REALITY CHECK: HEARTS OF OAK’S NEED TO FLY LOW

Hearts are certainly riding on cloud nine at present, but
there always is that big risk which comes with flying too close to the
sun

Being part of Hearts of Oak’s clan hasn’t felt this good in a long while.

Indeed, one would have to stretch the memory beyond at least a full
season to recall when last the Phobians topped the Ghana Premier
League table for any significant duration — heck, last term, the club
was in a state so poor that they battled relegation for nearly the
entirety of the campaign, only being spared that embarrassing fate on
the head-to-head rule at the very end. For a while, in fact, it seemed
that downward spiral would last a little longer.

image
Being part of the Rainbow family has not felt this good in a long while

Times, though, are very different now in Hearts’ camp. The club’s
performances have been upgraded considerably and, four games into
2016’s league championship, it leads the 16-team pack with 10 points
from a possible dozen, even pilfering a rare win away at Medeama and
conceding just once thus far. How the capital outfit has survived the
resignation of its Managing Director, friction between fans and the
club’s hierarchy, and a terrible pre-season form remains startling,
although some aren’t very keen to credit the hardly foreseen
resurgence to Hearts’ Japanese-American head coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi
— a man whose credibility even die-hard supporters continued to
ridicule months after he took over — and his methods.

In the opinion of an ever-expanding majority, however, the heavily
derided Yatsuhashi may have done just enough to be hailed as the
messiah equipped to lead Hearts to fresh glories, and there’s already
talk of success, not only in adding to that 19th league title on which
Hearts have been stuck since 2009, but also in the Caf Champions
League, a competition the club last left its mark on at the turn of
the century.

Pause for reflection, though. . .

Isn’t all of such optimism, however sincere, perhaps a tad premature?

The current league calendar, lest Hearts faithful be reminded, is
barely a month old. Its 30-gameweek fixture schedule has gone no
further than that point where any team could be at the summit and
still drop to join the also-rans when all’s said and done — why, the
likes of Wa All Stars, Dreams FC, WAFA and Bechem United, all
presently in the top half, are likely to be overwhelmed and thus sink
on the log before long!

Even more daunting is the fact that Hearts’ biggest tests are yet to
come — they don’t play a former league champion till April 23 (you’d
understand why Ebusua Dwarfs, whose only title came in 1966, don’t
really count in this respect), for instance — while some of the
league’s stronger contenders, notably archrivals Asante Kotoko and
holders Ashantigold, are still finding their feet.

image
Accra Hearts of Oak enjoying a purple patch and they will be hoping it continues

Then there are the cup competitions to be contested. Hearts haven’t
won a major, ‘proper’ cup since 2000, when they picked the last in
their collection of FA Cup crowns. And they, of all clubs, would know
that particular piece of silverware has grown no easier to win over
the years, what with all the little sharks and huge herrings lurking
in quest of the occasional ‘cupset’.

image
Coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi taking the Phobian boys through their paces

In sum, Hearts, though reasonably excited over what feels like a
genuinely blossoming improvement in fortunes, would do well to keep
the champagne on ice until there’s some concrete achievement worth
celebrating. Bring it out too early and it might get warm long before
the party — if indeed there’d ultimately be cause for one — begins.

Caution, please

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