NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12- Despite his side enjoying a blistering start to the new season, Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi says he is under no pressure to challenge for the 2018 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title, exactly 10 years since he guided them to their first in 2008.
Mathare narrowly avoided relegation last year and ended up finishing 13th but have posted contrasting results this year as they currently sit on the apex of the standings with 23 points off 10 games.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t our target. We had a smaller target because we had to be realistic. To tell the players that we want to win the league after fighting relegation last season is a big step,” the tactician offered.
“Sometimes you don’t want to create tension in the group and you give attainable targets. But, I don’t see anything wrong to learn and still win something in the process.”
He added; “We want to be another force in the league and do better than the previous two seasons. If you put yourself as a force then you are targeting anything achievable. We are not ruling out the league title because we have a team which we believe can face any challenge, take a game after game with passion and win.”
Kimanzi has tried twice unsuccessfully to win the KPL title with Sofapaka and Tusker FC but with Mathare, he hopes the project he started last season can bear fruit within the next five years.
The tactician lost almost the entire team at the end of the 2016 season and instead of replacing them with like for like figures, Kimanzi went for young, untested blood and he almost paid for it with relegation but they disentangled themselves in the final five games.
He has stuck with the same squad for the 2018 season, only making a few additions though the core of the team remained.
“I took a brave risk and sometimes we spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to find out how we can make it better for young, very inexperienced players but very talented. With the confidence and support I had, the program we made for them worked,” Kimanzi notes.
“We decided to start a foundation, genuinely sound and we walked without fear. We knew it was going to be tough. There was some false confidfence among the players. You could see that they want to do it but still had a long way to go,” He added.
The tactician says he has been impressed with their growth and notes he is genuinely surprised that they have started hitting the right notes in just their second year together.
“We had a grace period of three years for them to mature completely but they have completely surprised us. Almost 60, 70 percent has improved and if they can do it in the second year then it’s a great success,” the coach noted.
The Slum Boys have only lost once this season, a 4-3 defeat at the hands of AFC Leopards in a match they led 3-1 at some point.
But since then, they have won the next four matches back to back and Kimanzi only hopes they can remain consistent again for the next 10 games.
They will be facing Posta Rangers in their next match on Sunday, a game Kimanzi says will be both very tough and very easy for his side.
“We are playing against a tough team defensively but also, they don’t score. We only now have to worry about how we will open them up and get goals,” the coach noted.