THE REBUILD: Kotoko’s Shopping Cart Is Filling Up Quickly — And Shrewdly
They weren’t as quick off the blocks as Accra Hearts of Oak in the current transfer window, but that was probably because Asante Kotoko had so much to do in order to build a team able to catch up with — and, ultimately, overtake — their currently dominant archrivals.
The Porcupine Warriors have finally got down to business, but they’ve gone about things slightly unconventionally. Only three of the eight signings announced thus far are faces most fans would be familiar with: midfielder Richmond Lamptey from relegated Inter Allies, and Medeama duo Samuel Appiah and Richard Boadu.
The remainder — Maxwell Agyemang, Clinton Opoku, Samuel Boateng, Isaac Oppong, and Augustine Agyapong — are all from lower-division sides. That, for some among the fanbase, is a cause for worry, as these players would be stepping up to a level much more intense than what they’re accustomed to.
In a market where premium talent is mostly available at inflated prices, even the league’s financially stronger clubs have been forced to spend with more restraint than usual by reaching deep into the Ghanaian club football pyramid and mining for more obscure gems.
That shrewdness has characterised the transfer activity of Hearts, winners of last season’s Ghana Premier League and FA Cup, with the Phobians supplementing the acquisition of three top-flight players with Benjamin Yorke, Suraj Seidu, and Salim Adams from the Division One League (DOL).
The latter has already had an instant impact for Hearts, scoring a brilliant goal that helped secure qualification in their CAF Champions League tie with CI Kamsar last week, and Kotoko would be hoping their own unfancied recruits don’t take too much time to make their presence felt.
It’s an experience Kotoko fans have had first-hand, of course, and quite recently, too. Only in early 2020 did their club sign a certain Kwame Opoku from DOL outfit Nkoranza Warriors, and he turned out to be quite a revelation and a firm fan favourite by the time his brief stay ended sometime this year.
A truly legitimate concern would be about those players coming all the way from the third tier: how they’d manage the considerable leap required to adjust to the Premier League’s superior standards and exacting demands; how they’d adjust to life at the division’s most successful club.
The potential consequence of that challenge is softened by the fact that these players are quite youthful — a couple of teenagers in there, in fact — and thus have a high ceiling and re-sale value; it helps, too, that they’re coming to Kumasi with some impressive numbers (fun fact: there’s a defender who contributed to 28 goals in 18 games last season, and a winger with 33 in 17).
And there are probably going to be a few more arrivals before the window shuts, but the picture of what Kotoko seek to do is already clear: splash the cash where it makes sense to, but generally stick to a catch-them-young policy.
For new head coach Prosper Narteh Ogum — who has an excellent reputation for nurturing and blooding young players, but would do well to keep in mind Kotoko’s lofty ambitions — it’s just the sort of mix that permits him to pursue immediate targets while thinking long-term.
The rebuild is on, and it would be interesting to see just what shape Ogum’s team takes when Kotoko are done shopping and he’s done molding.