The SociaLiga 2016 season kicked off in May with two trophies up for grabs; The Foundation Cup & The League. With one trophy (Foundation Cup) already lifted and the League exactly half way through, we rank the best managers so far based on their performances in the both competitions and expectations before the season kicked off.
1. Oluwaseyi Fowode – @urfavscoodybooo [Knights FC]
League P:5 W:3 D:1 L:1 [Second In Island Conference]
Foundation Cup P:4 W:3 L:1 [Champions]
Scoody’s men may not have delivered the “Champagne Football” he famously bragged about before the season kicked off but he has delivered the wins to make up for that. In July, he guided his men to the first trophy of the season (the Foundation Cup) with new signing, Dolapo Adeniyi (@osheyd) scoring the winning goal against Citizens FC in a 1-0 win in the finals and currently, they sit just 2pts away from Island Conference leaders, Saints FC. While the plethora of attacking talent in the Knights team-sheet grabbed all the headlines prior to the season’s beginning in May, their resolute defense has carried them this season, conceding just 2 goals in 9 games in all competition. Having lost his captain and star attacker, Koye Kekere-Ekun (@Koye10) to a 3-month injury at the Foundation Cup, Scoody – who has a season high 66.7% win rate in all competitions – has had to reinvent his tactics to rely more on a defense built around Samson Chukwu (@big_sammson) and assistant skipper, Derin Alex-Adedipe (@_iamderin). “Attack wins games, defense wins championship”, they say and with the Foundation Cup trophy already in the bag, it’s hard to argue with Scoody’s approach to games.
Scoody has also perfected the art of winning off the pitch with the Knights head coach never afraid to seem a bit cocky in the media on game days, often referring to his opponents as “a decent bunch” or “a confident bunch”. It’s a habit that has rubbed off on his players to his delight. In the pre-match interview on Matchday 4 (when they faced Reds FC in an Inter-Conference clash) for example, his face lit up and he nodded in approval when Derin Alex-Adedipe (@_iamderin) referred to Reds FC as “familiar customers”. They went on to win the match 1-0.
Fun Fact: In his 9 games so far, Scoody has faced Mainland Conference teams 6 times winning 4, drawing 1 and losing 1 in a penalty shootout.
2. Opeyemi Tokoya – @optninety9 [Saints FC]
League P:5 W:4 D:0 L:1 [First In Island Conference]
Foundation Cup P:3 W:1 L:2 [Semi-Finalist]
Media evading Opeyemi Tokoya has what most would consider the best set of players in the league and few can argue with that. Opeyemi Tokoya – rumored to be in his last season as head coach – could also be called the best manager in the league and that wouldn’t be far from the truth as he’s one of two managers in the league to ever lift a trophy. Yet, it’s his team’s underperformance in the Foundation Cup – a trophy they were favorite to win- that has placed him at #2 on this list. Saints FC failed to score a single goal in the Foundation Cup in a group that featured them alongside two of the statistically worst teams this season, Reds FC and Czars FC. They made their way to the semi-final via a shootout where they lost to eventual winners, Knights FC.
In the league, however, Opt and his side have been on an amazing run. They lead the league in goals scored, chances created, wins, points gained and are only second to Knights FC in goals conceded (3). Skipper, Olayemi Elutilo (@Elubomba) in defense, Kunle Ibaru (@Ibaru__) in midfield and AbdulHakim Osumah (@Hosumah) have formed a mouthwatering spine down Opt’s team with the nickname, The Holy Trinity slowly catching on. Olayemi Elutilo’s organization of defense is perhaps only rivalled by Knights FC’s Samson Chukwu (@big_sammson) and this has seen the Saints FC with the fewest errors leading to goals. In midfield, Kunle Ibaru, called The Master by his teammates simply makes the team tick with his outstanding reading of the game while AbdulHakim Osumah, the scorer of the league’s first ever hat-trick, simply adds the beauty to this intelligently and wonderfully assembled Saints side.
While 3 of Saints FC’s 4 wins in the league have come against Czars, who most consider the worst team in the league, you only can beat what’s in front of you and the professional manner in which Opt’s team have handled the last 3 Matchdays is highly commendable.
Fun Fact: 4 of Saints FC’s 5 wins have come against Czars FC; 3 in the league and 1 in the Foundation Cup. Likewise, All 5 of AbdulHakim Osumah’s goals have come against Czars FC.
