Hall’s impending exit hangs over Leopards, Tusker clash
On another day, the clash between AFC Leopards and Tusker FC would have been a source of sheer entertainment for lovers of the local game with the two sitting pretty among the biggest clubs in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL).
Instead, Sunday at the Kinoru Stadium will be viewed as Stewart Hall’s pre-farewell as Leopards Head Coach with the Englishman rumoured to heading for the exit door after barely half a season at the Den.
Sources privy to Citizen Digital indicate Romanian Dorian Marin is being paraded as his potential replacement with assistant coach Dennis Kitambi who was handpicked by Hall upon his arrival set to retain his position.
Whether the runours will be validated remains to be seen but more importantly Hall and his Tanzanian assistant will look to drag their charges off a mini-slump that has seen them plummet down the KPL standings in recent weeks.
The Leopards lie 11th, six points shy of the relegation zone and face a Tusker side on an upward trajectory after shaking off a poor start to rise into second after amassing six wins on the trot.
On the same day, league leaders Gor Mahia and Posta Rangers will clash at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium with Gor’s assistant coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno coming up against his former club for the first time since they parted ways.
Gor’s striker Timothy Otieno, who was in Rangers camp last season, will also be expected to lead the goal hunt against his former employers.
Fading 2008 champions Mathare United will be seeking revival when they visit Nakumatt FC at the Ruaraka grounds, with struggling Western Stima locking horns with in-form Kariobangi Sharks.
-Hall’s sleeping giants-
At his unveiling last year in October at Ingwe’s headquarters along Mombasa Road, Hall made a vow he had come to awaken ‘a sleeping beast’.
He assured fans his tenure at the club would not be short-lived as it was with Sofapaka FC in 2012, when he led the 2009 champions only for seven weeks before ditching them for Tanzania’s Azam SC.
“I’m here because I want to be here. I have a fantastic challenge, to wake up a sleeping giant! I want to resurrect a sleeping giant.
“I know the team very well. I also know the club’s history, but my main challenge is to make the club successful again,” the CECAFA Kagame Cup winning tactician charged then.
Six months later, he will be quitting after the Meru outing against the brewers, as Citizen Digital has reliably established.
“It is true he is going. He is still with the team in training and will be in our match when we play Tusker on Sunday.
“We are however in a very advanced stage in the search for his successor to ensure there will be no vacuum,” a club official told on condition of anonymity.
Marin, who coached Eritrea national team when horn of Africa nation humiliated Harambee Stars 2-1 at the Safaricom Sports Centre Kasarani in 2006, is on the radar of succeeding the Briton coach.
The situation at the den is a celebration factor for Tusker, who could leap to the top of the 18-tem table with a win if second-placed Ulinzi Stars and Gor falter in their matches.
Tusker, who have not lost since April 2 are breathing fire ahead of the clash, while the winds of unexpected change of guard blowing at the den increase pressure in the playing unit, now 11th in the log.
“Surely it has been a difficult period but once you lose you shift focus to what awaits you next. We have been trying to restore the players’ confidence which definitely has declined with the streak of losses but they have not gotten it right.
“Such tough times come and pass in football, so we are optimistic once we are able to break the sequence of losses there will be no looking back,” Kitambi told Radio Citizen after their 1-0 defeat by Kakamega Homeboyz on Saturday.
Hitherto, it was not as clear as it is Hall would be quitting.
Tusker’s George ‘Best’ Nsimbe has already equaled his predecessor’s (Paul Nkata) record for last season in terms of points thus far, announcing himself a serious title contender.
“The team has shown the seriousness champions are expected to show. We can only build on these wins because the league is quite tough.
“A few mistakes and opponents won’t forgive you, we have to be at our best as we face our next opponents (Ingwe) who cannot be ignored by anyone,” offered Nsimbe.
Having lost their first of the season to Ulinzi last week, Rangers seek a comeback with Gor standing on their way.
The pressure to keep the unbeaten run is over, and the focus to win can now be a priority.
In their last meeting, the sides battled to a barren stalemate. The Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo’s defensive power will be a headache to Gor who struggled to penetrate struggling Thika on Sunday, with all their strikers in the fray.
“I don’t know why it is always Gor. The referee ignored compensating the time wasted, but concentrating on my players we did not play well.
“We have to show more character in our matches, and make sure we convert the chances we get into goals,” Gor’s Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira asserted after weekend’s 1-1 draw against Thika.
A draw will be enough to keep rangers in the top four, although Pamzo is on record that a top two finish going to the June break is his target.
Despite the poor run that has seen the slum boys drop to joint last with Stima and Thika on nine points, Nakumatt’s Anthony Mwangi has warned his players against complacency going to their Sunday fixture.
Mwangi underscored his respect for Mathare’s coach Francis Kimanzi, terming him as a coach capable of anything at any time.
“It will be a difficult game despite them being at the bottom. They have a very good coach, very tactical indeed. He has been in the KPL for long so he knows what to do when.
“Things can change and see them back among the top teams. Their time will come but I’m hoping it does not come with our match,” Mwangi stated.
Nakumatt, a side that found themselves in the KPL this season only thorough CAF Club Licensing and Football Kenya Federation’s (FKF’s) league expansion agenda are seven points above Mathare at 10th.
On song Sharks are keen to finish the first leg in the top five brackets, and can fix it with a win over Stima, to avoid an overtake by Sofapaka.
Sofapaka forced them to a 0-0 draw in Narok on Saturday, and are just a point below with 19 at sixth. The Sam Ssimbwa men have a tricky fixture at Sudi Stadium, Bungoma, where they visit National Super League (NSL) champions Nzoia.
Thika has a chance to jump out of the relegation zone when they welcome Muhoroni Youth at the Thika Sub-County Satadium, as the later continue planning for a new home ground after FKF banned their Muhoroni Stadium.
Nicholas Muyioti is under no illusion that the milk men are laboring in a dangerous zone, hence the importance of the first leg ender.
“We stuck to our plan and tamed them (Gor). We deserved three points but unfortunately we were unable to hold to the end.
“I however laud them for the fight they put today. It will be very motivating as we prepare for our next match against Muhoroni. We have to win it,” Muyioti remarked.
Bandari FC have a date with Homeboyz at the Mbaraki- Mombasa, Zoo Kericho welcome Sony Sogar at the Kericho Green Stadium as other sugar millers Chemelil host military men Ulinzi Stars.
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