One of the clear mandates given to the Super Eagles technical crew after the renewal of Coach Genort Rohr’s contract is winning the next African Cup of Nations.
While some see the AFCON trophy demand as putting the coaching crew under undue pressure, Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer Alloy Agu feels otherwise.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Agu speaks on varying issues including the renewal of Rohr’s contract, the planned return of Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo to the national team and much more.
PT: You did not see it coming; three months without football. How did you cope with life during Covid-19 lockdown?
Agu: It was difficult to imagine life without football. I wouldn’t have believed it if anyone had told me there will be a time when everything will be on standstill. It’s a huge lesson to every one who cares to listen that God is above us all in his deeds. Usually, I train every morning to keep fit, but it was extremely difficult to get on during that lockdown. I pray we don’t experience such again.
PT: Super Eagles’ manager Gernot Rohr just signed another two-and-a-half-year extension. That must be a huge relief for you.
Agu: We really thank God for that. Thanks must also go to NFF for believing in what the coaching crew are doing. Having said that, I also see it as a fresh challenge to the backroom staff. It means we have to deliver good results. Nigerians want a trophy, they want the right results expected of a good national team like Super Eagles. I can assure Nigeria that Super Eagles will deliver and they won’t be disappointed. I believe in Rohr’s masterplan for Super Eagles. God willing we will have a lot to celebrate as long as they keep supporting you.
PT: Would you say the coaching crew are on the hot seat given NFF demand for AFCON 2021 trophy and 2022 World Cup ticket?
Agu: We’re not under pressure to deliver AFCON trophy and World Cup ticket. I see such targets as a means of getting the best from the coaching crew. God willing, we shall deliver. The FA have been of great support to the team.
PT: What’s your relationship with goalkeeper trainer Pionetti?
Agu: It’s very cordial. We keep everything professional and it’s been a pleasure working with him. His wealth of expertise and experience have really changed the way we all view goalkeeping training. Now that the contract issue is behind us, Nigeria should expect nothing but the best from our goalkeepers.
PT: Are you worried Uzoho won’t be back from injury when CAF eventually commences 2021 AFCON qualifiers?
Agu: Not at all. I’ve been in touch with him and he told me he’s recuperating fast. We hope he recovers early even though we won’t like to rush him back to action. We still have Akpeyi who is in form at the moment. Okoye is coming up too and don’t forget Ezenwa can be trusted anytime he is called upon.
PT: Talking of Akpeyi, Nigerians still feel he is nowhere near the talents of Peter Rufai and Vincent Enyeama. Do you agree with this school of thought?
Agu: Every goalkeeper is blessed with his talents that make them stand out. Akpeyi is different from Rufai but if you look closely, you will agree with me that he was a better goalkeeper at the last AFCON in Egypt and there is room for improvement. Akpeyi can be best described as work in progress.
PT: What did you tell Akpeyi that makes him the toast of Kaizer Chiefs fans today?
Agu: I’m not surprised his game was on the rise before Covid-19 outbreak. I told him the most important thing is to have that self-confidence. If he can work on that, all other things will fall in place. He really worked so hard before AFCON, he is reaping the rewards today.
PT: Would you say loads of criticism gave Akpeyi the much-needed push to go the extra mile?
Agu: In a way it does. Once you embrace criticism you will be better for it rather than allow it to weigh you down. He took every criticism in good faith and everyone worked so hard to get where we are today. Akpeyi is doing great in South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs and offers have been pouring in from Europe.
PT: Erstwhile Super Eagles skipper Vincent Enyeama has been tipped to excel as a goalkeeper trainer. What’s your take on this?
Agu: Of course Enyeama can excel as a goalkeeper trainer if he chose to try his luck in that field. Good enough, he was one of our best goalkeepers when he was actively involved in football.
I believe the decision is his. Vincent has what it takes to be one of the best goalkeeper trainers. I know footballers don’t like going into full-time coaching, but a very good goalkeeper like Vincent will be a huge blessing to Nigerian football if he chose to become a trainer.
PT: Rohr must be over the moon when Ighalo said he’ll reconsider his decision to quit the national team.
Agu: It feels good to hear that. Ighalo is one the finest strikers around and his earlier decision to retire from the national team really came to us a shock, just the way we felt when Victor Moses opted out. It was a huge blow when Moses said he wanted to focus on club football and family.
You can imagine how painful it was when Ighalo said the same thing. Honestly, Ighalo is welcome if he wants to play for Nigeria again. I’m not saying the striker on the ground are not good enough, but the return of Ighalo will bring an addition sparks to Super Eagles attack.
PT: How far do you think these Eagles can fly after the disappointment of Russia 2018 World Cup?
Agu: I believe the future of Eagles is bright and blinding if the pedigree of players in the team is anything to go buy. The joy of working with this team revolves around players’ level-headedness and the desire to play according to our pattern. I have so much faith in this team to go all the way and win a major trophy barring any injury. Let the support continue. God bless Nigeria.
PT: Thank you for your time coach.
Agu: The pleasure is mine.