Sport

'I didn't choose myself,' says Coley

Reggae Boyz assistant coach says he’s up to the task to make Jamaica proud

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 05, 2014    

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GROS ISLET, St Lucia — He is a young man tasked with a challenging job, but the confidence he exudes suggests one who is not about to shirk the responsibility.

The name Miguel Coley was little known in Jamaica's football circles before the 2013 schoolboy season.

He was in charge of Norman Manley High for five years with moderate success on the field.

But Jamaica College's refreshing style of attacking football in winning the Manning Cup and all-island Olivier Shield titles last year steered some attention his way, and a few shrewd onlookers took good notice.

But unparalleled prominence came when Reggae Boyz head coach Winfried Schaefer, on a new four-year contract after a brief stint last year, named the 31-year-old his assistant.

To complement that choice, Coley is also the head coach of the Under-23s -- a unit that Schaefer has noted is integral to the future of football in the island.

Public opinion has been split.

Some met the choice with consternation.

The naysayers claim he has little experience compared to the dozens of others who have coached at the highest level in local club football. Others feel that Coley, soft-spoken but seemingly assured, is just the man to be the 64-year-old Schaefer's right-hand support.

"People talk about me being inexperienced, yes, I will admit that, but I can guarantee that in a hurry I will be on top of my game because I'll do the necessary work and it is within my capacity to do that," Coley told the Jamaica Observer on the senior team's friendly international tour of the Eastern Caribbean.

"I didn't choose myself. Schaefer is a visionary, he knows what he is about and he has been here for a while, so it's not because I won the Manning Cup or the Olivier Shield. You can probably win a competition by playing squad games every day, but he sees some quality in me. He sees the person I am and he is willing to work with me and I'm willing to learn. I'm willing to do justice to the position and make Jamaica proud," the former Holmwood Technical student added.

Coley, who has played for the Mile Gully football team in Manchester, as well as former national champions Waterhouse FC, went closer to revealing the reason for the choice while he discussed a prickly trend in Jamaica.

"The difficulty you have sometimes is trying to teach the game because some kids just want to come and play football. They are used to playing squad games and so forth. So trying to stop the game, trying to teach them the correct way to control [the ball] and position themselves is sometimes a hard task," he explained.

The willingness to teach the game could have well been what the experienced Schaefer saw in Coley.

And the confident-talking aspirant seems to have an eagerness for the challenge akin to a child in a candy store.

Jamaica's football lovers were left disappointed after the inept displays in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup, but Coley said he welcomes the chance to be a part of the revamped programme that could land the country success for the Russia 2018 campaign.

An unbridled patriotism is almost tangible as the nostalgic wheels roll back to the successful run to France 1998.

"The opportunity to be the assistant national coach is good and one that I embrace, one that I know I can manage.

"As a coach there will always be expectations. But this is the country that you love and you want to see them (the fans) smiling. As a young man in 1997 when we qualified, you could see the euphoria.

"As a national team you have a social responsibility to the nation to maintain the pride. Our athletes are warriors and soon we will get it right," he said.

As a critical Jamaica public looks on, only time will tell if the wily Schaefer and the starry-eyed kid have the necessary ammunition to get it right.

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