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Chris Hughton — Black Stars coach
Chris Hughton — Black Stars coach

Hughton must go now! - Demands ex-Hearts, GHALCA boss

A former Managing Director of Accra Hearts of Oak, Neil Armstrong-Mortagbe, has called for the immediate termination of the appointment of the Black Stars coach, Chris Hughton, to avoid the current retrogression facing the team.

 Mr Armstrong-Mortagbe, a featured guest on the Graphic Sports X-Spaces Dialogue last Friday, highlighted a lack of identity, philosophy, application, endeavour and energy within the team after nine months under Hughton's guidance, emphasising that the team's recent poor performance reflected these deficiencies, expressed doubt about Hughton's ability to reverse the trend ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2024.

“It becomes difficult to see where Mr Hughton is taking the team, and this is not limited to the last two games. It has been the case virtually throughout the nine games that he has handled the Black Stars. I struggle to see an identity, I struggle to see a philosophy, I struggle to see us using our players in roles where, in my respectful view and who am I to question the coach but we are having a conversation, where I think the players could apply themselves better,” he said in a scathing verdict on the eight-month tenure of the coach.

He questioned the continuity in coaching, noting that despite Coach Hughton managing approximately 80 per cent of the playing body inherited from his predecessor, Otto Addo, there seemed to be little progress, hence his conviction that a coaching change might be necessary to inject new energy and maximise the potential of the players.

Onetime Administrative Manager of the Ghana Leagues Clubs Association (GHALCA), Mr Armstrong-Mortagbe pointed to the national team's struggles against Mexico and USA in international friendlies in October, where they suffered defeats of 0-2 and 0-4, respectively, as crucial moments that the Ghana Football Association (GFA) should have prompted a reconsideration of Coach Hughton's role.

He emphasised the importance of a coach-player connection, expressing concerns that the team appeared to lack a cohesive spirit under the Irish coach's leadership.

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“If I were a member of the GFA Executive Council I would be moving that we contemplate a coaching change. The factors are that we have had a coach for nine matches and we don’t see identity, philosophy, application, endeavour and energy.

“There seems to be a disconnect between his method and that of the team, so I would seriously reconsider these and I would move that as an item if I were an ExCo [Executive Council] member and defend it," he emphasised, adding that a replacement for Coach Hughton must be a man who can get the players to play at their full potential," said Mr Armstrong-Mortagbe," who is a sports business consultant.

To him, if the coach failed to improve the team's performance from the high point of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, managing virtually the same set of players, there was no assurance he would turn around the team's fortunes in the next few weeks ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire in January, 2024.

“We have AFCON just a few weeks away and I am just going to be blunt and honest. If I was in charge of the management of the Black Stars, after the games that we lost against Mexico and USA, I would seriously have reconsidered the engagement of Chris Hughton as the coach of the Black Stars because the manner of those losses, it is like the team lacked a soul.”

“Players draw energy from coaches. And if our players are not drawing energy from this coach, if I were sitting there [Executive Council], I would have a serious question about maintaining him as coach of the Black Stars,” he added.

Regarding the upcoming World Cup qualifiers next year, he acknowledged the possibility of the Black Stars qualifying but stressed the need for a dramatic change, but challenged Coach Hughton to review the team's performance and make bold decisions to address the existing shortcomings.

“Over the nine matches, I don’t see where that dramatic change will come from, unless Hughton is able to review all that he has done over the nine matches and pinpoint exactly where we are missing it and then take those bold decisions that are needed to get us to be where we ought to be.”

The football administrator questioned the coach's decision-making, particularly the benching of Belgium-based midfielder Majeed Ashimeru, who played a pivotal role in the team's 1-0 victory over Madagascar last week, suggesting that the 0-1 loss to Comoros might have been avoided if the winning line-up from the Madagascar game had been maintained.

“The introduction of Majeed Ashimeru essentially changed the game and the momentum was clearly with the Black Stars so my anticipation, therefore, without knowing the physical conditions of the players, was that seeing the level that Ashimeru applied himself, to the extent that his introduction and others made a fairly good impression, why bench him against Comoros?

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