Be Forward Wanderers turned the Super League title race into a procession last season, but worrying cracks are appearing that threaten to fatally undermine the current 2018 campaign.
The Lali Lubani boys accrued 69 points, the highest tally in the Super League era – to finish two points clear of nearest challengers and rivals Nyasa Big Bullets.
But this term, they are 13 points adrift of pacesetters Bullets, with two defeats already.
Now the defending champions are licking their wounds after a 1-0 defeat to Red Lions on Sunday.
The surprising thing about this season has not been that Wanderers has had a rough start and a bit of a title hangover. What’s been surprising is how comprehensively terrible the Nomads have been.
The Blues have lost twice in eight matches, after losing just three times all of last season.
Should Wanderers lose their next league assignment, it is not inconceivable that the Be Forward sponsored team could plummet into the relegation places in the bottom three of the standings – a shocking spot for the former champions.
The Nomads have lost the air of invincibility that used to surround the team. Last season, you could expect Wanderers to put together a torrent of early attacks, score a goal or two, then apply a defensive chokehold to the game and calmly run out the clock.
The Nomads seldom fell behind, and even when they did, it never felt like they weren’t in control – more like a draw was the best the other team could hope for, because the one guarantee was that Wanderers weren’t going to be held down for long.
That sense is entirely gone now. When they concede a goal, you could see the players start to hang their heads; an air of “here we go again” surrounds them.
Esau Kanyenda, who came in very late last season but ended up being their top goal scorer, hasn’t scored a goal this season. Joseph Kamwendo, the linchpin in the team’s midfield, looks disinterested at the best of times and actively malicious at the worst.
Reports have also emerged of players becoming unhappy over unpaid allowances. This development came to limelight when three players who were signed from Azam Tigers and Wizards FC in January, requested for the termination of their contracts, citing the club’s failure to honor the agreement between the two parties as the main reason for the decision.
The Nomads have now changed their technical panel, with Yasin Osman, who inspired them to their first league title in 11 years, being appointed the Technical Director and he has been replaced by Bob Mpinganjira who was his assistant.
With the Blantyre derby coming up on Saturday in the semifinals of Airtel Top 8 Cup, the Nomads have to clean their house to avoid yet another defeat at the hands of their sworn rivals.
With the supporters already making demands for the resignations of chairman Gift Mkandawire, General Secretary Mike Butao and team manager Steve Madeira, only time will tell if the team can turn the tables around.
As it is, though too early to start panicking, some will start to wonder if perhaps Wanderers, with only 8 points in the standings from 6 games, shouldn’t instead chase the 50 points that usually prevent them from missing the top four finish.