The newly appointed Technical Adviser of Wikki Tourists, Coach Abdullahi Adamu, has said he is targeting at least two away victories in the second round of the 2023 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) abridged season. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former Katsina United coach, one of the youngest gaffers in the NPFL, said despite their precarious position on the Group B table, Wikki Tourists are not going to have anything to do with relegation. Instead, he assured that the ‘Bauchi elephants’ would fight to qualify for Super 6 at the end of the season.
How happy are you with your promotion to the position of Technical Adviser of Wikki Tourists?
Let me say Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. This is what every coach will like to be. It is a great feeling that I have been appointed to lead Wikki Tourists’ technical crew having worked so hard especially when I acted as the coach and saved the club from relegation in the 2019/2020 season. I thought I would be allowed to continue as the Technical Adviser but for inexplicable reasons, that didn’t happen. However, I continued working hard for the club. So when Coach Kabiru Dogo left recently, I didn’t apply for the position. I said if they find me suitable, they should appoint me. And to the glory of God, I was found to be competent enough to be appointed. So, I say Alhamdulillah, I am very happy to be the next Technical Adviser of Wikki Tourists.
How are you adjusting to your new responsibility?
It is not a new thing because I have done it before. For several years now, I have been a part of the team. As a matter of fact, I was the one who assessed most of the players for the former technical adviser. Even though he was the one who invited them, I made the final assessment. So, nothing is new to me. Even when Dogo left, the first match we played was against the defending champions, Rivers United in Port-Harcourt. The boys did very well. Although we lost 2-0, the referees were suspended because it was obvious that they had compromised. In our second match, we beat Rangers 1-0 at home, we then picked a draw at Abia Warriors before coming home to beat Lobi Stars 2-1. So, I can confidently say Wikki Tourists are back on track.
You have won two matches. What did you do to motivate your players?
I didn’t do anything differently. Like I told you, I was the Head Coach of the team and I handled almost 80% of the training programmes. The only thing is that I was not the Technical Adviser. I was not the one in charge of pre-match talk and it was the Technical Adviser who decided how the team should line-up and play. But what I have done basically is to change the mentality of the players. Most of them were demoralised so I had to lift their spirits. More importantly, I have my own football philosophy which is working for the team.
Considering the precarious position of Wikki Tourists, are you aiming at escaping relegation only?
Well, in the last two seasons, we struggled to escape relegation but this time around we are not going to be fighting against relegation. Instead, we want to find a way to qualify for the Super 6 where everybody can see what we have been able to achieve. I am moulding my players for the physical and mental battles ahead. Already, we have seen the teams in our group. We have played against them so we have an idea of their strengths and weaknesses and we shall capitalise on such weaknesses when the second round resumes. We want to see how we can qualify for Super 6.
How realistic is this target you have set for the club?
In the second round, we have only four away matches and five home games. So, I am confident that we are going to win at least six points on the road. Then we would ensure we clear all our home matches. It may look like a daunting task but my boys are ready to fight for the remaining points at home and away.
What gives you the confidence that you can win away matches in the second round?
Just like I told you earlier, we have played all the teams and I have identified their strengths and weaknesses. Even if they are going to make adjustments, it won’t be much. I am confident of picking away points because the IMC has made sure that there is a level playing field for all teams. Officiating has improved tremendously. It is now easy to get points away. And it may interest you to know that I have pencilled down some matches where I am going with full force to win points. My target is the clubs that are playing home away from home. They are the soft targets we are hoping to exploit.
Are you going to strengthen the team in some key areas?
Yes, we have signed three new players. We have brought in a central defender from Nasarawa United, a midfielder from Niger Republic and one midfielder from Plateau United. And we are still trying to see how we can bring in another central defender. So, we are having six or seven new players in the team.
Out of the four matches you have handled so far, which was the toughest?
The match that gave me a headache was the first home match against Rangers. We had gone five straight games with only one point out of 18 possible points. So, before our match against Rangers, the fans were expectant and anything short of victory was going to spell doom for us. So, it was difficult to even sleep. But at the end, what the boys played shocked even the fans who confessed that they had never seen Wikki Tourists play in that manner. We were able to win our first match of the current campaign and that calmed flared nerves. It is certainly the best match for me so far.
Wikki are struggling so what is your message to the fans of the club?
We had a meeting and I told them to be patient and prayerful because they have seen how we suffered last season when we were banished to Kaduna. I urged them not to do anything that would bring similar hardship on us. There is the need for all fans to be enlightened on the dangers of hooliganism and modern ways of supporting a club. So, I want them to continue to support us even when results turn out to be different from what they expected.
How long have you been coaching in the NPFL?
I am a UEFA B licence holder. I obtained it in Bulgaria. I started my coaching at the grassroots. I started with Nasara FC Zaria which is no doubt one of the oldest clubs in the country. I then coached Zaria Ambassadors and based on what I achieved with the amateur club, the Nigerian Army appointed me as the coach of Green Beret where I worked for one year and a half. From there, I joined Katsina United as an assistant coach. When Henry Makinwa left, I acted as the Technical Adviser. It was from Katsina United that I joined Wikki Tourists in the 2019/2020 season.