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Nervy Bobby set to lead Cranes

He set in like a dignitary. Wearing a black suit and blue stripped shirt, his bubbly frame looked a decade older than the 47 years. His balding head was shining brightly as he flashed around his three-star golden ring. At best he looked like an expatriate about to give a lecture on Human Rights yet at worst, he appeared timid and unsettled looking around endlessly like a paraded prisoner of war.

The closest one would have thought of him in football terms would perhaps be a FIFA development officer just like another bulky Ashford Mamelodi. We waited for a smile but only got a tough man's smack.
Here was Robert 'Bobby' Williamson, the new Cranes coach at his unveiling to the scavenging media. You could feel a bit of disappointment among the press, more so from WBS's Katende Malibu who expected an Eastern-European tactician. "Only them can manage African football," said another scribe.

A few metres from Williamson sat David Otti and Sam Timbe, The Cranes assistant coaches, that both sported dirty open shoes and looking every inch like office attendants. Perhaps that's could be the reason Williamson didn't recognize them as he greeted all who cared before taking his seat alongside local governing body (FUFA) president Lawrence Mulindwa.

Williamson beat a field of 57 applicants and three interviewees to land the Cranes job and replaces Csaba Laszlo who went to Scottish side Hearts in July.
At times he tried to be cocky but seemed nervous throughout and spent much of the thirty minutes fondling his fingers as he avoided facing the press.

Having spent his entire football career in the United Kingdom, the Scot played as a striker with Rangers and West Brom among others. His previous managerial highlight was handling Kilmarnock from 1996-2002.  Williamson says he holds a UEFA pro license but records from the official website don't include his name even in Grade A or B.
Having made glaring blunders in the past when recruiting coaches, FUFA once again comes into the spotlight.
 
Going through his CV, it's hard to understand how Williamson got the Cranes job. Williamson has endured two sackings in just three years, first by Championship side Plymouth and most recently Chester City, a team from the fourth tier of English football. Williamson has been jobless since March.

All this makes his recruitment somehow sketchy; but Williamson blames financial constraints for his defects.
On the field, records from his dozen years of management show Williamson as a defensive minded coach. With 1.2 goals per match, Williamson will have to work beyond his ability to solve The Cranes biggest undoing - scoring.  "What people want are results," said Lawrence Mulindwa, the FUFA president, before handing over a Cranes jersey with the inscription 'Bobby' to the Scot.
Admittedly Williamson said he doesn't know much about Uganda but will not freeze at the challenge. "I'm here to help local coaches and players through all levels of football. Football players are the same the world over and if we fail, it won't be because we didn't try hard," he said in a typical Scottish accent.

Conspiracy theories

FUFA's failure to disclose any details such as the length or cost of the contract sparked off a series of conspiracies that could jeopardize Williamson's tenure in Uganda. One school of thought said that FUFA rushed to introduce Williamson before signing the contract in order to fill the coaching vacuum before Uganda's next qualifier away to Niger on September 7. Interestingly, FUFA announced Tomislav Sivic before signing a contract in 2006, prompting the Serbian to demand outrageous salaries that FUFA couldn't afford. The two parties severed ties 48 hours later.

Yet there is wide belief that Laszlo personally recommended Williamson for FUFA. Williamson too couldn't confirm or deny the claim insiders intimate that by signing Williamson, FUFA is trying to bridge their differences with Laszlo in the hope of acquiring the $200,000 compensation it demands from Hearts for the Hungarian-German's departure before end of contract. This money would in turn be used on Williamson’s wages.

What next for Cranes?

Mulindwa reiterated there will not be any mistakes like they had with Laszlo. "This is not just a coach, he is an instructor, teacher and manager," he said. Williamson too added that he plans to follow local football to the grassroots.

How Williamson will cope with FUFA's recurrent uncanny behavior remains to be seen. Seconds before unveiling him, Mulindwa said that it wasn't easy convincing Williamson to join Uganda; what he didn't tell him was that his stay in Uganda won't be as easy as he could have dreamt.

dlumu@observer.ug
sebugs@observer.ug

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