Getting to the top is nothing compared to staying there. Clichéd, sure, but Ashanti Gold know that too well, and will accept that there couldn’t be any better adage that aptly reflects their title defence in the 2015-16 Ghana Premier League.
Last September, the Obuasi-based side dethroned Asante Kotoko in their finest season in 19 years. Their last league triumph came in 1996, but under Bashir Hayford, the Miners won 15, drew seven and lost eight of 30 games to lift the coveted diadem. Effectively, the achievement confirmed their status as Ghana’s sole representatives for the 2016 Caf Champions League.
But how will they fare this time around?
Can the Miners retain their title this season?
To be fair, a second successive title might be a little too much to ask of the Miners, considering their toil in nicking last year’s crown. But it isn’t entirely impossible.
Coach Hayford was arguably the main architect behind last year’s success. The good thing is, he’s still there, and the outspoken tactician wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to silence his many critics one more time. There would also be Kudjoe Fianoo, who was rumoured to be heading for the exit after last season. Following a series of near misses, the chief executive officer brought his years of experience to bear in masterminding what would lead to the club’s first title in as many years.
Of the squad that plotted last season’s success, big names captain Lawrence Lartey, Didier Kore and Yakubu Mohammed have all moved on.
Ashgold could also call on the 2014-15 Ghana Premier League Most Valuable Player Eric Opoku,. as well as Mumuni Shafiu, while the likes of Tijani Joshua, Emmanuel Osei Baffuor and Black Stars shot-stopper Fatau Dauda all remain valuable assets – coupled with some new signings.
Can Dauda’s experience help Ashgold compete domestically and on the continent?
Nevertheless, it’s hard picturing Ashgold doing a double over the likes of Hearts and Kotoko – two sides who are in dire need of revival.
While Asante Kotoko will hope to make amends for last season’s fiasco – and have indeed evinced early signs of an imminent renaissance – Hearts of Oak, now headed by Japanese coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi, will hope to bounce back after flirting with relegation for the most part of last season.
If pre-season is anything to go by, Kotoko look like the side to beat, even if crisis-hit Hearts are currently as toothless in their ongoing managerial and administrative struggles. Then there would be the perennial dark horses of Berekum Chelsea, Aduana Stars, Liberty Professionals and Inter Allies who will all be hoping to dethrone the reigning champs.
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