Football writer and Citi Sports contributor, Terence Jude Wood, explores the intricacies of Jordan Ayew’s phenomenal season at Crystal Palace that ended with the Ghanaian striker winning a hat-trick of accolades at the club’s End of Season Awards.
Off the court, LeBron James was plotting ways to win his fourth NBA title. Off the pitch, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were probably fascinated to see nets serving other purposes aside goal scoring. Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Virat Kohli found out that there was life beyond swinging a racket at Roland Garros, finding a hole at Augusta, and scoring a run at The Oval.
Well, this was not the off season but merely a suspension of mainstream sporting activities due to the coronavirus pandemic. With major media channels learning that the struggle for live sports content was akin to seeing a Mike Dean grin on a football pitch, The Last Dance, a 10-episode docu-series chronicling the final season of the Chicago Bulls dynasty and, most notably, the career of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, aired over five weeks on ESPN to fill the void.
From losing nine of his first 10 play-off games, the contentious controversy in Sam Smith’s book “Jordan Rules,” the death of his father, signing with Nike all the way to his retirement and subsequent return, each week offered a different shade of Michael Jordan. The constant factor, however, was his hard work and dedication to excel, culminating in 6 NBA titles, 5 MVP awards, 6 Finals MVP awards, 10 Scoring titles and a host of other records and awards that captivated audiences worldwide.
Away from Jordan’s all-conquering world of hoops, dunks and free-throws and into the realm of shin guards, tap-ins, and penalty kicks, a simple Google search for “Jordan premier league award” shows a number of accomplishments for a pair of Jordans.
The first is Liverpool captain and 2019/20 Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year Jordan Henderson, who inspired his side to a first top-flight league title in three decades.
The second? Ghana’s own Jordan Ayew, whose outstanding performance for Crystal Palace this past season saw him win three separate awards in one night – Player of the Season, Goal of the season and Players’ Player of the Season – a feat that has garnered both local and foreign interest.
“They are both my children and you take each person with his qualities. However, I am not the only person to say that Jordan is the most talented, even Andre also says that.”
This was Abedi “Pele” Ayew, the legendary Ghanaian footballer who won a hat trick of African Footballer of the Year awards and the UEFA Champions League in the early 90s.
In his sempiternal battle between fatherhood and professionalism, this remark by Abedi Pele during a 2013 Citi FM interview generated some mixed reactions among Ghana’s football fans. While the sceptics, clearly in the majority, viewed this as a typical Black Stars PR gimmick in order to secure a place for Jordan, a player who had often been criticized for his lackadaisical approach and profligacy in front of goal, the minority of optimists took this with a soupçon of hope.
Well, they may have been influenced by a verse from the Bible in John 5:19, NLT: “So Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” Or perhaps they didn’t really see the need to doubt a man with one of the most loaded resumés in African football history.
Walking in the shadow of a giant is not all meat and drink. Listening to “Big Brother” by Kanye West, off his Graduation album underscores exactly that.
In Jordan’s case it’s been a blessing and a curse – the blessing is evident in the boundless advantages of being the son of footballing royalty in France and Ghana, which in his esteemed case looks to have afforded him the opportunity of signing as a trainee at Olympique de Marseille in 2006.
Inversely, the curse, as J.K Rowling rightly summed up in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, has been the belief that “greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies”.
Since leaving Marseille in 2013, where he won the Ligue 1 championship alongside his brother Andre, Jordan has had an unfortunate record of experiencing relegation at as many as four clubs – Sochaux, Lorient, Aston Villa, and Swansea City – although he managed to finish as top scorer at these clubs.
The exception to this experience has been Crystal Palace, his current club. His move to Palace came in January 2019, and was propelled by an eventful 2017/18 season at Swansea that saw him bag three individual accolades (Players’ Player of the Season, Goal of the Season and Top Goal scorer of the Season awards). It was initially a half season loan spell, and it turned out to be a frustrating one, yielding just one goal.
But things have changed. If people had been sleeping on Jordan’s fine form at the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt where he scored twice in four games before Ghana’s exit in the last 16, then his £2.5 million permanent switch to Palace after the tournament and the exploits of his sophomore season (2019/20) with the Eagles would surely wake them up.
Was it his opener against Manchester United at Old Trafford? Or his headed equalizer against Arsenal at the Emirates? Perhaps, his winners against Watford, Brighton, Aston Villa and West Ham (Home and Away)? During the just ended season, Ayew was named Crystal Palace Player of the Month twice. He scooped 10 man-of-the-match awards.
*Pretends to be shocked*
Jordan Ayew's winner vs. West Ham has been nominated for the @PremierLeague Goal of the Month!
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 3, 2020
For a team that conceded more goals (50) than it scored (31), his nine goals in thirty six games representing 29.03 % of goals scored, were vital in helping the club finish 14th, four places above the relegation zone. His late winner against West Ham United on Boxing Day 2019, a goal that was awarded as the Amazon goal of the season, was created with mature skill and incredible ingenuity, the clearest mark of how much he has grown.
“When I had the ball I wanted to try and shoot with my left foot, I pushed it too far and tried to do everything on instinct,” Jordan said of the goal, which has garnered rave reviews worldwide.
The trio of awards at Palace has not been the only highlight from Jordan’s watershed season; his goals also shot him into an enviable record as the highest scoring Ghanaian in English Premier League history with 25 goals, breaking Tony Yeboah’s record of 24 goals.
“My dad has given us so much, in everything, and not only to me, to the whole family,” Jordan told Sky Sports. “The only way we can say thank you is to perform week in, week out for him to be proud and that’s what we try to do.”
And boy, did he try hard last season!
Abedi Pele must be proud of his little boy, now 28, now a key Black Star and a prince in Roy Hodgson’s Palace in London. Jordan Ayew is an athlete at the apogee of his prowess, and unlike the great Michael Jordan, this definitely does not seem to be his Last Dance.
By: Terence Jude Wood
Bio: As a writer & contributor for VAVEL.com, byfarthegreatestteam.com, arsenaldailynews.com and an occasional Radio and T.V. sports pundit in Ghana, Terence has a keen interest in literature, history, technology and music that influences his style of penmanship.