Hearts Wanted To Be No.1; Can They Handle The Heat It Comes With?
Quite a few teams have topped the Ghana Premier League table this season, but none has made quite as much fanfare of reaching those heights as Accra Hearts of Oak, current holders of the position — and why not?
It has been a long, long time — 1,759 days, exactly — coming, a period during which Hearts have been in the shadows of clubs great and small. Archrivals Asante Kotoko have spent some of that time consolidating their domestic superiority, while newer forces have also laid down markers of their own.
Hearts have been reduced from a major power to a footnote, a punchline that never quite gets clichéd enough. The desire to win a first league title/major silverware since the glorious 2008/09 campaign has been consuming, clearly, but the discipline to apply themselves in achieving that grand objective hasn’t been as strong in Hearts’ camp.
That seemingly never-ending pursuit had developed as an eight-season series — 30 episodes per season — which passes as tragic at the best of times and comedic at the worst, but Hearts’ supporters have hardly found all that drama thrilling, needless to say.
In a bid to restore themselves to the hallowed realm to which they have belonged for much of their 109-year history, Hearts have resorted to chopping and changing personnel — playing, technical and/or administrative — with each failed quest, in the hope of stumbling upon a winning formula; the great irony, however, is that all that tinkering has only seen the club stray farther and farther from the path to success.
For a time in 2020/21, it did look like Hearts were continuing on that vain, vicious cycle, burning through two substantive head coaches by the time the league season reached its halfway stage. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t look like they’d have to go beyond a third.
Samuel Boadu, since taking the reins at the beginning of March, appears to have steadied Hearts’ sinking ship. Seven of ten games have been won following his appointment, including all of the last four; Boadu’s team, remarkably, hasn’t conceded in any of those seven wins.
That run, after Friday’s away victory over Techiman Eleven Wonders, culminated in Hearts claiming the top spot. The excitement and delight with which that long-awaited ascent has been received are certainly in order, but Hearts might soon realize — if they aren’t armed with that knowledge already — that being first isn’t always all it is cracked up to be, especially in a title race as keenly contested as this one.
As implied at the outset, other teams — more than half of those presently in the table’s upper half, in fact — have already been where Hearts now are, with none being able to lock the slot down for more than a few weeks. Even across a single game-week, leadership of the field easily changes hands, such is the nature of the traffic.
Hearts are currently tied on 46 points with a Kotoko side that appears to have lost some steam, yet which could only be galvanised by the prospect of the sort of two-horse contest with the old enemy not enjoyed for the best part of the last decade.
A little lower on the log, Medeama (pre-season favourites) and Accra Great Olympics (Hearts’ city rivals and outside contenders) are all in with a shout, and within touching distance of the Phobians.
As the season enters its home straight — eight more matchdays lie ahead — there would yet be many more twists and turns, and the order could still be reshuffled some more by results and circumstances to come.
Remember Lt. Kaffee’s famous words in A Few Good Men — “I want the truth!” — and Col. Jessup’s just-as-famous retort?
Well, Hearts always wanted to return to being the best team in the land. Now that they’re finally there, and quite deservedly so, let’s see if (and for how long) they can handle the burden — of being harried and hunted and hounded by the chasing pack — that comes with it.