There is a school of thought that football coaches have, perhaps, one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in the game because they are often in the line of fire whenever results don’t go in favour of their teams, but are hardly given due recognition when results are good.
As the game of football keeps evolving, with tactical play ever so important in the scheme of things, the importance of coaches has become increasingly crucial for club managers who deploy as much time and resources in hunting for the best coaches on the market as they do to get the best players around.
In Ghana, persons who get to coach the Black Stars or traditional giants Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, or even less glamorous sides such as Accra Great Olympics and Ashantigold, attract a lot of media attention, such that it almost becomes a poisoned chalice to take up such highly sought-after roles due to the immense scrutiny and pressure that comes with those jobs.
For top clubs in Ghana, the coach is often the first scapegoat when there are bad results, irrespective of the quality of players at his disposal or the kind of support systems put in place to ensure success.
It was, therefore, no surprise that the management of Olympics gave young coach Godwin Attram the chop after a string of poor results, with the club having won just two matches.
Sacking coaches is an easy way out for club management to appease their supporters and also hide their own failures.
As for Ashantigold’s Coach Bashir Hayford, he read between the lines and jumped before he could be pushed out, admitting that his best efforts were not yielding the right results. Now, former Ashgold faithful, Charles Akonnor, has the arduous task of saving the 2015 Premier League champions who face a real relegation battle at the bottom of the league log.
Even more surprising was the dismissal, days later, of Kotoko’s Coach Zdravko Logarusic. He succeeded caretaker coach Michael Osei, who was fired after a few games into the season, and paid the price for the team’s disappointing run, even though Logarusic had been in charge for just two months.
The Croat’s exit looked inevitable after he was prevented by some irate Kotoko supporters from holding training with the team ahead of their home clash against Ebusua Dwarfs. And when Kotoko drew at home in that match, the poor coach became the inevitable victim of a second-rate mid-season performance.
What an insecure and thankless job!
A few weeks into the season, Hearts also appointed Scotsman Frank Nuttall, who took over from caretaker coach Henry Wellington.
The challenges faced by coaches such as Logarusic and Nuttall are that they are hired at a time when clubs are in crises and need quick-fix solutions, more so when the new coaches had no hand in the recruitment of players and but are compelled to work with the players at their disposal, whether or not they are the coaches’ preferred choice.
The Kotoko legend, Wilberforce Mfum, has expressed misgivings over the club’s high turnover of coaches and the dismissal of Logarusic midway into the season, without the management giving the Croat enough time to build the team into a winsome side.
Coaches in Ghana, whether they handle national teams or club sides, are under enormous pressure to produce results, irrespective of the conditions under which they work, and are the first to be given the boot often to satisfy aggrieved supporters.
However, supporters, the media and club management need to realise that coaches are no magicians to produce instant results without the right quality of players and conditions of service.
It is important that they be given enough time to build their teams, with the right support systems in place, to provide a fair and justifiable assessment of their competence.
Iconic coaches such as Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson and the late Cecil Jones Attuquayefio achieved sustained success because they had enough time to build their teams into winsome sides, having had the opportunity to recruit players of their choice who fitted well into their philosophies.
Team-building requires patience and never a quick-fix solution to sustainable success.