It is now nine years since Express FC last won a major title, hoisting the Uganda Premier League in 2012 under the guidance of Sam Simbwa.
The Wankulukuku based side have had to endure a trying period during those barren years and some will suggest they are lucky to have spent all those years in the top flight. And they indeed are!
Going back to the final day of the 2017/18 season, Express were bound for relegation from the top flight of Ugandan football, for the first time in history.
Sitting second from bottom, the Red Eagles required a victory against Masavu FC and for Proline FC and UPDF FC to drop points against URA FC and Vipers SC respectively.
As an Alfred Leku’s second half goal did the trick for them in Bugongo, both UPDF and Proline lost, meaning that Express would secure their status for at least one more year.
The season was one that everyone associated with the Red Eagles would want to forget and the team embarked on a journey of trying to ensure it never happened again.
In came Kiryowa Kiwanuka as the club Chairperson and three years and two manager later, Wasswa Bbosa as the head coach.
Bbosa who replaced George Ssemwogere at the start of 2020 has gone on a spending spree, signing 19 players since June.
The latest is Muzamir Mutyaba who joins the Red Eagles as a free agent following the expiration of his contract at KCCA FC in July.
Mutyaba comes in at a time when the team has played just four games this campaign, drawing twice and winning the other two.
Every Red Eagles came into the 2020/21 season with alot of optimism, Bbosa inclusive.
“Our target is to be competitive this season in both the League and Cup. If we win something, then that will be great.” Bbosa noted in response to what the club’s targets for this season are.
With Mutyaba now joining a relatively decent squad that has been assembled, everyone needs to watch out for Express FC.
What Mutyaba brings to the team
Muzamir Mutyaba has without a doubt been one of Uganda’s most creative midfielders in the past five years.
Since his arrival at KCCA FC in 2015, the silky playmaker has been one of the key components in the Kasasiros creative department.
His abilities saw him break into the national team and also clinch the player of the year accolade in 2017.
However, the last couple of seasons have seen him battle several fitness issues, a major reason as to why the Lugogo based side decided to let go of him.
The good news for Express is that Mutyaba is a player who does not rely on physicality so as to thrive and such players more often than not tend to get back to their best once they shake off injuries.
The biggest worry for the Red Eagles will be whether they can take care of his injury issues and ensure he is in proper shape to get going as soon as possible.
If that can be achieved, then they have a piece that they lacked in the opening games of the campaign.
In three of their four games so far, Bbosa employed a 4:3:3 formation with just a single winger/wing-forward in Godfrey Lwesibawa so as to try and curb the lack of a central attacking midfielder in the team. In this incident, one of either Goerge Ssenkaba or Eric Kambale would occasionally drift into the middle to try and create for the team.
Without a proper number 10 or 8 (whatever you may want to term Mutyaba as) the Red Eagles have struggled to create clear cut chances hence scoring just five goals with two of them coming from set-plays (a penalty and another a free kick).
If Mutyaba can attain full fitness, at some point, he is expected to complement both Abel Etrude and Daniel Shabena in a proper midfield three as Bbosa has always preferred to play two holding midfielders and a number 10 in front of them.
With Mutyaba in the team, the front three will now have a player, behind them, capable of creating the chances for them to feed off and chances are high, the tally of goals will improve.
Mutyaba’s arrival makes Express have a proper and balanced starting team, one that is capable of winning any game of football in the Uganda Premier League.
The Eagles fine starting team
Mathaius Muwanga is the first choice custodian and with Crispas Kusiima as his back-up, the Red Eagles are sorted in the goal keeping department.
Denis Mubuya started three of the four games so far, save for the 1-0 win over Villa in which the returning Enock Walusimbi was slotted in at right-back. Going forward, Mubuya will most likely be the starting right-back in a defence with Walusimbi featuring alongside Murusid Juuko at centre-back. Isa Lumu who has impressed in his first three games, winning the man of the match accolade against Bright Stars, is another option. At left back, Arthur Kiggundu is as good as they get in the Uganda Premier League and only a major injury can stop him.
In the middle, Abel Etrude, Daniel Shabena and Mutyaba should be able to dominate the centre-of-the-park more often than not. Young John Byamukama is also an option in both the deep-laying playmaking role and central attacking midfield, so the Red Eagles are also covered in that department.
Frank Kalanda will lead a forward line that also comprises of Godfrey Lwesibawa, Charles Musiige, George Ssenkaba and Eric Kambale. The hunger in the striking department and competition for places only plays in the Red Eagles favour and the goals will surely come.
With such a team comprising of a mixture of experience, talent, hunger and youth, Express will indeed compete on all fronts and the pair of KCCA FC and Vipers SC need to look at their shoulders throughout the season.
KCCA, Vipers not convincing enough
The past few years have seen KCCA and Vipers tussle it out for the league crown and forge a rivalry of sorts as matches between them are usually seen as title deciders. The two have shared all the last 8 titles between them, since 2012.
However, as evident from the first few games, the two are not as convincing as they have always been in the past.
For Vipers, they have so far played three games, drawing 1-1 with Wakiso Giants FC, coming from behind to defeat newly promoted Kitara FC and scrapping past Busoga United FC 5-3 in a contest that could have gone either way.
The Venoms who have invested huge in new players, including January signing Yunus Ssentamu, have so many issues to sort during the season, most importantly, the team selection.
Fred Kajoba is a coach who is yet to attain full confidence from everyone associated with the club including the fans and his departure looks more inevitable by the day.
I think Kajoba will keep on tinkering with his starting team as he tries to ensure the host of stars at his disposal all stay happy and as he does, Express may be growing stronger by the day.
For KCCA, they are no longer the force they were a few years ago as they have lost several key players along the way.
The acquisition of Brian Aheebwa seems to be a masterstroke as the former Mbarara City FC striker has already netted seven times in his first five games.
His growing partnership with Sam Ssenyonjo may take the Kasasiros places but how about the other departments.
The defence looks shaky in the absence of John Revita whose fitness has always been questionable ever since joining Mike Mutebi’s side from Express. Samuel Kato, Ramthan Musa, Filbert Obenchan and Peter Magambo are players who have so far failed to take the next step.
Denis Iguma is the only player among the defence that has been consistent throughout the first five games. At the opposite flank, Herbert Achai, Moses Kalanzi and Hassan Musana are no Mustafah Kizza and one of the outlets that have seen the Kasasiros become a force to reckon with is no more.
In the middle, only Ashraf Mugume, among the new recruits, looks the part with Samson Kigozi yet to fit into the team. For the old guard of Gift Ali and Kezironi Kizito one is injury prone and the other clearly past his best.
KCCA and Vipers are still favourites but nothing, at the moment, suggest Express can and will not give them a proper run for their money.
Wasswa Bbosa’s hunger
Bbosa is a household name in Ugandan football as a coach but is yet to secure himself a title.
The only crown he has ever won in his coaching career was the 2012 UPL when he was Sam Simbwa’s assistant at the Red Eagles.
He came agonisingly close with Villa, in 2016, but a combination of administrative issues and Vipers’ strong end to the season, saw him finish second.
He had a decent first-season at Tooro United, leading them to their best finish in the top tier but was force to depart at the start of his second campaign.
He is a coach who is yarning for a title and with the team and stability in management that he now has at Express, the animated tactician must be going for the kill this time round.
Express FC may not be a finished product but the combination of a decent team and the two power houses not looking the part, they will without a doubt be contenders for this year’s crown.