The appointment of Croatian Zdravko Logarusic as AFC Leopards boss was supposed to end up being one hell of a love affair with the Ingwe faithful. It was to herald a new beginning, restore the Leopard’s fading spots by giving it swashbuckling audacity in the hunting ground, sharpen its predatory instinct and instill so much adventure on it at the site of a prey.
He came on the eve of Valentines’ day – February 13 for those who are never sure of the date like yours truly – a coincidence of some sort. It hadn’t been so long since he was last seen dishing his often inflated dramatics on the touchline while in charge of bitter rivals Gor Mahia. That he had been there was another check.
The chosen one
“We have finalized on our search for the new coach and Logarusic is our pick. We are working on his travel logistics and he should be here as soon as possible before the team begins the new season,” then AFC Leopards Organizing Secretary Timothy Lilumbi had said.
His record was OK for a Kenyan Premier League manager. He had won the GOtv Shield in his first season in charge at Gor Mahia and missed the league title on the final day. The Super Cup was added in the cabinet as well as the KPL Top 8 in 2013 before he pulled his favorite move midway; disappear in a snap!
A bitter aftertaste he left on the Green Army but one they will tell you they hugely appreciate now as it paved way for Bobby Williamson to come in and deliver a hitherto elusive league success before current boss Frank Nuttall crashed the party for Kogalo’s challengers with two titles on the trot.
While all this happened, Logarusic was moving around. He went to Simba SC in Tanzania but left after successfully failing to deliver the Vodacom Premier League title. He returned to Kenya, took over at Leopards, and he has now left.
This time, for good.
Leopards’ boardroom problems are known to everyone who can give you names of local league clubs besides them and Gor Mahia so let’s not do a further probe on that.
The club finished last season in 7th position but that was due to a poor start to their second half of the season. They suffered only two defeats in their last 10 games of the 2014 season, a run which left the Ingwe faithful with so much hope they will fare much better in 2015.
However, the club lost one star after another, leaving Logarusic with unproven talent while his midseason acquisitions were desperate and not up to standard.
The likes of Ivan Anguyo and Pablo Njuguna are talented individuals but whose heydays are behind them. You set them a question of physics with the feet, they simply cannot answer. They can no longer deal with the pace of youngsters like Johanna Eric, John Ndirangu or Innocent Wafula. They can no longer shut a dynamic team like Tusker who on their day can stretch any side to submission with pacey build up.
Loga’s knack to run away from troubles distracted the team even further this season as he cut a figure of being a Mr. ‘now you see me, now you don’t.’
Time and again, he left his players to figure out their own exit route. He was absent on the not so many occasions the Leopard went jogging as they prepared to hunt for points.
Perhaps even more catastrophic, Loga tried to make himself the ultimate tinkerman. There were times he fielded 6 defenders and no recognizable forward although you might excuse him as the strikers have not delivered.
No man was shuffled around more than Eric Masika who must be wondering where he actually belongs having played as a defender, defensive midfielder and at times, a withdrawn striker.
And so you are left with a squad that has been shuffled around, demotivated, have no sense of belief and perhaps have Loga’s derisive voice ringing in their ears.
Rooted on the spot
Season 2015 hasn’t been an improvement at all. Leopards finished the 2014 campaign 7th with 41 points, the same position and points they have accumulated this season with one matchday to go. They also scored 30 goals and conceded 25 for a +5 goal difference in 2014. Ahead of their match against Tusker, they have the same goal difference, have scored two goals less and conceded as many more.
They are guaranteed another 7th spot finish this season not unless they can beat Tusker who they lost to 1-0 in the first leg before the Brewers romped to a 4-2 win in the KPL Top 8.
A tall order it looks especially with first choice keeper Lucas Indeche, the man who has pulled Leopards out of the rug so many times this season, set to miss.
Logarusic promised to deliver the title to Ingwe for the first time in 18 years. He found himself 31 points and 6 steps behind instead. Could he have done better despite the obvious conditions?
Gor Mahia are not in any better position. But the manager has been there, getting behind the players when they have to do the job on the pitch. The same can’t be said of the gone fella.
As Ingwe start their newest of many new lives they have had this season, you can’t help but chaff at what the Croat has left behind.
A squad overhaul will be needed at close season.
But where’s the money?
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