Super Eagles Coach, Salisu Yusuf is one of many, well respected tacticians at club level in Nigeria.
His journey on the domestic scene since 2002 has seen him take up the biggest challenges.
Salisu Yusuf also won all that was at stake, including the League title in 2008 and two FA Cup trophies in 2003 and 2013.
He is another journeyman and spells with Kano Pillars, Enyimba as well as other teams he has managed exposed him greatly to the abundant talent available at home.
The Zaria-born football Manager has also had the rare opportunity of working with a succession of Super Eagles Coaches.
He was assistant to Samson Siasia on two occasions.
Salisu also deputized for Stephen Keshi and briefly served as interim head Coach in 2016 after the resignation of Sunday Oliseh.
Salisu’s record in 2016 stood at 2-0, winning his friendly matches against Mali and Luxembourg; 1-0 and 3-1 respectively.
On those occasions he had the luxury of working with in-form foreign based players, who are Today the fulcrum of the Super Eagles.
Now, the 55-year-old is assistant to Gernot Rohr, but also the Supervising head Coach of the Home-based Eagles also called CHAN Eagles.
Giving that his knowledge of players on the home front, clubs and inner workings of the league is expectedly vast, having transverse the land, Salisu is expected to have an easy job delivering the CHAN 2018 ticket on a platter.
Nigeria got Benin Republic in the second round of qualifiers.
The Squirrels, who with due respect are supposed to be the underdogs on all fronts, defied the odds in Cotonou and dished Nigeria a rude shock.
An 89th minute penalty decided the encounter not bereft of allegations of poor officiating, complaints of the playing turf and poor selection all from the Nigerian camp.
Addressing the issues around Nigeria’s CHAN 2018 campaign, it is hard not to lay it at the door post of the Coach and the FA.
Speaking after the encounter in Cotonou, NFF President Amaju Pinnick dismissed suggestions the team did not have adequate preparation before the game.
Pinnick insists the players selected were highly rated in the league and all were regulars for their clubs.
He also pointed out that the NPFL season was at a crucial stage and thus plucking players from their clubs at this point would suggest, they were coming in still in competitive mode.
Though he tried to justify the practice games against Pillars feeders team as quality test games, he quickly admitted that the team failed to live up to expectations.
It is hard to argue that test games against a feeders team (3-1) and a selected Kano side (1-0) was sufficient for a national team match, while the players shuttled between their clubs and the team camp.
Also, considering how Nigerian clubs performed in continental club competitions this season, expectations that they would run rings round Benin Republic the first time of asking was pretty much boisterous.
The Squirrels had played through the qualifiers, seeing off Togo on penalties after the two-legged tie ended 2-2 on aggregate.
That situation, possibly would have put them in good stead and proper frame of mind to face Nigeria.
Salisu’s men did not have that time-luxury. Some of the players featured in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup where their clubs lost to Sierra Leonean, Zambian and Sudanese teams.
At this level the players need more psychological preparation ahead of Saturday’s 2nd-leg match as much as training ground practice.
Salisu was criticized for his selection in Cotonou, starting striker Stephen Odey and midfielder Alhassan Ibrahim from the bench.
Between them Odey and Alhassan have 30 goals in the league, only Kingsley Eduwo who started last week for the Eagles also has double digits (12 goals) for his club.
That situation also calls Salisu’s strategy into question.
One of the criticisms of the NPFL is that teams don’t win away from home; a function of poor preparation – player management and Coaching.
These factors were evident as Nigeria marched forth against Benin Republic, but is there hope they’ll take advantage of playing at home?
Very likely. However, playing at home also means in this situation that there’ll be extra pressure.
The CHAN Eagles trail 1-0 from the first leg. They need to defend well and also win by a two-goal margin to secure qualification.
Last time around the attack was criticized. Described as blunt, lazy and non-productive.
How the Coach hopes to turn that lustreless performance to a blitzing, ruthless attack remains to be seen.
They will also have to deal with the question of playing in front of a demanding Kano crowd on Saturday.
Salisu Yusuf is a familiar face inside the Sani Abacha Stadium and knows how frustrated the fans can get when the home side performs below par.
The outcome of Saturday’s CHAN 2018 second-leg match will have its implication on Salisu’s relevance to the national team going forward, but also importantly on the home based players.
For the players, it is a life time opportunity to impress the Super Eagles Technical Adviser and stake claims for an invitation for the World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon.
While for Salisu, he must finally prove he has come of age to be entrusted fully, with the job, especially after his recent crash course under the tutelage of Rohr.
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