The management of Akwa United showed their intentions for the 2019 abridged NPFL season by unveiling a whopping 12 new players added to their team. Not that it was an unusual or surprising thing to have happened in the NPFL as many teams do this season in season out by releasing a large number of players at the end of the season and bringing a bigger number of players at the start of a new one.
However, despite the intense criticism which follows such administrative actions, Akwa United got commended by few critics for the kind of players that were acquired.
The players include Juwon Oshaniwa who played at the 2014 FIFA World cup with the Super Eagles, Brazilian midfielder Alberico Barbosa Da Silva, Markson Ojobo, Emeka Atuloma and Ndifreke Effiong. Cameroonian goalkeeper Jean Efala, Ivoirien defender Blaise Adou, Ocheme Edoh, Wilson Elu, Wisdom Fernando and Samuel Akpan.
However, pick of the bunch from the dozen of players signed is former Eyinmba star and record holder for the highest number of goals scored in a single NPFL season, Mfon Udoh who ended his time with the people’s elephant in a controversial manner.
With former Ifeanyi Ubah Brazilian coach Rafael Everton brought in to ensure a quick return to Continental football, fans of the Ibom landlords were left frustrated as the team started the season poorly. Two draws and two losses including one at home on the opening matchday of the season against El Kanemi Warriors saw them battling relegation early into the new season.
Thanks to a string of 3 back to back wins including a one nil victory over Yobe Desert stars courtesy of a solitary Mfon Udoh strike put their season back on track. Furthermore, in 11 games played since the 28th of January, United have gone on to lose just once, to Elkanemi warriors (again) in Maiduguri.
Crucial to the impressive turnaround which sees them atop Group B of the NPFL standings just above El Kanemi on goals difference with 7 games to play is Mfon Udoh who leads the race for the Eunisell Golden Boot Awards with 8 goals from 12 appearances and providing another 4, just 2 behind Sanusi Ibrahim of Nasarawa United who lead the assist log with 6 assists. He alongside Ndifreke Effiong, another offseason signing who have scored 6 goals so far, has been the focal point of attack for Akwa United as they aim to win their first ever NPFL title.
While he may be far behind the rate at which Junior Lokosa banged in the goals last season or even anything close to the 2013/2014 when he finished with 23 goals but with his history as a prolific goalscorer which includes ending the 2016 CAF Champions league season with 9 goals, he is the best man to lead the promise keepers to the promise land, And should they get there they have a striker who has experience on the continent which may be invaluable.