ABS of Ilorin head coach Henry Makinwa speaks to Completesportsnigeria.com's JOHNNY EDWARD in this exclusive interview…
How would you rate the performance of your team ABS currently placed fifth in the Nigerian Professional League table so far after 12 games?
To me, we are not doing badly; we are trying to get better. Our objective is to win all games and at the end of the season we will see where that takes us to. I think it's too big for us to say we want the continental ticket, but at the end of the day, we'll see what we are.
You will lead your side against teams like Enyimba, Plateau United, Rivers United and Gombe in the coming weeks. What are your targets this season as coach of ABS?
Our target is not to beat a particular team but to win every game possible. So we work hard, we try to win every game we play, as we have done at home against big teams like Shooting Stars, IfeanyiUbah and others. We don't have any particular team in mind but any team at all, we are ready to fight and beat them. We want to do the talking on the pitch.
As a player, you played in the local league during your career. Now that you are a coach in the league, what major differences have you noticed since you took charge of ABS?
If you look at the players then they were more talented and they wanted to succeed through the national team, but now everybody wants to go abroad. They don't want to get it here, everybody wants to move. Then if you are talking about the organisation of the league then and now. At the moment it's a fantastic job compared to what we used to have then. We've got security, the officiating is a bit better, things are more organized, these are the major differences I have noticed.
Let's talk about the CAF Champions League which still has two Nigerian clubs. Rivers United have a good lead into the second leg as they defeated Al Merrikh 3-0 in the first leg while Rangers International lost 4-1 away to Zamalek of Egypt in Alexandria. Do you think Rangers can turn this tie around?
Theoretically, it is very difficult. They lost 4-1 away and the Egyptians are very smart seeing off games. But then in football everything is possible. I saw the way Rangers played, they have fantastic players. I believe it is possible, but they have to do more, they have to up their game psychologically, they have to go all out right from the first minute. Rangers can do it, they have the quality to go through. For Rivers they have showed they can score on the continent. They must be solid at the back to avoid conceding in Sudan.
Your team played against Rangers in the league. What lapses did you notice in the Rangers squad when you faced them?
What I saw was that it was hard for them to score goals, they had a very good attack but they don't take their chances.
Do you think they are missing their star man Chisom Egbuchulam who left for Sweden?
Of course, that must have been the anchorman. No manager likes that, I am sure their coach Imama Amapakabo is angry about that, it is a very tough situation. Having built your team around him and suddenly the management informs you to train your squad without him because he is leaving can't be easy.
During your time as a player you did not have a chance to feature for the Super Eagles, do you regret that?
Of course, I do. That's the highest point of football, I regret that because then a lot of messy things were going on at the Super Eagles. Though I had a couple of invitations to play for Nigeria in some friendly games in London but that was not the main thing. I wanted to play at the World Cup but then we had Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha, super guys in a big team, but it's part of life. I am a manager now, and I hope to coach the team some day and that dream is not lost yet.
The Super Eagles will be playing against Burkina Faso and Senegal in friendlies later this month. You've seen the list released by Gernot Rohr, what are your thoughts and have you been impressed with him since he took charge of the national team?
Of course I have been impressed with him. He is new in the country, he has his philosophy, no one can go against his philosophy. I think we all should just support him, allow his authority reign supreme on the team. Things will definitely get better because we need results in Nigeria now in order to make it to Russia 2018. As regards the list, we need to make the team more competitive there should be no favours. We can also do better with the help of a good manager. The friendlies will offer him a lot of options to
You don't think he is good enough to lead the Eagles?
I didn't say so. Please don't quote me out of context. He should be supported.
Three Nigerian regular players Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo, Brown Ideye have joined Chinese teams to continue their football careers. Do you regard this as a setback to the Super Eagles?
Yes, it is because they can't get the competition required to perform at top level in China. Football is still played in Europe. The best leagues in the world are in Europe.
I think their chances of playing for Nigeria are now slim but if the manager thinks he can still use them, then why not? When I played in China for Tianjin TEDA, the level was average and you can't compare that with other leagues.