These days it matters as much, if not more than our local football. Fans associate with it, can name line ups with more efficiency than they know who plays for Hearts of Oak or Asante Kotoko.
That affection and connection also means that Ghanaian players who ply their trade in the English Premier League are a lot more scrutinised than any other group of Ghanaian players in Europe. A good season in England is enough to shoot ratings up with fans and with advertisers.
At the start of the season, the presence of Ghanaian players in the English Premier League considerably shot up to the delight of many Ghanaian football fans. Claims that ‘this is good for Ghana football’ was everywhere.
Andre Dede Ayew and his brother Jordan joined Swansea City and Aston Villa from France. Baba Rahman signed up for big money after a superb season in Germany in the most high profile transfer and Christian Atsu switched from Everton to Bournemouth in what was the latest leg of an already nomadic career. Jeffery Schlupp was already an established presence in the league but he was joined at Leicester City by Daniel Amartey halfway through the season in January.
So who finished their last campaign with their reputations enhanced and who completed it with theirs tossed upside down?
Like we get from schools, we have a report card that will please some and infuriate others.
Andre Ayew: It is fair to say not since the days of Michael Essien has a Ghanaian player generated so much interest in the English Premier League as Dede Ayew did. He was already an established international, proven goal scorer for Marseille and a natural born leader. We all knew he was good but what the Premier League has done has been to sway a whole army of critics to his side. These days the appreciation of his talent and work rate which used to be burried in the dismissive claims of a privileaged childhood has soared.
He scored twelve times this season with each goal underlining his strength as a player. Against Chelsea he showed great presence of mind to drag the ball back and beat Courtois despite the close attention of John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. Against Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester United and Newcastle United he underlined something we have always known about him which is that he is superb in the air.
Then when Swansea faced Sunderland, he showed he can take defenders on, beat them and find target. There was also that amazing backheel goal against Bournemouth and the free kick goal against Manchester City.
In his debut season there were goals against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester United and Manchester City. Huge success!
- Games Played: 34
- Goals: 12
- Assists : 2
- Marks: 75%
Jordan Ayew: Jordan Ayew has always looked like the guy who doesn’t care. Pants down, permanent frown and regular shrug of the shoulder. When he signed up for Aston Villa, there was also a sense that 8m pounds was too much to pay despite the fact that he had scoored 13 goals for Lorient in the previous season. When he struggled in the first few games, those convinced he was a wrong buy felt their point had been made.
But eventually he made came good. Seven goals for struggling Villa was a good return but there was also the energy, effort and desire that he showed.
Sadly for Jordan too, there were moments when he gave people the reason to hold unto their beliefs about him. There was one reckless red card and many moments when he seemed to want to say ‘look at me, I am doing all the work and the others are crap’.
Still there is no doubt someone would take a chance on him in the Premier League next season.
- Games Played: 30
- Goals: 7
- Assists: 0
- Marks: 55%
Jeffery Schlupp: Leicester’s young player of the season and player of the season last term became young player of the season in a remarkable campaign but there surely must be a sense of what could have been. Injuries took a toll on the Ghanaian despite his 24 appearances mostly as a substutute. In the crucial run in to the title, his freshness, pace and ability to set up a pass proved central to Leicester gaining in key games such as in the game against West Ham when they drew 2-2.
When he is fit next season, he should be central to their campaign even more but he can still look back on the past season with great satisfaction.
- Games Played: 24
- Goals 1
- Assists: 2
- Marks: 60%
Baba Rahman: There is a sense that Baba Rahman was a flop in the last season. I am not sure. The Ghana defender at best is suffering from what big transfer fees do. He made 15 appearances this term for Chelsea and while he may have struggled at the hands of Shaquiri his tackles success rate was above 80%.
It is true that he looked unsure at times and struggled with the pace of the premier league but he was by no means the flop that has been suggested.
To start with, any realistic football fan knew he wasn’t going to walk straight into that Chelsea side. Jose Mourinho rarely tampers with his team and he wasn’t going to ditch Ivanovic overnight despite the obvious errors. In fairness to Baba too, he went to the worst Chelsea side in recent years.
If he had an obvious flaw, it is that he didn’t take his chance when he got there but flop, no.
- Games Played: 15
- Marks: 50%
Christian Atsu did not play enough during the season to be graded but even then the fact that he didn’t make a single appearance for Bournemouth before his exit would constitute a minus even if he would use injuries as a convinient excuse.
Daniel Amartey may have a a Premier League winners medal but with one start and four others as a substittute that won’t sum up to fourty minutes, there isn’t much to grade him on either.
By TV3 Sports|Ghana