3. Howard Okpara – @Howardie_5 [Royals FC]
League P:5 W:3 D:1 L:1 [First In Mainland Conference]
Foundation Cup P:2 W:1 L:1 [Knocked Out In Group Stage]
The Royals are two wins away from booking their place in the finals and only the bravest of men would bet against them not winning the Mainland Conference. Under the guidance of player-coach, Howard Okpara, Royals have emerged as one of the most feared teams in the league losing their first league match on Matchday 5 after going 4 months without a league defeat. Royals have played the most long-balls this league, a game plan clearly designed to take advantage of their star-striker, Eze Emmanuel (@_Nuel88) who has scored 6 of Royals’ 9 goals in all competitions. Their 2-0 win over Saints FC on a rainy 12th June (Matchday 2), arguably the most impressive victory in the club’s history, announced Howard Okpara and his men as a big deal.
Howard Okpara has a growing reputation for tinkering with his selection and formation, a feature which hasn’t always produced the desired result but has been enough to see his side cruising thus far. Captain, Chidozie “DB” Ezemenyiba (@d0zie), the league’s highest goal-scorer, Eze Emmanuel (@_Nuel88) and Howard himself, have occasionally had to watch from the sidelines due the player-manager’s desire to try-out new things.
Their performance in the Foundation Cup was affected by the temporary loss of consciousness of Eze Emmanuel in a clash (against Knights FC) and they were never able to recover from the shock. Perhaps a knock of their famous resiliency and squad depth.
Fun Fact: Of the 7 games played so far, Howard Okpara has started Eze Emmanuel in only 4 of those winning all 4. In the other 3 games in which Eze Emmanuel wasn’t started, Royals lost 2 and drew 1.
4. Jide Adebayo – @jidesteel [Citizens FC]
League P:5 W:1 D:1 L:3 [Second In Mainland Conference]
Foundation Cup P:4 W:2 L:2 [Runner-up]
“It’s been amazing, really. He’s taken everyone in. He’s made training sessions pretty enjoyable.” Said Samuel Oniku when asked about Jide Adebayo before the season kicked off. Jide Adebayo’s men have (arguably) been the most entertaining team to watch with league games involving Citizens averaging 3.2 goals (16 goals in 5 games). Samuel Oniku conluded by saying “I look forward to playing for him. He’s been brilliant.” Citizens came within touching distance of lifting the Foundation Cup in their very first try after falling to Knights in the final. His attention to attacking plays has been a joy to watch and he’s taken advantage of his teams outstanding abilities from set-pieces.
Despite these positives, Jide’s inability to fix Citizens’ defensive problems probably keeps him up at night. Alongside Czars, they have the worst defense in the league conceding 9 goals in 5 games and 11 in all competitions. Known for momentarily switching off during games, Jide must sort out this lapse of concentration should this team fulfill its full potential.
Fun Fact: Citizens FC have scored 4 goals directly from free-kicks this season. In contrast, the other 5 teams haven’t scored any between them.
5. Opeyemi Adeyemi-Wilson – @OpeWilson [Czars FC]
League P:5 W:1 D:0 L:4 [Third In Island Conference]
Foundation Cup P:2 W:1 L:1 [Knocked Out In Group Stage]
Lukman Olawunmi’s (@horlawunmihorla) excellently placed shot on the opening day got Czars to a flying start as they registered a win over Citizens. Since then, it’s been a series of horrible results for Opeyemi Adeyemi-Wilson and his men with 4 consecutive losses in the league. As admitted by their own players, their small size in the midfield makes it a bit easier for opponents to run circles around them. Statistically, Czars has been the worst team this season, conceding 9 league goals (joint league worse) and scoring just 2 (league worse).
Opeyemi Adeyemi-Wilson, as expected, tried to fix these problems during the mid-season break and, despite the 1-0 loss to Saints FC during the last Matchday, they clearly look a different team and will push to try and finish their season on a positive note.
Fun Fact: Both of Czars wins in all competitions have come against Mainland Conference teams while all 5 of their losses have come against fellow Island Conference teams.
6. Seun Ajayi – @SeunAjayi18 [Reds FC]
League P:5 W:1 D:1 L:3 [Third In Mainland Conference]
Foundation Cup P:3 W:1 L:2 [Semi-Finalist]
With the wealth of experience in the Reds FC squad, the rich history of the team and the talented manager they have in Seun Ajayi, expectations were high coming into the season. Reds, however, have underperformed the most with the win against Citizens on Matchday 5 their very first in the league’s already 4-month old season. While they’ve been decent going forward (they’ve scored 6 league goals), their defending has been a pain to watch with skipper, Wale Olorunnimbe (@comodowales) being regularly called upon to save the team.
Seun Ajayi has been absent on a couple of Matchdays due to personal reasons but it’s pretty obvious that the structure he’s left in place still needs a lot tweaking.
Fun Fact: Alongside conference mates Citizens FC, Reds FC are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season.
Written by Moses A. Owolabi
Moses A. Owolabi is a Mass Comm. student at UniLag who spends his weekends watching videos of Liverpool’s miracle night at Istanbul while cuddling a green bottle.