NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 24- Robert Matano has a habit of picking up teams squirming in difficulty and turning them into competitive outfits and he has vowed to do the same as he begins his second stint with 11-time Kenyan Premier League champions Tusker FC.
The tactician nicknamed as ‘The Lion’ made history by becoming the first ever tactician to win the Kenyan Premier League title with a newly promoted team when he guided Sofapaka to the crown in 2009.
Three years later in his first stint at Tusker, Matano entered the history books once again by winning the title for the second time with a different team just six months into his reign.
When he took over as Ulinzi Stars head coach in March 2014, he found the soldiers struggling for results after the departure of Salim Ali and he slowly picked them up from the doldrums and they finished the season fourth.
Just last year, he took over at AFC Leopards, the club struggling to mint results and staring at the danger of relegation. True to self, he guided them to an eighth place finish in the league and the FKF Cup (formerly GOtv Shield).
“I have done well everywhere I go. I am proud of my record because I am a successful coach. That is exactly why I am coming here; to succeed,” the tactician said as he was unveiled at the club’s training ground in Ruaraka Tuesday afternoon.
The team has been struggling and when they asked me to come, I said yes because I love such challenges.”
When he took over at AFC in July last year, he said he had come ‘to do a little first aid’ on a wounded Leopard. Fast forward to just over eight months later, he finds himself with a similar assignment.
Matano has been appointed as caretaker coach till the end of the season after the Brewers sacked Ugandan Sam Timbe barely four months after his appointment as well as assistant Francis Baraza.
Timbe posted disastrous returns at the club, winning only two of their 11 games this season but he had to contend with the tedious task of building a new team after most of the first team players departed at the end of last season.
Where his predecessor failed, Matano is confident he can get it right.
“What they lack now is confidence and that is what we are working on. We have talked over the last two days and I am happy that confidence is coming back slowly. I am ready for this challenge and I know it won’t be hard because I have been here before. My aim is to lift this team back to the top where it belongs,” the tactician noted.
“We should replace the losing mentality with a winning mentality. Most of the time football is about mental strength. They (players) must be ready to fight and put the past performance behind their backs,” the coach further added.
His short-term target is to push the team into a top five position by mid season and possibly have an attack of the title in the second half of the season.
Matano is confident having assessed the squad and their strengths, they have the ability to squeeze in among the top cream teams despite their slow start to the campaign.
“If we manage to start winning and regain the confidence, we can plan from there. The league is still young and I believe we can do something and finish in a good position,” the coach further added.
His first assignment will be on Wednesday when Tusker takes on new boys Wazito FC at the Camp Toyoyo Ground.
Wazito are fresh from a 1-0 win over hitherto leaders Mathare United while Tusker lost massively 3-1 to Zoo Kericho last weekend.
Matano though is confident that he can turn the tide around and start his tenure off on a positive note.