Although Hearts of Oak vs. Kotoko matches have never really hinged on form, there seems to be an unusually low confidence in the Phobians fraternity going into Sunday’s Ghana Premier League showdown in Kumasi.
The second most successful team in the history of the championship, Hearts are set for a fierce battle with their nemesis, who have three titles more to show. This time around, the excitement in Accra is far from a buzz, all due to their rather depressing form in the league thus far.
Ahead of matchday 10, the Phobians sit 10th on the log, having won three games, drawn two and lost the other four.
Typically, there has been incessant pressure on the technical team and the management alike, but who truly deserves the blame, particularly should things go awry once again in Kumasi.
It remains to be seen if head coach Henry Wellington will be present in the dugout come Sunday, having been away from the team for the last two matches on sick leave. That said, he would not be spared should his side flounder.
Since landing the top job in February, the Accra-born has been accused of lacking the experience, charisma and tactical nous for such a big role.
His side’s performance has not in any way helped his cause, but does he deserve to be cut some slack?
Having assumed duty just a month to commencement of the league, he was always going to have problems one way or the other. It’s easy to imagine his dilemma at the time – continue on predecessor Frank Nuttall’s path even if he didn’t believe in the Scotsman’s philosophies or try to curve his own way and face being unable to fully customize the team in time.
How was he going to form a formidable side, if he ever had the brain to, with such limited time? Not that we haven’t seen coaches make a statement in short periods.
The crop of players inherited had problems of their own too.
The current set-up is without centre-back Vincent Atingah, top-scorer Thomas Abbey and Kwame Kizito who all played crucial roles last campaign. Last term, Hearts were a team in transition. Losing such key players was always going to be a problem for any coach.
And did the Phobians do any good business during the transfer window to plug hole of last season or fill the void of the departed men? Certainly not evident in their showing so far.
Should management take the blame then?
For many, management did not do enough to tie down these instrumental players, even if management, in defence, claims the players were set on careers abroad, and nothing was going to stop them.
Again, management hogged headlines with their rather surprise dismissal of Nuttall, less than a month to start the league. The reason for the decision looked sound, but could they have thought about the repercussions on the team and kept him on, considering the timing?
Could they have found a different way to punish Nuttall for his treachery? Or maybe, their hands were tied.
The questions could go on and on.
Hearts fans, just like Kotoko, are unforgiving when a Super Clash does not go their way. But this time around, they would do themselves and their team a lot of good with a wholistic post-mortem beyond the doors of a single man.