Lobi Stars coach, Solomon Ogbeide has showered praises on his team’s topscorer in this season’s Nigeria Professional Football League, Anthony ‘The Panther’ Okpotu.
Okpotu scored his third hattrick of the season for the Pride of Benue in Sunday’s 3-2 league win over El-Kanemi Warriors at Lobi’s home ground, the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi. Okpotu wrapped up his treble (bringing his tally for the season to 17) in the opening minute of the second half as Ogbeide’s wards wrapped up victory in a 5-goal thriller against ten-man El-Kanemi.
“He has been doing well,” begun Ogbeide in a chat to ACLSports.
“He is a hard worker, his level of concentration is very high. He listens. He wants to learn. He wants to improve on his game everyday. He comes to training early and leaves late. So, that he is scoring goals is not a surprise to me.
“Sometimes we finish training and he stays behind about one hour shooting. I knew that he was a boy preparing for greatness. So, that he is scoring goals is not a surprise to me because good training brings good perfection.”
Solomon Ogbeide took the reins at Lobi Stars from veteran coach Godwin Uwua in mid-season and his team is known to have two prolific strikers – Kingsley Eduwo and Okpotu. The former who has 12 league goals to his credit this term played a key role in Nigeria’s Super Eagles B’s qualification for next year’s African Nations Championships last Saturday in Kano.
Ogbeide, a well travelled league manager however expressed surprise that Okpotu was overlooked for the national assignment by the national team selectors but noted that there is still time to call him up.
“I was disturbed and I was surprised that the national team handlers overlooked Okpotu,” said the former Warri Wolves, Bayelsa United and Sunshine Stars boss.
“Both of them are good (Eduwo and Okpotu). If you have the two of them upfront, the better for us (Nigeria) because that understanding has been there for almost two seasons now. I inherited them when I came in and I maintained it because I saw that the understanding was great.
“With the blink of an eye, the other one knows where his partner is, they are not selfish to each other, when one is in a good position to score, he gives the other. They complement each other. I was expecting that they would pick both of them, but it is not late, I think it can still be done.”
Lobi Stars are currently 9th on the NPFL log and with a continental spot a big ask, will focus on the AITEO Cup. They play their Round of 64 game on Tuesday in Makurdi against fellow elite division side Katsina United. Ogbeide, like many other managers is looking to win the Cup tournament.
“The aspiration of every coach is to win. We are putting in everything in our arsenal to this AITEO Cup to see that we win it. We are very serious about it and we are not leaving any stone unturned in terms of preparation. We want to see what we can make out of it and (I hope) our effort is good enough to leave the cup,” added Ogbeide who led Warri Wolves to the Cup final in 2013.