Pace setting has over the years characterised KCB’s 15-year run in the Kenyan Premier League.
The bankers have always started well only to fizzle out as the league gains momentum.
Last season for instance, after an impressive run in the first leg, KCB ended up finishing ninth, one better than 2011. In 2009, they finished eighth in the 16-team league.
However, KCB sought to prove a point this season- that they can do much more than merely setting the pace when the finished in an impressive fourth position with 47 points. Champions Gor Mahia finished with 60 points. Second-placed AFC Leopards and third finishers Sofapaka tied on 50 points with a difference separating the two ‘cats’.
Founded in 1993, as a multi-sport club, KCB first participated in the premier league in 1998 after earning promotion from the nationwide league. All that time, the bankers have only won one trophy, and it came in 2004, when they bagged the Presidents Cup now renamed GOTv-Shield Cup.
And as usual, KCB topped the charts in the first five matches this season, aided by their prolific striker Jacob Keli who ended up bagging the Golden Boot for the first time in his career with 17 goals this season. Tusker’s Jesse Were who had shown early intension for the award would end up 15 goals.
And KCB head coach Juma Abdallah has hidden his joy after guiding his team to its best ever performance.
“When I took over, I had clear targets and the first one was earning a top eighth finish. That was my contractual obligation and anything above that would be a bonus. I am glad the boys worked hard and showed a lot of focus and character,” Abdallah said.
Abdallah attributed the good run to a well-planned training programme and support from the management. The management, he says, gave him a free hand to run the team. The depth in his squad also contributed to their good show.
Abdallah said the team has had to rely on a thin squad in the past. In the event that a player is injured, then the team would suffer due to lack depth.
“The team has not had enough players in the past seasons thus, it would crumble mid-ways the season, especially through injuries.
The former Thika United and Congo United tactician at the same time singled out centre half Kelvin Omondi, left back John Odhiambo, Raymond Murugi and Tirus Omondi as players who had the greatest impact in the team this season. The Brazil-trained coach says he will immediately embark on building a formidable force that will challenge for the league title next year as well as Top Eight honours.
And the 23-year-old striker Keli whose free scoring record was key to their fourth-place finish remains a key part of Abdallah’s plans.
“We want to keep Keli and we will give him money if that is what he wants. He’ll not go anywhere. I will have a one–on-one talk with him like a son because we don’t teams to court him only to hinder his growth in the process,” said Abdallah.
“Keli is a player who should play regularly to enhance his development. We don’t want a repeat of cases when Sofapaka and Mathare United took him, only to keep him on the bench.”