Hearts of Oak have made a poor start to the season and currently sit in 11th position on the Ghana Premier League table.
The Accra giants started the campaign with huge hopes but, as it stands, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that another trophy-less season awaits the Rainbow faithful. A poor run of just one win in their last five league games has seen the Phobians drop from title contenders to just four points above the relegation zone.
Last week the club’s woes reached its nadir, with fans attacking the team bus following another drab, lifeless 1-1 draw with Bechem United.
With the Phobians set to take on bitter rivals Asante Kotoko on Sunday, there is no doubt that Coach Henry Wellington and his charges are under huge pressure to turn things around.
But what has actually accounted for Hearts’ poor start to the season? Below, we take a look at the reasons behind the club’s woeful form in the league.
1. Exodus of key players
Hearts of Oak have, in recent times, developed a habit of selling off their key players to clubs overseas. It has almost become an inevitability that the stars of the team in any season will depart before the next begins.
The story has not been any different this year. One of the main reasons why the Phobians performed creditably well last season had to do with the consistency of their squad. For the first time in a while, Hearts boasted a group of players who had played together for some time.
However, following a superb season where the club finished in a respectable third position, most of these players have moved on. The likes of Thomas Abbey, Kwame Kizito and Vincent Atingah were all key players in the Hearts set up last season.
However, the trio, among others, left the Accra giants before the current season began. Any club that loses such key players is bound to feel the heat and, it is evident why Hearts is struggling without their presence. But for a late transfer failure, midfield dynamo Winful Cobbinah would also have been playing elsewhere, leaving the Phobians bereft of the quality required to compete in the Ghana Premier League.
A club of Hearts of Oak’s caliber should be able to keep hold of their key players, but it is obvious that the Phobians have failed in this regard and the result is what we are witnessing this season.
2. Lack of quality replacement for departed stars
Another issue that can be attributed to Hearts of Oak’s poor start to the season is the shambolic transfer policy at the club. Whiles, several key players moved on in the close season, the effect of their departure could have been mitigated had quality replacements been brought in.
However, but for a few of the new additions, most of the players who joined have made negligible impressions. The club augmented their squad with a whopping 13 new players before the commencement of the league, two of whom were promoted from the academy.
However, with the exception of Joseph Esso and Christopher Bonney, all the other signees have added very little to the Hearts team. In a season where clubs like AshantiGold, Aduana Stars and Dreams FC recruited very well to strengthen positions where they lacked, the Phoabians opted for quantity rather than quality.
Esso and Bonney may be regarded as competent replacements for Kwame Kizito and Vincent Atingah, but there is still no player in the mould of former captain Thomas Abbey, who bagged 13 goals last season for the Phobains. That is 13 goals out of the team and no competent replacement was brought in.
Meanwhile, the goalkeeping department which has been problematic for some seasons now also remains untackled. How then do you compete when your rivals have more quality than you do?
3. Unstable home ground
Hearts of Oak are used to playing at the Accra sports stadium, having used the venue as their home ground for several years. However, the club has had to adapt to a different home ground following the closure of the facility for renovation purposes.
Initially, Hearts chose the Cape Coast stadium as their default home ground, but have since been faced with numerous travelling challenges following the enrollment of an inadvertent venue allocation for matches due to the TV coverage by StarTimes.
What this has done is to deny the club of its fanbase which is normally stronger when they play in Accra. Also, instead of playing all their home games at the Cape Coast stadium, Hearts have had to do it the hard way by changing venues due to the strict TV coverage guidelines.Top of Form
A case in point was last week when the club had to host its matchday 9 game against Bechem United at the Baba Yara stadium in Kumasi. You can imagine the challenges when a club from Accra is forced to play a home game far away in the Ashanti region all in the name if TV coverage. First, there are fatigue issues, then there is also the problem of players having less time to recover in between games, especially with most of this season’s league matches being played both on weekends and in midweek.
One may argue that all the other teams are currently facing this same problem, but the fact is that whiles other clubs have the chance to play most of their games at their original home grounds, Hearts of Oak have been denied that right and it has obviously played a part in their early struggles. They appear to have been hit the hardest by the frequent travels and playing away from home.
4. Managerial crises
For the second year running Hearts of Oak have started the season without a substantive technical head. Last season the club brought in Frank Nuttal with the season having already began, which led to a slow start before the Scotsman finally managed to get things going.
However, the former Gor Mahia boss was given the sack just a few weeks before the commencement of the current season. As a result, the club is currently managerless, with assistant coach Henry Wellington being promoted as interim manager.
The timing of Nuttal’s sack, coupled with Hearts’ inability to bring in a replacement, leaves the Phobians in a managerial turmoil which could soon become a crisis. The current state of the club is all too familiar and has frequently been repeated in previous seasons. Unsurprisingly, the result is also the same as it has been in the past seasons where the club chose to ply this route.
As it stands, the hierarchy of Hearts appears lost on which direction they want the club to head. And, the lack of a substantive manager is evidently affecting the team, as it is obvious that coach Wellington is not up to the task. With the current lack of managerial direction at the club, it is not so difficult to understand why Hearts of Oak are struggling.
It's none other than Kotoko on Sunday. Catch it only on StarTimes Mix at 3pm.