The Technical Adviser of Katsina United, Azeez Muhammed Audu has said when he arrived at the NPFL club, morale in the camp of the team was at its lowest ebb due to the strings of poor results but he worked to psyche up the players for them to escape the impending relegation. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former Al-Fasher of Sudan gaffer spoke on the ‘rescue operation’ with Katsina United and his future plans.
Coach, how happy are you that you have succeeded in your rescue operation? Rescue operation in the sense that you were brought in to help save Katsina United from relegation.
Well, I feel good and happy that I am among the people that worked for the team to remain in the top flight. I didn’t do it alone. It is an accomplishment of the players, technical crew, management, the commissioner of sports and the state in general. They have done a very good job in supporting the team to get to where we are today. I think it is good for the team and the state that Katsina United finally escaped relegation with good performances.
- Djokovic could face Berrettini, Zverev on US Open final path
- Tension as vandals wreak havoc in Lagos community
You took over the club when they were faced with relegation. What gave you the courage and confidence to accept the challenge?
This is my country. And, I’ve always dreamed all the time, even when I was in Sudan, that I want to work in Nigeria to show what I have, to prove my worth in my own country. When I was contacted by Katsina United, I just felt the opportunity has come for me to exhibit what I have got and I’m happy that it worked and it went well.
In concrete terms, what did you do to turn around the fortunes of the club?
I tried my best to build up the confidence of the players. I had to change their mentality which helped a great deal. It’s not as if the players are completely bad. We did not change the team. We only came in with two more players that were not in the regular team. So the rest of the players were the ones playing before but were not giving the necessary result. They had lost confidence in themselves. So we revived their confidence and they started firing till the end of the season.
Going by what you have just said, would you say you now have a team that can win the league title next season?
We still have to work on the players. My dream is always to win the league. If I am coaching any team, I usually try to win the league. You know there are always obstacles which may be funding, maybe injuries or lack of good replacements for players that have left the team. When these things happen, it becomes very difficult. However, if everything is done the way it’s supposed to be done, I think we would compete strongly for the title. Last season, we ended 12th but I think this team can go better than 12th position next season. If all hands are on deck, we can think about continental football next season. So that is just the plan. My plan is to go better than what we have done this season. We have the potential to end among the top three clubs. This is possible, if we can put our house in order in time.
You have just mentioned some of the obstacles. What would you say was the most challenging part of your assignment?
You know, I came to the team in the second stanza when the transfer window was closed. I couldn’t register new players. And I found out that there were some players in the team who didn’t fit into my style of play but there was nothing I could do. That was the major challenge that I faced. I had to work with players who were not good enough and towards the end of the season, the bad situation almost got out of hand. We overused the few good ones among them. There were no good substitutes. This is why I told you that we have to really discuss replacement of players. So I think, if we can do that, the team will be flying in the next season.
Will your plans for the new season include total overhauling of the playing staff?
There must be continuity, if you want to achieve results. It makes sense for us to hold on to 70% of our players. If you start all over, there will be no guarantee for success. If you bring in so many new players, there will be no time for them to blend. We have to be able to continue from where we stopped. Most of the players have already imbibed the football philosophy that we introduced so we would look for few players to add to the team. This is Nigeria. If we look well, we can find another Kanu Nwankwo. I am not in support of total overhauling of a team.
For Nigerians who don’t know you, who is Azeez Muhammed?
I am the current technical adviser of Katsina United. Before my present job, I lived and coached in Sudan. In Sudan, I managed up to eight clubs and led like three of them to the Sudanese Premier League. Interestingly, the first club I am coaching in Nigeria is Katsina United. My ambition is to contribute to the development of football in my country. I have started with Katsina United and I pray that I am given the necessary support to do more than I have already done. I am still young so I believe I can surpass my records in Sudan.