Plateau United on verge of history - good and bad

Plateau United vs. Kano Pillars in Nigerian Premier League Other

Whatever happens in Jos on Saturday, Plateau United will make history. They will either win the Nigeria Professional Football League title for the first time in their history, or become the first side to throw it away on the final day after leading for the vast majority of the season.

If they win, Plateau will also become only the second club from Jos to be crowned champions, 45 years after bitter city rivals Mighty Jets did it in 1972.

But the bourgeois, high-rolling neighbors to the more populist Jets appear to be doing their very best to sink the title down the drain.

An abysmal record of one win in their last five outings, when they could have wrapped up the championship with at least two games to spare, has left the door open for some final day drama.

Were it not for MFM FC's stumble at home to Enyimba, when they drew 0-0 with three matches to go, MFM would be the ones in pole position, as Plateau conspired to claim just one point from their three most recent games.

As it stands, the Jos players are not out of the woods. Not yet. To mount the podium, they have to negotiate their way past Rangers, a side they have beaten just once in five recent attempts.

They may be playing in front of their home fans, but nerves are understandably jangling.

"The game against Rangers is like a cup final for us and we are taking it very seriously. We have not come this far to miss out on the trophy," captain Elisha Golbe told npfl.ng, hinting at the general feeling of unease in Jos.

He then added that the players were prepared to find the character to negotiate their way past it: "We are battle ready, we are looking forward to lifting the league title and we shall do so on Saturday."

Six years ago, Sunshine Stars were the ones to throw it away on the last day, albeit under slightly different circumstances. For most of the season, the Akure side had been running neck and neck with Dolphins in the title race.

Going into the last day, the Akure Gunners led by a point over Dolphins, with both sides playing away from home. A win for Sunshine at Kano Pillars would have landed them the title irrespective of what Dolphins did at Bukola Babes (now ABS FC).

A draw would also have won them the title, as long as Dolphins did not win. Pillars did not get the memo, and Sunshine Stars were beaten. Dolphins, on the other hand, beat Bukola Babes and became champions.

Incidentally, Plateau United were relegated that season. Now, they find themselves in the same position as Sunshine, and against uncompromising opposition. Rangers may have surrendered their title, but under Sylvanus 'Quicksilver' Okpala, they have looked a side rejuvenated.

United will have little margin for error. MFM coach Fidelis Ilechukwu has added a twist to this tail, claiming he would resign and go into business if his team failed to win in Maiduguri.

It sets up what should be an electrifying finish to the title race in the NPFL.