By Akojejede Olanrewaju
For those who are conversant with sports betting, especially football, great odds would have been against the eventual winners of the 2016/2107 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Plateau United FC.
Many would have taken any prophesy that the Jos-based team will win the NPFL title with a pinch of salt owing to their past records as strugglers and last season last gap save from the jaw of relegation.
How this modest team coached by Kennedy Boboye became eventual winners still came as a surprise. The team has successfully achieved the kind of feat of Leicester United FC of England when they won the EPL title in 2015.
Plateau United on September 9 did what many would have considered impossibility by claiming their first league shield after defeating the then incumbent champions, Rangers International FC of Enugu 2-0.
The win means that the league crown has returned to the city on the Plateau after 45 years it was won by the Mighty jets of Jos.
They achieved this in style at their slaughter slab, Rwang Pam Stadium; with the same scoreline they defeated Rangers last season in the Match Day 22, thus becoming the 19th club to win the league in Nigeria.
To win this year’s league, Plateau United strived to grind out the title out of resilience and uncommon determination, thereby setting agenda for other clubs to emulate because it is a blueprint that can engender success for any club.
One can also wonder and ask the question, where are the league’s powerhouses and heavyweights? Why can’t they win the title? The answer is not far-fetched; they are unable to withstand Plateau United’s resilience and determination.
To win the league title, The Peace Boys were able to gather 15 clean sheets and 19 wins. It is one of the astonishing records ever recorded in the NPFL.
Also, with not much budget to work with, Plateau United was able to maintain the top spot for almost the entire duration of 2106/2017 season except on four occasions when they are unseated by MFM.
En route to their crowning as the NPFL’s best, the Peace Boys maintained the top of the table for more than 200 days.
They conceded the fewest number of goals, 25, and they scored 49. It’s such a great feat for a club most football fans would have considered underdogs.
However, it must be noted that it is also the second league shield captured by clubs from Jos town with the maiden edition of the league won by Mighty Jets of Jos in 1972.
Judging from the past records, obliviously, Plateau United’s last season can be regarded to as relegation strugglers and as at Match Day 23 they were second from the drop zone.
The team was, however, able to turn the tide towards the end of the 2015/2016 campaign by keeping a modest eight place finish on the NPFL log. They played 36 matches, won 14, drew 9 and lost 13; they had 51 points.
Last season, Plateau United had 12 home wins, seven draws but recorded no loss at home.
For their away match records, the team won two matches away to Abia Warriors 1-0 in the Match Day 25 and MFM FC 2-1 in the Match Day 29. They lost 13 games away.
On the contrast, for this season, the reigning champions have an astonishing 17 home wins, two draws and no loss, this shows how the Rwang Pam Stadium has been a fortress.
For the away record, the Kennedy Boys garnered a total of two wins away and seven draws with nine loses.
For the team, getting away points is the way to gather the much needed points to win the title shield. They are also able to squeeze points even from the leagues powerhouses such as Rivers United, Kano Pillars, Nasarawa United and others.
Credit also goes to the Plateau United’s gaffer, Boboye, who ensured that the team was able to maintain the lead without much distraction.
The former Abia Warriors and Sunshine United coach ensured that his team maintained the focus from the blast of the first whistle of NPFL to the last.
Mr Fred Edoreh, the Chairman, Lagos State Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), speaking on Plateau United’s triumph, said the “modest Jos-based team caught the big clubs napping.
“I am of the opinion that the team plotted their win right from the start; I also know that there were a lot of the big clubs who didn’t watch their back.
“I guess that they only realised the ambition of Plateau United when the season got to half, this was when Plateau United are on the cruise and couldn’t be stopped.
“Boboye has proved his mettle as well, it is a well-played script by him, they may not be playing great football, but they have good tactics and confidence to win their home games.
“They are also able to go for as many away points as possible. I think that made it for them.
Football is football, it only depends on the tactics you want to adopt,’’ he said.
On the continental ticket secured by Plateau United, Edoreh advised the Plateau State Government to uplift the Rwang Pam Stadium to meet with CAF standard.
“To be sincere, one cannot be too convinced about the Rwang Pam Stadium pitch, the centre is not what we can cheer about.
“The state government owns the club and their primary responsibility should be the facility. Winning the cup is not enough, the infrastructure needs attention too.
“Government should go beyond political interest to a more practical approach. They need to work on the pitch because I do not know how CAF can approve that pitch for continental football,’’ Edoreh said.
He said that Plateau United may do well in their continental campaign considering the manner in which they were able to defeat other top NPFL clubs.
“If Plateau United can defeat the big guns like Kano Pillars, Rangers International and Enyimba, nothing stops them from doing well in the continent.
“Having a wrong impression that they may not do well in the continent depends on their determination, right attitudes and the coach.
“The club may need to bring on new players to shore up its team as well. If all their strikers are in form with others to complement them, they should do well,’’ Edoreh said.