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Riding Express train

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th February 2002 03:00 AM

AN Andrew Mukasa and Hassan Mubiru attack is any coach’s dream. But, even the duo might not be enough in Express’ mission to dethrone SC Villa as Uganda’s soccer kings.

AN Andrew Mukasa and Hassan Mubiru attack is any coach’s dream. But, even the duo might not be enough in Express’ mission to dethrone SC Villa as Uganda’s soccer kings.

By James Bakama and Norman Katende AN Andrew Mukasa and Hassan Mubiru attack is any coach’s dream. But, even the duo might not be enough in Express’ mission to dethrone SC Villa as Uganda’s soccer kings. The Red Eagles leadership will first have to deal with intrigue at Wankulukuku if their dream for glory is to crystalize. It is not the first time that Express have been so promising only to be undermined by in-fighting. The Reds bench has always been at boiling point. In 1996 the squabbles denied Yugoslav coach Dragan Popadic a chance to mould Express into a continental champion. Failures at Wankulukuku by Englishman Eddie May, Kenyan Rishadi Shedu and ex-Cranes coach Asuman Lubowa were also attributed to similar sabotage. So, could soft spoken Jimmy Muguwa be the saviour? It might be too early to tell, but Muguwa’s success will nevertheless depend on his ability to impose his personality on the Red Eagles. But, if results are anything to go by, then Muguwa could well be on the right track. The ex-Cranes striker, who in 1995 took Express to their first continental semi-final, underlined his intentions of taking Express to the top on his return to Wankulukuku in December. Spurred by the Mubiru and Mukasa duo, he not only emphatically handed Express VEK and Hedex Cup titles, but also promised more. His ambition was underlined by his comments after beating KCC. “I am still studying the team. When I am through, we shall be the team to beat.” Muguwa’s real trial will, however, come in the Nile Special Super League where Express will be searching for their first title in five years. He has been blessed with immense pre-season build-ups that currently have the team in the east African Hedex Cup in Mwanza. A Kakungulu Cup triumph, the team’s first in three years, gave Express their first boost into the new season. Coming at a time when the team was embroiled in leadership wrangles, the trophy proved a crucial unification shot. A grand recruitment was yet another morale booster at Wankulukuku. Armed with a sh22m Hedex Cup winners’ prize, Express easily signed SC Villa goal grabber Mukasa, Mbarara’s Toto Songe and KCC’s overlapping right fullback Richard Malinga. The spending paid off almost immediately with the new signings helping propel Express to triumphs in three of the four pre-season tournaments. A sponsorship from oil dealers Petro Uganda Limited is another reason the Red Eagles should have an edge. Express’ strength in depth is evident right from defence. Here, Muguwa has the perfect full backs in Malinga and Peter Lwebuga. They are young, energetic, can defend but most important are equally good on the offensive. Francis Gonzaga and Edward Kalungi blend into a combination of talent and experience at the heart of the defence. Teenaged Gonzaga has already proved that he has all it takes to take on the best strikers. It’s in the midfield where Muguwa will be mainly relying on wishes. His prayer here will be that Kyambadde reforms. Kyambadde has lately had more acts of indiscipline than perfect passes. Muguwa will have no worries in attack where the Mubiru-Mukasa duo is hungrily waiting to pounce. The new blood in the striking line has also meant competition. Veteran Ibrahim Buwembo, who previously could walk away from camp and return months later to an assured place, now has to sweat it out. Buwembo now has to beat a younger Songe and Kefa Kisala in order to win a place on the left wing. But, even with the vast talent, the Red Army is still restless. They also want to regain their Wankulukuku home ground. The ground was banned for crowd violence in 2000. Sources within the team’s top brass, however, reveal that a section of the executive is against the idea for economic reasons. This group argues that the team stands to get better gate takings at Nakivubo. But, wherever the venue, the Red Eagles, with good management, will undoubtedly be the team to beat this season. ends

Riding Express train

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