OPINION: What Kim Grant Must Do To Make Hearts of Oak Great Again Featured
07 Jan

OPINION: What Kim Grant Must Do To Make Hearts of Oak Great Again

The halcyon days of Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club ushered the Ghanaian giants into the realm of a powerful football side within football circles earning them the moniker “The Continental Club Masters,” which it has held for years, was by no means a fluke as the clinching of the CAF Champions’ League in 2000, The CAF Super Cup in 2001 and the maiden edition of the CAF Confederations Cup in 2004 stand as ample evidence.

As part of an enviable record cast in the mould of nobility, they have won the Ghanaian League 6 consecutive times (1997-2002).

They also stand tall in the records as the first club to win the maiden edition of the CAF Confederation Cup by beating their archrivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko.

The Phobians can also boast of having played an international friendly with Brazilian club Santos, in a match that featured football legend Edson Arantes dos Nascimento, popularly known as “Pele” on June 6, 1969; the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews CBE also featured as a guest player for the club in 1957.

Hearts was rated as the 8th best club in the world by CNN/World Soccer Magazine in 2001.

The club has produced quintessential players whose role at both club and country level is more pronounced. The likes of Emmanuel Christian Briandt (The first ever captain of the Black Stars), Edward Aggrey Fynn, who captained the 1963 trophy-winning Black Stars team, and Addo Odametey, who captained the 1965 team that retained the trophy won in 1963, are all ample evidence to the above claim.

The affable Stephen Appiah, who interlaced his playing skills with leadership qualities and spurred the Black Stars to their debut World Cup appearance in Germany 2006, from there, Ghana and the World Cup have become bedfellows.

Ghana’s football development, particularly the national teams has seen a meteoric rise to fame since then.

The roles played by the likes of C.K. Gyamfi, Mohammed Polo, Peter Lamptey, Anas Seidu, Mama Acquah, Robert Hammond, Offei Ansah, Shamo Quaye, Ablade Kuma, Ishmael Addo, Sammy Agyei, Charles Taylor, Emmanuel Osei Kuffuor, Benard Don Bortey cannot be swept under the carpet.

They have in diverse ways contributed to the growth of Ghana’s football. Like magnets, they attracted mass spectators to the stadium. Rarely was the stadium empty in a match featuring any of these stars.

They dazzled the spectators with their soccer endowments and made fans have value of their money. Playing with panache was just an icing on the cake.

The late Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio arguably could be regarded as their best coach. Under his tenure, the club won 4 league titles, 1 CAF Champions League, 1 CAF Confederations Cup among others.

As bigoted Phobian, I became addicted to the beautiful rainbow colours because of the successes the club achieved on the field of play.

I believe it is so with many Phobians my age who only knew of Hearts and not any other club in the country during these days. Hearts then was the talk of the town and everyone wanted to be associated to the club in a way or the other.

However the last decade has been very controversial and tumultuous for the Phobians. Hearts of Oak simply haven’t been able to; not with boardroom drama and not with boardroom stability; not with good coaches and not with bad coaches; not with strong squads and not with weak squads.

There is no ever-present or underlying factor explaining Hearts’ inability to return to the highest echelon of club football- where it belongs.

The only constant in all of this are the unhappy endings. The arrival Mark Noonan as the Managing Director of the club I believe will yield positive results as the club strives to reclaim its status as continental behemoth.

The recent happenings in the club clearly corroborate the statement above. I also endorsed the appointment of Kim Grant as the Head Coach of the club though he’s unproven but I know he has the wherewithal to thrive at the club bringing on board his rich tactical and technical expertise on board.

His obsessive attention to detail goes beyond moving in tandem; meticulously preparing his players for their individual opponents. It’s not just individual performances that need lifting at Hearts.

The players seriously need a confidence booster during a tumultuous time as have been the case for a decade now. In fact, a trait which will no doubt attract the club is his notorious dislike of the transfer market.

The prospect of delivering signings for a coach to work with, rather than him meddling in the selection process, will suit the club perfectly.

Millions have been wasted on players who barely grace the pitch. The gaffer repeatedly discussing the gaping hole in the playing body since he assumed office. Results – and the performances behind them – serve to prove he has a point, the backline looking alarmingly poor as they concede goals and chances at an unsustainable rate; the midfield lacking the steam to support both the defence and the attack and the attackers’ profligacy in the final third.

Grant has certainly started his Hearts career on a good note winning all the matches he played resoundingly with bogey side Medeama SC as of his victims.

The spirit of many a Phobian is stirred and things are beginning to assert- rekindling the love of many a Phobian (including my good self) who have been sobbing for a decade now.

At this point I would like to bring to Grants notice on the things he must do to make us Hearts great again; To begin with, there are many reasons why coaches that preceded him’s tenure felt aimless and many strange tactical decisions that suggest he was out of ideas, but chief among them was his odd team selections.

This first point should be easy enough to fix: Grant must avoid the pitfall of putting square pegs in round holes, and no more shoving as many forwards onto the pitch as possible. Hearts need basic organisation and a clear strategy, something that Grant will surely work towards.

His Dwarfs and Elmina Sharks teams were consistent in playing short-passing aesthetic football. More so, the majority shareholder of the club, Togbe Afede has thrown money at the problem with a petulance and impatience reflecting the club’s disbelief at its own ‘giant’ status.

This short-termism has led to extraordinary amounts of waste, a lopsided squad based on the disparate visions of several managers, and a sense that Hearts are on the brink of sliding into deeper trouble.

That cycle has to end now. An important part of Grants’s job will be in interviews and press conferences, in which he must highlight the need for patience as he embarks on this new project.

It will take time for his ideas to take hold, but it will be worth it: hope of a short spike of form is a deeply flawed plan. The Hearts fans and the board need to give Kim Grant time to rebuild the club organically.

As head coach, Grant’s job is to dampen expectations by explaining the intricacies of the project, building a strong relationship with fans that allows for gradual improvements to be made without the instant pressure of results.

Lastly, Too much chopping and changing over the last few years has held the club back, and so Grant must use his first few weeks in charge to decide on some key positions. Hearts need to settle on a clear number one and back four, which in time can improve the club’s poor defensive record, and then decide which of Selassie Bakai, Abubakar Traore, Kojo Obeng Junior, and Anthony Quayson will be his trusted goalscorer.

Strikers need a run of games to get confident, while defenders rely upon mutual understanding to eliminate errors. Too much instability under Wellington undermined Hearts at both ends. This is unlikely to be the case under Grant.

Finally Hearts fans will get to know who their manager likes and dislikes, which in turn should set the ball rolling for a tactical revolution.

Should Kim Grant heed to the aforementioned counsel, there is a guarantee that a happy era is on the horizon but Hearts is without doubt one of the most colourful and important football clubs on the continent and deserves to be reclaim their status on the continent.

Long Live Hearts of Oak


Emmanuel Addo

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A staunch Hearts fan

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