With a domestic football system fractured by corruption and effectively non-functional at the moment, the start of the English Premier League provided Ghanaian football fans a timely escape from the difficulties back home.
And Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah would have been watching with an even keener sense of interest – with the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers looming large in September, every week of the new European club season will take on an added meaning for the Black Stars boss.
The Ghana Premier League has never been the backbone of the national side but now, without it, the attention on the team will skyrocket, and a lot of that will depend on how the many foreign-based players perform.
The opening weekend of the Premier League season also suggested this could be like recent ones for Ghanaian players … one of struggles and little success.
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Daniel Amartey was given a massive lift after Leicester City boss Claude Puel picked him at rightback for the season opener at Manchester United, but he’ll be hoping he didn’t blow his chance after a shaky performance.
He gave away the early penalty that set the Red Devils on their way, seemed jittery throughout, before being replaced just after the hour-mark. If he gets another chance, he definitely has to do much better.
Christian Atsu started the new season on the bench, playing 20 minutes Newcastle United’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. It wasn’t the sort of start and performance to support his claim that this will be his best season ever, though he will console himself in the fact that there is still a long, long way to go in this campaign.
Jordan Ayew, Ghana‘s best player in the Premier League last season, almost has to deal with his own version of ‘second season syndrome’. After struggling to impress following his arrival in England three years ago, he made the most of his big break with Swansea last term. It wasn’t just the goals that convinced; it was the work-rate, the energy, the pace, the ability to take on defenders, and the sheer force of will he applied during his time there.
Those qualities were absent during his time at Aston Villa, but those same qualities have earned him another crack at Premier League football at Crystal Palace, where he will be hoping to find longevity after three clubs in three years.
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Yet his challenge at Palace will not necessarily be just a football one. He has already shown he can compete at Premier League level. Instead, it will be how he copes with not being the main man anymore, and how he can cope with having to fight for his place every week.
It will depend on how he deals with the fact that it is Wilfried Zaha who is the main man, or that the pressure to play Christian Benteke may be as high as the pressure to give him the chance. This is an issue because Ayew has coped best when he has had a good run.
He flew out off the blocks for Swansea when it was certain he would play every week. If he is as good as he was at Swansea, there won’t be many Palace fans worried about his record of being relegated with his last three clubs.