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Sports Features of Friday, 4 August 2017


Time for the reds to stand up and be counted

“We are not going to be beaten on Sunday but if that happens I would not be using that (the accident) as an excuse. I am the kind of coach that looks at everything. I look at the day before. Did you sleep well? Did you rest well? Did you eat well? Did you train well? Did you have a good meeting? So many things. The people out there may not look at so many things that I may be interested in. There is a lot more you have to look at before the game so I analyse everything. I don’t want any of the players an hour before the game making any excuse all because of the game. I don t want to use that. You have got to look forward. I am not looking backward. We have to look forward in a positive way and believe in our faith that we could win the game on Sunday.”

These were the words of Brit Steve Pollack at the presser held on Tuesday ahead of the all-important clash against eternal rivals Hearts of Oak on Sunday. A lot has already been said as to whether the players would be in the best physical and psychological state for the game after all that has transpired in the last few weeks. For a side that was on her way to the Garden City to prepare for this same game, the memories would linger on for some time to come as they go into battle. Having failed to make it to any pitch the last few weeks, it would be interesting to see how primed the players are physically for this game. I am not too sure if even the best club in the world would want to go into such a game on the back of three-weeks of inactivity and it is not because they were preparing for the game but due to an accident that has clearly taking a toll on the lads.

Dr Michael Leat and his team have surely been working overtime to get the lads primed up for the game. We do know now that Ollenu Ashiettey and Michael Akuffo to a large extent are unavailable for selection. It is fair to say that these two have not featured that much for the Reds thus their presence may not be felt that much. What we do not know is how the lads are going to react to the physical exertions of such a game after such a “lengthy” time off the pitch. It is one thing going through the rudiments of training after such a tragedy but it is a completely different ball game where virtually an entire team suffered from this mishap. It is normally the case of a player or two making a return. The fans would have been delighted to see a number of the lads make the training camp for the Local Black Stars. Skipper Frimpong, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Felix Annan and Saddick Adams would definitely be key in a game of this magnitude. The Phobians know this and would be foolish to take the game to Kotoko and test their level of fitness.

I have heard a lot of people say the form guide of both sides do not really matter. That argument has been made per what these fans have seen over the years though I honestly beg to differ from what I have seen over the last three decades. When the Phobians are on song, they make mincemeat of the Reds and score a number of goals in the process. The 4-0 and 3-0 drubs at the beginning of the century comes to mind. I can’t say same about Kotoko. They had a fantastic opportunity to score as many goals under Bogdan Korak in 2011 at the Accra Sports Stadium when they took a 2-0 goal lead in the first couple of minutes. It could have easily been more but for the decision of the players and the technical team to feign injuries and slow down tempo of the game in the second half. Ohene Brenya is probably the only survivor from that squad.

I do not know if all the talk by club officials on Tuesday was to do with psychological warfare but it is going to be quite an atmosphere if Kotoko can make it through the entire duration and pull through with a result. It is understandable that some fans are being cautiously optimistic ahead of the game. They are only being realistic. There is absolutely no point getting ahead of themselves with players returning from such a nightmare and straight into a game of this magnitude. It would have only made sense if they were able to warm themselves into the football space with a low-grade game to help with their physicality and mental fortitude but that was not to be.

On the human side, the Phobians have commiserated with the club and I am sure surprised many with their donation to the team a couple of days ago but they surely would not care about that come Sunday. They stand a chance on “home turf” of opening up a decent point lead with a result and with bragging rights always at stake, there would surely be no mercy for the cripple, that is, even if Kotoko players trekked to the pitch in crutches. The results would surely mean a lot to the two teams and I look forward to the game being played in the right spirit with the best of officiating.
Coach Pollack is experienced enough to understand that excuses at this level would not be tolerated by fans and he is clearly sending a message to the lads to go out there and make the impossible happen. It is feasible. Would you bet on the lads?

Thanks for reading this peace.
Fabulous, the greatest.

The writer is Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang, Sports Editor at Class 91.3, Accra. You can reach on via twitter @DwomohKwame1 and on Facebook at Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang.