Ahead of the April 3 kick off of Nigeria’s second-tier professional football league, the Nigeria National League (NNL), head coach of Stationery Stores FC Tony Gbemudu says the focus for the once great club this season is “nothing less” than gaining promotion to the top tier.
Nicknamed the Flaming Flamingoes, Stores have enjoyed a storied and turbulent history since coming into being in 1958. They were a household name in the 1960s and enjoyed a trophy-laden run through the sixties and early nineties during which they won four Federation Cup (FA Cup) titles and the topflight in 1993.
They were however relegated the season after their top-flight triumph and in the ensuing years have suffered relegation from the professional league, gotten embroiled in a legal dispute about ownership, suffered years of dormancy before returning to the lower tier in 2014.
It appears though that normalcy has since returned to the club and having established themselves in the second tier, Gbemudu believes Stores “really need” to move back up to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Nigeria’s top tier.
“Our focus for the season is to gain promotion, that’s what we really need, we are going for promotion. Nothing less than that,” he told busybuddiesng.com after his side’s one nil defeat of fellow NNL side 36Lions FC in a preseason friendly at the Goal project pitch at the National Stadium, Surulere on Wednesday.
Promotion to the top flight will certainly be tough as only the winners of the four NNL groups will move up as opposed to last season when the top two teams in each group competed in a “Super Eight” with the semi-finalists gaining promotion to the NPFL.
And without the quality of players like they had when they produced nine of Nigeria’s starting eleven at the Mexico 68 Olympics Football event and had the likes of former Super Eagles first choice goalkeepers Peter Rufai and Ike Shorounmu don the colours of the club in the past, gaining promotion would certainly not be straightforward.
Gbemudu, however, sees things differently, believing the support and the “materials” at his disposal are enough to bring topflight football back to the club after a quarter of a century.
“I have the support [from the club], I have the materials so I don’t have [any] problems about [achieving] promotion.”