BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
LENNARD SOWAH starred alongside Mario Gotze as part of the golden generation that would go on to lift the World Cup for Germany – but he hopes his move to Hearts will help him realise his dream of playing for Ghana.
Sowah, who joined the Jambos earlier this month after turning down a new deal with Hamilton, was considered a precocious teenager when he was on the books of Arsenal and starring for Die Mannschaft at youth level.
He counts Gunners ace Shkodran Mustafi and Gotze – the man that would go on to score the only goal against Argentina in 2014 as Germany won the biggest prize of all – among former teammates in the national set-up.
“I played alongside Mustafi in the national team when we were around about 17 and I played with Gotze for a few games,” he recalled. “It was, of course, nice to play at youth level for your country but my parents are from Ghana and I would like to play for them now.
“I was born in Germany so it will always be a proud moment to have played for them and to watch those players win the World Cup – especially the ones I know personally. But Ghana is a hope of mine.
“It is not up to me, all I can do is play to my best for Hearts and hopefully I will get the call from them one day. I was over in Ghana during the summer on holiday so it is a place I feel close to. My parents are from Accra and playing for Ghana is a massive personal goal.
“I want to be solid for Hearts, play games and help the team forward. I believe that everything will fall into place if I do that.
“This club already has two players in the African Cup of Nations [Arnaud Djoum, Cameroon, and Faycal Rherras, Morocco] so that shows this is a good platform.”
His African dream hinges on once again impressing the very man who gave him a debut in senior football.
Avram Grant fielded Sowah as a fresh-faced 17-year-old while in charge of Portsmouth, allowing the youngster to hone his skills in the same side as the likes of David James, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Kanu.
Grant is now in charge of Ghana and – while not expecting any old pals’ act – the experienced manager will undoubtedly be inclined to take notice of one of his former players if he can dazzle for the Jambos.
Sowah continued: “Avram Grant gave me my debut at Portsmouth as a teenager and he is now the Ghana coach. I don’t think that will make it any easier to get into the team – it is about proving you are good enough on the pitch.
“However, we did have a good relationship. I was a young lad and he spoke to me and supported me.
“On the pitch he would tell me the things I was doing well and give me advice. I was training with older players and he showed a lot of faith in me. I knew I could play football, but I didn’t expect to be put in the team at such a young age and I was really happy about that.”
Sowah could make his Hearts debut against Raith Rovers this afternoon and, while international aspirations may drive him on, his immediate concern is kick-starting his career in Scotland following an underwhelming first half of the season at Hamilton.
He added: “I think I did well, but I had an injury in my hamstring and I missed a couple of games. I wish I could have played more – any player would be the same.
“Hamilton did offer me a contract, but I sat down with them and went through everything and talked to my family. It wasn’t an easy decision because I felt good at Hamilton. The gaffer [Martin Canning] was a nice guy and I felt good with the team.
“But for me it was a feeling that it was time to try and take the next step – especially when I heard Hearts were interested.”