By: Sammie Frimpong
Few had any qualms about Aduana Stars finishing runners-up in the just-ended Ghana Premier League season, and even fewer could have questioned Wa All Stars’ right to coronation.
In a season where teams displayed little consistency, the aforementioned duo were relatively refreshing. The composition of the remainder of the table’s top five (perhaps with the exception of Medeama in 4th) — namely, 3rd-placed Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko two spots behind — wasn’t nearly as beyond reasonable doubt, however.
Now, in any other season, those two — with 43 league titles between them — would have been worthy champions. Indeed, so often they’ve been the best of the lot, heads and shoulders above everyone else. Not in 2016, though, when they were all over the place, pathetically dragging themselves into — and out of — gutters. Both clubs had changed coaches by mid-term, with Hearts going one better just before business was concluded.
The Phobians were faster off the blocks, enjoying a strong run that placed them in good stead for a first league title since 2009. The departure of Kenichi Yatsuhashi in the season’s second round, though, marked the beginning of a decline which sucked the life out of Hearts’ title challenge. Yatsuhashi‘s replacement, Portuguese Sergio Traguil, just couldn’t cut it and, in the end, club hero Yaw Preko was brought in to halt the rot. At least, though, Hearts were as consistent when on the rise as they were on the decline. Kotoko weren’t.
Ghana’s record champions commenced a bid to reclaim the title lost to regional rivals Ashantigold last season in the worst shape possible, propping the log’s other 15 clubs up by match-day 6. The departure of outspoken, underwhelming David Duncan ushered in a fresh dawn under tentative replacement Michael Osei, but that momentum proved dizzyingly unsteady throughout the remainder of the campaign. The Porcupine Warriors clung to 5th in the end, but only just.
Replacing those struggling giants could have been any of the two ‘smaller’ clubs positioned 6th and 7th respectively: WAFA (who remarkably remained unbeaten at home all season and were impressive overall) or Bechem United (who spared some of their energies for an ultimately successful FA Cup-winning mission).
Somehow, though, Hearts and Kotoko snuck ahead. To regard that ‘feat’ as a plus — and they likely would, given how low standards have fallen in both camps — would be a great indictment on the power pair, and both should rather be lamenting what such lacklustre displays cost them. A dozen wins apiece from a possible 30 each just wasn’t good enough and, going forward, they’d have to do better.
They owe their fans no less, really.