Bashir Hayford will lead his new side Legon Cities when they face Dreams FC at Dawu

The mammoth has returned to familiar territory, a setting he has finessed successfully on two different occasions and albeit his return is under slightly different circumstances, he boasts of records from his earlier dissection of the Ghana Premier League.

Bashir Hayford, marks his return to Ghana’s premier division with the task of transforming Legon Cities, a team that has flattered in the market but are failing to impress on the field.

Hayford says he was convinced to join the Accra-based club because of: “The opportunity to return to the Ghana Premier League, how the club is run professionally and the chance to be back and prove a point.”

His first task will be against a Dreams FC side making good stride in the league. So far, the Royals find themselves lying just one point off the relegation zone.

Despite their poor start, the brush of Hayford’s history lays to the advantage of Legon Cities. He has won the Ghana Premier League on two different occasions; with Kotoko in the 2007/08 season and later with AshGold in 2014/15.

The data backing the form of Kotoko and AshGold in those two seasons, projects Legon Cities could a force to reckon with.

The dominance with Kotoko

Kotoko won the 2007/08 title with 69 points, 16 more than Hearts of Lions and 29 more than their fiercest rivals, Hearts of Oak. Merely stating the point tally does not do enough justice to the magnitude of a campaign Kotoko put forth.

The 24-time Premier League champions have the best defensive records amongst all clubs that have competed in the Ghana Premier League since its inception.

However in that 2007/08 season, Hayford took that enviable record to another level, conceding just 18 goals in 30 games.

Hayford was also in charge of Ashanti Gold and conceded 26 goals in the 2014/15 season – the fourth best defensive record behind Inter Allies(22), Wa All Stars(24) and Aduana Stars(25).

This season, Legon Cities have already conceded four goals from three games and received a 3-0 thumping from Great Olympics on matchday two.

Hayford’s biggest defeats at Kotoko and Ashanti Gold, were both 2-0 defeats and that is in a combined 60 games. Hayford just hates to concede and Legon Cities will also detest the sound of the ball hitting the back of their net under his tutelage.

With the appointment of former national team goalkeeper Edward Ansah, Legon Cities are expected to tighten their defence in their upcoming games.

Although Hayford likes to keep his team very compact, it is prudent to highlight his sides are very effective and deadly when set loose.

Kotoko in 2007 were by far, Ghana’s best outfit in terms of attacking productivity. They scored 53 goals in 30 league matches averaging, 1.76 goals per game.

Eric Bekoe finished as top scorer under Bashir Hayford

It came as no surprise as Eric Bekoe, Kotoko’s striker ended the season as the league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

Kotoko in that season, scored three or more goals in seven of their 30 league games – joint most with Liberty Professionals, but they also boast of the biggest win that season, which came in a five nil drubbing of Great Olympics.

The unexpected with AshGold

Hayford’s stint with Ashanti Gold saw the Miners, produce 35 league goals in 2014/15, the joint 5th most goals in that season with their biggest win, a 4-1 thrashing of Brong Ahafo.

AshGold won the league in 2014/15 for the first time in 19 years

This proves that regardless of Hayford’s preference for defensive solidity, he has a soft spot for ruthlessness in front of goal and at his service in Legon Cities is Ghana’s all-time top goal scorer, Asamoah Gyan.

How he intends to use Gyan is still a mystery but one thing Hayford’s league history tells us is, the 35-year-old striker will grow to be a headache for defences this season.

In the pre-match conference leading to the Dreams game, Hayford was quoted saying: “Asamoah Gyan is my son. I have known him since his Accra Academy days.”

That father-son relationship could prove pivotal in how Legon Cities perform this season especially in front of goal.

The home form of the Royals has been underwhelming winning just three of their last 10 home games whilst scoring just nine goals.

Under Bashir Hayford, Kotoko arguably had the division’s best home record; 15 games, 14 wins and lost none; 43 points from a possible 45.

They also scored the most home goals that season; 34 while conceding just nine in the process. That nine was only bettered by Wa All Stars with six, Hearts of Oak and Gamba All Blacks with a joint eight and Berekum Arsenal with four.

At AshGold, Hayford masterminded the Miners into repressive home displays. Out of 15 matches played, they won 12 and recorded no loses while scoring 23 goals and conceding a mere seven.

The Royals, who are yet to win a game this season, can be assured of the polish Hayford will apply to the Accra Sports Stadium when it comes to home games.

Hayford, the big game coach

It is worth indicating Kotoko’s form in big games in that 2007 season. Hearts of Oak proved to be a difficult side for Hayford as they held Kotoko to a 0-0 draw at home and 3-3 away. Great Olympics and AshGold, secured respective 2-0 and 1-0 victories over the Porcupines at home though falling to 5-0 and 2-0 losses at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.

Two wins, two draws and two losses is an even distribution of the spoils against the big boys.

At Ash Gold, he recorded two consecutive draws with Hearts of Oak. 2-2 away before a 1-1 draw at home. Against Kotoko, points were shared over the two fixtures with a 1-0 loss away before their 2-1 triumph in Kumasi. Their performances against Great Olympics followed the same Kotoko trend, as they lost 1-0 away but beat Olydade 2-0 at home.

Legon Cities in the truncated league played 15 fixtures with four of those against the league’s big boys.

They lost 2-0 to Berekum Chelsea in the Bono region, recorded a 1-1 draw with Great Olympics, fell to a 3-1 defeat to the Porcupines in Kumasi, bagged themselves a goalless draw with Kotoko at home but in 2018, another uncompleted season, they lost their away fixture to Hearts of Oak 3-1.

Three defeats, two stalemates and no victories to a big side. Hayford who has a knack for big games can change that narrative.

Irrespective of all these upsides to Hayford, studying a few of his game clips from Kotoko and Ashanti Gold leaves quite a little to be desired. The few clips studied from his time at AshGold provided stark images of Hayford playing a flat backline. Meaning, unlike situations where both fullbacks or at least one, push upfield, the fullbacks at AshGold under Hayford, usually remained behind.

The team also looked above average in their build-up play but due to the reluctance of fullbacks to push up and support, wingers had to do a lot more to help progress AshGold’s play.

As a result, the former Somalia coach operated with direct, pacy wingers who had the ability to drive into midfield with the ball or simply pose problems by hugging the touchline.

Though there was the earlier mention of his AshGold team being a decent ball playing side, they could also go long and direct to their striker who looked to link-up with his wingers to provide another attacking option for the Miners.

One other issue noticed which can pass as a flaw is that his midfield always seemed to look open and quite volatile.

This may be due to midfielders having to push up to support attacking play, due to the restriction of fullbacks.

Once midfielders push up to support an attack and the backline refuses to pushup, there is always that big hole left in the center of the park which opponents look to exploit. They were very susceptible to counter-attacks but surprisingly, usually managed to survive them.

Judging from Hayford’s experiences in the Ghana Premier League, there is a little glitter of assurance that he will reap in rewards for the Royals or at least, that is what his football history tells us.