REVIEW OF LAST EIGHT WEEKS AS STORES OPEN A NEW CHAPTER

It has just been announced that Stationery Stores Football Club of Lagos have signed new players and appointed vastly experienced coach, Fatai Amoo as their new Chief Coach. Amoo, in his playing days featured for National Bank of Lagos and was widely recognized as one of the most technically gifted players in the country. Not surprisingly, he has had stints as both player and coach with the Nigerian National Team, the Super Eagles.

Image                         fatai amoo 120 nigerianwatch com                           st filani 124 v                           Image

(l – r) Quadri,  Amoo,  Filani  and Musa Sadiq (pics from facebook and nigerianwatch)

The news has brought instant excitement to the fans of the Lagos darling team who had been traumatized by the below-par performance of their team in the last three weeks of the Nigerian national league. In my last two match reports on this blog, I had highlighted my observation that the players were just not putting in their best anymore. With the benefit of hindsight it will appear now that the players got wind of the impending shake up and found the thought of losing their place in the biggest football club in Africa too much to bear.

I wish all those players that featured for us since Week 1 till date all the best in their careers. I thank them for their efforts and they will always be remembered as the group that brought Stores back to light after 16 years. Coach Taiwo Enegwea (who still remains with the team), Captain Ayo Filani, etc etc; you guys will always be cherished.

As we wait anxiously to see the new team on Sunday against Calabar Rovers (well, it’s now Unicem, but for me always Calabar Rovers), I have decided to do a review of the first 8 weeks of Stores return to Nigerian football, for we may yet learn a lesson or two from what happened.

BEST MOMENT                                                                                                                                                     The coordinators of the organised supporters clubs had run out of jerseys to give out to the teeming fans at the stadium and there was this hard-working young man from Fire-2 almost in tears for not getting one. Realizing that all the available jerseys had been given out, Pastor Eliashib Ime-James removed the one he was wearing and very cheerfully presented it to the young supporter whose tears immediately turned to joy and unbridled emotion, even if it rendered the donor half naked under the scorching sun, Now you know why some people will die for Stores.

BEST GAME                                                                                                                                                           The 2-0 victory over arch rivals Shooting Stars of Ibadan was by far the team’s best game. What made it so sweet was the fact that the Oluyole Warriors came to Lagos with several lorry loads of their supporters. On that day, Stores’ players played with exceptional passion and guts, and there was never any doubt who was going to carry the day. Where did that motivation come from?

WORST GAME                                                                                                                                                         Many will point to the 4-0 loss to MFM because iof the scoreline, but I disagree. The fact is that many of those Stores players on that day had played for MFM before, so their weaknesses were well known. Remembering also that MFM is such a well organized club with top quality coach in Nduka Ugbade, I really did not blame our boys that much. For me, the team’s worst game by a mile was the last home game against ABS: we just did not come out to play.

OUTSTANDING PLAYERS                                                                                                                                    After watching all their home games, I picked out the following players as the most outstanding during the last 8 weeks of the league:

4) HASSAN OLADIMEJI (Left Back)                                                                                                                       The lad with a sweet left foot; very confident and keeps the ball on the ground when initiating attacks.       3) AYO FILANI (Defensive Midfielder):                                                                                                                     He showed good example on the field and served as good anchor between the defence and attack. Even in the drab match against ABS, his gutty flying header forced the visitors’ goalie to make a very risky save that almost sent him to hospital after crashing against the post.                                                                         2) JIMOH OLAWALE (“the bearded one !”, Central Defender):                                                                           Apart from the game against Ekiti, he was very calm and effective in the central defence. Like most of his colleagues though, it was obvious that he still needs to garner experience on order to fulfill his massive potential.                                                                                                                                                                   1) QUADRI ADENIREGUN (Attacking Midfielder):                                                                                               I’ve only watched him play for 30 minutes, but it gave me the same feeling I had the first time I saw Olumide Banjo on the field. Quadri Olaniregun brought life back to Onikan stadium; reminding us that Stores is the traditional home of the Andres Iniestas  of African football.

Apart from those four mentioned above, let me shower praise on a few other players:  Raphael Onwrebe was our top striker with 3 goals. He could have scored much more, but he’s a great potential. Jelelola and Ovo Uzezi kept our opponents’ full backs very busy on the right and left flanks, while goalkeeper Oguntoye showed flashes of brilliance in those games he played. Musa Sadiq showed so much promise in our very first game where he scored our first goal, but thereafter unfortunately succumbed to injury.

The good thing about the outgoing players is that they are all very young. If they continue to work hard, I won’t be surprised to see a few of them return to Stores in future, just like Mattic did at Chelsea. So I wish them all the best in their careers.

SUPPORTERS AND MANAGEMENT                                                                                                                  It will be travesty if I don’t commend the organized supporters, coordinated by Adebayo Olowo-Ake and Pastor Eliashib Ime James. They have worked unbelievably hard to rejuvenate the vast followership of the club locally and internationally: Have you heard of Fire-2 ? The supporters must be particularly commended for keeping peace at the stadium: In fact, Onikan has been so peaceful that the police dogs are handled by female officers; and to keep themselves busy they will join the supporters in shouting ( sorry, I mean barking !) when a goal is scored before continuing their afternoon siesta on the ground!

Truth be told, this current Stores story would not have happened without the strong resolve of the owners, the Israel Adebajo family. I have seen Tilewa Adebajo a couple of times motivating the stakeholders to remain undaunted. Perhaps one day I will meet Gboyega, my former School Captain (senior prefect) and school goalkeeper, at the Onikan waterfront. We deeply appreciate Mrs Gloria Adebajo- Fraser for all the efforts she’s put in to revive Stores.

Our earnest plea as supporters is that the family continue to work together this time around, if for nothing else but for the sake of the club’s millions of long-suffering supporters whose passion for soccer is built around this one club.

For now it’s a brand new chapter at Stationery Stores, the flaming flamingoes, of Lagos. Seven of the old players have been retained to join over  twenty new faces and coach Fatai Amoo in plotting the road to promotion for Stores.  The club has a at least one sponsor (1960Bet), a fantastic team bus, and a load of loyal supporters. In the last two months, even the regulators of professional football in Nigeria have seen that Stores is the key to reviving public interest in local club football in the country.

Iyo!!!

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