Western Grandstand: A change of focus could suit MBUFC
With former champions Montego Bay United Football Club (MBUFC) off to an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the 2017/18 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) season, having just a mere one point from four games, many football supporters in Montego Bay are already pushing the panic button, questioning the team's capacity to rebound.
While it could be argued that the season is still young, I am also quite worried that, with many of the familiar faces of the past four to five years missing from the team, I am not seeing enough high-quality replacements to inspire the kind of confidence to make me hopeful.
Former skipper Fabian McCarthy, who was battling a major injury for most of the past two seasons, is now back to full fitness but the team will not have his considerable strength of character and leadership as he is now donning the colours of the University of the West Indies (UWI), which is bound to hurt the team's stability.
Allan Ottey, who is quite talented but somewhat inconsistent, has also cut ties with MBUFC and is reporting campaigning at a lower level for Falklands FC in the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Western Confederation Super league. With his experience as a national player, his departure is also a blow to the team.
Based on the words coming out of the grapevine, many of the seasoned players at MBUFC, including some of those who have now quit, have been at odds with the club's management for a long time over a variety of reasons. It is said they were particularly peeved by management's strong resistance to their demands for better remuneration.
If the salary situation is indeed true, it would be most unfortunate because MBUFC appear to be one of the teams not significantly burdened by a lack of resource. It should be noted that the team played almost the entire 2016/17 season without any subsidy from the Premier League Players Association (PLCA), with whom they had a long-standing dispute.
Breaching the terms
A source close to MBUFC has flatly rejected the money argument, saying the club has always abided by its contractual obligations to the players. However, he was quick to point out that the players sometimes do a great disservice to themselves by breaching the terms of their contract, which sometimes result in heavy fines.
Frankly saying, if I had a say in the management of MBUFC, I would return to the club's original mandate, which was to develop good young players for the international club circuit. With many of the seasoned players not measuring up to expectation, albeit winning a few RSPL titles, I would not be keen on rewarding them with bigger salary packages.
When one looks at the level of investment that has gone into the MBUFC infrastructure at Wespow Park, which is easily the most equipped football clubs in Jamaica, I believe the club's management has a right to be expecting more than just winning RSPL titles. Like Craig Butler at Phoenix Academy, the management of MBUFC should be eyeing putting out players who can make the grade in Europe.
Personally, I would like to see MBUFC taking a decision to focus primarily on the development of young players, using the RSPL merely as a platform to expose them. If the club is able to sell two or three good players every five years, in my book, it would be much better than winning the measly RSPL prize money, which is no more than $3 million.
In the short term, I would like to see the team working itself up into the comfort of mid-table. However, the bigger focus should be on seeking to attract a solid core of gifted players between the ages of 17 and 21. With three or four good years of priming, these youngsters could be ready to tread the path of a Leon Bailey.