 season.
The brewers hitherto regarded one of the best league sides failed to mount a serious challenge for the coveted gong, winning just 14 matches, drawing eight and losing a massive 12, to finish sixth on 50 points in the Kenyan Premier League standings, 24 points adrift of champions Gor Mahia.
“It was not a good season for us.We didn’t start well and catching up was a problem . Lack of consistency also affected us,” Situma who was released by the club last week told Citizen Digital shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 league season.
Tusker’s poor run, it seems, was not just down to the playing unit, but due to a plethora of mistakes beginning from the boardroom.
The loss of the double-winning coach, Ugandan Paul Nkata, who decamped to Bandari FC at the beginning of the 2017 season after winning the brewers a league title and GOtv-Shield in 2016, seemed to have caught them flat-footed.
In a bid to fix the mess, the Ruaraka hierarchy went for Nkata’s compatriot in George ‘Best’ Nsimbe but the script failed to fall into plan, so it seemed, as the club leaped from one calamity to the other, leading to the premature exit of the latter.
‘Best’ had otherwise had a dull start in his bid to challenge Gor for the gong, losing to the roaring K’Ogalo 1-0 loss in the DSTV Super Cup at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, before suffering a shock Champions League exit to minnows, AS Port Louis of Mauritius.
The defeat to Gor laid a marker but before long, they were jumping into the frying pan after they were walloped 5-2 by promoted Nzoia United in a league match.
The experience of James Situma, Allan Wanga, Humphrey Mieno and Michael Khamati seemed to steady the ship at one point as they went into a five-match winning streak. This didn’t last though, and it seemed as if the gods had contrived to ensure everything went awry.
In August, Nsimbe’s charges dropped points against Thika United and Mathare United– who were all fighting relegation– and being edged out of the GOtv-Shield by lower league side, Vihiga United, compounded an already bad situation. It was akin to twisting the knife on the back of an already wounded victim.
This led to the suspension of the Ugandan coach, with his assistant, Francis Baraza, taking charge on an interim basis.
“The change of the manager did not have a big impact on our season. It all depends on how you adapt to the change, but as a team, I don’t think we did enough when it mattered because the same players who won a double are the same ones we still had this season when everything went wrong,”Situma mourned.
But, be as it may, it seems, at Tusker, there is the ego problem and personality cult amongst senior players.
In 2015, Francis Kimanzi was sacked in a similar manner amidst reports in a section of the press that senior players were sabotaging the then coach.
Situma, however, rubbishes these allegations, terming them far-fetched.
“It’s a big lie (that we sabotage coaches).There is no way players will have more power than the coach, we are all under the same management. In football, the players and coach need to unite for the team to succeed.The players don’t pay the coach, so they have no control over his future so whoever is spreading such rumours has bad intentions,” Situma, a highly respected figure in local football circles told Citizen Digital.
Though he has departed the club, together with Wanga and Mieno, there is no gainsaying that the pain of the last seasons misses; coupled by being kicked on the teeth by the very employer they diligently served, hurts him.
Mieno has since moved on, joining Gor Mahia, as Situma and Wanga still weigh their options.
And with the 2018 Premier League season set to start on February 3, Tusker will have to root out the cobwebs in its house, if they are to challenge for the gong.
Already behind schedule with the coaching position still unfilled, it is a race against time for the vanquished 11-time league champions