‘ANTICIPATE’: Six Kotoko Players Hoping for A Better Sophomore Season
It’s ‘Anticipate’ season at Asante Kotoko, with the Ghanaian champions’ numerous fans looking forward to the unveiling of newly-acquired players ahead of the commencement of the 2022/23 football campaign.
And while reports abound about potential incomings, nothing has been confirmed as yet by the club. That may be, to an extent, because there is not nearly enough clarity about the team’s technical direction to inform transfer policy.
Or maybe Kotoko’s recruiters simply choose to keep any signed-and-sealed deals under wraps for now?
Regardless of what business is (and isn’t) done by the time the window shuts, there are some among the players brought in last term who, given how disappointingly things went for them, would be hoping for a new lease on life in the coming season.
Here are six.
It was Oppong who got Kotoko’s title-winning season off to a perfect start, making a stunning impact on his competitive debut after being introduced off the bench against Dreams by Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum, the trainer.
The young winger scored a goal, assisted another, and had a hand in a third as Kotoko stormed from behind to win their opening fixture. Oppong would strike twice more in Kotoko’s next three games, before injury troubles reduced him – for large spells – to a mere spectator.
He’s back to fitness now, though, and fans would hope he’d be back to form as well. The legitimacy of Oppong’s talent is beyond question, his maturity at such a young age certainly remarkable, and the possibilities – if he can stay fit – are as exciting as they are limitless.
Getting Amankona off Berekum Chelsea last year – with the club very dependent on the forward – cost Kotoko an arm and a leg, but they managed to get the deal over the line, such was Ogum’s resolve to have the dynamic player in his squad.
Very little of that faith has been repaid, however, with Amankona failing to light up Kumasi in the manner many had anticipated. Far too often last season, he looked badly-suited to the style Ogum sought to implement, while there reportedly were some disciplinary issues, too.
Things eventually got so bad that – depending on who you believe – Ogum was keen to dispose of him, and the staunch refusal of Kotoko – apparently unwilling to give up so early on such a considerable investment – to permit that is cited by the rumour mill as just one of the reasons the head coach wants out.
Whether Ogum eventually stays or leaves, however, it looks likely Amankona would get at least another season to prove he’s worth the trouble. That he has the ability to do so isn’t in doubt; it’s the attitude bit, more than anything, that’s not so clear.
Blay’s first stint as a Kotoko player, on loan from Medeama during the 2019/20 season, was an unqualified success, so much that the Kumasi-based outfit was willing to pay whatever wait however long it took to get ‘Nkuku’ back in the fold permanently.
It was a long-standing interest inherited by the Nana Yaw Amponsah-led management, and Kotoko finally got their man midway through last season. Expectations were high, but, a few bright glimpses aside, Blay has struggled to showcase the full range of his gifts.
Part of that was because he couldn’t properly adjust; partly, too, you could blame the fact that Blay has played too little football since suffering a horrifying leg-break last year. With a full pre-season under his belt – his first since 2020 – Blay should be able to take off strongly, making good on his promise.
Another from Medeama who struggled to impress last season – despite arriving, in his case, early enough to properly get off the mark – Appiah would wonder what went wrong on the first try.
True, he wasn’t the major signing from Tarkwa made by Kotoko ahead of the 2021/22 campaign – that would be Richard Boadu, the midfielder – but, that notwithstanding, far more was expected of Appiah than he delivered.
The initial task was to dislodge then ‘incumbent’ Christopher Nettey for the starting right-back slot, but the emergence of fellow newcomer Augustine Agyapong as the latest first-choice saw Appiah end up as back-up to the back-up (Nettey).
That far behind in the pecking order, Appiah’s job gets no easier. He’s no quitter, though, and would be sure to embrace the challenge. It would be interesting to see how he fares this time.
He may have been an unknown quantity to fans of the Ghana Premier League before joining Kotoko, but Boateng was preceded by his reputation as one of the sharpest marksmen in Ghana’s third tier – and rightly so.
Eighteen goals in 15 games – at any level of football – is a pretty big deal, and Kotoko hoped such a streak would reflect nicely in the top-flight. It hasn’t, however, with Boateng unable to assert himself and meet the heightened demands.
He hasn’t found it easy competing with Franck Etouga, the outstandingly prolific Cameroonian who’d come in later to establish himself as Kotoko’s chief goal-getter. Even so, there was enough about Boateng – who scored only four times in the league – to believe there is more he could yet offer.
Boateng should be able to take up that fight, though – it comes with playing for a club like Kotoko, after all – and stake a claim for the position, hopeful that the second of his three years as a Porcupine Warrior sparks a new beginning.
And that’s just what Kotoko did, leading to the signing of young Clinton Opoku a year ago.
Like Boateng, however, Opoku hasn’t lived up to the hype, not planting himself deeply enough in Ogum’s thoughts. Chances have been scarce and, significantly, injury of considerable severity hasn’t done the lad any favours.
The exits of Richmond Lamptey (banned) and Fabio Gama (transferred), however, should carve up a slightly bigger space on the pitch for Opoku to operate and thrive in his creative role. The trust of Ogum’s successor – whoever he is – should be key, but the need for diminutive Opoku himself to grow in confidence to the stature it takes to excel at Kotoko is just as vital.
It must be said, though, that Kotoko might be inclined to be more patient with him than with, say, Boateng, as Opoku is tied for a bit longer and is quite younger. Could the 19-year-old take advantage of that slightly wider window of opportunity, though?