The veteran centre-back, a survivor of the team that surprised many by clinching the double accolade back in the day, says the on-going form, which has lifted Santos to the form-team of the second half of this season, has put the team in good stead for a respectable finish at the end of the 2007/08 Absa Premiership.
The Cape Town club won five games on the trot before drawing with champions Mamelodi Sundowns away on Wednesday.
“Everyone can see that the team is at last playing to its true potential. I will be tempted to say we are playing our best football since winning the league and BP Top 8 trophy,” says the Kenyan-born skipper.
Otieno attributes the team’s encouraging run to the astuteness of recently-appointed Botswana coach David Bright, as well as players hitting top form at the right moment as the league reaches the final lap.
Although the Lansdowne Road outfit is steadily moving up the log and is within shouting distance of the leading pack, Otieno is cautious on the team’s chances of winning the title and emulating the Class of 2001/02 that starred under Gordon Igesund.
“We are playing as a team and, more importantly, playing to the coach’s instructions. Everyone is playing their part effectively to ensure that we finish in a respectable position. There are still a number of games before the league closes, so our approach is to take it one game at a time.”
Santos started the season on a poor note and was at one time touted as relegation candidates until the appointment of Bright and the turn of the year saw a reversal of the club’s fortunes.
They now sit fifth on the 16-team log after squandering a chance to go third behind Ajax Cape Town and Supersport United by playing out to a goalless midweek draw against Sundowns.
Santos host fellow poor cup campaigners Orlando Pirates in the Last 32 of the inaugural Nedbank Cup on Saturday.
Otieno is quick to point out that although the team is in a good position to progress to the next stage of the lucrative knockout competition, the People’s Team is not reading too much into the Buccaneers latest league hiccups or Santos’ encouraging form. “It is not going to be an easy game, but the guys are ready and the mood in the camp is expectant. Although our chances are good, we have to be cautious and take each game as it comes,” the Santos skipper maintains.
Santos are not the best of cup campaigners either. They have not won silverware since the Absa Cup five years ago. Comparatively, Pirates last tasted major cup success in 2000 with the BP Top Eight.