Emmanuel Clottey blew his cheeks as if to blow life into what looked a lost game. As he stepped up to take the free-kick, the chants of ‘Gooaalll’ gave way to silence. You could even hear cars speeding past just behind the stadium. Journalists, club officials, and players alike held their breath. Waiting in anticipation for what was to come. As though it was some uber-significant moment. In truth, it was.
Here was Kotoko, on the verge of sealing their first win of the season and essentially their first in Berekum in 10 years. But that did not happen. Clottey fired past Kwame Baah in post.
The Berekum Municipality came alive again. Cars started honking loudly in a celebration of that goal. If I didn’t know better, I’d be mistaken to call that a mediocre mentality. But the significance of this was not lost on me and certainly not on Kotoko, who looked deflated.
Three hours later, I arrived in Kumasi. The usual inquest and scapegoating had started. Word went around that the club was not happy with what they had seen. This information came from Berekum. No one could say for certain if Maxwell Konadu would be sacked.
Beyond the discontentment, no major decision was taken. Rather, the club waited to see if there would be a renaissance. Yet, word had gotten to Konadu’s entourage that the club was nursing the idea of hiring a European coach to replace him.
Four weeks and three soulless performances later, Nana Yaw Amponsah; the club’s Chief Executive, informed Konadu of the club’s decision to sack him. The catalyst for that decision had been a horror showing in a 0-1 loss to Annor Walker’s Olympics.
It is tempting, perhaps logical to an extent, to expostulate that the decision was a harsh one. Others have even called it a knee jerk reaction. On the face of it, firing a manager after 5 games is unconscionable. But this wasn’t just 5games. There have been 16 more within a 12month period. In that time, Konadu’s men won nine, drew seven, and lost five times. Konadu’s Kotoko scored twenty-one goals and conceded thirteen.
Results aside, performances have been dour. The performance versus Olympics was, in many respects, representative of how Kotoko has played in the past 12 months; tentative, uninspiring, without control, and often reactionary. This is particularly disappointing because Konadu’s previous Kotoko team played a progressively dominant brand of football that delivered results. But here, it was hard to tell the kind of football he wanted to play. It is entirely possible Konadu did his best but somehow the players couldn’t translate whatever he was teaching. However, the very essence of hiring managers like Konadu is the assurance that they can influence players to play a brand of football that is aesthetically pleasing to watch and delivers results.
Yet, Kotoko rarely seemed to have a plan to progress play. A common feature of their play was to go route-one. Not that Konadu is, but his Kotoko team very much looked like a one-trick-pony; not capable of any sophisticated or well-choreographed pattern of play. Be it Agyemang Badu, Habib Mohammed, or Abdul Ganiyu, Kotoko’s center backs would often hit hopeful long balls in search of their center forwards. We know how they often ended.
More disappointing was the fact that these performances weren’t against teams that played with a low block. Maybe teams no longer bothered to sit deep because Kotoko had no fear factor under Maxwell Konadu.
Beyond that, Konadu’s other malefaction was his failure to add value to players. Or in simpler terms, his inability to improve players. It is practically impossible for any coach to succeed if he can’t get players to perform proficiently. Yet, out of the nearly sixty players Konadu worked with, Justice Blay was the only player who thrived throughout the period they worked together. New followers, may credit Konadu for Blay’s performances, probably out of ignorance. But in truth, the midfield powerhouse that Blay is was created and nurtured at Medeama. It was why he was so expensive Kotoko could only afford a loan deal for him and not an outright purchase.
Time is precious
Could Kotoko have afforded him more time? Maybe. Did they have to? Probably not. You see, time is a rather precious commodity in football. It is earned. Not given. It is earned by the daily decisions that translate into the performance and results on match days.
You see, every coach gets a three-month grace period. In that time, the coach prepares his players psychologically and physically to take in his ideas. He builds a bond with his players. He also takes them through various scenarios and how to react to such situations. After this period, every decision the coach makes, result, and performance his team produces, determine whether or not they would be in charge. Konadu is well past these three months and yet, it feels as though he just took over.
In Konadu’s time in charge, he lost to Berekum Chelsea, Medeama, Aduana Stars, and Great Olympics. You might want to throw in the draws with Elmina Sharks and Eleven Wonders.
The common denominator here is that they were at the hands of ‘‘young’’, futuristic coaches. New school coaches. Samuel Boadu. Asare Bediako. Ignatius Osei Fosu. Yaw Acheampong etc. This is not suggesting that Maxwell Konadu has been left behind; a tactical dinosaur of sorts. Far from that. But it is that Konadu is no longer seen as the crown prince of coaching in Ghana. A lot of these coaches have caught up with Konadu. He is no longer special. The results back this. Add these together, and you can understand why, in Nana Yaw Amponsah’s mind, this couldn’t lead to a happy ending.
Victor Atsu Tamakloe