Posted: Tuesday 15th April 2014 at 11:23 am

Oti-Adjei: Appiah’s quiet demeanour vindicated after 2 years in charge

Perhaps the most powerful tribute anyone has paid Kwesi Appiah as Black Stars coach has come from his own players.

And that tribute has come in the form of his nickname. They call him the “Silent Killer” to describe just how firm and strong he has been in putting players to check while still managing to remain his calm, quiet self.

When Appiah was named as Ghana boss, his first press conference was dominated by a common theme. Did he have the bottle and the character to deal with players who are mostly egoistical, troublesome and known based on a long history of simply not caring to submit to authority when that authority is one of their own?

There is also the manner he has handled Sulley Muntari throughout his time in charge. Carrot today, stick tomorrow but all with the team’s prime importance as the main consideration.

It is a question that Appiah himself says dominated his interview for the job as well. And yet two years into his time as Ghana coach that has been answered in the most emphatic manner. He has used the stick when required. He has dangled the carrot when it has been necessary. He has been ruthless when the big calls are required.

And above all he has restored immense pride to the image and reputation of Ghanaian coach. It was said when Appiah became Ghana coach that he represents himself and himself only. Whatever he achieved, some said will be no conclusive evidence of the ability of all Ghanaian coach. His success was going to be his success, his failure was going to be his failure.

That reasoning still holds but it also holds that how he does will go a long way in determining the view we have of local coaches going forward.

And in that sense Appiah has performed his duties with distinction. A few cases have highlighted just how many got it spectacularly wrong about how his personality could affect his ability to do a good job.

When he needed to drop Dede Ayew to make a point over discipline before the Nations Cup, he did not hesitate.

There are those convinced that it fits the minuses section on the assessment form of Appiah’s two years in charge but nothing could be more jaundiced. Having set the parameters for when players were due to arrive in camp before the Nations Cup in South Africa, Appiah knew making any exceptions will lead to a feeling of favouritism in the team. He had turned down requests from several players who wanted to play at least one game before arriving at the team’s Abu Dhabi base and felt rightly so that giving any allowances was not good for team dynamics.

There is also the manner he has handled Sulley Muntari throughout his time in charge. Carrot today, stick tomorrow but all with the team’s prime importance as the main consideration.

When the AC Milan man went too far with his confrontation about being substituted against Lesotho, Appiah responded by dropping him for a crucial game against Zambia moments after Muntari had done interview rounds claiming he was confident of being called up.

Muntari is part of an established Black Stars order, a member of the first side to take Ghana to the world cup and almost an untouchable at the time. In cutting him to size with the manner he handled that Lesotho incident, Appiah re-emphasiesed the law he had laid down long ago; you play by my rules or you don’t play at all.

Appiah took up the Black Stsrs at a time when team spirit was at all time low. Tales of players hurling abuse at each other, accusations between them was rife after the Nations Cup in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea were all over the media. The former Black Stars captain knew immediately that to get anything out of the team, he needed to get the players believing again, playing for each other again.

But there were problems. Many of the players were getting past it. Derek Boateng had not looked good, John Mensah was becoming a liability because he played today, and needed a treatment table tomorrow. John Paintsil meanwhile was not getting better like vintage wine at right back and there were creeping problems in the goalkeeping department. Others had grown wings that could fly an aeroplane. They needed to be cut to size. And to make matters worse for Appiah Asamoah Gyan had decided enough was enough. He called time temporarily on his international career. It left Appiah without the most prolific goal scorer for Ghana in the recent era.

He handled those problems as well as he could. Off went Boateng and Paintsil. John Mensah practically played himself out and when some of the established names were having difficulties at club level, they did not get into the team simply because of their names. Other like Samuel Inkoom got in even without games at club level but it was a case of limited option. It is telling that when the Nations Cup came in South Africa he dropped the Greece-based player.

When Appiah was named as Ghana boss, his first press conference was dominated by a common theme. Did he have the bottle and the character to deal with players who are mostly egoistical, troublesome and known based on a long history of simply not caring to submit to authority when that authority is one of their own?

That Nations Cup will count as failure on Appiah’s scorecard. Ghana had Burkina Faso, a side that had not reached the last four since they hosted in 1998 and went out with a wimp. There was no fight, no desire. The Ghanaian fans in the stadium in Nelspruit that day had to deal with the depressing scene of hearing South African fans boo the Ghanaian players because the Black Stars had been that bad and absurdly lucky with the referees calls. It was the most inglorious semi final exit from the Nations Cup semi finals in Ghana’s distinguished history.

What Appiah did afterwards however has defined how we will view him forever. You judge a man’s worth by how he deals with adversity, how he responds to the difficult moments and Appiah’s response to the Nations Cup failure was stunning and gorgeous.

First he had to fight to hold onto his job as some including senior football executives bayed for his blood. With Ghana trailing Zambia in the world cup qualifiers and having exited the Nations Cup in that weak manner, there were realistic and legitimate questions asked about whether he was still the man to take the team forward. He fought his corner and insisted he could but it was the response on the field that did the trick.

Majeed Warris, dropped from the Nations Cup squad was back in, Gyan was reinvigorated as Appiah cleared out the debris from the Nations Cup disaster and attacked the world cup qualifiers with renewed vigour. The biggest test of that came in Sudan. Needing to win, Ghana went down by a man, conceded early and still came through. There was then a win over Lesotho but it was the wins over Zambia and Egypt that really did the magic.

If anyone doubted Appiah’s ability to be able to mix the old and new well, those games provided them most emphatic response. Warris was influential, Gyan scored six goals in that crucial run in after the Nations Cup in June and when Muntari and Essien returned to the side, their experience and class overwhelmed Egypt in Kumasi to seal world cup qualification.

“I am happy because people did not believe a Ghanaian coach could take us to the world cup. Now people will understand that Ghanaian coaches deserve more opportunities”, Stephen Appiah said. That alone says a lot but Kwesi Appiah can say a lot more for himself with how his team plays in Brazil without having to shout it from rooftop. Just as he has done spectacularly to date.

By: Michael Oti-Adjei, for AllSports.com.gh

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