MARLON Allen did not get to achieve his most cherished football dream of representing the Reggae Boyz, but retiring from the game after 14 years of service in the National Premier League is no mean feat.
Sadly, the end was not only determined by injury, but also out of frustration.
On Friday, the former Sporting Central Academy captain called time on his playing career, noting that a series of untreated injuries and no financial gain was the deciding factor.
The 31-year-old will now look to chart a new course in the game — this time from the technical area, starting with his hometown club Four Paths FC.
As a player, Allen was an 'old school' left-back — always bursting with energy up and down the flank — but, perhaps, his most noted quality was the high level of discipline he displayed while representing the likes of Clarendon College, Galaxy United (now defunct) and Rivoli United on and off the field of play. And in a sport that's famous for producing players with a 'bad boy image', a mild-mannered player always seems angelic.
That trait, more than anything else, earned Allen lots of respect at Brancourt where his farewell tour of Jamaica's top-flight began in 2006. "He's a people person and he has good leadership qualities," Sporting captain Linval Lewis told the Jamaica Observer last year, and there's hardly anyone, including coaches and fans, who would say otherwise.
In six seasons at Sporting, Allen was regarded as the old man of the team or "Elder" — more as a sign of respect for his experience and the discipline that he portrays. "I have never been around a group of players who show me so much respect on and off the field," he once said in an interview.
Born in 1982 to working class parents Raphael and Linda Allen in West Park, Allen's early football education was shaped by Brazil's dominance of the world game. And like most youngsters from the central Clarendon community, he spent long hours honing his skills on the famed West Park field while playing scrimmage with players who were most times several years his senior.
The highlight of his schoolboy career would be the 1999 daCosta Cup semi-final with Clarendon College, which they lost to Munro College at the now defunct Woodside Complex. He would, however, win two A-League titles with Galaxy and Rivoli as a senior.
"I've been playing (senior) football from the tender age of 15," he said. But unfortunately, the sport he loves so much didn't return the same affection in dollars and cents. "From broken jaws to memory loss, I've had it all in football, but there's nothing to show; just lots of promises and disappointments."
However, that will not stop him from giving back. "I've gained a lot of experience over the years, so I'm hoping to pass on some of that knowledge in coaching."
As a coach, though in its infancy, Allen has already achieved noted success. In 2011, while still a player, he guided Four Paths to Major League promotion after placing second behind Jamalco FC in the Clarendon Division One competition. The following season, Four Paths, made up of mostly youth players, upstaged Jamalco to win the Captain's Bakery Major League.
They now campaign in the South Central Confederation Super League, where they have been given a rude awakening in Zone A. They lost their first two games in the competition, but would rebound with four successive drawn games and a win, before suffering another defeat to fellow debutants and semi-final qualifiers Frazsiers Whip last weekend.
"I think we aren't doing too bad, knowing that we just got promoted," Allen said. "The aim now is just to get enough points to stay in the league."
Relegation or not, the Super League sojourn has been a "priceless" learning curve for Allen — one that he hopes will serve him well as he prepares to embark on a full-fledge coaching career after ending 14 frustrated years as a player.