Sabi Writes: Can Kim 'Grant' The Desire Of Phobian Hearts? Featured
16 May

Sabi Writes: Can Kim 'Grant' The Desire Of Phobian Hearts?

The halcyon days of Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club ushered the Ghanaian giants into the realm of a powerful football side within football circles earning them the moniker “The Continental Club Masters,” which it has held for years, was by no means a fluke as the clinching of the CAF Champions’ League in 2000, the CAF Super Cup in 2001 and the maiden edition of the CAF Confederations Cup in 2004 stand as ample evidence.

As part of an enviable record cast in the mould of nobility, they have won the Ghanaian League 6 consecutive times (1997-2002).
 
They also stand tall in the records as the first club to win the maiden edition of the CAF Confederation Cup by beating their arch-rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko. 
 
It’s been close to a decade since Hearts of Oak won any significant piece of silverware. For a club that touts itself as the continental Club Masters and whose twenty league titles is only bettered by their fiercest rivals, Asante Kotoko’s twenty three, this is definitely an issue to lose sleep over.
 
During this period, the fans and sympathisers have been impatient and expectant in equal measure and look forward to the day the script will be flipped.
 
A worrying trend in this trophyless era has been the seeming lack of direction, the stop-start trajectory of coaches, lack of strategic signings as well as wholesale clear outs and signings. These among other factors have culminated in the Rainbow colored team’s recent spiral into the abyss.
 
The closest Hearts of Oak came to winning the title was the season before Anas’ #12 Documentary. Frank Nuttal had assembled a very decent squad comprising Thomas Abbey, Winful Cobbinah, Patrick Razak, Kwame Kizito, Leonard Tawiah, Vincent Atinga, Samudeen Ibrahim, etc.
 
After they came within touching of the trophy, almost all of these players left the Accra based club. Patrick Razak was the last to leave. Current skipper Fatawu Mohammed, Robert Addo, Daniel Kordie, Malik Akowuah and goalie Ben Mensah are the only survivors of that squad.
 
Hearts of Oak needed to start from scratch, fans were in despair and rivals continued to cast aspersions at them. Mark Noonan, the then MD of the club promised that the club would be back on its feet very soon.
 
He vowed to make drastic changes that would pick the club from its beleaguered state and put it back in the limelight. The club was without a substantive manager at that time. Given that David Duncan, C. K. Akonnor, Mohammed Polo, Edward Ansah, Sergio Traguil, Kenichi Yatsuhashi, Frank Nuttal had all fallen short, fans were chomping at the bit to see who would finally be given the nod to lead the new project at Hearts of Oak.
 
In November 2018, Hearts of Oak officially announced the signing of former Ghana international Kim Grant as the club's new head coach and director of football, though he officially commenced work on December 1 in the same year.
 
The 46-year old took over from interim coach Seth Hoffman. "Accra Hearts of Oak is pleased to announce that Mr. Kim Grant has agreed to join the club as the director of football and first team coach," a club statement read.
 
Prior to his appointment, he had had stints with Elmina Sharks and Sea Lions. Though he holds a UEFA A Pro coaching license, fans were quite sceptical and cautiously optimistic at best, quite understandably considering the fact that experienced coaches had failed to deliver any trophies to the club in its current state.
 
Grant’s work was well cut out for him from the outset as he inherited a very depleted team, bereft of big names and experience.
 
One by one, he brought in signing after signing. Current first choice goalie Richmond ‘Casillas” Ayi, defensive colossus Mohammed Alhassan were both signed from WAFA. Fans favourite and teenage prodigy Manaf Umar as well as Michelle Sarpong were drafted in from Auroras.
 
Kofi Kordzi, Kojo Obeng Junior and other players have been signed too. The likes of club skipper Fatawu Mohammed, goalkeepers Ben Mensah and Ernest Sowah as well as midfielder Malik Akowuah provide the needed experience to complement the youthful exuberance of Joseph Esso, Robert Addo Sowah and Benjamin Afutu.
 
Before the Normalisation Committee Special competition kicked off, Kim Grant’s new-look Hearts of Oak had played several friendly games, with a chunk of them against lower tier sides. They swept aside almost every opposition in sight and even beat Dreams FC to win the ST Nettey Cup in February this year.
 
Later in March, they also beat Swedru-based All Blacks to win the Obaahemaa Abena Agyeiwaa Cup. All of these meant nothing as soccer analysts wanted to see how the team would fare against their ‘’co-equals’’ in competitive games.
 
When the Normalisation Committee finally declared March 31 as the commencement date for its Special Competition, Kim Grant’s team was among one of the sides that football fans were eagerly looking forward to seeing, for obvious reasons.
 
A lone goal by Kojo Obeng Junior was enough to get all three points for the Phobians against Dreams FC at the Accra Sports Stadium. On that very day, Hearts didn’t play so well but it was quite evident that something interesting was brewing in the Phobian pot.
 
Back to back defeats to Karela and Elmina Sharks on the road raised eyebrows over Kim Grant’s project. Aspersions and innuendoes were thrown at him at the rate of knots. Some questioned his tactical prowess and nous, his choice of players to play for a club as huge as Hearts of Oak.
 
Ever since, the team has recorded wins against Dwarfs (both home and away), annihilated WAFA by four (4) goals (even though they lost the reverse fixture by three goals to two), gotten back-to-back victories against Inter Allies, taken four(4) out of six (6) points from Liberty Professionals.
 
During this spell, the team has recorded five clean sheets, scored fifteen (15) goals and amassed nineteen (19) out of the twenty four (24) possible points in eight (8) games. Their exploits have ensured that they find themselves atop of Group B.
 
Kim Grant’s charges have garnered plaudits far and wide for their relentless and swashbuckling displays .His team combines brawn and brain to devastating effect. The team possesses the ball quite well, in stark contrast to many recent Hearts of Oak setups.
 
His team’s attacks are started from defence and the goals are from multiple sources. Joseph Esso, Kofi Kordzi, Manaf Umar, Kojo Obeng Junior, Christopher Bonney and skipper Fatawu Mohammed have all scored in the ongoing Normalisation Committee Special Competition. 
 
Manaf Umar and Michelle Sarpong who were both promoted from the youth team have slotted in seamlessly and seem to be punching above their weight. The team is far from the finished product but the signs are quite positive.
 
Management ought to be up and doing and the coach must not lose focus. Kim is building this team from the scratch; most of the players are young and were brought in at almost the same time.
 
Team bonding and chemistry should therefore not be an issue, neither is there too much weight of expectation on their shoulders.
 
Barring the customary mass departures of key players or sacking of Kim Grant, Hearts of Oak might have a very strong team in the not-too-distant future.
 
Another 64-battalion in the offing? We look up to time.
 
Written By: Murphy Nana Kwame Sabi
 
Follow the writer on twitter @nanakay72
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