Randy Waldrum can make Nigeria's Super Falcons 'stronger and smarter'

Early this month, the Nigeria Football Federation announced American Randy Waldrum, formerly of the NWSL's Houston Dash, as the new head coach of the women's national team.

The announcement came almost a year to the day since the departure of former coach Thomas Dennerby, who resigned his appointment in October last year.

After one year with neither coach nor games, Super Falcons forward Francisca Ordega told ESPN that news of the appointment came as a welcome relief.

"I am happy, very happy," she said. "It is not a good thing for a team to stay without a coach for a year.

"It has been a really long time for us. It's not a good thing for a senior team to be without a coach for a whole year. It's not proper at all."

This was not the first time the Super Falcons sat without a coach for an extended period. Prior to Dennerby's appointment, former captain Florence Omagbemi led the team to the African Women's title in 2016, but her contract was not renewed and the team stayed without a coach until 2018 when the Swede was appointed.

Incidentally, the now-appointed Waldrum was part of the reason for that long hiatus. Then the former coach of Trinidad and Tobago, he was all set to take the Nigeria job, and had even been named as such by the NFF subject to signing a contract.

But he turned down the job and took up his now-former position with the University of Pittsburgh instead.

Ordega says that the team were already preparing for his arrival back then: "I remember two or three years ago, he was ready. I don't know what happened but I spoke to him when I was in America [with the Washington Spirit], he said he is coming to Nigeria.

"And he had even appointed a guy from Benue State and the guy spoke to me that he was going to be the trainer for our team working with the coach.

"But then all of a sudden, we didn't know hear anything. We even programmed for fitness and everything. We were in a group for that but all of a sudden, we heard that he pulled out."

All of that is now water under the bridge. This time, the 64-year-old has accepted the job, but created a bit of confusion when he suggested in his initial statement on social media that he would combine the job with his current post at Pittsburgh.

NFF President Amaju Pinnick quickly shot down the idea, telling ESPN: "No way. He will be working full time with Nigeria.

"This is the senior national team of Nigeria and we did not appoint him on a part time basis."

Waldrum later walked back his statement, telling Goal: "I want everyone to know that I am extremely excited about being your coach for the Super Falcons.

"It's been a dream of mine for some time now. I appreciate Mr [Amaju] Pinnick and his faith in me and our staff to bring the Super Falcons to new heights.

"I also understand the full commitment that it takes for my time, for training camps, games, scouting, player management, staff development, and of course team development.

"These expectations are very clear and I'm anxious to get started. In fact, I will be the one pushing the federation for more opportunities to prepare and train, I'm quite sure."

Ordega has experience playing against Waldrum, from her time playing with the Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League. At the time, Wadrum was coach of the Dash.

The striker added: "I played against him several times. Playing against this team was always tough for us. So I really think he is a good choice for [Nigeria].

"It wasn't really easy for them to beat us even though he is a good coach because if you don't have the kind of players you want or expect, it is hard for you to beat the bigger or better team and we had better players."

But now, with the Super Falcons, Ordega expects more from the coach. Not just for his personal attributes, but also for the background he brings as a coach from the USA.

She said: "You know, America has one of the best teams in the world in terms of women's football. The reason is that they take your weaknesses and they work on it to make you improve.

"For example, when I first went there, I did not have stamina, but they saw that as my weakness and worked on me and my stamina improved.

"Their professionalism is on a different level. I think he's going to bring that. The way Americans think is quite different from the way we think, in terms of football, they're very smart, they take decisions fast.

"I'm not even ashamed of telling this story. When I went to America at first, I always found it difficult because when the coach is trying to explain things the other girls would pick it up quickly, because they've been trained right from the college but I wasn't used to it.

"It was difficult for me to step in but with time, I was able to cope. I believe he's going bring the idea of enabling us think fast, not just while playing but even when we're outside the field we should also think really, really fast, we should be smarter.

"That would help us a lot because I think that is where our lapses are. We are strong, but we don't really know when to use that strength. So, I think he's going to come put it right for us when to use it, when to use our head and when to use the strength as well."

Janine van Wyk, South Africa's long-time captain, played at the Houston Dash with Waldrum and says he will get the best out of his players.

"He is a great person," she told ESPN. "He takes his players seriously and has great insight of the game. I wish him all the best for his new job with Nigeria.

"The players that he would be working with are fantastic footballers so he will always get the best out of them."

The Super Falcons -- under a temporary coach -- failed to qualify for the Olympic Games and now have just the Africa Women Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifying to look forward to.

Waldrum, however, is thinking further ahead of that: "I've already been working and I have a ten-year plan I'm anxious to share with the federation in order to prepare our young players in the country for future years as national team players.

"Our stars of the 2027 and 2031 World Cups are between 10-12 years old currently, so let's get them in the proper environment now."

Ambitious plans, perhaps, but it is exactly what the Super Falcons need.