For many followers of the Ghana Premier League (GPL), the current standings on the league log is not only exciting, it also signals a league getting back onto its feet after the turbulence of the last four years.

A Hearts-Kotoko title race is the marker of a competitive GPL for many observers. Competitive is certainly a word that adequately describes the current GPL season apart from the Hearts-Kotoko title race. A closer look at the standings reveals other possibilities – six points separate 1st from 8th.

Medeama, Great Olympics, Karela United, Dreams FC, WAFA and Aduana Stars are all in with a shout for the title.
In mathematical terms, the GPL is currently a straight fight between challenging for the title and battling to beat the drop with eight matches remaining. Among the clubs in the latter bracket is Legon Cities FC.

When the takeover of Wa All Stars was announced, many wondered who the new owners were. Initial rumors pointed to former Ghana defender John Paintsil but it soon became clear that he was merely the face of the deal.

We’ve since come to know that the club is owned by a man with a very deep pocket. Richard K. Atikpo is the executive chairman of Gulf Energy. He is also a Member of the Council of State representing the Oti Region. Between January 2020 and April 2021, Gulf Energy Ghana Limited paid a total of GH¢409 million in statutory taxes to government through the Ghana Revenue Authority but let’s stick to the facts and not make this about Atikpo or Gulf Energy. The fact is that Legon Cities have money to spend and they’ve spent it, or at least some of it.

That fact in itself is what has left many wondering why the club finds itself on the portion of the GPL table that screams battle for survival rather than title chasers. I would cut them some slack if they’re not challenging for the title, after all it’s their first season technically speaking but if you consider the money factor it’s hard not to question the club’s ambition or the lack of it. Decisions made by Legon Cities is what has in part culminated in their underwhelming season evidenced by the current league position. So how exactly did they arrived here?

Hype over structure

Legon Cities have been more focused on building popularity rather than building structures or building structures that outlines clearly which direction they want to move in the short, medium and long term. One of the criticisms levelled against Ghanaian clubs especially Hearts and Kotoko has been the lack of a clear vision. In their defence, lack of funds has often been cited as the reason the two clubs and indeed all Ghanaian clubs struggle to lay down plans and follow through on them. That however is not the case with Legon Cities. The club’s problem doesn’t include money. They may not have it in abundance but they certainly have more money than your average Ghanaian club.

Rich and lost: The story of Legon Cities' debut season

If you want evidence of Legon Cities financial depth, lack of ambition and penchant for fuelling the hype train, it lies in the signing of Asamoah Gyan. The name Asamoah Gyan is universally acclaimed and although I have my views on where he is currently as a player I’d rather not state them but stick to his numbers since joining Legon Cities. Simply put, the man whose whole career has been about off field controversies and goals has failed to score with eight games remaining in the 18-team league. He’s struggled for fitness and when he’s played there’s been flashes of maybe and nothing more.

Legon Cities may not admit it but they paid a reported one million dollars for Gyan not for his goals but for his name. It was a signing meant to enhance the profile of the club and exponentially grow its status and popularity. It’s a figure unheard of in Ghanaian local football transfer but let’s assume the rumored figure is wide off the mark, the fact still remains Legon Cities paid what Asante Kotoko were unwilling to pay for Gyan. How many clubs in Ghana can pay more than Kotoko? How many still indulge in the vain art of populism better than the Porcupines?

Asamoah Gyan Bashir Hayford

Beyond Gyan the club’s transfer business has lacked direction. There are two ways of recruiting players- you’re either signing players at their peak with the view of challenging for honors in the short term or signing bright young players with a long term view of success on the field and high resale value. They can afford both because they have the resources.

A proper plan which should facilitate effective use of the resource to ensure growth and on field stability remains absent. It is telling that the Gyan deal had a popular young player attached to it. Mathew Anim Cudjoe turned heads at Kotoko not least when he featured against Accra Hearts of Oak in the season before this one. He was loved by the fans but when time came to extend his stay, Kotoko and the player’s representatives couldn’t reach an agreement. In a single deal Legon Cities got the most popular young talent on the local scene and one of the best African players of all time. How about that for a hype job? The real question is what has been the impact of the money spent on the field?

Fixing what may not have been broken

The club appointed Goran Barjaktarević as head coach about three weeks before the commencement of the league. He had limited time to prepare the team. Results weren’t great but the Bosnian’s firing and subsequent results have made it clear that the problem was a lack of quality players rather than technical ineptitude on the part of Barjaktarević.

Bashir Hayford has had some success but the team’s chronic lack of consistency remains. Their position on the league table could have been worse but for boardroom points obtained from their game against Ebusua Dwarfs which was called off due to threats made by the home fans on the match officials, allegedly of course.

Bashir Hayford

It is telling that five months after taking over, rumors surfaced regarding Hayford’s future and although the club denied them, the problems that existed under Barjaktarević remain. When Hayford was asked why Gyan had not been playing his response directing reporters to get the answer from the player painted a worrying picture. You do wonder at this point how many top talents could have been signed with the Gyan signing kitty.

Your money can work for and against you. It all depends on the decisions you make. Legon Cities have made the worst of decisions and may pay a heavy price for it. The club is racing against time and however you look at it, they cannot afford any more bad decisions.