“I have my own philosophy and I have been monitoring the local league.” These are sufficing words any well-meaning football enthusiast will expect from a national team coach. Matter-of-factly, no coach can chalk a marked success if he (or she) does not espouse a peculiar philosophy. A coach lives by his philosophy in the face of success or failure. This is one reason why Goran Stevanovic, past as his name may sound now, could not maintain his position. The Serb could have simply admitted that his philosophy to use bench-warmers, for instance, at the expense of CAF Champions League winners did not do the trick for him. A mere concession to his earlier promise of delivering Ghana’s fifth continental trophy might have convinced some extremists to give him a second chance. Why am I even wasting time on him since he has already gone? Anyway, the above-quoted words from new Black Stars coach James Kwesi ‘Mayele’ Appiah during his unveiling signifies a strong desire to form an eclectic national team from both the local players and their foreign-based counterparts.
I was happy when Kwesi Appiah stated that the only venue he has yet to visit in the local league is the Tarkwa T & A Park, home venue for Medeama Sporting Club. Indeed, any well-meaning national team coach cannot forgo a nation’s league and think he can chalk significant success. Even in national squads dominated by foreign-based players, coaches have gone through the drudgery of watching a hundred and one local matches before settling on a particular squad. It is significant here to mention that Kwesi Appiah’s philosophy coupled with a penchant to watch local players in action could make him the third Ghanaian coach to win an Africa Cup of Nations for the country.
Criteria for selection
One mistake most newly-appointed Black Stars coaches make is their criteria for selection. More often than not, they confine themselves to selecting players with starting-place statuses in their clubs. As a result, when other players are shining brighter than their ‘favourites’, they tend to beg questions regarding their own criteria and flinch in breaking their own rules. If my memory serves me right, ex-Black Stars coach Mariano Barreto bent his criteria a whisker to not only select players of top leagues but also gave consideration to players who plied their trade in the Championship, the second-tier league of England. His motive then was clear – he wanted to engage the services of Patrick Agyemang, who was then playing for then Championship side Queens Park Rangers. Significantly, Kwesi Appiah’s announcement that he will not have any particular criteria but will go in for those who can get him the results is more than welcoming. Some players are simply cut out for national teams willy nilly. Until recently when he scored three goals for Argentina against Switzerland, Lionel Messi had come under a barrage of criticisms in his home country for not delivering the goods for the Albiceleste. But the likes of Maxi Rodriguez, a bench warmer in Liverpool, were pulling the trigger with Argentina. But of course that did not mean Messi was not called up into the national team. Indeed, it would be “suicidal”, to quote Diego Maradona, to keep such an exceptional talent on the bench of the national team. It is important that Kwesi Appiah is not blinded by some of our ‘active’ players, who ply their professions in leagues that have no top-notch defenders to pose them any threats, so that if those players are given certain ratings on the internet, football lovers think they are the best. I may not have a technical eye but I don’t go by a mere fact that a player has scored. I watch carefully the manner in which the player scored to determine if he showed any glimpses of dexterity in scoring. I guess that is what guides most brilliant coaches and Kwesi Appiah must not be an exception in that sense.
One reason why coaches who take over from Jose Mourinho fail is that they continue to use the same players brought in by the Portuguese. It tends to be a recipe for failure for them. Any good coach has players who execute his paper formation perfectly on the pitch. That is why no matter the array of stars he finds in a club, Mourinho will still want to beef up an already established squad with his own buys. One mistake Kwesi Appiah should not make is to strictly play with the same players who played the last match for his predecessor. At this point, it will be quite difficult for the Ghana Football Association to arrange a friendly match before the 2014 World Cup double-header with Lesotho and Zambia in June. As such, Appiah should strive to select his best for those two competitive matches. His resolve of selecting three players per position should be shelved for now so he can concentrate on engineering victories over the Crocodiles and the Chipolopolo. Whether he likes it or not, Appaih will be judged by his tactics in the qualifier against Lesotho.
I am happy he is not new to introducing new faces into the Black Stars. Indeed, when he was named the stopgap coach when Milovan Rajevac left, he called two relatively unknown players into the team that played Sudan in Kumasi. Seth Owusu of moribund Kessben FC and Samson Cudjoe of AshantiGold SC had debut call-ups into the senior national team. That really sent signals that Kwesi Appiah has his own ideas when it came to coaching and I will just call on all Ghanaians to rally behind the Black Stars former captain to bring the country honour. Much talk is bruited about that Ghana’s four-title glory in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations came through local coaches. I think it is the time for a fifth title and the man to deliver that will be Kwesi Appiah. So, let us give him all our support!!