2023/24 Premier League: Hearts of Oak's revival faces first test
After an uninspiring campaign in the betPawa Premier League campaign last season, Accra Hearts of Oak's new head coach, Martin Koopman, is gearing up for a challenging mission to rejuvenate the club's fortunes as he leads the Phobians into battle at the Aliu Mahama Stadium in Tamale to face Real Tamale United (RTU) in the opening fixture of the 2023/24 season .
The 21 times champions put up an underwhelming performance last season as they failed to secure any domestic trophies, and narrowly avoided relegation on the final weekend.
In response, the club's management conducted an extensive player recruitment drive and revamped the technical team by appointing a Dutch head coach and his compatriot, Rene Hiddink, as Technical Director, in a bid to turn the club's fortunes around this season.
Koopman now faces the real test in the Ghanaian league, with both the club's faithful and management expecting a strong start against one of their formidable rivals this Friday.
The task ahead for Koopman is made even more challenging by Hearts' less-than-stellar away record against RTU, having failed to secure a win in their last three encounters.
Even more daunting is the fact that out of their last 16 clashes, RTU have claimed victory in six, while Hearts have only managed four wins, with the rest resulting in draws.
Last season, RTU beat Hearts back-to-back in the league, and this is what the new gaffer would be seeking to avoid in a terrain that has often proven a formidable battleground for visiting clubs.
However, Koopman and his coaching team are determined to reverse this trend as they go head-to-head with RTU's Abdulai Mumin.
On Friday, the Hearts gaffer will have available guards such as Salifu Ibrahim, Denis Korsah, Amankwa Baafi, Enock Asubonteng, Kwadwo Obeng Jnr and Emmanuel Amankwah to help break the jinx and get their season off to a winning start.
Coach Mumin also has trusted guards such as former Hearts midfielder, Abdul Manaf Umar, Mohammed Sadat, Iddrisu Gadafi, Abdul Fatawu Sayibu, Mathew Abayase and Abdul Rauf Mumuni available for selection.
After a long sojourn in the 'wilderness', new entrants Bofoakwa Tano will test their might against Accra Great Olympics on Saturday at the Accra Stadium.
Legon Cities, who narrowly escaped relegation last season, will be hoping to start their campaign on a flying note when they host Karela United at the Accra Stadium on Sunday, with Aduana Stars continuing from where they left off last season when they clash with FC Samartex 1996 at the Nsenkyire Sports Arena at Samreboi, Western Region.
Elsewhere, Coach Prosper Narteh Ogum begins his second stint with Kumasi Asante Kotoko as they welcome promoted Kpando Heart of Lions to the Baba Yara Stadium, Chelsea will entertain Bibiani GoldStars at the Golden City Park at Berekum, Bechem United will travel to the Nana Konamansah Park to face-off with Nsoatreman FC.
Dreams FC will also welcome debutants, Nations FC, to the Dawu Park next week Wednesday, while champions Medeama SC get their title defence underway with a tough game against Accra Lions at the Akoon Park, Tarkwa.