Glum Grant has work cut out to bring struggling Ghana back from the brink

The former Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Ham boss was only hired in late November but already faces an uphill task winning around a nation, writes Sam Crocker...

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As he walked into the press conference room you could sense the hostility grow. Sagging in his chair in the Estadio de Mongomo, Avram Grant's general look of indifference said it all as a bat flapped back and forth above his head – perhaps an omen of how his spell as manager of the Ghanaian national team will proceed.

The Black Stars' 2-1 defeat to Senegal in Mongomo was not just the opening game of Group C at the Africa Cup of Nations 2015, but also the opening game of Grant's tenure as manager.

Other than the three pre-tourmament friendlies, his experience of the team before the continent's showcase competition was non-existent, and a lacklustre performance in their first match has done little to dispel fears that this simply won't turn out well. 

The appointment of a man who had managed in Champions League and FA Cup finals has rarely been greeted with such impassiveness. It was greeted with little more than a shrug; Grant's arrival little more than another sneer in a period of indifference and stagnation for the west Africans.

Fading Stars

Post-2009 was supposed to be the period of dominance for Ghana; the erecting of a continental dynasty that would ensure their control for years to come, with the U20 World Cup-winning squad providing a ready-made selection of talented names to pick from. 

Instead lies a team worn down by egos, false expectations and mismanagement, with this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations a tournament marred by pessimism. The new man at the helm is just a single component of this negative malaise.

In truth, the appointment of Grant at any club or national team would unlikely create widespread excitement.

A manager who got his big breakthrough by circumstance at Chelsea, he is one of the few men to lead his team to a Champions League final and have his influence largely discredited, with rumours that the unity of the team was largely to thank for their appearance against Manchester United in Moscow.

Milovan Rajevac was the man everyone wanted. The Serbian coach, who took Ghana to a final loss against Egypt at AFCON 2010 and then a Luis Suarez hand away from reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, has been unemployed since being relieved of his Qatar national team duties in 2011.

The circumstances in which he left the job – quitting and then taking the Al-Ahli post one day later – clearly didn't sit well with the Ghanaian FA.

Lacking personality and any tangible trademark in terms of the football he tries to get his team playing, you can see why it's difficult for Ghana fans to support Grant.

Since being sacked by West Ham in 2011, he had a brief spell as manager of Serbian side Partizan Belgrade – limping to a title which looked quite assured at Christmas – before joining Thai club BEC Tero Sasana as a technical director last year.

Dull and less talented than his success would dictate, Grant is almost the managerial manifestation of this stationary Ghana side, which in a bizarre way makes them quite suited to one another.


2014 was just more of the same for Ghana; a World Cup in Brazil that saw their bonus row publicised more than anything else; and, despite playing well at times in AFCON 2015 qualifying, they went on to struggle through a very manageable qualifying group, wining just three matches against the likes of Guinea, Togo and Uganda.

With manager Kwesi Appiah's number being up for some time, he eventually left at the end of qualifying in November, with Grant hired in December and left with just a month to prepare his team ahead of the competition in Equatorial Guinea.

Their record at previous editions of this competition overestimates how good they are in reality. Reaching the last four in every AFCON since 2008, they have moved slowly from being great tournament hopes to a team that everyone realises will never do anything. This tournament is the summit of the pessimism.

While the egos have been trimmed, with players like Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng no longer members of the national team setup, there is still a general lack of belief in the capacity of this team to achieve anything no matter who is in charge.

The team wasn't helped when Asamoah Gyan was ruled out of action just before the tournament started: the skipper is suffering from a mild bout of malaria, and as yet it's unclear what role he will be fit enough to play during his time in Equatorial Guinea. After defeat to Senegal, Ghana may be out before their star striker has a chance to make his impact.

The Black Stars went ahead through an Andre Ayew penalty, but the subsequent sitting back and lack of desire to push for a second cost them, as Moussa Sow's winner with the last kick of the game had them done for.

They look tired and uninspired, with Jordan Ayew's performance as Gyan's deputy coming under particular scrutiny. Now people are questioning whether Grant will mix things up front before the game against Algeria – one they must get a result from.

Ghana's general trend of faith in managers means that, even if they do go out at the group stage, it's unlikely Grant will be sacked. Their loyalty to former boss Appiah would suggest their hand is nowhere near the trigger.

However, the former Chelsea chief must start from the bottom. Tangible success and progress is the only thing that will improve Grant's standing, which requires an injection of belief and energy into this downbeat side.