After a strong start to the league, Hearts have lost steam and could end up with egg on their face by September 17
By: Sammie frimpong
Capital club Hearts of Oak, given how much they’d underachieved in recent years, seemed almost unrecognisable in the first half of this season’s Ghana Premier League.
Trained by unfancied Japanese-American Kenichi Yatsuhashi, the Phobians dispelled pre-season skepticism and impressed, particularly on the road, picking 16 of the 26 points they completed the first round with away from home, even pilfering a couple at some of the league’s more daunting grounds.
That accumulation left Hearts only two points behind Wa All Stars on the table, having won just under half of their games. It was a run which inspired belief in Hearts’ ranks with respect to the club’s chances of securing a 21st league title, its first in seven years; if the players could achieve it, the fans could certainly dream it. And while the fans haven’t stopped dreaming, the players don’t appear as bent on glory as they were prior to the league’s break and subsequent resumption. Eleven games into the season’s latter half, Hearts have won only thrice, with none of those rare victories recorded in the side’s last six games; the only club on the table on a worse streak are 8th-placed Medeama [who are distracted by continental competition, mind], but even they can improve their lot with the two games they have in hand. It’s quite noteworthy, too, that the handful of points Hearts have collected since June 26 have mainly dripped from draws — a dozen draws thus far, in fact. For a club that had won seven matches at this stage in the first round, Hearts have truly slumped.
Just where/when things took such a sudden turn for the worse isn’t too apparent, although many supporters of the club would blame the mid-term replacement of Yatsuhashi — who remains hugely popular among Hearts’ ‘chapters’ long after his departure — with Portuguese Sergio Traguil.
Now, however, isn’t time for shifting blame; that could be reserved for end-of-season analysis, should the progressing recession not be halted in time. Hearts could spare themselves that unpleasant post-mortem by getting their act right, of course. Woeful though they’ve been, the club isn’t too far behind in the title race and have four games with which to do more than just save face, while praying their main challengers for the new Premier League trophy slip up.
Do any less and, by the time they visit New Edubiase on the season’s final day in what could be their hosts’ last league outing in the foreseeable future, Hearts themselves would be fortunate to have anything — the ultimate, specifically — to play for.