Accra Hearts of Oak coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi claims Kumasi Asante Kotoko is in crisis but has warned his players that makes them extremely dangerous opponents.
The Japanese will take charge of his first game against Hearts’ biggest rivals on Monday and told 3FM 92.7 that he is excited about the prospect of playing in the game.
Hearts of Oak’s form has been much better than Kotoko’s this season. The Phobians are second in the league standings, one point behind Wa All Stars. Given their struggles this season and the general prediction of doom, the Phobians have exceeded early season expectations.
But Yatsuhashi knows he is a game or two away from a crisis and has watched Kotoko hit the wrong notes throughout the season. The Porcupine Warriors have lost three of their four games on the road and suffered a set back in the last game at home to New Edubiase in Kumasi.
You would think the uncertainty in the camp of the Porcupine Warriors makes this the perfect time to face them but Yatsuhashie does not see it that way.
He said: “In my professional opinion, I think you may agree that Kotoko is in crisis. When a team is in crisis they can go either way. They can keep falling or they will rise for the moment. I think Kotoko will rise for the moment so this will be an extremely difficult match for Hearts of Oak. We could be playing the best Kotoko that anyone has seen this season.”
Yatsuhashi himself will understand how a sense of crisis and chaos can inspire great performancces. When he arrived at Hearts of Oak, there were not many people willing to bet on his tenure as a potential success. He had no previous track record in coaching apart from stints with various American colleges and the feeling was that Hearts of Oak needed something more than that. He has proved that to be wrong so far but even more crucial he says is the fact that he is perpetually on trial.
“I think every moment that my team is on the pitch, I have to prove something to the critics”, he told 3FM 92.7. “The critics have been with me from the first day I arrived in Ghana . I always have to prove myself. I had to prove myself last week in Obuasi and this week I have to prove myself too.”
These days the Hearts fans adore him. When there were suggestions he could be sacked for an explosive facebook post that exposed months of unpaid wages of players, the powerful supporters group Chapter O threatened chaos. The club’s managers backed then. It was something of a moral victory for the Japanese but he is eager to move on from that episode.
Instead, Yatsuhahie talks about the overall strength of his team, the spread of goals in the squad and why he is convinced they will grow from strength to strength. “I am partucularly happy with the strikers because everyone can come in and score. Even Foovi who has not scored this season can come and deliver for us but our strongest department is goalkeeping because we have so many quality names there.”
That said, the Japanese knows a lot of that will come to nothing unless he wins against Kotoko. “Everyone told me since I arrived here that it is the biggest rivalry. I have been told about everyone that it is a really big deal. As players and officials these are the games we live for so we are all excited.”
The fans are excited too. Monday should provide us with a fascinating contest.