By James Agberebi:
Former Enugu Rangers coach, Lawrence Akpokona, has tasked the League Management Company to make sure the standard of the new league season surpasses that of last season.
The new NPFL season kicks off on Saturday, January 14 at different centres across Nigeria.
And ahead of the start of the new campaign, Akpokona urges the LMC to look into the area of officiating and ensure it comes better.
"My expectations is that the standard of this new NPFL season must be higher than last season because we must be seen as going forward," Akpokona tells Completesportsnigeria.
"I think the LMC has done a fantastic job. There is a lot of improvement in our league now. For example, last season we did not see so many abandoned matches like we use to see in the past. It used to be a big dent in our league whereby a league game is abandoned at the 89th minute because of questionable decisions.
"Over the years I think our league has been improving. If you take an assessment of our league from the 80s, you will find out that it has come a long way.
"But one aspect I want the LMC to still monitor is the area of officiating. Because if you talk to coaches you will find out that they still say there are some clubs that induce referees.
"We know referees are humans and they make mistakes. Even in the English Premier League, there are questionable decisions.
"For me I agree that the referees are humanbeings, but we should see the mistakes that are human mistakes. But when a referee decides that one team must lose, then there is something wrong. I expect the LMC to go very hard on that aspect in the league."
Akpokona also challenges players from the various clubs to show serious commitment in the new season.
Akpokona adds: "I want to see commitment from players because no matter what a coach does, at the end of the day it is the players that will go on to the pitch and execute what the coach has said.
"So they should show commitment, professionalism and discipline. It is my wish that our league compete with that of South Africa, Egypt and the rest. But for now, I think we are behind all these leagues and this is the time to start working towards that."
And on his favourite for the league title this season, Akpokona says: "It will be difficult to pick one team as the favourite for the league title this season because I have not seen any team yet. I don't know what their preparations look like.
"But there are certain teams you will want to always tip. Teams like Rangers, Kano Pillars – they are always in contention, so I expect these teams to be at the forefront, though there are underdogs who might surprise everyone."