At the start of the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, no one would have predicted that Plateau United will be top of the table.
Top of the table with a game in hand to boot.
That has been the phenomenal rise of the Jos-based side and if they can keep the pace in the second half of the stanza, then a first NPFL title will be on the horizon.
United were not meant to be in this position, no one gave them a chance from the beginning and even after an impressive start to the season, many felt the team would not be able to sustain the momentum.
Then there was the Kennedy Boboye factor.
The former youth international is known for starting the league like a house on fire and then fizzling out. His experience last year with Abia Warriors come fresh to mind and a lot opined those antecedents will not change with his latest challenge at Plateau.
Boboye and his charges have managed to prove doubters wrong. Though the title is still 19 games away, the ‘Sai United’ have proven that they are in for the long haul.
The team led the table for 16 of the 19 matchdays and were only toppled albeit intermittently by Lagos side MFM, but they are now top of the table, two points clear of MFM with a game at hand.
Surely that should send warning signals to the usual suspects like Kano Pillars, Enyimba and Rivers United who have flattered to deceive this term.
Plateau United’s surge up the table can be attributed to Kennedy Boboye’s all attacking philosophy which has yielded his side 35 points at the half way mark.
For added measure and to show Plateau’s dominance so far, the team have scored the highest number of goals (27) and conceded one of the least (11) to gain a plus 16 goal difference to spice up the stats.
From Philip Azango down the flanks to Daniel Itodo’s incredible long throw-ins, the Jos side have served up some fantastic football for fans across NPFL with the likes of Reuben Bala, Kabiru Umar and former international Joshua Obaje doing the business for the boys in green and yellow.
Captain and free-kick specialist Elisha Golbe attributes his side’s successes so far to a bond between players who have now become brothers on a mission.
Golbe, who has scored four goals this season, told supersport.com that it is not a mistake they are where they are on the log as it was well planned before the season started.
“It is a well-achieved plan, we charged ourselves at the beginning of the season that by the end of the first stanza we should at the least be among the top three teams,” he revealed.
“I’m indeed grateful to God that we have achieved that aim. That is not where the plan has ended, we are gearing up for the next plan.
“By His grace, just like we achieved our goals for the first stanza, we will also achieve our goals for the second stanza.”
When pressed on the secret of their success in the league so far, Golbe said it is the determination and fighting spirit the coaches and staff have instilled in the players that have made the difference.
“I have said this before and I will say it again. The secret of our success is all about hard work and determination,” the bulky player said.
“We have a highly disciplined side who are dedicated to this team and we are passionate about our goals. The (Plateau) state government have also been supportive of the team and this has gone a long way to push us to do better.
“We shall hopefully repay the government’s faith in us at the end of the season.”
Strong words from the captain, one that should motivate Plateau United to seek a first national title since Donatus Iloka scored the winner in the final of the 1999 Federation Cup against Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland).
It is early days, but Plateau United want to end an 18-year wait for a national title.
They might just do it this year.