The last two weeks have been quite eventful for Accra Hearts of Oak.
The Phobians have quickly gone from a side in crisis to one that is now looking very stable and promising. Only a fortnight ago were Hearts rendered coach-less, following the controversial departure of Kosta Papic. Days later, aggrieved supporters stormed the club’s secretariat to demand answers from, and ramp up pressure on, a beleaguered board.
The club was languishing in the lower half of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League table, amid a mass resignation that had hit its technical bench. A lot has changed, however, and Hearts finally appear to be heading in the right direction.
Results have improved, with two tight wins immediately following Papic’s exit, and a goalless draw against bitter rivals Asante Kotoko — in which Hearts were the dominant side — places the team on a four-game unbeaten run which has revived title-winning hopes, as they currently sit just four points behind leaders Karela United.
It gets better, though.
Not long after the club’s capture of highly-rated winger Ibrahim Salifu from Techiman Eleven Wonders made the news, an even bigger – and more exciting – announcement was made: the appointment of Samuel Boadu as Hearts’ new head coach.
The former Medeama SC boss arrives with an impressive résumé and has immediately breathed a new lease of life into the club, even before overseeing a game. At 34, Boadu is already one of the most respected tacticians in the country, having done a yeoman’s job at his previous post.
During his four years in Tarkwa, he built Medeama into a more formidable side than he found them, guiding the team into the league log’s top quarter before resigning to take up Hearts’ lucrative offer. Boadu’s stock has been rising with each passing year, but his credentials and ability will be subjected to the sternest test yet in the capital.
The good thing, though, is that Boadu is full of ideas and brings a lot to the table. He is the archetypal progressive thinker, and, as coach of Ghana’s U-15 male team, has a very solid network that enables him to keep an eye on the most talented youth players across the country.
Overshadowing all these positives, however, is the question of whether Boadu will be given the time and resources to execute his ideas. Hearts are notorious for their ruthlessness when it comes to axing coaches — Boadu, by one count, is their 31st appointment in the 21st Century — but, to reap bountifully from their reportedly huge investment in ‘Project Boadu’, the club must be willing to exercise patience and play the long game.
For once, they just might.
“Ours is going to be a long-term relationship,” asserted Togbe Afede XIV, Hearts’ board chairman and de facto owner, at Boadu’s unveiling on Monday.
“We would not set a target for him for this particular year or next year; we just want to be winning – winning match after match and then will come the trophies.”
Winning, you might have noticed, is the keyword in there, and Hearts — Ghana’s oldest club — haven’t done a lot of that in recent years. Without any major trophy since 2009, they are currently rooted in an era of massive underachievement, to put it mildly, and a rich, long-standing winning culture seems lost.
Boadu himself hasn’t won much in his young career, but he arrives with the perfect profile to fix that: young, tactically shrewd and with a track record of turning also-rans into title contenders. He had everything at Medeama, a settled outfit with less expectation, but Boadu has decided to swap that comfort zone for a bigger challenge.
A baptism of fire awaits Boadu in his first three games, with Hearts scheduled to take on WAFA, Aduana Stars and Ashantigold in that stretch. Those league fixtures would offer a preview of what Hearts could look like under Boadu, but, irrespective of the results, only at the end of his three-and-half-year tenure can he be properly judged.
We’ll see where Hearts — and Boadu — would be by then.
Emmanuel Ayamga — Ink & Kicks