(Top right) Twahir Muhiddin (Bandari) (Down Left) AFC Leopards coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh (Down Right) .Francis Kimanzi (Tusker)
This season’s Kenyan Premier League (KPL) has been one of the toughest and has so far claimed the jobs of a number of coaches. With four matches left before the season ends, many clubs should be assessing their performance on the targets they set for themselves. For this reason, a number of KPL coaches are likely to face the sack at the end of the season. Here we look at who is likely to be fired:
1. Pieter De Jongh (AFC Leopards)
When he took over from James Nandwa in June, the Dutchman was touted as the saviour of a club that had the most talented players in the KPL, but had failed to take advantage of it. De Jongh’s profile rose a notch higher when he took the team to the final of the inaugural Nile Basin tournament that was held in Sudan. On arrival from Sudan, Leopards hit arch-rivals Gor Mahia 3-1 in a result that went a long way to reinforce further the wisdom of having De Jongh. Two months later, however, the honeymoon seems to be over. First, De Jongh’s credentials as a coach came into question when it was discovered he had been banned from coaching in Hungary for lying about his licence. Secondly, the coach lost control of the dressing room after differences emerged over his relationship with a few players and members of the technical bench. By all accounts, Leopards have preformed poorly and will be lucky to finish among the top eight. The only trophy they are assured of is the GOTv shield. For this reason, De Jongh must begin to pack his bags.
2. Twahir Muhiddin (Bandari)
It has been a big fall from grace for a team that finished sixth on the log last season and a coach who was second in last year’s coach of the year awards. With four matches to go, Bandari are not far off from the relegation zone especially after they lost their last match 3-1 to Thika United. With the current state of results, it means they are still not safe from relegation until the last day of matches. Muhiddin’s tenure has come under scrutiny from none other than Football Kenya Federation (FKF) officials who are keen to maintain the team’s status in top flight football. They even formed a committee to investigate why they have performed poorly. The move was a major indication of lack of confidence in Muhiddin’s ability and whether Bandari will survive or not, he is unlikely to stay at the helm of the club. Muhiddin also seems to have lost the support of the fans when he appointed Ken Odhiambo as an assistant. Odhiambo is viewed as an outsider at the Coastal club and many fans would have preferred someone from the region.
3. Robinson Ofuwoku (Nairobi City Stars)
The Kawangware based club is unlikely to succeed and therefore will be unable to keep Nigerian coach Robinson Ofuwoku. Last season, City Stars had one of their best performances in recent times and it was expected they would maintain the same tempo and do much better. However, a combination of factors, lack of finances and loss of key players meant they had to battle relegation since the season kicked off. At one time, Ofuwoku quit the club due to non-payment of his salary and many were surprised when he returned a few months later. Granted, City Stars have suffered from some poor officiating, but then again, the foundation for failure was built when the club failed to get a sponsor in successive years. Football is an expensive sport and cannot be run on hand-outs. It would be sad to see Ofuwoku go as he kept the team alive with a never-say-die attitude which impressed even their opponents.
4.Francis Kimanzi (Tusker)
It has been another frustrating season for Tusker after they failed to win the KPL last season. The brewers are known to be unforgiving to coaches who don’t deliver especially the league title. Just ask Sammy Omollo and Robert Matano, who were both fired when it looked like the brewers would not be able to defend the title. Granted Kimanzi has turned around the club making it one of the best to watch on the pitch. The Dutch-trained tactician has also given a new lease of life to some players who had been forgotten like Osborne Monday and Andrew Tololwa. He has also brought out the best of Brian Osumba and Clifford Alwanga. Granted, he has already won the KPL Top 8 trophy for the brewers. But Kimanzi is still expected to review his tenure with them depending on where they finish on the log. Tusker chairman James Musyoki was quick to assure they will retain Kimanzi even if the team does not win the KPL. This is nothing new, however, as he has done the same in regard to previous coaches.
5. Frank Nuttall (Gor Mahia) When the Gor Mahia coach was hired in September, he was given a three-month probation to prove his ability. Nothing short of winning the tittle will guarantee Nuttall another stint at the club. For a club that won the KPL last season after an 18-year wait, they are unlikely to settle for less, which puts more pressure on Nuttall to deliver. Gor Mahia have lost out on every local trophy so far and the KPL title remains their only claim to fame this season. It would simply be unforgivable for Nuttall not to win the KPL title. With four matches to go, Gor Mahia need to win just three to retain their status as champions. But this is football and anything can happen and Nuttall is well aware that his stay at the club depends on him retaining the title.