Imama Amapakabo looked a man reborn, a heavy pressure burden lifted off his shoulders as his Abia Warriors side finally got off the mark for the season.
It took eight games but the win when it came was emphatic, a 4-1 demolition of Sunshine Stars on matchday 8 in Okigwe.
It was also timely with the former Rangers boss precipitously close to the sack after overseeing the worst start to a Nigeria Professional Football League campaign in Abia Warriors’ history.
Appointed to much fanfare, neither the club or Amapakabo would have envisaged a start that saw them lose all four of their opening games.
The rotten run of form threw up questions about Amapakabo’s methods and suitability as a coach, coming on the back of his stint as a national team coach where he superintended over a disastrous sequence of failures that saw the CHAN Eagles knocked out of qualifying for the the CHAN tournament and the U23 national team miss out on a ticket for the Tokyo Olympics.
A particularly humiliating defeat at home to Jigawa Golden Stars on matchday 4 appeared too much for the Abia Warriors hierarchy who promptly issued the coach with a three-game ultimatum to turn things around.
That appeared the catalyst Amapakabo and his players needed as they drew their next three games before finally picking up their first three points of the season in Wednesday’s mauling of Sunshine Stars.
Speaking on his side’s difficult start, Amapakabo admitted feeling the effects of the increased scrutiny on his position but insisted it wasn’t any different to what all coaches routinely have to deal with in their jobs.
Despite his side’s poor start and their lowly 19th position, Amapakabo whose side are at Dakkada on Sunday insists his side will get many more emphatic wins and perhaps even mount a title charge as the “league diadem is not given until after 38 weeks”.
“I always want to do well. Like I say all the time, “which coach is not under pressure?,” he said.
“Every coach is under pressure, the coach on the top of the league is under pressure, the coach at the bottom of the league is under pressure.
“And the league diadem is not given until after 38 weeks. And in this side of the world, when things don’t turn well, the pressure comes immediately. It’s unprecedented that a team goes four games without a win. But we are doing it right, we are seeing the picture we are trying to paint.”
My take on it all the time was I was telling my players they should not be disheartened. Because if they get disheartened, they will lose picture of what we are trying to do.
“So long as they keep focused the results was going to come. This is part of result that have come and we still have about 30 games to play. So if they keep their heads up they will get plenty of this kind of result.”