Hearts of Oak have been in inspired form since returnee coach Kosta Papic took charge in early December, cracking through the gloomy era of his immediate predecessor, Edward Nii Odoom.
The Phobians have only lost a game in that period — no shame in falling to Aduana Stars at their Dormaa-Ahenkro fortress, is there? — and won four of the other five matches. At both ends of the pitch, Hearts have improved significantly, scoring for fun and defending much better than they did at the start of the season.
And yet, listening to — and looking at — Papic in his post-match interviews, you wouldn’t know it. Papic’s words and his face hardly suggest that Hearts have made any such progress and are responding to treatment.
After Hearts suffered that defeat to Aduana, and even at the end of the thumping 6-1 win over Bechem United about a fortnight later, Papic sounded same — like a broken, grating record, going on and on about how his team isn’t doing enough.
Frankly, it’s getting tiring — and I’m not even a Hearts fan — to hear Papic always having one thing or the other to complain about, even on the best of days. For a trainer who has managed to get so much out of his players, Papic’s charges would wonder whether they’d ever get a thumbs up from the boss.
Well, here’s news: they never are.
Following Hearts’ latest league game, won 2-0 at home to a Techiman XI Wonders side bravely punching above their weight, Papic spelt out what I’d suspected for a while.
“I’ll never be impressed with [my players],” the Serbian said. “They are never going to satisfy me.”
Now that — even if Papic is known to be a blunt, demanding man — isn’t in very good taste, is it?
While it’s never wrong for a coach to demand more of his players — and this Hearts team is certainly capable of more, with quite a few players requiring a firmer kick up their backsides — the tangent Papic is going ever faster, ever harder on is a delicate one.
He just might squeeze more out of his boys, you know — or the sheer relentlessness of it all could eventually drain their motivation. A team this driven could be wrung only so tightly, and Papic — in his public remarks, at least — would be better off offering something back for all the good vibes he’s getting.