It’s been well over two weeks since Asante Kotoko were crowned champions of the 2021/22 Ghana Premier League season, but the warm glow of success can still be felt very intensely in Kumasi, as the city reflects on what has been a very successful season.
And as much as it was very much a team effort, quite a number of players performed with distinction.
Ink & Kicks reviews the performances of five who could make the strongest claims for recognition as Kotoko’s Player of the Season.
Danlad had been pushing for a chance to be Kotoko’s No.1 for years, ever since emerging as a promising youth prospect, and he matured a lot while waiting his turn, particularly during two fine loan stints with other Premier League clubs.
None of those experiences, however, could have prepared him for the magnitude of responsibility thrust at him when the exits of Razak Abalora and Felix Annan brought that starting spot he sought, yet he grabbed it and impressed as the Porcupine Warriors’ last line of defence.
Often, too, he was the first line of offence, and his ability to command a backline that featured players older than him also caught the eye, as did his overall game. Danlad ended the season with 12 clean sheets from 20 games, making a strong case for another go next term.
He just has to work on that rush of emotion that sometimes gets the better of him, I think, and he’d be even more of a stabilising presence.
We already knew Imoro was as good a full-back as could be found anywhere in the Ghanaian top-flight, but it was thrilling to see him unlock all-new levels of excellence.
His lung-busting runs down the left flank were a delight to watch, every bit as spectacular as the two direct freekicks that he so brilliantly converted. Imoro also led the league in assists, his end-of-term tally of nine putting many a playmaker to shame.
Also on display were his leadership qualities, necessary in those games that skipper Ismail Abdul-Ganiyu missed, especially towards the end of the season, when Kotoko started to stumble and needed steadiness at the rudder.
The manner in which he stepped up wowed even head coach Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum, who singled him out for praise. And why not?
Ah, yes, the Swiss Army knife – almost always available whenever required, always certainly able wherever deployed.
Sheriff joined Kotoko ahead of the season as one of several lower-tier recruits and quickly adapted to the new demands and expectations. That willingness to adjust, his rare versatility, saw him consistently find a place – places, more accurately – on the pitch, despite Kotoko’s remarkable squad depth.
Those exertions eventually cost him his fitness, and Sheriff was hobbling on crutches by the time Kotoko sealed the title and celebrated triumph, but he’d more than played his part, and there’s every reason to believe that the kid would have even more to offer once his recovery is complete.
Lamptey’s 2020/21 campaign culminated in misery, as the team he skippered, Inter Allies, got relegated, but his outstanding individual brilliance meant the gifted midfielder wasn’t going down with them.
Kotoko came calling, and Lamptey obliged, moving to Kumasi and almost immediately becoming one of the first names on the team-sheet. As the side’s main creative plug, Lamptey distinguished himself, but he also weighed in with goals when needed, one of which – scored on the opening matchday against Dreams – was an early candidate for Goal of the Season.
The end of this campaign was arguably little better than the last’s, bitter-sweet at best, with Lamptey – so soon after becoming a newly-minted league champion – among a considerable number of players set to serve lengthy bans for previous match-fixing offences (committed while still an Allies player).
He will be missed.
FRANCK MBELLA ETOUGA
Few imports arrive and take to the Premier League with as much ease as Etouga showed, as the Cameroonian wasted little time in jumping in at the deep end.
Etouga’s technique has been elite, his finishing of such quality that other strikers in the league could do worse than watch and learn. It didn’t matter that he could hardly express himself in English; his on-pitch vibe with teammates – especially strike partner and countryman Georges Mfegue – was very smooth.
In the end, he came just a goal short of being crowned [joint]goalking and equalling a long-standing record, despite leading the charts for much of the campaign, but there is no embarrassment about a season that also saw him receive a maiden senior Cameroon call-up.
Keeping hold of such a hot property will be hard, but whatever else it is that Kotoko are able to extract from Etouga – another season, perhaps, and/or a big transfer fee – before he leaves, they can’t possibly be losers.