Can De Jong Rescue Ikorodu’s Season? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Can De Jong Rescue Ikorodu’s Season?

De Jong
Posted: Jun 25, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chibuike Chukwu
Lagos – Management of relegation-threatened Ikorodu United has appointed a Dutch coach, Theo De Jong, to manage the team after sacking erstwhile coach, Sam Okpodu.
A statement released by the Lagos based side read: “The club and manager agree that the timing is right to bring the relationship to an end.
“The Board of Directors thanks Sam Okpodu for all his hard work and wishes him all the best in his future endeavours,” concludes the statement.
It is believed that De Jong understood the task before him: rescue the Onikan Landlords from relegation.
He looks to have accepted the most difficult job in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) as Ikorodu United are rooted at the bottom of the table after 22 matches.
Truth is that Ikorodu United are parting company with Okpodu on the back of the team’s poor run of form.
Similar reason was adduced when Okpodu’s predecessor, Benson Edema, was shoved aside and made the team’s assistant manager, and consequently answerable to Okpodu, with the hope that the coming of Okpodu would bring the needed succour to the struggling side.
Born on August 11, 1947, De Jong starred as a midfielder during his playing career, which took him to clubs like Feyenoord, Blauw Wit, NEC Nijmegen, Feyenoord Rotterdam, Roda JC, Seiko and FC Den Bosch. But for Hong Kong side, Seiko, De Jong never played outside The Netherlands, home country.
He is though not bereft of coaching experience having managed a lot of clubs including his former side, FC Den Bosch, FC Zwolle, SC Cambuur, Wilem II, Go Ahead Eagles, among others.
He has equally managed national teams, albeit at assistant capacities, with China and Cameroon in 2002 and 2006 respectively being the countries he superintended.
The coach is also known to have won some medals in the course of playing and coaching several club sides in his home land.
For instance, De Jong was a member of the Feyenoord team that won the UEFA Cup in 1974, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the then two-legged final. He was instrumental to Seiko’s run to the cup final in 1982 and played vital part to The Netherlands reaching the 1974 World Cup final where they lost to Germany.
But the question that will readily beg for answers is, will this profile rescue the already dwindling fortunes of Ikorodu United, a club that have hired three coaches in the course of the current campaign in Nigeria’s elite league?
Is coaching inadequacies the real reasons why the Lagos club is yet to find its footing in the current season? This is because indigenous coaches in the league have succeeded where foreigners have failed.
For example, current league leaders, Wikki Tourists of Bauchi, have an indigenous coach, with the players churning out eye-popping performances every week. The Abdul Maikaba wards are yet to taste defeat in almost seven matches, with the Bauchi side winning all but one match in the last six matches.
Conversely, the hiring of Mitko Dobrev, a Bulgarian, might have done very little to make FC IfeanyiUba a formidable team the owner, Chief Ifeanyi Uba, desires. The Nnewi side is placed 11th on the NPFL log with 30 points from 21 matches.
Incidentally, the club has the full complement of six Brazilian players he bought to fortify the team. The owner, Chief Uba, cap his desire by releasing a huge N100 million lifeline to purchase players during the current season’s mid-way transfer window.
The above scenario has raised the debate on whether De Jong will bring the needed bite Ikorodu United need to navigate out of the dread zone.
A look at the league table will show that all the front runners are managed by Nigerian coaches and with 90% percent of their players being home grown.
There is no doubt that De Jong will come with the usual Dutch tactics of wing play and hitting teams with brazen agility.
But, as argued by a player of the team, who craved anonymity, the challenge of the team goes beyond coaching to include in-fighting among the management staff.
“Coaching is not the problem; the problem is that the management is not at peace. May be it is because of our present stand on the table, but there is no unity in the team,” the payer said.
Speaking also, the sacked coach, Okpodu, while barring his mind on the development, said he prays for the club, insisting that Ikorodu United have never been short of good managers.
“I wish the new manager well and I want to say that Ikorodu United will always be on my mind. Incidentally, the club has always had good managers, so I do not think that is where the problem lies,” he said.
A coach with a top flight club in the north, who also craved anonymity, citing undue intrusion as his reason, said Ikorodu United should look beyond changing coaches, if they hope to survive the current league season.
He said that there might be serious issues in the club that may also frustrate the expatriate coach, urging the side to put their house in order first.
“I don’t want to be quoted because that is not my club. All I know is that we have quality coaches in the domestic league, who can comfortably handle Ikorodu United.
“Do not be surprise that there may be some influences that can frustrate the expatriate coach because they have changed coaches at will. Cutting relationship with coaches is not the best. Ask the sacked coaches and you might see that there was more to their sacking.
“I will ask them to first put their house in order before anything else. I wish the new coach well,” the coach said.