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No pressure for Vihiga ahead of KPL debut

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Charles Okwemba celebrates with teammates after scoring one of the two Vihiga United goals in a GOtv Shield Quarter final clash against defending champions Tusker FC on August 20, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2- After three straight seasons of ‘very near yet so far away’, Vihiga United finally achieved their dream of playing in the top flight having topped last season’s National Super League to earn automatic promotion.

As they prepare to make a bow and take their place on Kenya’s golden football table, head coach Edward Manoah says the team is under no pressure to make an impression.

And what a setting to start off their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) campaign when they line up at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega on Sunday to host Mathare United in what will be the stadium’s first top flight league match in close to four years.

“It is such a huge dream for us on Sunday to finally play our first league match. It has been a long time coming and finally the chance is here. We have prepared very well though the pre-season period has been short, but I feel we are ready for the KPL,” Manoah, himself with vast coaching experience said.

Manoah understands his players might have the urge to make an impression at home, but says he has calmed their nerves telling them to take it a step at a time and ensure they play to the best of their ability.

Vihiga United head coach Edward manoah during a past match. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“Our first game is at home and that can be very tricky. The fans will come out in their droves to support us and the players will definitely want to make an impression. Sometimes this might force them to have lots of nerves which are not necessary,” the coach said.

“I have talked to them and instructed them to take it easy and play like a normal game. We are playing a tough team (Mathare United) and we can’t afford to have mistakes. We should not get over-excited as well,” the tactician further states.

Vihiga have brought in relatively new faces in their January transfer business with the exception of Andrew Murunga who has a vast experience in the KPL ranging from Tusker FC, KCB the defunct Karuturi Sports and Ushuru.

The club has also acquired the services of Ugandan defender Jonathan ‘Dante’ Mugabi who was released from Sofapaka.

“I am quite pleased with the squad that we have and the new players brought in. We have a very good balance and I don’t have a doubt they will do the work for us,” added the coach.

Vihiga United midfielder Charles Okwemba vies for the ball with Tusker FC’s Boniface Muchiri during a GOtv Shield quarter final clash at the Nyayo Stadium on August 20, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Manoah says his side’s primary priority as they start life in the top flight will be to retain that status and not necessarily pressure themselves into higher targets.

“We have worked so hard to get here and it wouldn’t be justice to all the people who have put in work is we return to the NSL after one season. We want to be realistic with our targets; our aim is to remain in the league and that is what we are working on,” Manoah added.

“I don’t want to put pressure on these young boys. The only thing I have asked of them is to give 100 percent in all the matches. We also hope to start well and pick as many wins as possible in the first leg to avoid fighting off to stay afloat late in the season,” the tactician further opined.

The Western Kenya based side last season showed that they can handle KPL opposition, dumping out defending champions Tusker FC from the GOtv Shield with a 2-0 win in the quarter finals and narrowly losing 1-0 to eventual champions AFC Leopards in the semi finals.

Vihiga United new signings:

Michael Isabwa (Kariobangi Sharks), Andrew Murunga (On loan from Kakamega Homeboyz), Geofrey Oputi, Vincent Wonder (Palos FC), Ali Kesi (Kakamega Homeboyz), Fernandez Tera (FC Talanta), Jonathan Mugabi (Sofapaka), Victor Ayugi (KCB), William Oricho (Kibera Black Stars), Wycliffe Kabaji, Vincent Kagasi, Daudi Saisi (Unattached).

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