NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1- Mathare United skipper George ‘Wise’ Owino says the club has learnt its lessons and is not ready to dangle on the thin line of relegation for yet another season when the new campaign kicks-off this weekend.
The Slum Boys spent almost the entire season in the bottom three positions of the Kenyan Premier League standings but just managed to evade the relegation axe, finishing the season at 13th.
This season, Owino says, their target will be to work for a top four finish and if at worse finish in the top eight.
“It was a very tough situation last year because of the situation we found ourselves in. We had a very young squad, most of who had not played in the league before and we ended up struggling because of small mistakes,” Owino told Capital Sport at the club’s training base on Thursday.
“We have learnt our lessons and the good thing this year is that we have a bit of experience in the team with the players that have come in. We want to start the season better and keep it that way,” Owino, one of the most experienced players in the league said.
Head coach Francis Kimanzi is also optimistic the performance this season will be better, though he does not specifically outline his targets.
Last season, Mathare started off with a 3-2 win away to Thika United before going on a dry run of six matches.
“When you have a foundation you can’t change much; you continue from there. From last season, we have players who can continue working well and we also have brought in players who can add something different to the game. We have to see if they cope to the culture of the team and if they can settle in,” Kimanzi noted.
The Slum Boys have brought in nine new players into the squad with among others Samuel Ndung’u joining from AFC Leopards, Mike Simiyu from Gor Mahia and Clifford Alwanga from Tusker while goalkeeper Robert Mboya returns from Kariobangi Sharks.
“We have a lot of quality in the team and balanced in all departments. No one can be comfortable in their positions and the competition brought in is very good. Overall, I think we have a very strong team,” skipper Owino added.
However, coach Kimanzi is not celebrating early, saying he will wait to see how they integrate into the team in actual match days.
“So far so good, though we have not had plenty time to prepare. The new guys are working very hard and hopefully, they can get into the system well. It is always a gamble; you never know whether you have a right player or not especially those who have been in many teams,” Kimanzi noted.
Mathare start the season with a tricky away tie against newly promoted Vihiga United and Kimanzi knows it will not be an easy fixture to walk in as they don’t know much about their opponents.
“We don’t know much about them so we have to concentrate on ourselves and what we can do with our strengths. Every team wants to win the first match and for us it will be crucial as well to start with a win for some good momentum,” the tactician notes.
He is also backing the new young players brought in to shine, among them being Klinsman Omulanga and Johnstone Omurwa signed from Wazito FC.