Following their disappointing ouster from the CAF Champions League in the preliminary qualifying round, Plateau United boss Abdu Maikaba has set his sights on winning the domestic topflight this season.
Maikaba’s first season in charge of the 2017 NPFL champions ended in disappointment as they escaped relegation by whiskers despite a massive splash in the transfer market.
Plateau United, however, underwent a complete transformation last season, as Maikaba had them playing swashbuckling football and top of the Nigeria Professional Football League last season, four points from their nearest challengers after 25 games before the campaign was first suspended and then truncated following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Plateau United led the league for most wins (14), fewest losses (4), most goals scored (36) and least goals conceded (15 – level with Rivers United) before the league was curtailed.
There was the consolation of a place in the 2020-21 CAF Champions League for Plateau United, who finished top of a Points Per Game table designed for the purposes of ascertaining the country’s continental representatives.
Their sojourn in the Champions League was short-lived, however, as they were dumped out by Tanzanian giants Simba at the first instance, with Plateau paying the price for profligate finishing in the 1-0 first leg loss in Jos before playing out a goalless stalemate in Dar Es Salaam.
With the prospects of a first continental title for Plateau United having disappeared at the start of the season, Maikaba who is in his third season, says he is confident the 2020-21 campaign will end with the Jos-based side declared NPFL champions for just the second time in their history.
While no one knows what might have been without the coronavirus-induced curtailment of last season’s campaign, Maikaba says his players are convinced they would have gone on to win the title had the season run its course.
As he awaits with the rest of the league for a firm commencement date for the new season, the former Enyimba coach whose only career diadem came in the Aiteo Cup in 2017 with Akwa United, declared there’s a consensus within the team that they must continue from where they stopped last time out, to complete their “unfinished business” from last season in the new campaign.
“I’m so confident that this time around we’re going to deliver the title to Plateau United,” Maikaba told busybuddiesng.com.
“We have agreed with the players that last season was a season which we believed we could win the league, and the issue of Covid-19 just stopped the league abruptly and I hoped, we promised ourselves that this season is going to be the season that we have to finish our unfinished business of last season.
“It’s just that they should think that we will continue from where we stopped. That is my message to the players and I believe they are ready for that.”
Maikaba is particularly confident of going all the way with Plateau United this time around because he has managed to retain the bulk of his squad from last season.
There’s been the high profile departures of excellent striking duo Tosin Omoyele to Enyimba and top scorer Ibrahim Mustapha to UAE side Dibba Al Hisn, but Plateau have recruited excellently to fill the void with the acquisition of Nigerian international Sunday Adetunji and the well-regarded former Enyimba man Abdulrahman Bashir to replace the goals.
While the club works on further reinforcements, Maikaba believes those two, when well settled, can fire Plateau United to glory.
“Why we have confidence that this time around we will win the league is that we are continuing with majority of the players of last season.
“The only area we have little challenge is the attacking position, because our high goal scorer of last season left for Dubai, and the player that is according to the pecking order, second to him also left for Enyimba, in the same position.
“So, [in] replacing these two players, we [tried] our very best to look around and [brought] in Sunday Adetunji and Abdulrahman Bashir. We are still working on them to adapt with the team style of play, and I believe the moment they get used to the team style of play we will continue as we were doing last season.”