KPL Watch: Posta seek end to relegation struggle
Analysis, Jacob Icia
In the last two seasons, Posta Rangers had to play two National Super League (NSL) sides in relegation-promotion playoffs after finishing 16th in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL).
They had to fight hard to beat a determined Nairobi Stima in the 2018/19 season playoff, and then head coach John Kamau was keen to end this trend in the just opened campaign.
Interestingly, despite starting the preseason journey with the mailmen, he would not last to the end of it as Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo, who had been replaced by Kamau himself just in 2018 at the same club came back just a week to their season opener.
In the very first training session of the preseason at the Nairobi Showground, Kamau had revealed his plan to end the relegation talk by starting the 2019/20 season perfectly.
“Last season there was a slow start and the secret going forward is to start strongly, so that we avoid be caught up in the last minute rush of avoiding the axe. It comes with a lot of pressure and you don’t survive it every time,” told Kamau.
By then, he had signed eight new players, underlining his agenda for the season. He was with the team even in the preseason tour to Nakuru and Kisii, meaning he did much of the team’s preparation for the season.
But, as Team Manager John Terry would say upon disappointing Pamzo, the coach is well familiar with the structures at the club and needed little orientation to get the ball rolling.
Surely he did, leading Posta to their season opener 2-1 win on Friday away to Narok against Sofapaka, before issuing a statement of hope to their fans hinged on the youthful new members in the team.
“Before I left this club I had detected where the problem was. It was all about age. Most of the players were aging, and despite their technical abilities, they could not give their best for 90 minutes. We now have several young players who are blending well with the old guards in the team, and in them lies the secret into the stability we have been looking for,” expounded the immediate former KCB assistant coach, who was sacked alongside Frank Ouna at end of last season.
Among the new players he highlights to be the turning point in their league stability journey is former Gor Mahia striker Eliud Lukawom, who conspicuously featured in the season opener, scoring the winner.
“Look, there is a big difference because we have players who can fight to the last minute. Initially we would start well and end up giving little in the second half. It’s amazing in our first match this season, against a very strong opponent we were more zealous in the second half. The likes of (Eliud) Lokuwam have confirmed this is the way to go, and we want to continue signing more ambitious young players,” said Pamzo, who has a two-year contract with the club.
The reknown defensive minded coach has not set a minimum requirement his team this season yet, although he knows being among the top-10 will be a satisfactory performance before the bosses.
“Where I don’t want us to back to is the issue of playoffs. That we must avoid. In doing that, if we get in the best 10 positions we will have hit our target,” Pamzo offered, coinciding with his predecessor Kamau.
Two goalkeepers (Jairus Adira from AFC Leopards and Byrne Omondi from Tusker), left back Michael Apudo (Sony Sugar) and midfielder Jackson Dwang roped in from Nzoia Sugar FC.
Michael Luvutsi also joined from Bandari FC, midfielder Cain Okeyo from Wazito FC, Tusker FC striker Bill Oporia, Lokuwam and former Bidco FC defender Dinkem Mwema
Posta dropped John Nairuka, Dennis Ongeri, Bernard Arum, Eliud Emase, former Kariobangi Sharks duo Herit Mungai and Francis Manaoh.
Martin Lule, Ugandan goalkeeper who had joined the mailmen just in March, was also released while long serving members Joe Nyaga and Jerry Santos retired from active football.
One to Watch: Eliud Lokuwam
Lokuwam may have failed to get a first team place in Gor Mahia but the 21-year old by all standards is a gem in Pamzo’s squad. How fast he captured Gor scout’s eyes two years after joining Kenyatta University from Laikipia Airbase football team tells a lot about his skill.
Competition was stiff at Gor, with the likes of Jaques Tuyisenge, Medie Kagere among others competing for starting berths when he arrived. In the few matches he played, he still showed flashes of promising striker, with much to offer if accorded enough playing time.
It is not amusing that he scored in the debut match for Posta, and his coach is already singing praises for the Economics and Finance student at Kenyatta University.
Club: Posta Rangers
Nickname: The Mailmen
Homeground: Kenyatta Stadium Machakos, Kipchoge Keino Stadium Eldoret.
Year Founded: 1980
Head Coach: Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo.