Western Grandstand - It would suit us well to listen to Hankinson
Timothy Hankinson, the departing technical director of Montego Bay United (MBU) Football Club, has stepped up another notch in my book. This time around, it is not for his prowess as a football coach, it is for his honesty in calling a spade a spade with regard to the current status of the Orville Powell-owned club.
Following the team's recent 2-1 loss to Portmore United, which crippled their bid for a top-six place in the ongoing 2017/18 Red Stripe Premier League football competition, instead of finding excuses, the usually frank Hankinson was quite forthright in declaring, "We are just not good enough."
Despite the disappointment that has left many of the team's loyal fans fuming, if we should put what Hankinson said in its proper context, we would readily realise that he is painting a disturbing picture of the state of football in western Jamaica. If MBU is "not good enough" despite having the region's best players, best support infrastructure, and the most organised management, it means the region is at rock bottom.
What I really like about Hankinson's brutal honesty is the admission that the younger players who are now coming through the ranks are simply not cutting it, albeit that they might be considered good raw material. It means that unlike in the past, these players are unlikely to evolve into polished gems.
high quality stars
I hope football stakeholders in the west will not view Hankinson's sentiments as merely a MBU issue, because it is not. In fact, I believe the parish presidents in Hanover, St James, Westmoreland, and Trelawny would do well to pay attention. As a region, we are no longer producing high-quality stars, and unless we can find and an early fix, we will be a struggling region for a long time to come.
We all need to be cognisant of the fact that this is the first time since Seba United became national champions in 1986/87 that we don't have a western team occupying the top half of the RSPL standings. This against the background that not so long ago, we regularly had two western teams contesting the final and had Seba United, Wadadah FC, Violet Kickers and FC Reno, all title contenders.
While we must commend Orville Powell for the structure he has created at MBU and the success he has had over the past six years, he, too, needs to recognise that, like Hankinson rightfully said, the better players are getting old and the youngsters are not good enough so it is time to start a serious rebuilding campaign.
I don't know how much passion still resides in Powell, based on the many roadblocks he has encountered in his bid to get the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to take the development of Jamaica's football seriously. However, if he still has the stomach to keep pushing on, I would urge him to consider creating a football academy at his Wespow Park football village.
I believe that among the youngsters coming out of schools such as Cornwall College, St James High and Rusea's, there is enough good material to create a sustainable talent pool. With the infrastructure that is already in place at Wespow Park, he clearly has the capacity to develop good young talent, which he could use the RSPL to sharpen for the international market.
With all the money he has already pumped into MBU and its supporting structures, winning the RSPL could not seriously be Powell's main priority because, outside of bragging rights, the competition really has no value. If one wishes to be fair, minus the JFF sanction, the RSPL is no better than a well-organised businesshouse competition.
Insofar as western Jamaica is concerned, I am just hoping and praying that our regional administrators pay keen addition to Hankinson's sentiments and wise up to what is happening around them. To be honest, at present, our only saving grace is schoolboy football, so we must use it as the catalyst to start rebuilding.