The current season has shown both the best and the worst of Sunshine Stars. Their chance of breakng their league jinx hangs by the thread, explains AKINWUMI OJO
SUNSHINE Stars are behind the trio of Enyimba, Warri Wolves and Wikki Tourists in the quest to win the Nigeria Premier Football League this season.
Yet, it was as recent as two months ago that the Akure based club were comfortably ensconced on the summit of the Nigeria Premier League and playing some swashbuckling football that convinced even the harshest of their critics that they were truly poised to end their long wait for their first league diadem.
While every other club struggled, the Kennedy Boboye-tutored Sunshine played with gusto, pumping hapless opponents full of goals and only looked on their shoulders to check which of their competitors had stumbled again in the desperate catch up game.
With confidence sky-high in their camp, it was no surprise that the club become one of the few sides in the NPFL assured of a capacity crowd at at every home game and the Akure Township Stadium became a fortress.
The club’s 5-0 thumping of hapless El Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri in Akure and the animated celebration that greeted their 3-0 away victory in Owerri remains evergreen in the minds of the Owen Waves faithful.
However, with less than five matches to the end of the season, it is no longer at ease with the Akure based club. Sunshine have been knocked their enviable position on the summit of the league but are now in genuine danger of not finishing in the top three. The stark implication of this is that, they could miss out on the three automatic tickets for continental football and making all the hardwork of the season coming to nothing.
Now, the question burning the minds of concerned Akure Gunners faithful now is; how did the club got derailed with only a few months to the end of the season after such a lively and bright start.
Indeed, the appointment of Kennedy Boboye at the beginning of the season did not kindle any peculiar optimism in the faithful, especially as he was expected to fill the big shoe left by legendary managers such as Kadiri Ikhana and Fatai Amao.
To the consternation of all however, Boboye who moved to the job from Rising Stars where he was on a rescuing mission from Sunshine Queens proved to be a shrewd manager. Weeks into the season, he had gained their unreserved trust and respect by turning the club from one in total disarray the previous season to serious dark horses and real title contenders.
The club’s well oiled machine kept on without any blip even in the face of occurrences that could have seriously hampered the quest chances of their peers in the league. One of such was the unceremonious absconding of Kunle Odunlami to Morocco during a crucial period in the season, but the club remarkably rose above this by keeping their status on top of the log without much ado.
Coming into the season, Dele Olorundare was regarded as the main striker because of his precedence and vast experience in the league but it is the unheralded Tunde Adeniji that has stolen the attention. By August his impressive goal tally had risen to 13 the highest in the league and it was therefore unsurprising that he was constantly at the Super Eagles camp.
Adeniji suffered a mini goal drought and only added to his tally a week ago when his lone goal earned his side the maximum points at home to Abia Warriors. Dare Ojo has not been as clinical as Adeniji but has played been handful for opposing defences and his hardwork has been rewarded with an invitation to the Home Based Super Eagles. Okiki Afolabi is another striker whose has also added his shares to the impressive goal tally but there is little doubt that Adeniji’s dip in form has been sore.
The team’s defence was equally impressive as teams find it extremely hard to breach and served as the platform for the midfield anchored by Abbey and Uduok Kingsley to support the forwardline effectively.
Everything went well according to plan until Sunshine seemly invincibility at home was shattered by a 3-2 loss to Nasarawa FC who were rock bottom of the league table in Week 27. Until recent weeks, it has been a free fall for the Owena Waves.
However, Dayo Awude, former Protocol to the Ondo State governor and a staunch supporter of the club while acknowledging the annihilative impact the loss represents, identified the clubs dismal form in their travels as being mainly responsible for their dip in fortune.
He said: “To be honest we weren’t expecting the club to soar to the top of the table at the beginning judging from how badly they performed last season. But to our delight, they were high up there and we thought they could maintain that to the end of the season. That with every passing week is however looking very unlikely. But we are resolved to continue giving our total support to the team.
Enyimba FC of Aba are currently leading the NPFL table and have garnered five points more points than Sunshine. While Sunshine had fallen apart on away grounds Enyimba had been very consistent. The Aba Elephants 3-1 victory at home the Owena Waves has been decisive. Had Sunshine avoided the loss the margin between them and the new leaders would have been just two and their hope of catching up wouldn’t have looked so gloomy.
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