Gilchrist takes on Merlene Ottey High challenge
PONDSIDE, Hanover — Well-known schoolboy coach Hopeton Gilchrist is under no illusion that his latest project might be his toughest one in over 20 years of involvement in the sport of football.
Gilchrist has taken over as the coach of Merlene Ottey High for the upcoming ISSA/Lime daCosta Cup schoolboys' football competition, a school that has never advanced from the first round and has only contested the competition four times in the last 13 years -- 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2011.
The Pondside-based school has been placed in Zone B where they will play against former champions Rusea's High along with Frome Technical and Green Island High.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer West, Gilchrist, who confirmed he had taken up the offer, said: "This might be the biggest task yet, but I have seen some talented players. It will be a difficult one and a real challenge but I am up for it."
After being involved in several successful programmes at Cornwall College, Mannings School and Munro College, Gilchrist said his work would be cut out for him.
"I don't think anyone should expect miracles... having not played any competitive football in a lot of years, there are many things that are lacking there that we must put in place before we can start to think about winning," he said.
He will be in charge of the entire football programme at Merlene Ottey and said what was essential was "the full backing of the chairman of the board, Moncrieff Leslie, as well as the entire staff."
Gilchrist said the building process would start in the lower age groups and they intended to compete in the ISSA Under 14 and under 16 competitions for the first time in years.
Merlene Ottey High was not the only school to approach him, he revealed, and as late as two weeks ago, he was getting calls and offers.
However, the Hanover school, he said, was the first to approach him earlier in the year: "We were in advanced negotiations and did not want to be in a situation where I was talking to one school and listening to other offers."
The school board and administration, he said, wanted a good programme "to take a new approach to the school; they have not been taking part in any sports competitions in a while and they really want to change the image of the school where sports are concerned."
"Even if they might not start winning soon," he said, "they want to give the students, both girls and boys, the chance to take part in ISSA competitions and a chance to express themselves."
Gilchrist further stated that work had started on what was one of the worst fields in the region to get it in a state of readiness for the season that starts on September 6.