Hughton’s AFCON mission squad
• Hughton – Big task on hand
Last week, newly-appointed coach of the Black Stars, Christopher William Gerard Hughton, unveiled his squad for a Nations Cup double-header next week – leaving many generally satisfied.
Imperatively, the Hughton assembled about 90 per cent of the team that played in the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament in line with the nation’s vision of consistency.
It is what the Ghanaian long-suffering disciple expected. It is in the right direction.
And, indeed, for the first time in a while, the thunders of disapproval that usually echoes such national team announcements, palpably appear reticent or hushed.
Whenever that happens, the coach would be having a feeling of satisfaction running through his veins.
Of course, many were thrilled seeing the likes of Majeed Ashimeru and Joseph Paintsil handed return call-ups.
The duo were stupendously rich in form last term, but despite their imposing outing with their club side, were side-lined from the World Cup, where Ghana failed to progress beyond the opening stages.
There was anger directed at the Ghana Football Association (GFA) after the disconcerting early exit, and Hughton – who was then serving as Technical Director of the team, may have weighed his options pretty well before storming out with his list.
The team, that includes player-of-the-moment – Mohammed Kudus, as well as Kamaldeen Sulemana, Salis Samed, Osman Bukari among other technically-gifted young talents, would have the first task of taking on the Black Antelopes of Angola at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium on Thursday, in the first leg encounter of the 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Four days later, the Stars would storm Luanda for the reverse fixture as the four-time champions furiously look to secure a place at next year’s AFCON – to be hosted by Cote d’Ivoire.
Though a formidable collection, many would have wished Hughton called up – one or two home-based players – at least for strategic reasons. Failing to invite a ‘local’ player as we called them, has some negative repercussion on the domestic front. It tells the world that our domestic league is so bereft of quality to the extent that we cannot have a single player good enough to don the national colours. Bad advertisement for the local game!
Indeed, it would be difficult to convince many that our league is so poor to produce just one player to contest for a position. Well, let us give the benefit of the doubt to Chris Hughton. After all, we reprimanded him to be his own man – not so?
Having said that, the 64-year-old experienced coach – who has handled respected English teams like Newcastle, Tottenham, Brighton & Hove Albion, is presently thinking about putting up a compelling performance over two legs – and eventually sealing off a place in Cote d’Ivoire, it would also not be out of place, to keep his eyes on the Holy Grail.
Ghana has been without the AFCON trophy for 41 years (the last one was clinched in Libya ‘82); this is the painful misery Hughton must continue to trumpet into the ears of his charges.
Come 2024, that stygian-silence-jinx must be broken – and this would come with meticulous planning, commitment, dedication and hardwork. And, it must take a concerted effort, too, from all stakeholders, to achieve that golden goal.
By John Vigah