Maroons travel to Mandela national stadium for their opening fixture in the 2019/2020 Star Times Uganda Premier League against Uganda Revenue Authority on August 30. Douglas Bamweyana will be keen to start his first season in charge of the Prisons side on a positive note.
It was a pretty tough time for Maroons who despite finishing fifth a season ago, escaped dropping into the second division. Being knocked out of the Stanbic Uganda Cup at the round of 64 by lower division opposition rubbed more salt to the wound.
The highlight of Maroons’ last season came early on as they beat former coach Asaph Mwebaze’s Onduparaka 2-0 in Luzira. However, the Prions side only managed just seven more wins till the end of the season.
Whether it was second season syndrome or not, the way things went stale as the sense of predictability seeped through a once exciting team, it became more evident how much the club needed to refresh things or risk a stumble to the Big league.
Bamweyana has since taken over reigns and will focus on radically shifting the style and momentum of the club while also keeping them alive and kicking in the League. But how will they fare once the season kicks off?
Bamweyana worked a ‘miracle’ at record league Champions SC Villa guiding them to safety despite the club being administratively and financially hamstrung, though he may still feel underappreciated for the way he was treated in the end.
Inconsistency, influenced by a mass turnaround in playing personnel; meant Villa were always going to struggle, and Bamweyana couldn’t entirely revolutionize his squad in the time he was accorded.
At Maroons, he has surely been given that environment to implement his philosophy.
“It is a much better environment here. Of course, there are still some evident weaknesses, but we are working with the management to always improve and that’s a positive for the club”. He told www.football-256.com.
Maroons were hardly flawless in defence last season, a 6-1 drubbing by KCCA on the final day proved humbling. On average they conceded 1.33 goals, conceding in all but six games last season. A poor return when compared to just 0.66 goals and 16 clean sheets during the 2017/18 season.
Doing damage on the other end was another struggle as well. Maroons averaged 1.06 goals last season, the sixth-lowest tally in the division. It is also quite low when compared to the teams that finished around them with Villa and Police averaging 1.26 and 1.36 respectively.
In two seasons, they have scored just 50 goals, the lowest total of the teams that have played in both league seasons. Bamweyana must immediately address the goal scorning problem.
Maroons are targeting the next step that has so far eluded them and the desire to improve burns even brighter. Their opening schedule, a trip to URA followed by home matches against Kyetume and KCCA will act as an early barometer of the strides taken over the close season.
With the new coach comes a completely different style of play to what we would usually expect from Maroons. The flat 4-5-1 may be replaced by a more fluid 3-4-3 or 4-3-3, leading to more open and exciting football.
This could be a stroke of genius. However, it will be risky using players, who are perhaps more adept to playing in a rigid system, in a way that they aren’t comfortable with. It will be exciting to see how they cope with sides who press high up and attack with speed.
Maroons have splashed a fair bit of cash over the transfer window. Forward Fred Amaku joins from Busoga United. Bamweyana will be hoping the striker gives an alternative option to Rashid Agau upfront. The arrival of goalkeepers Hannington Ssebwalunyo will give Emmanuel Akol a fair bit of competition between the sticks.
While the acquisitions of defenders Edgar Bwogi, and Patrick Bayiga will push Maxwell and Silvestre Okello for competition and could afford the coach an option to play with three at the back. The other big-name signing is Davis Mayanja from Express. The midfielder will provide cover and stability in the midfield alongside Ronald Orombi and set the stage for Pius Obuya to thrive in the offensive positions.
With the struggles they had last season, it was clear that the club was to undergo massive rebuilding. Then head coach Robert Ssekweyama was unsurprisingly the first casualty and with him, several senior first-team players followed suit.
Former Cranes winger Dan Wagaluka who joined the club 12 months ago was shipped off after he failed to impress at Luzira. Herman Wasswa was also not spared by the axe as he could not recoup the form, he showed at KCCA.
Former Bright Stars forward Seif Batte requested to be released and the club preferred not to stand in his way albeit with a year left on his contract while Ivan Wani failed to find his feet at the club despite the early promise and has since returned to childhood club Busoga United. Goalkeepers Ashadu Bugembe and Eric Dhaira were deemed surplus to requirements as were Isaac Otto and former SC Villa midfielder Yubu Bogere.
In terms of philosophy, this is going to be a monumental overhaul for Maroons. Bamweyana has the ideas, the knowledge and the style, but applying his formula to an unsettled mix-and-match squad will not be an easy task.
This will be another gruelling year for the Prisons side, but patience will be required. Bamweyana may not be able to transform the culture of the squad overnight or even in a full season, but if Maroons stay afloat, they could be on course for a brighter future.