Polack: Gor Mahia must keep players to compete in Africa

A number of key players are running out of contract and coach Steve Polack has expressed concern that if they leave, Kogallo will not be competitive in continental football next season

Additional reporting from goal.com

The British coach warns K’Ogalo to make sure they keep their best players ahead of the new season set for August
Gor Mahia coach Steven Polack has warned club management they will be going a step down should they allow their best players to leave in the coming transfer window.

K’Ogalo have already been crowned the 2019-20 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, a fourth straight title in a row, after Football Kenya Federation (FKF) moved to end the top-flight owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

By winning the league, Gor Mahia secured a ticket to represent the country in the Caf Champions League next year but a number of their key players have contracts running down among them defender Joash Onyango and midfielder Boniface Omondi.

Meanwhile, captain Kenneth Muguna and Tanzania duo of keeper David Mapigano and Dickson Ambundo have openly revealed they will leave the club if they get a good offer in the coming window.

It is the reason the British coach has pleaded with the club’s top brass to make sure they keep their best players so they can be able to compete with the best teams in the continent come next season.

“If they [officials] want Gor Mahia to do well in Caf competition, then they must make sure we keep the best players we currently have in the squad for continuity purposes,” Polack told Goal.

“We have to sit down with my management, look at the players whose contracts have run down, are they going to sign are they going to go? If they are not staying, then we must look out for players we have to bring into the club.

“Of course I have players I am interested in but I will always go for sticking with the same team, you have to keep stability and cannot keep changing a team every year, you cannot keep changing 10 to 15 players every year, for me that is wrong and is something I don’t want to see happen at Gor Mahia while I am in charge.

“You cannot have stability in a team when you keep changing players, we have to see the players we have and make sure we keep them, we must talk to those whose contracts are running out and then after that we can go for a few new faces to help complete the squad.”

Asked on whether keeping the squad intact and signing a few new faces will help Gor Mahia to do well in Caf competition, Polack responded: “Of course yes, that is the way to go, when you have your squad intact it becomes easy for the new signings to integrate well and it makes your work easier as a coach.

“But changing your team every year will affect your team because you were improving with the squad, and then you have to start afresh by helping the new signings to get to understand your philosophy and get used to the team, which might take time.”

Last season, Gor Mahia’s dreams of making it to the group stages of the competition were ended after they were knocked out of the first round following a 6-1 aggregate loss to Algeria’s USM Algers.

Kipkirui says he is loyal to Gor Mahia

Gor Mahia prolific talisman Nicholas Kipkirui has assured K’Ogalo fans that he is going nowhere as a mass exodus of players looms at the club.

Kipkirui, who revealed that he has got offers from a number of clubs, says that his allegiance is with the club and he plans to see out his contract which ends in June 2021.

The former Zoo Kericho attacker, who revealed that being broke has forced him to relocate from Nairobi to his home in Kericho County, says Gor was there for him during his long spell with injury and the best way of paying back is to stick with the Kenyan Premier League champions through happier and sad times.

“I’m not going anywhere soon. Yes, I know many will leave at the end of the season because of the tough financial conditions at the club, but I am determined to finish my contract and renegotiate with the club,” he said.

 

Since the exit of their shirt sponsor, Sportpesa in August year, K’Ogalo has found it hard to pay salaries and currently owes players pay for several months.

The 23-year-old, however said his main focus is regaining top form so that he can lead K’Ogalo to clinch both the domestic and continental titles next season.

“I just want to get back to top form and I believe I can achieve that since the injury I had at the start of this season was a great setback and affected my performance,” he added.

The versatile attacker who has been a regular starter at K’Ogalo revealed that he is now training with some of the local clubs in Kericho so as to keep fit.

“I have been following the training schedule given to us by our coach and also trains with local clubs here. There is a lot of talents in Kericho which needs to be tapped,” he said.

The highly rated striker joined Gor in November 2018 from Zoo Kericho, where he is remembered for scoring 14 league goals for the then newly promoted KPL side.

Despite inconsistent performances this season, Kipkurui has managed to be Polack’s first choice striker, relegating Ugandan import Juma Balinya to the bench.

Other strikers Gor boasts of in their squad are Boniface Omondi, Kennedy Agogo, former Kibera Black Stars striker, Nicholas Omondi and former Migori Youth forward, Clinton Okoth.

Kipkirui, the 2018 Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) Young Player of the Year Award winner, has bagged four league goals this season.

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Oktay: Kipkirui, Muguna, Onyango, Shakava should be in AFCON squad

Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay is adamant that some of his players are getting the short shrift when it comes to selection to the national team.

