NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 21 – AFC Leopards head coach Stewart Hall has lauded the impact new strength and conditioning coach Mike Shamiah has had on the team, adding the fitness levels of the players in their season opening 3-0 win over Nakumatt FC last weekend was fantastic.
Shamiah, a former Kenya Women’s Sevens head coach, joined the club towards the end of last season, taking up the role which had previously not been take into keen consideration at Ingwe.
“Our conditioning coach has done a fantastic job because our fitness levels are unbelievable. The way we press the ball and watching my players in the 80th minute making 50 yard runs says so much about the fitness of the team. Our levels are phenomenal and credit to the coach for the work he has put in,” Hall told Capital Sport.
He cited this as the biggest reason AFC Leopards won their opening match of the season for the first time since they were promoted back into the league in 2009. In the previous eight seasons they have drawn five times and lost thrice.
The tactician has admitted there was pressure on his charges to perform, adding he chose not to play most of his youngsters in the game because he felt they could not handle the pressure.
“There was a lot of pressure on us but what I did is to try and get the pressure off the players and on me. Also, it is the reason we did not use most of our young players because I don’t want them to crumble under the pressure and probably I will not use them most of the time in the next five or six games,” the British coach added.
Leopards paraded an almost new side from the one that played last season, with Hall also adopting a new playing style, using the 3-5-2 formation just like arch rivals Gor Mahia have done in their opening two games of the season.
Hall was pleased with the output his side had and the effectiveness the formation brought in.
He has also praised the forward partnership between Paul Mungai Kiongera and Ghanaian Gilbert Fiamenyo both who were on target in the Nakumatt win with Kiongera also recording an assist. However, he was critical of Fiamenyo’s off the ball movement.
“Fiamenyo is very clever on the ball and a great target man. But we are a team of energy and we like to press the ball but that’s where his weakness comes in. He is great when we have the ball but when we don’t we are always playing with 10 men,” Hall noted.
“That is why I think their combination with Kiongera is great because he (Kiongera) does all the work both his and Fiamenyo’s. He is great when we have the ball but when we don’t have the ball we are playing with 10 men.”
The former Azam FC head coach has however warned his charges not to let their foot down despite the positive start which he says will be a good omen for their campaign.
“One sunny day doesn’t make a summer. We won the first match which is good, but we have to keep on working. There is so much we need to do and we can’t afford to relax and the players have to know that,” Hall opined.
After the international break, Ingwe will hope to keep the turbine running when they play new league side Nzoia Sugar in what has been billed as an ‘Ingo Derby’.