Accraheartsofoaksc.com sat down with marquee signing Benjamin Agyare for The Big Interview ahead of Sunday’s away trip to Techiman where we face XI Wonders.
Agyare opens up on his move, the reception he has received since joining Hearts, what he intends to bring on board and many more.
Former Heart of Lions defender Benjamin Agyare completed a dream move to Hearts last month after lengthy and serpentine negotiations with his former side.
“I heard Hearts’ interest in me a long time ago,” Agyare says. “The news got to me last season when we were playing the Division One League. But I had to be patient. Truth be told, I was counting down to the day the league would end so that I make the switch and maybe see my long dream come true.
“Hearts has been my dream team and I have been a fan for a very long time so when I heard they were interested in me, I felt glad and proud. I was just waiting for the time.”
Lions and Hearts started the transfer negotiations last year but it stretched for some time before the two parties came to an agreement. Agyare had put out stellar performances for Lions in the Division One League last season but despite not being able to seal the sole ticket in their zone, the defender had attracted enough suitors both locally and internationally. However, Agyare always knew where he wanted to be.
“The negotiations took its toll on me and I felt sad. I had waited for the opportunity for a long time but when it came, there were lots of on and off. I got calls to come to the Hearts office to append my signature on the contract. But a follow up call to my chairman Randy Abbey and he will say “be patient”. It got to a point I was not motivated to go to training but I knew I had to be in top shape when Hearts came calling. I was sad but in the end, I felt happy and relieved.”
The former SAS (no relationship with Strategic Africa Securities Limited) United defender had spent four years with Heart of Lions. Two of those four years were in the Premier League and there were clashes with Hearts, particularly a duel with Winful Cobbinah in the 2013/14 season standing out. Lions, though based in Kpando, train close to Hearts in Legon with less than 300 meters separating the side's pitches and the proximity enabled Agyare and a host of his colleagues to buildup close friendship with a lot of Hearts players.
“Almost all the players are my friends so meeting up with old friends made me overjoyed,” the defender admits. “I have played against some of the Hearts players and against Hearts itself but training at the same place means I got to know a lot of the boys on a personal level so I am not really new in the setup.”
Having already acknowledged his relationship with an overwhelming majority of the playing body, Agyare has also been taken in by the fans because of his fascinating style of play.
“Hearts fans are the best,” Agyare chimes. “Their welcome has been extremely fine and great. In this short time, the fans have done a lot for me. I appreciate it and I want to repay them with good performances. I am just glad to be part of this family.”
Repaying the love the fans have shown him is the defender's mantra but despite showing flashes of brilliance in Hearts colors in the last three high profile friendly games he has been involved in, Agyare feels that should not be counted just yet.
“It’s just friendly games to me,” he insists. “I do not really rate my performance in friendly matches. It’s the league that’s important and starting my Hearts career with good performances and good result for the team overall is my focus.
“I have a lot for Hearts of Oak but it does not only depend on me. God is King and it’s He who gives strength to his children. I believe God will help me to give my best to Hearts and I am confident that He will help me to bring out my best. I am ready to give my all to this club.”
Whenever Agyare plays in the heart of the Hearts defense - be it at training or on match days - you cannot escape not seeing the semblance of his style to that of former Hearts captain Robin Gnagne. Gnagne, a ball playing defender and consistent performer for Hearts ended his 5-year relationship with the club at the end of last season. So ‘Robin out, Robin in?’ We ask Agyare.
“‘Robin Gnagne?’” he quizzes back. "I am more than Robin Gnagne,” he says,with a big grin that makes you know he totally respects the Ivorian.
“I appreciate the comparisons to Robin. He was a good player who did his best for Hearts and I want to do same. I want to be able to do more than he did for Hearts. My objective is to be amongst the best defenders in the country. Who knows? I could be the best. That’s my target.”
The Phobians will kickstart their season on Sunday with a game against newly promoted Techiman XI Wonders.
Hearts brought in 11 new players with two gaining promotion from Auroras. As usual, the Phobians are expected to win on the opening day, cranking the pressure on the new players to start well. But Agyare disagrees with the pressure bit.
“No pressure whatsoever,” he calmly says. “It’s a normal game for us. We want to give a good account of ourselves. Once we do that, of course we will bring the three point back home.”