Exclusive Interview: Kotoko Boss Steve Polack
Following his team's laboured 1-0 win against CARA Brazzaville in the CAF Confederations Cup on Sunday in Kumasi, we invited comments from fans on social media for the gaffer.
The interview was done on the station's Monday program, the Joy Sports Track and was hosted by Gary Al-Smith.
What are your general thoughts about the game?
The player’s attitude during the game was excellent. The desire and passion was very good. The performance was a standard I was pleased about. To get 1-0 to take back to Congo is a good result. We could have got more but as everybody knows we missed penalties and that’s football. So the one-goal lead we have hope we can go there and score one and hopefully will be through to the next round.
We had a game plan, you know, and we started the same in the second half. I felt we could score one or two in the second half but that didn’t materialize. But I have to say to the supporters: they were fantastic and I have to say they were the 12th man and we played the football this year from the pre-season until yesterday and we have to keep that standard and improve on it.
You had 37 shots and 11 corners, but one goal. Were you unlucky?
Why can I say we were unlucky? The statistics are right but I’ll check the DVD. If you look at the possession of the ball we didn’t have just possession. We had progression. If you’re getting 11 to 12 corners in a game, it means you’re putting pressure on the opposition and to me, that’s good statistics. For you, it may be bad, but for me that’s ok. Attacking wise there was only one team that wanted to win the game and that was us. We played some good football in the last third we could be more composed but that will come and hopefully, it will come in the next game.
Your starting eleven had some really experienced in there, like Jordan Opoku who is a seasoned campaigner in Africa and at the national team level as well. What was your mindset for putting forward that XI?
The selection doesn’t matter if you’re 30 [years] or whatever. Jordan is about 32 now [and] we had a young boy who is 19 on the bench. If you prove yourself in the pre-season, I don’t look at passports. If you’re good enough and ready to work for Kotoko, me and the supporters, it doesn’t matter who you are. But the 11 I put out [on Sunday], I felt they’re going to win it for us and that’s why I picked them. Also, we have another 11, 12 and 15 players who can also come and do good work for us.
Here’s a question from a fan. Nana Ama Pokuah says “Please ask our coach why Sadick [Adams] didn't take the second penalty after missing the first because I'm aware he is our number one penalty taker.” Frank Ohene from Kumasi Technical University also asks: “Does the team have any player who is supposed to take penalties?”
Yeah, I agree with the supporter there but we have two penalty takers. One is Sadick and the other Amos [Frimpong] so I decided at halftime that should we get another penalty let’s give it to Amos. And, of course, we all know what happened. Sometimes these things work out for you sometimes they don’t. For the third penalty, I didn’t even decide. I felt one of them will take it, either Amos or Sadick but Baba [Mahama] felt confident and that’s why he took it. And for the last penalty, [substitute] Yakubu [Mohammed, pictured below] went up and he took it. I think if you have confident players and they want to take penalties, let them take it. But our two penalty takers are Sadick and Amos.
There’s nothing wrong with our strikers. Once they start scoring they’ll wake up. If you look at our strikers they all have the ability to score goals. It’s amazing watching our training. In shooting or crossing drills, we do so well. People might say it's pressure but I don’t think it's pressure because we have strikers who are very confident in their own ability. So hopefully, by God’s grace, in the next game they’ll put their shooting boots up and they’ll be scoring one or two goals.
Agya Adu Yeboah from Accra asks: “Upon all the incidents that happened before and during the match will [Polack] be able to stand the pressure in Congo and bring back good results?”
I don’t get intimidated by anybody because a wise man – that’s my father – taught me so. I have confidence in myself and I don’t get intimidated by anybody else and I don’t take notice of what anybody has to say. Because, I feel [like] if you want to talk to me, talk in front of me, not behind me. I don’t feel pressure. Pressure for me is: if I go home and I see a woman with three children begging for food or money, that’s pressure. If I have a job to do, I do it and I don’t run away from it. It makes me stronger and I have to make people know I’m good at what I do.
Kotoko has had 12 penalties awarded at the Baba Yara Stadium since February 2017 and it is the highest any Ghanaian team has had at home. But the conversion rate has been poor. Koj Moses on Facebook asks: “What is actually wrong with our strikers?”
When you get the penalties you need to finish them but it’s not easy. The keepers have nothing to lose; it is the strikers or the person taking the penalty that has all the pressure. For me, I don’t get people saying we’re not winning games because we don’t get penalties. Actually, I was watching a programme the other day featuring [former Manchester United defender] Gary Neville and [former Liverpool defender] Jamie Carragher.
Carragher said to Neville: “You know anytime we played Man United, you guys were guaranteed a penalty and that’s why we tried to keep you out of the box.” Coming back to Kotoko, we are working on it. Our second assistant coach used to be a striker, so we work hard with the strikers and hopefully, we’ll score more.
Another comment. Mcmillan Okai Mensah Ernest on Facebook says: “[Polack] must be sacked”. What do you say to fans like that?
When someone calls for your head you have to take it. The fans have their opinion, and whether good or bad, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Yes, we had the chances. We should have taken them, but the future is looking good because I have great support from my management especially Dr Kyei and support from my technical staff. And the players are working hard. No one is bigger than the club, and most importantly this is all for the supporters. I believe in what we’re trying to do and we will get there.
Between now and the second leg with CARA in Brazzaville, Kotoko will not have any Ghana Premier League matches to use as a tune-up. Does the failure of the league to kick off bother you and if so, how are you going to prep for the second leg?
Yeah, from a coach’s point of view it’s a problem. [But] somebody called from one of the Premier League teams so we’re going to try and get a friendly, hopefully on Friday. [With respect to the postponement of the league start], the Premier League clubs are talking to each other and all the preparation has gone out the window.
Coming from the coaching perspective you have a pre-season plan so you think the league starts on the 11th [February] so you prepare for that, so you do all your pre-season towards that. Now we have to change our plans. We are lucky we’re playing the Confederations Cup, but after that what happens? If we qualify for the second round, we need games to keep the rhythm and motivation to play.
I’ve spoken to the other coaches and they’re thinking in the same line. Getting these injunctions? It has to stop. It simply has to stop. We want to synchronize with European leagues, and so we can’t do this. We have to start and finish all this in May.
Are you generally happy with your team?
I feel physically we were very good yesterday. I felt we were very sharp for the top game and we outplayed so I felt we were on par with them. That made me enjoy the game and got me excited that everything is okay.