Should Chris Hughton get sacked, Ghana will be on the hunt for a new Black Stars coach, the 7th in the last five years since Avram Grant left in late 2017.
Since the departure of the Israelite, Ghana has gone back for two of their former coaches in Kwesi Appiah and Milovan Rajevac, while former captain CK Akonnor has also been given a bite at the explosive bullet that’s become the Black Stars job, with Otto Addo leading the team to the World Cup in this weird whirlwind of hiring to be fired.
Not forgetting Maxwell Konadu, who has been given the nod somewhere in 2017 right after Avram Grant left his role.
The permanent appointment of Kwesi Appiah was a decision that was reluctantly made but definitely not the appointment of Milovan Rajevac in 2021.
Rajevac’s comeback was certainly an eager one; one motivated by nostalgia of a golden stint from 11 years prior. The current GFA boss, Kurt Okraku, claimed the Serbian’s hiring was a departure from the era of “trial and error,” an apparent dig at Milo’s predecessor Akonnor.
Years on, we have been in another merry-go-round business of hiring to be fired period with no clear plan for the future.
Ghana football is at a crossroads, and thoughtful and collective decisions are required on many fronts to restore this country’s football to its glory days, and the firing of Chris Hughton takes us back many years in development.
Chris Hughton is vastly experienced
Hughton, 64, has been a manager for nearly half his life, starting out at Tottenham Hotspur in 1993 as U-23s coach.
Since then, he has grown in leaps and bounds, with his biggest achievements coming when he led Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion to promotion to the English Premier League.
More recently, he led the Black Stars of Ghana to a place in the 2023 Africa Cup Nations, which will take place next year in Ivory Coast.
These are no small achievements if we are being honest, especially promoting two clubs to the English Premier League.
You may argue that qualifying for the AFCON is not an achievement for a country like Ghana, but we have seen big countries missing out on the continental event in years past, so qualifying the team for the tournament is a big deal.
It is on this background that I believe that he can deliver success when the team needs it and steer it out of trouble when necessary. And with a fifth Africa Cup of Nations trophy on the line, I believe he still has what it takes to lead a serious charge to win the title.
Sacking Chris Hughton won’t make financial sense
Years after the dismissal of Charles Kwablan Akonnor and Milovan Rajevac, the Sports Ministry owes these two coaches huge sums of money.
According to the Ministry in its July 2023 statement, after the termination of Coach Akonnor’s contract, he [Akonnor] received an initial payment of GH₵318,378.41, equivalent to $54,054.06 at an exchange rate of 5.89. This payment was disbursed on 22nd October 2021. Subsequently, on 10th February 2022, he received an amount of GH₵335,675.71, equivalent to $54,054.06 at an exchange rate of 6.21.
The Ministry added that on January 12, 2023, an additional amount of GH₵860,000.00, equivalent to $100,000, was disbursed at an exchange rate of 8.60. Furthermore, on July 27, 2023, Coach Akonnor was paid an additional $30,000.00 by cheque, which he declined, opting instead for a bank transfer, the statement said, adding that the bank transfer was successfully effected on Monday, July 31, 2023.
In total, Coach Akonnor has received $238,108.12, leaving an outstanding balance of $220,000.
Just like Akonnor, Milovan Rajevac was paid $100,000 immediately after the termination of his contract and is owed in excess of $200,000.
So, if you were the Sports Minister, would you approve of his dismissal, which will cost the country huge sums of dollars?
Chris Hughton is a rebuilder
It is a known fact that after 2015, the Black Stars of Ghana has fallen down the pecking drastically and currently sit at 11th in the FIFA World rankings for Africa.
The Black Stars at the moment, with the array of talent at their disposal, need a rebuild, and Hughton can deliver it. The catch here is that, that process has been slow and without patience, we may never see the end of it.
When Newcastle was facing a tough time and needed rescuing, they called on the Afro-Irish.
When Brighton needed a manager to breathe life into repeatedly failing promotion bids, they called on Hughton.
When he took over in January 2015, the Seagulls were 21st in the Championship, one place above the relegation zone, and their manager Sami Hyypia had left following a run of only one win in 18 league games. Chris’s appointment was the much-needed turnaround they prayed for, and boy did he not deliver them back into top-flight football.
Ghana is in a similar position. The country needs saving, and Chris Hughton has a track record of success which cannot be overlooked with ease.
A man with his own mind
Over the years, the country has been plagued by some members of the GFA bringing up their players for national team selection.
This phenomenon is occasioned by the perception that the last two Black Stars coaches were malleable to manipulation by GFA officials. With C.K Akonnor confirming that there were times he was forced to hand call-ups to players who did not deserve to be in the team.
For an elite coach like Hughton, who is fully aware that results directly have a consequence on the talent pool available to you, he will not kowtow to the whims and caprices of football officials looking for favors.
This has been evident in his decision to drop Andre Ayew, who is without a club and is sorely out of shape at the moment.
This decision to exclude him from national duties when the Black Stars played the United States of America and Mexico has not gone down well among some ranked members of the football association.
Per Citi Sports checks, the decision to fire him immediately has been triggered by his decision to leave out some players as Ghana looks to book another World Cup place in 2026.
Gradually, with the 64-year-old, the handling of national team call-ups is becoming the sole prerogative of the coach, not a non-coaching member.
The results will come
In seven games, Chris Hughton has a win percentage of 43, a tad higher than C.K Akonnor who has 40%, 38% for Milovan Rajevac, and 37% for Otto Addo (these are the four coaches hired by the current Ghana Football Association administration).
Already, the team has qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, and with time, the team will come good.
The argument here is that, when will that come because Ghanaians are impatient and would want to see immediate results.
Hughton has not helped his case too. His style of play has not been as attractive as hoped for, and our strikers are not scoring for fun which has been a common theme in the last six years.
The thing about a rebuild is that, the process can be ugly, daunting, and unattractive but when they come together, no one will remember the long pain that was once suffered.
The GFA has no moral right to question Chris Hughton
Let’s be honest here, why is the GFA calling for the head of Chris Hughton now?
Was he not their preferred candidate after Otto Addo left the role to go back to Germany to continue his role at Borussia Dortmund?
The same GFA who has left our football to rot is the same calling for the head of a coach who is thinking through tactics to ensure we get back to our very best.
If this FA really focuses on the most important things, maybe they will not have to go to the Sport Ministry to get a competent head coach sacked because he does not want to kowtow to their whims and caprices.
What is the level of investment dedicated to educating players? What has been done with the money we got for participating at the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
As a matter of fact, this FA never mentioned the amount they are paying Chris Hughton, and they were never crucified.
Until they succumb to scrutiny and avail themselves to scrutiny, I firmly believe they have no moral basis to start a witch-hunt on Chris Hughton who has stayed away from the circus they have created.
Ultimately, succeeding as the Black Stars coach requires much more than just coaching abilities. One has to navigate a labyrinth of cultural and political nuances to find success.
He may have demonstrated resilience in the past, meandering through tough times at Newcastle and Brighton, but Ghana comes with a different kind of pressure and he, Chris Hughton, has now felt it.
While I understand the sentiments to sack Chris Hughton, I still firmly believe that this process will be slow but when it starts raining, it will pour heavily on our opponents.