Chris Hughton or Otto Addo – this seems to be the running debate at present over who takes over the Black Stars Head Coach job.
Serbian, Milovan Rajevac’s monumental failure at AFCON 2021, where Ghana finished bottom of Group C with no win, resulted in him losing his job, hence the search.
But in addition to the debate on who should be the next head coach, is also the question on the next step for the Black Stars in terms of direction. Strong calls have been made for a rebuild process to start, with whoever gets the job to be given ample time to turn the team’s fortunes around, with the young talent available.
For a team that has in the last two AFCON editions registered the poorest campaigns in 13 years, rebuilding sounds like a good – no, excellent plan.
However, there is – to borrow Jurgen Klopp’s words, “a little matter” of a World Cup playoff tie against rivals Nigeria. No matter how important a rebuild is, THAT World Cup playoff should be the immediate focus. It’s a 50/50 tie with a chance of qualifying for the global showpiece in Qatar, and that should be in mind in the appointment of a new Head Coach.
No matter who takes over, a rebuild will be his main task. However it’s going to be extremely difficult to begin a rebuild with probably the biggest game Ghana has played in 12 years.
The pressure of defeat, if results don’t go as planned, may be too severe for whoever is in charge, hence the need for a competent interim.
Time isn’t on Ghana’s side. There’s just over a month to prepare for the game against the Super Eagles – who by the way, looked very strong at the ongoing AFCON.
The politics and attention surrounding who’ll be named next Head Coach is certain to put the eventual choice under the microscope in March.
The drama surrounding the appointment could have a negative impact on the team against Nigeria, in terms of team focus. Both managers gunning for the job need time. For Hughton, his only previous experience with National Team football came in his two year spell as Republic of Ireland assistant coach 17 years ago. That is almost like venturing into a new dimension of management, and time is very essential.
One month isn’t enough for him to have fair knowledge of his team ahead of such a crucial encounter. For Otto Addo, despite serving as assistant under Milovan Rajevac and his good knowledge of the current setup, the top job is completely different from being an assistant. He too needs time – a good amount of it. The game against Nigeria may just be too big and too soon for them to make an impression.
An interim head coach, who has had previous knowledge of the team, looks like the best bet for the current situation. If the interim succeeds against Nigeria, he gives whoever will get the substantive job – either Otto or Hughton, at least six months to prepare for the World Cup. That is good enough time for a new man in charge. Those six months also include a two month holiday period for players, who’d have ended the current season, making discussions easier and more impactful due to the lack of distraction from club assignments.
Also, if the interim fails, it offers either Otto or Hughton good time, and a clean slate, devoid of immediate pressure, to prepare for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers and subsequently the AFCON itself in Cote d’Ivoire. It will be very dishonest to think that a negative result against Nigeria will be taken lightly under the guise of “rebuilding”.
The stakes are too high to throw a completely new face into the fray, or an inexperienced one. That will simply be setting them up to fail. There should be no rush in appointing a substantive coach, especially considering the massive failure of the two previous appointments. Get in an interim for the Nigeria tie before appointing a substantive after that game.