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Sports Features of Thursday, 1 October 2015


How Duncan has confirmed his status as the ultimate choker

Asante Kotoko coach David Duncan Asante Kotoko coach David Duncan

It's easy to think coach David Duncan has been Kumasi Asante Kotoko's hero this season.

After all, when he picked the Porcupine Warriors up from the throes of despair in March this year, Kotoko didn't look like they could end the season in 6th place with 42 points.

Yet so they finished and, had the club been a bit more thorough in tying their administrative knots, could have reached even higher on the table, and with a greater points tally, in the final analysis.

But even a runner-up finish (for that's where the extra six points docked for fielding the unqualified Obed Owusu against archrivals Accra Hearts of Oak would have left Ghana's record champions) wouldn't have done Kotoko's season enough justice. For all their troubles, Kotoko still had a good shot at securing a slew of silverware, even with Ashanti Gold running away clear with the Premier League title Kotoko had won three times in as many seasons prior. They only had to win a game each to pick three of the four titles they were well-positioned to grab, namely, the Independence Day Cup, President's Cup, and Otumfuor Cup. Minor trophies, yes, but worth winning for a team that had been eluded by the major prizes. And, talking about major prizes, Kotoko eventually meandered their way to the final of the MTN FA Cup as well.

On all four occasions, however, Kotoko choked, and Duncan was utterly clueless as he watched his charges capitulate time and again. A 3-0 thumping in the Independence Day Cup final saw Kotoko offer Accra Great Olympics a rare memory of pleasantness before their [Olympics'] swift return to the bowels of Ghanaian club football. Four months later, Oly's city cousins Hearts dealt Kotoko another final heartbreak courtesy of a narrow shootout victory to claim the President's Cup.

Next came the failure to defend the FA Cup annexed last year, with a 2-1 loss to Medeama SC in Sekondi on the eve of their 80th birthday. The last attempt at a respite was delivered in the form of the Otumfuor Cup, a trophy that had the endorsement of the club's Life Patron, the Asantehene, plastered all over it. It indeed was a gift for Kotoko, an opportunity to save face and avoid a barren season while also affirming superiority of sorts in their domestic rivalry with freshly-crowned Ghana league champions ashgold. Sadly, in front of their own, Kotoko came up short once more, whacked 3-1 by the triumphant Miners.

Hardly a feather in Duncan's cap, you'd agree. For a coach who asserts himself so much, it is very underwhelming that the former Ghana U17 boss has only ever won four trophies--the SWAG Cup (ashgold, 2006), the Macufe Cup (ashgold, 2006), the Phakisa Cup (Free State Stars, 2008) and the President's Cup (Hearts, 2013), all challenged by no more than a quartet of clubs--in a 13-year managerial career. Needless to say, half or more of those trophies won't even make their way onto any top coach's CV.

Worse still, even those largely soulless rewards--a category into which all [the aforementioned trophies Kotoko had realistically been in contention for in 2015] but the FA Cup belong to--seem to slip through Duncan's grasps these days, illustrating just how far he is from winning those that actually matter.

So while Duncan--reportedly set to be ousted by a certain foreign coach--may yet survive the wind of change currently sweeping Kotoko (with some quarters speculating that club General Manager Opoku Nti has already been replaced) perhaps on evidence of how he salvaged Kotoko's league woes, his reputation as a choker on the big stage, a mere firefighter than the successful know-all we are occasionally tempted to believe he is, is still pretty much underlined in red ink now.

Duncan might think himself a Jose Mourinho but, at best, he only cuts a sorry Claudio Ranieri-esque figure.