Lennie Hyde was the Messi of schoolboy football
Experts say all-conquering KC team atop pile, but...
At the risk of being labelled naïve within the sporting domain, it occurred to me that though time and destiny render impossible the staging of the actual event, it can, however, be palpably imagined. With the experts as guides, let's speculate for a while...
CHANCES are, either of the 1964/1965 schoolboy teams from Kingston College (KC) would use their all-round ability, athleticism and shrewdness to topple their 1977 Clarendon College (CC) counterparts in an intense Olivier Shield football classic.
Before that final whistle sounds, however, the magic of Lenworth Hyde and Dennis Hutchinson would be tangibly engaged — befuddling defenders and thrilling a capacity house to ensure Winston Chung-Fah's revered Chapelton outfit stood a chance in the battle royal.
The nature of football suggests this dream clash for the prize of best ever schoolboy team could go either way. But that, too, is quite a presumption, argues former national player and coach, Ali McNab, who saw both outfits and knows the dynamism of opinion.
In fact, McNab insists the above-mentioned duo could easily be upstaged by the Cornwall College aggregations of 1962-63 which swept all before them — the latter outfit, of which he was a part, inflicting a 5-0 whipping on Jamaica College in the Olivier Shield final.
He sportingly follows the script anyway.
"It's really hard to compare eras... we tend to get nostalgic about certain things... but there's no comparison between these two teams. I think people got carried away with the Clarendon team that year," he brusquely stated.
"Names like Hyde and Hutchinson jump out at you... The Clarendon College team was brilliant in the Olivier Shied final against Calabar, but they also became prominent because a Kingstonian, Chung-Fah, coached them...
"It was also known as a team with mostly Minor League players from Kingston," McNab explained.
"KC had unbelievable individual players who pursued successful careers and did exceptionally well as schoolboys," he said with admiration while putting events into perspective.
"The 1964/65 team was the 'golden era' of KC when they were winning something like 14 'Champs' titles," added the veteran broadcaster. "It was also a time when rural teams were not given much attention by the media," he said.
In dubbing Hyde 'the Lionel Messi of his time', he sought to further balance the equation.
"The Clarendon team was perhaps more entertaining because of the individual flair that they brought to the game. That team paved the way for coaches like 'Jackie' Walters to coach in the rural area and helped to dispel the belief that talent only resides in Kingston.
"But the KC team was brilliant and had the ability to overwhelm the opposition," he stated.
Walters was a bit more categorical.
"Oh, it would definitely be the KC team, no doubt about that," said the long-time coach. "They were better as a unit even though they had great individual players as well. They also get the nod because apart from their skill, they had a high level of intelligence and had great teamwork," he added.
"Not to say that CC never had those qualities, but I believe KC were more adept..," he quickly added.
However, according to the well-travelled Walters, who also coached CC, but has been at neighbours Glenmuir High for several years, because of their brand of football, the mid-island boys were probably the better crowd-pullers.
"The Clarendon team was very, very attractive to watch and people would probably be more inclined to come to see them play, but mostly because of 'Lennie' (Hyde)," Walters said.
"But if you were to shut down Hyde, you could probably beat them," he said, citing the Olivier Shield first-leg game against Calabar which CC won 1-0 at home before the floodgates opened in dramatic a week later in a 4-0 demolition at the National Stadium.
"Another thing in KC's favour is that their players came up through the ranks, while the CC players were basically handpicked (recruited) by Chung-Fah for the sole purpose of building a team," he said.
Veteran sportscaster Ed Barnes, while agreeing that comparing eras can be problematic, welcomed the debate anyway. Like McNab, he believes the two teams represented a climactic and pleasurable period in both schoolboy and national football.
Having had the distinction of calling several daCosta Cup games involving CC at the start of local radio's foray into schoolboy football and having been somewhat close to the KC aggregation, Barnes decisively tips the scale in favour of North Street.
"The KC teams of 1964-65 had very few weaknesses as a team," he recalls. "They played with a Brazilian style... they were classy and they played 'total football'," said the outspoken Barnes who believes the team's all-round ability was one of their biggest assets: All 11 players capable of functioning in virtually any position.
"That team had a lot of speed and athleticism and played smart football. In fact, several of those players were track athletes who actually went to 'Champs'," Barnes noted, names like Tony Keyes, Franklin Morant, Baldwin Fisher and Lloyd McLean effortlessly rolling off the tongue.
"The team was very fit and fast and they brought imagination to their game. Teams feared them," he affirmed.
Not surprising if their goal-scoring stats of 44-2 and 60-3 masterminded by forward Trevor 'Jumpy' Harris' 13 and 21 strikes over two years are considered.
"'Jumpy' was not stylish, but he was a big, bustling player who was deadly in front of goal," McNab chimed in, adding that perhaps the best of them all was Neville Oxford who chose the books over a career in the sport, but went on to play an important role in the national setup.
An interesting irony is that according to Hyde, Chung-Fah would often compare players on his own 1977 CC side with those from the famous KC outfit.
"Sometimes in training Chung-Fah would say, 'You remind me of such and such a player from KC'. I think he put us in the same category," Hyde told the Sunday Observer with a trace of amusement.
"I've never seen them play, though I've seen a little of 'Jumpy' Harris, but I heard they were an excellent team."
Hyde gives an insight into the talent that existed within his own aggregation. Apart from himself and Hutchinson, there were captain and central defender O'Neil Russell, defender Winston Mamby, midfielders Donovan 'Che' Wray and Glenroy Nembhard and forwards Roy Duncan and Dave Gerrard.
The possibilities within this line-up are evident.
"The strength of our team was that everybody was technically sound in their position. We were comfortable with the ball and we understood each other as we were basically playing together for three years since 1975," Hyde explained.
A former student of St Aloysius Primary and St Anne's Secondary, Hyde became the first of a proliferation of Kingston-based recruits to the mid-island institution in that period.
Others included Hutchinson, who previously represented Tivoli Gardens High in the Manning Cup; Nembhard, Linval Hyatt, Jeffery Sinclair and Wayne Whonder.
CC's lofty standards that year make a little crowing appropriate too.
"We could make passes without even looking because we knew how each other liked the ball. We had a good communication level as we lived, ate and did almost everything together. It was just football morning, noon and night," said the current coach of Premier League outfit Humble Lion.
Hyde is also aware of his team's place in history.
"We had a great impact on the game. The stadium and everywhere we played would always be packed. People lost their jobs because they left work to come watch the team wherever we played. People who heard about the team would travel from Kingston to see us play. People heard about the brand of football and wanted to see good football," Hyde recalls.
"Sometimes the opposition team never touched the ball until they took it out of the net. We were that dominant. No two or three defenders could manage me and 'Den-Den'. We were not afraid of taking on defenders," he declared.
He credited Chung-Fah for giving both himself and Hutchinson "the freedom to express ourselves... he was a disciplinarian, but a fun coach too," said Hyde, admitting that he employs some of Chung-Fah's strategies to this day.
So maybe CC would have lost to the team rated as the best there ever was. With Hyde in the mix, however, it could've still been anybody's game.
PULL-OUT: 'Sometimes in training Chung-Fah would say, 'You remind me of such and such a player from KC'. I think he put us in the same category' — Hyde