Dear Mr. Stevanovic,
Welcome to Ghana! You may choose to ignore this letter, as it is coming from just another ordinary fan with an opinion. If you however do wish to read on, then, accept my congratulations on your ascension to what has become a Serbian Dynasty in Ghana – The Black Stars Coaching job.
I am not aware of the details of your contract, so I am not sure what the GFA expects of you. I am also not sure what you wish to achieve with team Ghana. I am however quite clear in my mind, what the ordinary Ghanaian football fan expects of you.
We know, by experience, that if you achieve the slightest of successes with Ghana, the temptation to leave us for bigger opportunities may possibly overwhelm you. All our Serbian coaches did same with us and so by the law of averages we are in doubt whatsoever that you might follow suit. However before your inevitable decision to leave, we wish to remind you that at the Nations Cups in 2012 and 2013 we expect nothing but the cup.
Whether or not you are capable of achieving glory with our dear Black Stars, there are historic antecedents which I believe you need to be told. The struggle to get the Black Stars into the league of distinguished football nations is actually a choice between whether to build a team for the present or to focus on the future. The attempt to do one or the other or to force a balance has given your predecessors a lot of nightmares in time past.
Between 1994 and 2006, the Black Stars went into what we call the ‘Dark Days’, where the team lost it shine. After several positive steps to right this anomaly, Ratomir Dujkovic was employed to take us to the Egypt 2006 Nations Cup. Like all other new Black Stars coaches, he took the seat with a false sense of hope in an imaginary ‘solid squad’. After shamefully exiting the tournament with only 2 goals, he finally woke up to the reality, rigorously scouted for above-average players, rearranged strategies and properly aligned our basic tactical structure to the Ghanaian culture of beautiful football – on which foundation the core of his team were raised. This was how Ghana achieved some measure of success at Germany 2006 World Cup. A lesson learnt almost too late.
But of course, just like all our expatriate coaches, Dujkovic left for bigger opportunities. Enter Mr. Claude Le Roy, a man with tons of African experience. Even though there were a few difficulties with some roles, Dujkovic had fixed the general problem. The team was playing well could take on any opponent. The Black Stars were on Autopilot mode. Ghana approached games without fear, conquering minor teams and holding international giants at bay.
Smart and experienced as he was, Le Roy knew the Autopilot mode was not going to last. Key players were either aging, battling with form or getting complacent. Also, some of the positions/roles had makeshift arrangements and permanent players had not been discovered to play those roles. The future of the Black Stars was getting dim. So when he was given the Local Black Stars coaching job, he decided to use only Under 20 kids, grow them and introduce them into the main Black Stars. Joseph Addo, Hannan Gyiwah, John Boye, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Harrison Afful, Samuel Inkoom, Dominic Adiyiah, Torric Jibril, David Addy and co were therefore called to the Local Black Stars. It is not of any wonder that a year or two later, some of these kids joined others to conquer West Africa, Africa and World Youth football. Kwadwo Asamoah, Bernard Yao-Kumordji and Anthony Annan who were playing at U-23 level were introduced into the team alongside Harrison Afful and Andre Ayew. Today, the nation is gladly benefiting from the long-term vision of Le Roy.
These changes to the team however meant that Ghana’s string of positive results were to be sacrificed for a better future. Unfortunately, Ghana’s Autorun mode had grinded to a halt at the very wrong time, Ghana 2008 African Nations Cup. Le Roy could not get the host nation, Ghana, to the finals. He had to leave, but thankfully, he had invested positively into the future and even though many of us fickle fans could not see beyond our noses, it became obvious with the passage of time.
Enter another Serbian, Milovan Rajevac an inexperienced coach who was clearly clueless at the beginning of his job. The Auto pilot mode had declined. Ghana had started struggling with games. Now, beyond anything else, the skill of the coach was called into question. Rajevac won important games, but everyone knew the team was missing something. For over a year, Rajevac had one excuse or the other – either his players were unfit, not committed or he just did not know his players. Smart as he was, Rajevac quickly switched strategy to defence and went for 4-2-3-1 deep tactical formation to back his strategy. At least, if we could not play well and could not win, we did not have to lose. For a while, especially in competitive games, this strategy worked quite well. In time however, Rajevac woke up to the reality – Ghana had relied on aging, injury-prone and overconfident players; some of whom were losing their form. Meanwhile, apart from Anthony Annan, Le Roy’s kids had not fully integrated into the team.
When Sellas Tetteh’s U-20 boys, some of whom had picked their confidence from Claude Le Roy, won the Egypt 2009 World Youth Championship, Rajevac had his ‘Eureka’ moment. 4-2-3-1 deep is not for aging players, but energetic youth who could run for 120 minutes. Jonathan Mensah, Ransford Osei, Dominic Adiyiah, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Opoku Agyemang, Andre Ayew and co had to be brought in to balance the team. This was a smart manoeuvre which would fortify the team for the moment and increase its options for the future. Of course Rajevac saw some measure of immediate results – Angola 2010 African Nations Cup Finals and South Africa 2010 World Cup Quarter Finals. But as it were, we are now struggling to find its best blend of players.
Now Mr. Stevanovic, it is your move. Where do we go from here with you?
Today, the core of the Black Stars is younger than 27 years, holding age cheating constant. The national pool of talented and competent players is equally made up of young players. The future is probably secured, thanks to Le Roy and Rajevac, and you may not need to worry your head over it. What we need now is a winning team. We need to rediscover our Auto pilot mode again. We need from you, a Black Stars which plays well and wins matches. We need you to steer the Black Stars to the point where we approach minnows with buoyancy and so called giants with resolve.
This is what those of us who religiously follow the Black Stars need from you. And what better way to start this journey of yours than with England, who are yet to lose to any African side. I have my doubts if you can do this job, but I am just an ordinary fan with an opinion. Besides, there is something called the benefit of the doubt which I, like many a Black Stars fan, am willing to give you.
So, all the best of luck as you take the hottest job in Africa. Remember over 100 coaches, some of whom are more experienced and better qualified than you wanted this job. Just don’t make a mess of it.
PS: There are talented players in Ghana’s Glo Premier League. Please don’t overlook them.