Former Enugu Rangers coach, Ben Ugwu (aka Surugede) has revealed exclusively to Completesports.com reasons and circumstances that led to his sudden exit from the Coal City Flying Antelopes.
Ugwu, a onetime strong defender of the side, says he has heard people saying that his assistants sabotaged him while his reign lasted.
“I don’t know what really happened. And I don’t know why, but I’ve heard people saying my assistants sabotaged me probably to get favour,” Ugwu told Completesports.com in a no holds barred chat.
“How true that is, why they should do that, if indeed it is true, I do not know. But I can only leave them to their conscience. God should be the ultimate judge between me and them,”
Ugwu as a Rangers centre-back won several trophies with the Flying Antelopes, and a brief had a spell with the senior national team, the Super Eagles.
He was promoted to the head coach status at Rangers following the departure of Olugbenga Ogunbote at the close of the 2019 season after seeing off his two year contract with the seven-time league champions and 2016 Aiteo Cup winners.
But Ugwu’s reign did not last the distance. He was shown the exit door just five games into the season following three straight losses in the NPFL; to MFM (home), Rivers United (away) and Akwa Starlets (home).
Few minutes before the final whistle in their 2-0 defeat at home by newly promoted Akwa Starlets, at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, an obviously enraged Vitus Okechi – the Commissioner for Sports, Enugu State, took over the microphone from the stadium announcer and announced the immediate and indefinite suspension of Ugwu and his backroom staff.
Okechi added that a new technical crew would be installed in 72 hours. Ugwu’s indefinite suspension paved way for the arrival of Super Eagles chief Coach, Salisu Yusuf, who had just served out a one year suspension by CAF over corruption related issues.
Mbwas Mangut, former Delta Force of Asaba head coach, was engaged as his assistant.
Yusuf had his ‘baptism of fire’ against Pyramids of Egypt who trounced Rangers 3-1 in a CAF Confederation Cup Group A opening match in Enugu.
That defeat was followed up by a 4-2 defeat at Al Masry, also of Egypt on matchday-two.
Ugwu feels hard done over the ‘shabby’ manner his childhood club treated him, saying due process was not followed just as it smacked of embarrassment and disrespect.
“I’m pained by the manner my suspension was announced,” Ugwu declared, bitterly.
“The business of coaching, like in other spheres of civil service, is all about hiring and firing. But the difference is how it is carried out.
“There are procedures for everything. You can give two, three or four match ultimatum and if things didn’t change, then you can take decision, however punitive.
Ugwu added: “But in my own case, none of these happened. A commissioner just got up, took the microphone and publicly, right inside the stadium, in front of the crowed and announced my indefinite suspension, alongside my backroom staff.
“That didn’t show any sign of respect. It didn’t portray the management, (though it was the commissioner) as having any respect for one who during his active playing days gave his all to the club. It shows whoever that took that decision as not being conversant with sports, particularly football administration and how it works.
“While they may have been out to haul sour grapes on my career but they failed to realize that it was the club that they succeeded in destroying.”
‘Surugede’ further fumes with rage and unreservedly hit out at those who insinuated that he only got the Rangers top job in the first place because he hails from Nsukka – Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s home town.
“When I was playing for Rangers, no one insinuated it was because I was from Nsukka,” Ugwu continued.
“When I was assisting the former coaches at Rangers, no one saw me as Nsukka man. Why was when I was given the job of coaching Rangers that they started seeing me as an Nsukka man, Governor’s brother?
“Since I was appointed, or even before I came on board, I have never met Governor Ugwuanyi one on one. I have never visited him, whether at home or in office.
“Besides, I did not lobby for the Rangers job. I did not apply for it. I was an assistant coach to Gbenga Ogunbote and when his contract expired and he decided to leave, I was asked to take over.
“I am now surprised at people who have chosen to tarnish my image, and ruin my young coaching career. They will never succeed, they will meet the obstacle they put on my way in their lives.”
Ugwu claims that Salisu Yusuf’s arrival was poorly timed, insisting he couldn’t have been the best option at the time.
“Our people are always impatient. That we lost two or three games was not enough to make the sweeping change,” he stated.
“You forgot that such decision could affect the players who had been with me for a while. They forgot that Yusuf did not build the team from the scratch and it will be difficult for him to understand the individual players’ mentality at this point in time.
“The best option would have been to exercise patience. Yes, patience – because we were still in the early stages of the season. You may get it wrong today but certainly tomorrow could be better.
“On the other hand, you don’t need such wholesome sacking of the coaching crew. You can bring in a coach under technical assistance based on supervisory capacity. In that case, I could be asked to assist him so I can still help out, being the one that recruited the players.
“Yes, nothing is wrong in me assisting him [Yusuf]. He only started coaching before me but I started playing before him.”
With two defeats in the CAF Confederation Cup Group A , Rangers’ chances of qualifying for the knock out stages appear slim Ugwu however reasons otherwise.
“No, Rangers are still very much in the race,” he said confidently.
“Those Egyptians [Al Masry] who defeated Rangers 4-2, who told you Rangers cannot beat them here?
“Or those [Pyramids] that beat us here [Enugu], who says that we cannot also defeat them there in Egypt?
“Once we win these two games and beat Nouadhibou of Mauritius) home and away, we will make it to the next round.
“I believe Rangers can make it, they still have the chance and the players are there to do it,” Ugwu posited strongly.11 BUSINESS NUGGETS FROM SUPER EAGLES BRONZE MEDAL TRIUMPH. The content of this ebook will propel you above your competition. DOWNLOAD NOW!!!