In particular he has mentioned Kenneth Muguna, Nicholas Kipkirui, Harun Shakava and Samuel Onyango as players who should be headed to Egypt if selection was fair.

“I said it before and will still repeat the same, Nicholas Kipkirui and Kenneth Muguna are good players who deserve to be in the national team. Captain Harun Shakava is also on form and should be in the squad. I don’t know why they are not included in the squad,”

Muguna has been an excellent performer since the second leg of the league started. Winning balls decisively despite his slender frame as he did when he dispossed an AFC player on Sunday leading to the second goal. Engineering lightning quick counter-attacks as he did against Sofapaka last week, finding Kahata as the latter was racing down the right flank, leading to the second goal against Sofapaka. And his passes have been sharp, leading to numerous goals including the second goal against AFC. Some wrote him off after he had a poor start to the season after a long layoff . Many more wrote him off after he questioned coach Oktay’s player selection criteria.

Kipkirui has shown that he has a poachers instinct. His ability to make intelligent runs into the box has resulted in 12 goals for himself this season. Not much was expected from him when he joined. He has been the revelation of the season and should be rewarded with a place in the national team.

Samuel Onyango has been solid all season, scoring often despite not starting in many games. Most memorable was his goal against Lobi Stars whereby he left two Naija defenders sprawled on the grass before planting the ball into the empty net.

“Look, like for Kipkirui he deserves to be in the U23 squad and now he has already matured and can feature for the senior team. Samuel Onyango is also having a season of his life and deserves to be considered. I am not defending them because they are Gor Mahia players, but because they deserve to be in the squad.” continued Oktay.

Shakava is solid in defense and has gone about the business of defending and captaining. He has been professional and did not raise a complaint when coach Oktay handed the captains armband to Dennis Oliech. All in all Shakava has been a tall pillar in the Kogalo defense.

On Sunday many fans were left wondering how Paul Were was selected ahead of the Kogalo players. Its a situation similar to 1997 and 1998 when Gor Mahia had the countries best midfielders in Dan Ogada, Tom Okaya, Frazier Ochieng and others but they were ignored by the national team selectors.

Oktay: We were the better side

Coach Oktay also lauded his side for dominating against their arch rivals on Sunday.

“This did not look like a derby. I can’t believe it. Apart from the numbers it is impossible to know that this was a derby. We dominated the game, we created and missed many chances, were able to play great football. They (Leopards) didn’t give us the expected completion,”  he told goal.com

For his part AFC coach Casa Mbungo admitted that Kogalo has better players but vowed to strengthen his side for next season.

“They caught us. We had come to give them a challenge but they were better than us today. I will ask the office to provide a good budget so that we can make good signings at the end of the season. That is the only way we can compete favourably against Gor,” he said

“I said it before and will still repeat the same, Nicholas Kipkirui and Kenneth Muguna are good players who deserve to be in the national team. Captain Harun Shakava is also on form and should be in the squad. I don’t know why they are not included in the squad,”

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Kipkirui gunning for golden boot

Gor Mahia’s new sensation, Nicholas Kipkirui is determined to build on his good start and finish as top scorer in the premier league. Kipkirui joined from Zoo Kericho and not much was expected from him. But he has proven doubters wrong with his ability to place himself in the right spot at the right time to score.

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Gor Mahia forward Nicholas Kipkirui is keen on bagging the Golden Boot at the end of the season after a promising start to life at the club.

Kipkirui, who joined the SportPesa Premier League champions from Zoo on a four-year contract, admits playing for K’Ogalo is a dream come true.

“I love Gor Mahia. I have always wished to play at the top level and my launching pad is K’Ogalo,” he said on Sunday after Gor floored Sofapaka 1-0 in a tough encounter.

The youngster has scored five goals this season – three in the league and two in the Caf Confederation Cup.

“Any slip up in your form at Gor will see you lose your first team place and that is what I want to avoid because I want to make a name by becoming the top striker at Gor,” he said.

“My target this season is to net 15 goals in the league and 10 goals at continental level. I also want to lead Gor Mahia to the final of the Confederation Cup,” added the Kipchimchim Boys High School alumnus.

With seven appearances in the league and two at continental level, the 22-year-old has established himself as a regular in a crowded department that has big names like Jacques Tuyisenge and Dennis Oliech.

“Unlike other teams, Gor is a star-studded outfit. It’s not easy to be among the starting 11. The competition is stiff, you must work hard,” said Kipkirui.

He added: “Even those you see on the bench are equally good. You only need to attend our training sessions and see how each player works hard to impress the coach.”

He said the stiff competition has helped him to improve his game and adapt to the flowing and attacking football that is the trademark of the 17-time champions.

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