NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 30 – Stand-in AFC Leopards head coach Tom Juma says he is not afraid of the huge responsibility ahead of him as he takes over the job with the 13-time champions on caretaker basis until the end of the season.
The former Kenyan international who has previously worked with Administration Police and Muhoroni Youth says he is optimistic the club will rise despite finding them struggling at 12th spot on the Kenyan Premier League table.
“Pressure will always be there and you don’t have to be afraid of anything. It is a big challenge and as a coach, I love big challenges. I will do my best to ensure that this team performs because they have the ability to do so. I know we are not in a good position at the moment, but we will pick,” Juma said.
He takes over from Dorian Marin who might go down as the shortest serving Ingwe coach ever, having led the team for only two weeks. Differences between the Romanian and fellow technical bench members as well as some players saw him leave the club barely before signing a contract.
Leopards have not won in eight domestic league matches and Juma knows only too well the expectations on them when they face Kariobangi Sharks on Saturday afternoon in Nakuru.
“This is a big club and a big brand and it comes with demands. The best thing is to ensure the boys play relaxed and that is the biggest thing we have worked on this week. We have tried to ease the pressure off them and insisted we have to play relaxed,” Juma added.
Ingwe comes up against a high flying Sharks that has been unbeaten over the same number of matches they have been struggling to get wins in.
Juma has his own measure of respect for the Premier League new boys, but insists he will be bumping his side up for three points.
“The league is very tough this time and no team should be taken for granted. Kariobangi Sharks is a good team having watched them and their run speaks as much. But we need to go out there to get a win at all costs because it is high time we start winning matches,” added the coach.
AFC Leopards will be without winger Allan Katterega who is nursing an ankle injury while left back Marcus Abwao is out with a knee injury, both picked up during the Super Cup in Dar es Salaam three weeks ago.
But Juma and his technical bench will have a huge field to choose from with all but one of their new signings training with the club for the entire week. Burundian Alex Kitenge arrived in the country early Friday afternoon and will join training next week.
“They have shown some good competitiveness in training and I think all of them have shown that they are ready to start on Saturday. We have a very good squad and that gives me confidence that we will do great things,” added Juma.
AFC re-signed midfielder Musa Mudde from Bandari while Keziron Kizito touched down from Ugandan side Vipers, Victor Majid from Chemelil Sugar, former Thika United striker Ray Odhiambo and Aziz Okaka from Ushuru.
The big departures are that of midfielder Bernard Mang’oli who has joined Sofapaka while striker Mungai Kiongera did not renew his contract.
Ghanaian forward Gilbert Fiamenyo will miss the remainder of the second leg with injury.