New Vision (Kampala)

9 April 2013

Uganda: What the New Cranes Coach Must Do

WE all know that Bobby Williamson has been relieved of his duties as Cranes coach.

What we don't know is who will replace him after four and half years at the helm of the national team's coaching seat.

When the news broke early morning yesterday, the decision surprised just about everyone. There were mixed reactions.

There were those that felt the timing was wrong, considering that Cranes have three World Cup qualifiers coming up in June and then there are those that felt the Scot needed another opportunity.

Whichever school of thought you belong, the feeling is that the timing was right.

Judging by the events that conspired in the aftermath of Cranes' 2-0 defeat to Liberia, where players are reported to have accused and counteraccused each other for the defeat, it was clear that Bobby had lost his dressing groom.

The players did not seem to believe in him and needed a reliable figure to fall back to for support.

I pointed before, that the upcoming qualifiers against Liberia, Angola and Senegal should be considered as 'friendlies' and not potential must-win fixtures.

That rather than dream of qualifying for the World Cup now -which is realistically impossible -we had better utilize the fixtures to assemble a team that will try to qualify for the 2015 Africa Nations Cup.

This is why it was important to have a new man in charge as well -to prepare a team for that ambition.

In last Saturday's goal-pull out, I mentioned that when Bobby calls time on his position as Cranes head coach in future, FUFA would have every reason to consider Ibrahim Sekagya for the top seat.

Why? Sekagya understands the culture here, is wellexposed, commands respect from just about everybody and although Ugandan, he is well above the politics and intrigue that undermine local coaches.

Sekagya plans to start studying for his coaching badges later this year while still playing, with the ultimate dream of claiming a UEFA Pro Licence -the necessary qualification to manage in Europe.

He would definitely become a popular appointment within the Cranes dressing room, not because he would be perceived to be an easy touch but rather because he is revered by his former teammates and commands absolute respect among Ugandan footballers.

Having played under great European coaches such as Giovanni Trapattoni, who is considered the most successful head coach in the history of Italian football, he knows better than anyone the demands of top-notch football and how to prepare for big games -the type that Cranes must win to ever dream of making the Nations Cup or World Cup finals.

Since he is still involved in active football with Salzburg, it remains a distant dream.

As of now, FUFA have initiated a hunt for the next manager, but whoever it is, he will need to implement five key issues to succeed with the national side.

He must be willing to identify talent

When Laszlo Csaba was still Cranes coach, he adopted a dictatorial stance and would not tolerate working with local coaches or home-based players.

There was appreciation for Williamson's attempts to involve himself with Ugandan-based players and this helped him to four CECAFA titles.

Bobby gave a majority of the players precisely what they needed. Most of these local players were always technically good but lacked mental awareness and tactical discipline. He chose a group, drilled it and stuck with it.

But what Cranes need is a team with depth, a pool of players to choose from in times of crisis -the kind that saw 'unfit' players summoned for the Liberia game.

In his four years as Cranes coach, Williamson did not achieve that.

With the exception of the likes of Godfrey Kizito, Godfrey Walusimbi and Moses Oloya, he depended on the same bunch of players for all international assignments.

Cranes need a coach that will traverse the country on a monthly basis and recommend structures that will identify promising talent that will be drilled for the national side.

Market players

If we opt for a European coach, there have to be mutual benefits and chief among others is connecting players to established clubs in respectable leagues around the world.

Egyptian Mohammad Abbas brokered Geoffrey Massa's move to Egyptian club El Shams. At the time he was fired, four other Ugandan players were destined for the same league.

Then came Csaba. The Hungarian was behind David Obua's career dream move to Scottish side Hearts.

Unfortunately, Williamson wasn't in position to broker any transfer.

He must respect players

Team performances are based on several factors, not least among their fear of or respect for the coach, that, if the coach does not have the backing of the players, he loses his authority in the dressing room.

At almost every football club, no matter how successful, there are players who criticise the coach, whether in public or private. The same had started within the Cranes institution.

There were players that expressed resentment towards him. "He did not respect some of us. There were times he would say that the team can win without some of us. That affected some of our confidence. I hope we get someone that respects players," one player told New Vision Sport yesterday.

He must implement a playing culture/ identity

Under Abbas, Cranes were a direct team. They were physical and had players willing to go to the floor. The team played football like it was war, not a dance with the leather ball. Under Csaba, it was safety first.

Under Bobby, Cranes lacked conviction in their method of play. They did not know if they were going to play through the back, the middle or go route one. For me, route one, and the long ball, went long ago.

Cranes had little about them that was not predictable.

Cranes will still miss Bobby

All said, the new coach will have to build on Bobby's strong foundations. Bobby was the players' first father figure.

While in camp, he would never start eating unless all his players were all around the team's dinning table.

He was a great motivator and always stood by his players. He suggested a bonus structure that resolved differences among the local and foreign players.

Good luck Bobby!

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