To describe the manner in which Legon Cities disposed of Bashir Hayford towards the end of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League season as an embarrassment to a coach of such fine pedigree would be quite the understatement.

He was, needless to say, not enthused himself by the whole charade that saw the less revered Maxwell Konadu appointed to a position Hayford hadn't really vacated. A man with the two-time league winner's ego would, no doubt, have been left bruised and scarred by the experience — and that, perhaps, is why he took a while to get going again in top-level management.

But the job he eventually accepted, as head coach of Heart of Lions, though in familiar surroundings, was far from the most palatable in the land. Hayford had been a significant part of the modest yet remarkable success story Lions were in the noughties, even guiding them to GHALCA Top 4 success, but the side the former Somalia national team trainer returned to was a pale shadow of the one he had worked at before.

Lions had slipped into lower-tier football in 2015 and stayed there eight years, only resurfacing ahead of the present campaign. Thirteen games into their return, they looked declawed and toothless, unable to win a single game. The season had started with six straight draws, and just when the fans felt the team might start to convert some of those into victories, things instead took a turn for the worse: five defeats and two draws in their next seven outings.

Head coach Fatawu Salifu had done immensely well to get Lions back to the big-time, but he was clearly out of his depth once there, and someone more capable of getting results at the highest level was needed if there was to be any chance of missing the first flight back to the Division One League.

Enter lion-hearted Hayford.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Hayford certainly backed himself to dig Lions out of that quagmire, yet he admits few others believed the poisoned chalice handed him was worth drinking from.

"Many people advised me not to [take the job],” he told JoySports.

“I accepted it on the basis of trying to prove a point that no condition is totally disoriented; you can resurrect some issues."

He may have been talking about Lions' state at the time, but those words could well have applied to Hayford himself. This was a mission to repair and restore his own reputation, a shot at reminding all who cared to know that he — who used to have his pick of the league's top clubs — was still very astute, even if his light had dimmed especially after that stint at Cities.

It was, incidentally, against those past employers that Hayford began his two-fold task. Lions lost the game 2-0, but rather than feel sorry for himself, Hayford rallied the troops and earnestly set about turning the sinking ship around. They wouldn't taste defeat for another four games, three of which they won. And though things dipped again in subsequent weeks, Hayford soon got Lions back on steady ground, where they have remained ever since.

This being Hayford, of course, the run hasn't been without drama.

During the second half of the Matchweek 28 game away to Bechem United, Hayford stormed the pitch (together with some of Lions’ substitutes) to protest what he felt was unacceptable behaviour from the home fans — he even brought a seat along with him, for good measure — and was charged by the Disciplinary Committee of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) with misconduct.

The game ended in a 1-1 stalemate, and it was the last time Lions failed to win a game this term. They've now won six of seven games in a row — including, impressively, all of the last five — and out of the relegation zone, with their fate in their own hands going into the final game of the season in Berekum.

One more point on Sunday, regardless of how results elsewhere may play out, will guarantee safety. Should Lions successfully complete it, this would go down as one of the Premier League's great escapes — a story of survival that owes almost everything to one man who, even with all his quirks and controversies, is a brilliant tactical mind and leader of men.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.